Andrew Shaw’s first season as a Montreal Canadien started and ended with a fight. In his first game with the Canadiens, Shaw took a boarding penalty on Washington Capitals defenceman Connor Hobbs and then got into a fight with Nathan Walker. During the fight he told the Bell Centre crowd to get louder.
Shaw is a good hockey player, but he does nothing for the Canadiens - or any team he would play for - by getting game misconducts and suspensions.
Shaw hadn’t been suspended for an on-ice incident prior to this season, but he was suspended three games for his hit on Hobbs, and avoided supplementary discipline in two further incidents, a slew foot against Johan Larsson of Buffalo and a game misconduct for a hit on Jesper Fast of the New York Rangers.
Shaw set a career high in penalty minutes this season, and his impact when he wasn’t on the ice due to indiscipline was even more harmful because when he was on the ice, he was a very solid contributor to the Habs.
He ranked among the top forwards on the team in shot differential (Corsi For) at 55.03% (3rd), xGF% at 55.14 (5th), and Scoring Chances For at 56.58% (3rd). His actual production wasn’t great, as his Points/60 ranked ninth among forwards.
Shaw’s PDO was ahead of only Michael McCarron so there was a little bad luck involved with his low offensive numbers (12 goals, 17 assists in 68 games). Shaw didn’t have a point in five playoff games.
If you are getting your third line to control shot attempts and scoring chances, you’ll take it even if the production is not there. It’s the lack of production that keeps Shaw from being a top-six performer.
He also dealt with a couple of injuries. Shaw suffered a concussion in December against the Boston Bruins after a hit by Torey Krug. It cost Shaw 15 games, and just over a month of action. He suffered a second concussion in the playoffs that forced him out of game six of the Habs series against the New York Rangers.
Shaw ended the season on the third line which is where is is perfect. He can take faceoffs, and with a team with questions at centre, it’s a benefit. His linemates changed often throughout the season. His most common linemates were Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen, and that line was only put together late in the year.
In all there were six combinations that he played at least 60 minutes at even strength with. He played with Phillip Danault, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron for various stretches over the season and none more than five games at a time.
When Shaw was acquired and signed to his six-year contract at $3.9M per year, there were fears that he would be pushed into a top-six role. However, with the emergence of Paul Byron, Phillip Danault and addition of Alexander Radulov, that wasn’t necessary.
Like I mentioned, Shaw’s ideal role is on that third line. While I don’t expect the third line to have Galchenyuk and Lehkonen at the start of next season, a line with say, Phillip Danault and Paul Byron would give the Canadiens a sneaky effective third line.
It will be interesting to see how Claude Julien and a more stable lineup will benefit Shaw, who like alluded to bounced around the lineup under Michel Therrien.
Shaw’s cap hit isn’t a great deal, but it isn’t overpaid either. In a world of black and white, his contract is decidedly grey. One of his best assets is versatility. He is a player who can play in the top six if you need him to. He can play on the power play if you need him to, and he can play centre if you need him to.
However, relying on him to do any of those things without any injuries would be a recipe for disaster. He has proven to be a good contributor for the Canadiens, but he needs to reign in his intensity and make sure he doesn’t take too many penalties or get himself suspended.
His value to the team needs him to remain in the lineup.
And when he’s in the lineup, he is a very solid player who controls shot attempts, scoring chances and can be counted on defensively. He can play on the edge, but he has to make sure he doesn’t go off of it.
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