NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks

The “Irreplaceable Shaw,” Pens-Caps, Boudreau, And Other Argle Bargle

Lotta strands floating in Ol’ Duder’s head today. Let’s see if we can’t get through it all.

-So it took me a day or two to get around to commenting on Joel Quenneville’s assertion that Andrew Shaw is “irreplaceable.” We know that Q has a loose grip on what a salary cap actually is, considering the way he spent the first month or two of the season in a strop (not Pedro, #HatToTheLeft) that Brandon Saad wasn’t around even though there was no way the Hawks could sign him for what he got. That’s unfortunate, given how much sway we’re pretty sure Q gets over personnel decisions. Or maybe he doesn’t get enough say and that’s why he shits on the ones Stan makes. But that’s not why you called.

Look, Andrew Shaw is certainly a rare player. A bottom six winger who can at least get you out of a game or two at center or on the top six if you need him. But irreplaceable? Let’s be real here.

The past two years Shaw has provided 29 goals combined, and 60 points. An average of 14.5 goals and 30 points sounds exactly what he is, even though he did put up three years of scoring at a 20-goal pace (two of those were half-seasons, one due to midseason call-up and another due to a lockout). But once his SH% leveled out, 15 goals per year is probably a more accurate representation.

Shaw’s peripherals are right in line with the team’s, which means he’s a good but hardly a great possession player and probably benefitted from being a Hawks as much as the Hawks benefitted from him being one. His career 54.1 CF% is good but overall is -0.2% below the team rate over that time. Shaw has varied from getting cushy zone starts (past three seasons before this one) and actually having tough ones (this past season and his first one).

And as we know, the idea of Shaw’s “versatility” is something of a misnomer. He’s a pretty terrible center, at least at anything more than a 4th line one. His sense of positioning is just this side of awful. He can’t be trusted on a penalty kill. And the plaudits he receives for playing the acclaimed female lead of “Annette Frontpresence” has confused “willing” with “excelling.” Sure, he’s willing to be there but as Andrew Ladd and to a lesser degree Artem Anisimov showed, there’s a difference between that and really knowing what you’re doing there. Shaw still doesn’t have much of a feel for when to move out from there and present a different option, which is why he basically killed the Toews-stuff option from the corner which the Hawks used to use a lot and still try and revert to. He scores his power play goals because he’s there and everyone else around him is so talented, but Wayne Simmonds or Scott Hartnell ’11 he is not.

So what are we talking about here? Honestly, if two first round picks between Mark McNeill or Ryan Hartman can’t come up and give you bottom six minutes and get you 10-15 goals, then the Hawks have a serious drafting and/or scouting problem. They’re already set at center, at least they tell us, with all of Toews, Anisimov, Teuvo, and Kruger all locked up for next year. They don’t need a player to bounce there, at least not that often.

There simply isn’t room to pay Shaw what he might want, and he’s the exact type of player you have to replace cheaply. I don’t know what the market is for a player that is a free agent of sorts, and it might not be that much. But I wonder where this will go if Q doesn’t get to keep one of his favorite toys. We could see yet another kid who could actually be useful get the full doghouse treatment for the simple crime of not being Andrew Shaw.

-Anyway, Pens-Caps kicked off last night as the NHL desperately scrambled to dust off all their promo scripts from seven years ago that they’d thought they’d return to repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hope this series goes the route and look forward to watching it. Discussion of Sidney-Ovi rivalry has always been a little silly as they could go a whole game without actually sharing the ice. But the league could use two of its biggest superstars going off in the same series. It doesn’t happen that often. In all the Hawks’ runs I can’t think of it, only because no one outside of this blog and some in LA realize that Anze Kopitar is just as good as Toews and kind of ignored him handing Tazer his lunch up and down the ice in 2014’s Conference Final. Stamkos never fired last year.

But thinking about it yesterday, it feels like the NHL missed a chance with these two years ago. If they really wanted them to match up more often in the postseason, they would have opted for a realignment to this divisional format years ago (even though it’s kinda stupid). That probably would have assured more playoff meetings. Oh well, not like we’re not used to the NHL missing opportunities or anything.

-Bruce Boudreau’s firing is hardly a surprise, and it’s sparked a debate in the hockey world. Gabby’s regular season record is certainly to be marveled at, and usually we’re too quick to dismiss regular season accomplishments as that is the greater sample size.

But that doesn’t mean Boudreau didn’t get outcoached in all these flameouts. Three years ago he did nothing to get Getzlaf away from Zetterberg and Datsyuk, though Getz has proved it probably wouldn’t matter given his penchant for fuck-this-shit performances in the spring. Two years ago he couldn’t decide on a goalie. Last year he let Q dance all over him once Q stopped settling for the Toews-Kesler matchup.

It hasn’t helped Boudreau that his two biggest stars go missing when it matters most, or that they really don’t have a #1 d-man to be found. But at some point, you need a guy to change things to get your team over, and he just hasn’t done it.

-Right, let’s quickly set up tonight’s action.

St. Louis-Dallas Game 1: I can’t escape the feeling that this is a terrible matchup for the Stars. Whereas Hitchcock should have been more punished for not attacking the Hawks enough, it feels like he can get away with that against the Stars. It seems weird given the firepower the Stars have, but given their defensive goofiness and the utter helplessness of their goalies, the Blues will cash in on turnovers and mistakes far easier than a Hawks team that could at least boast two defensively sound d-men and a really good (if not dizzy) goalie. Especially without Seguin, even if it’s just for a game or two. Klingberg is the ultimate trap-buster of course, and if they split him and Goligoski up it would give them two. We’ll see what Lindy Ruff decides.

Nashville-San Jose Game 1: Unlike my colleague Fifth Feather (who hates fun and thus lashes out at the world to mask his utter hatred for himself. We know you too well, Feather), I absolutely adore Joe Thornton and the Sharks are the team I’d most like to see go all the way, at least in the West. But this is going to be harder than a lot of people think. These are two of the best shot-suppression teams in the league, and if the Predators get goaltending from Rinne that he showed for portions of the Anaheim series they’re a tough out. I’m not sure home ice helps the Sharks much given how much better they were on the road, and the speed the Preds boast from the back could give the Sharks some problems. It has a chance to be a wildly entertaining series though. And as strange as it sounds, the Preds probably have a deeper and more varied attack than the Kings, to at least test a still unknown Martin Jones.

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