It was a very busy offseason for Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks. Management put a premium on upping their toughness and defensive skill by adding players like Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta, but one key acquisition stood out above all others – the homecoming of a new and improved Andrew Shaw.
Another Season, Another Blackhawks Reunion
While many of the recent reunions in Chicago have left a lot to be desired, this one is a vastly different situation. With the exception of Brandon Saad, players like Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Patrick Sharp came back with their championship pedigrees and memories of better days, but their best days were behind them. This is where the re-acquisition of Shaw differs from the rest.
Shaw, coming off a career year with the Montreal Canadiens in which he scored 19 goals and dished out 28 assists in 63 games, is more a more mature player now than his first time around the block. One of the big complaints about Shaw’s first stint with the Blackhawks was his penchant for letting the game get away from him and taking boneheaded penalties, but his approach has evolved since he was traded before the 2016-17 season.
“I think as a man I’ve matured more and know what it takes to be even a better pro than I’ve been in the past,” Shaw said shortly after being acquired from the Canadiens. “I had some success at working hard and competing with that mindset of never giving up, not letting people put you down, and just pushing through physical and mental exhaustion or pain.”
Shaw Packs on the Pounds
Shaw’s improvements go beyond his mental approach, as he arrived in Chicago with about 15 more pounds of muscle, weighing in at 182 pounds, which will help simplify and enhance his physical game.
“I’m more solid out there,” Shaw said. “I’m still physical, I’m just not maybe as reckless. And with being heavier I can go into an area and don’t have to throw my entire body to kill somebody. It’s more I have strength and weight behind me.”
It has been rough watching the Blackhawks get bullied by more physical teams. A beefier, smarter Shaw is going to be a huge asset for head coach Jeremy Colliton as the Hawks attempt to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has the ability to do a little bit of everything; whether it’s excel in a top-six role alongside skill players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Alex DeBrincat, or bring some toughness, consistency, and scoring ability to the bottom-six, he will be expected to contribute and he’s more than okay with that.
Discussing the expectations of his role, Shaw says he plans to play his game no matter where he’s lined up:
“Go to the net, go to the dirty areas, get pucks, skate hard, play physical,” Shaw said. “Same thing I’ve been doing no matter where I play. It’s what makes me successful, it’s what I’m good at, it’s what’s going to keep me in the league.”
An Older, Stronger, Wiser Shaw
Blackhawks fans and players were ecstatic to hear that Shaw was returning this summer. He brings an infectious personality to the locker room and playing style to the ice that makes everyone around him take notice. Much like a relative who goes away to college, Shaw is returning from his three-year absence a little bit older, a little bit stronger, and a little bit wiser.
Shaw isn’t the only difference on the 2019-20 Blackhawks, he’s coming home to a new coach and a new system, but he has already earned the respect of that coach, his teammates, and the fans, so now all he has to do is go out there and produce.
“It’s nice to hear from the boys and know that they’re excited to have me back,” Shaw said. “It’s been a crazy journey but I’m excited to keep pushing forward and going to war every night with those guys.”