Jan 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) reacts after scoring a goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (not pictured) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago defeats St. Louis 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Hard To Leave When You Can’t Find The Floor

Most of Hawks Nation is still clearing the cobwebs from the news that Teuvo Teravainen had to be included to rid themselves of Bryan Bickell’s contract. It’s yet another case of the Hawks choosing to go with their veteran’s floors instead of their prospects’ ceilings. Teuvo is probably the highest ceiling of the players the Hawks have had to lose next to Brandon Saad, and that’s why the sting is so great. Then again, the real sting is that while the Hawks probably HAD to lose Saad given his salary demands, they didn’t have to lose Teuvo. They decided, or more to the point Q decided, that Andrew Shaw was the higher priority.

We’ve done this before, but it’s worth examining whether that’s really the case.

Some of the myopia around Shaw is that his first three seasons, he scored at a 20-goal pace. Two of those were half-seasons, as he came up halfway through the ’11-’12 season and then the 48-game 2013 season. His shooting-percentages those years were 16.1 and 14.1, and those are simply unsustainable. It has sunk every year since, rounding out at 9.3 last season. That’s more of what we can expect. Sure, in ’13-’14 he did hit the 20-goal mark, though he spent most of that season playing with Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane, which certainly helps the cause.

Andrew Shaw has never driven possession above the team-rate, aside from that ’13-’14 season when he was spending most of his time with the possession-monster that is Brandon Saad (if you don’t believe that Jonathan Toews had his worst possession season without him this past one). And Shaw has gotten the benefit of cushy zone starts the past four seasons to simply ride along with the team in terms of puck possession.

Ah, but PLAYOFFS! the Shaw Brigade will scream. Fair enough. It’s hard to ignore what Shaw did in 2013 and 2015, chipping in five goals in each run and 21 points combined in those. That’s certainly worth noting. However, Shaw did that from bottom six positions. The only postseason run where he really ran things possession wise at evens was in 2015, when he was playing and bum-slaying on the 4th line with Kruger and Desjardins. That’s not to be dismissed and that’s how you win a Cup, as the Penguins will attest right now. But that’s basically what Shaw is.

A lot is made of Shaw’s presence in front of the net on the power play, and he’s certainly willing to be there which the Hawks are short of, admittedly. But “willing” is different that “uniquely skilled.” Andrew Ladd showed, although in only brief flashes, what real net-front presence is. With Ladd walking, I suppose Shaw is the only one I can pinpoint who will consistently be there along with Anisimov. How valuable that is, I really don’t know. But that certainly feels like something you can develop from one of the kids coming up through your system, if it is indeed so important to you.

What’s worrying is that if Shaw and Kruger are on the third line, that third line even without another winger is going to count $6-7 million against the cap. You can’t do that in a cap league. While eyebrows were raised around the league when Kruger signed his deal, Kruger is a unicorn and you can justify that paycheck, at least partially. Kruger gets buried in zone starts and competition, and he still flips the ice. He kills penalties. Shaw does none of these things. Hence, he really shouldn’t be paid similarly just because a few more pucks hit him and bounce into the net on the power play, which is essentially what the Hawks are saying here.

Again, this feels like whoever is making the decisions for the Hawks, or who’s getting final say, is fixated on “grit.” Shaw, when he has had value in the past, didn’t have that because he bleeds a lot or never shuts up or has a punchable face. It was because he was driving possession against third and fourth-liners, because that was a neat toy to have. He was using his plus wheels to cause turnovers on the forecheck, not by barking at people. Those are easy things to find cheaper.

On the other hand, the Hawks might not have the time to wait for Teuvo (or Danault, whose loss will also be felt at some point in my opinion) to reach that ceiling. It could still be another year or two. The Hawks might not have a year or two. The thing is I just don’t think Shaw’s floor is high enough to justify this one.

 

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