Andrew Shaw’s acquisition happened during a hectic point in time for the Montreal Canadiens. The trade was announced before the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. It was announced alongside the trade of Lars Eller, and it was made minutes before Montreal drafted ninth overall.
Three days later, he signed a six-year contract with the team.
Shaw showed glimpses of the player he could have been, but injuries and suspensions kept him out of the lineup. He was never able to put his game together, but there were signs that if he could play disciplined, he could turn things around. After all, he was suspended in his first pre-season game with the Canadiens.
The hope that he would return to the player who scored 20 goals with the Chicago Blackhawks looked more and more unlikely. Then last April, it was announced he would be out six months after knee surgery, and was expected to miss the start of this season.
He ended up playing in the season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs after missing the entire pre-season, but scored in his debut and added an assist in the next game against the Washington Capitals playing on the fourth line. He didn’t miss a beat.
Most of the first two months was with Shaw playing around 8-12 minutes per game and providing value. Then, he went on a nine game streak without any points and Claude Julien promoted him to a line with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Shaw and Domi had instant chemistry, and were barely separated for the rest of the season.
The end result was Shaw scoring 19 goals, the second best total of his career, and adding 28 assists. His 47 points — a career high — were only two points fewer than his total from his first two years in Montreal. He did all of this despite missing 19 games to injury.
Shaw’s injury history can be a concern, especially considering he is signed for three more seasons but that’s something that cannot be controlled. The most impressive part of Shaw’s season wasn’t the point production, or his chemistry with Domi. It was his new-found discipline. The best players who play on the edge, and provide value to a team need to be mindful to not step over the line.
The new father found that line, and stayed on the right side of it and that is encouraging. His most value to the Canadiens was always with him on the ice.
Whenever a player reaches a new career high in points in his late twenties, there is a question whether it is a new baseline, or a mirage. The benefit for Shaw is that his value goes beyond points. He brings leadership, calling out his team late in the season for their performance and effort. He plays the penalty kill, and gets to the front of the net on the power play.
These were all things Shaw did at his best. These were all things Marc Bergevin saw when he was in Chicago and bet on three years ago. This was the first time Shaw put it all together for a full season.
At the beginning of the season, Shaw was mostly the forgotten man. Missing the pre-season, and the additions of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Domi, Joel Armia, and Tomas Tatar made people question where Shaw fit in a full Canadiens lineup. This offseason, with the pending addition of Nick Suzuki, and full season debut for Ryan Poehling, people are once again asking where the room will come from.
But unlike a year ago, Shaw’s spot shouldn’t be up for much debate anymore.