There is little doubt the Montreal Canadiens could fetch a hefty ransom for a healthy Andrew Shaw ahead of the trade deadline. Nevertheless, it might make sense to keep him, if the Habs are serious about making the playoffs this season.
Shaw the Straw that Stirs Habs’ Drink?
Shaw’s offensive contributions to the lineup generally slip under the radar, while his extracurricular activities take center stage instead. However, it’s hard to dispute just how valuable he is once you consider the facts.
It goes beyond his versatility as a forward who can play multiple positions up front or even his relatively impressive 24 points (11 goals) in 36 games. Even if over an 82-game schedule, those totals would represent career highs by a wide margin, it’s the impact he has on his teammates that is most important to the team’s offensive success. That’s what the stats show up to this point, anyway.
According to NHL.com, the Canadiens are averaging 2.96 goals per game. Since Shaw, who’s been out with a neck injury, last played on New Year’s Eve, they’ve only scored 10 in six games (1.67). It’s primarily due to an at-least-temporary resurgence of the old Carey Price in nets that the Habs have been able to earn a 3-3 record since then (two shutouts, .946 save percentage since returning on Jan. 3 from injury). However, Price only tells half the story. Maybe even a third.
While Price and Shea Weber are the team’s two towering pillars on the back-end and justifiably receive a lot of the responsibility and credit for the team’s success, Shaw is no slouch up front. Granted, he’s seen limited action over his three seasons with the Canadiens, never playing more than 68 games due to various ailments.
Domi, Drouin and Shaw
However, in the games Shaw’s gotten in, he’s proven to be a difference-maker, especially recently since being put on a line with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Both currently sit at Nos. 1 and 2 among the team’s scoring leaders, but both have also been in slumps, since, you guessed it, Shaw was put on the shelf.
Domi, who had been averaging nearly a point per game, now has 39 in 46 games after notching just two assists in the last six games. Drouin, who has 34 points so far, has been limited to a single goal and assist in that same timespan.
Admittedly, you’d have to go back to mid-December for a goal on which any of the two actually connected with Shaw for a marker. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the threesome had a great deal of chemistry with one another. In fact, during the 17 games between the point at which they were put together and last connected for a goal, both Drouin and Shaw had 17 points apiece and Domi had 16.
In the eight games Shaw played since then, they each tallied a respectable, but unimpressive five points shuffling around, with just Domi and Drouin sticking together for all intents and purposes. As previously mentioned, things have taken a turn for the worse for the duo from a production standpoint since Jan. 1, though.
Shaw Provides Offensive Spark
Due to their droughts and that of the team in general, head coach Claude Julien’s hand was forced. He separated the two, in an attempt to find some kind of spark.
Claude Julien brasse sa soupe ce matin. Il sépare le duo Drouin-Domi.
— J-F Chaumont (@JFChaumontJDM) January 12, 2019
Unfortunately, that spark he’s searching for seems to be out until after the All-Star Game. There’s no timetable for Shaw’s return, but it’s clear the Canadiens need him back sooner rather than later. Ideally, well before the trade deadline, either on the off chance Bergevin decides to shop him… or he doesn’t.
Part of Shaw’s allure to would-be buyers has to be his ability to play anywhere in the lineup and get his job done as a so-called shift disturber. It’s abundantly clear, dating back to his time with the Chicago Blackhawks when he regularly rode shotgun with Jonathan Toews, that he belongs on a top line in a complementary role. It turns out, it might not be as much a complementary role as it is critical.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to cover the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.