Chicago, IL — When the Blackhawks finished the 2011 NHL entry draft, I thought they came away with some steals. They had two first, second and third round picks so I knew one of these kids would have an excellent chance of either making the team outright or being called down from Rockford at a later point in the season. I never really paid too much attention to the picks after these rounds though and shame on me.
Waiting in the 139th pick overall was not a diamond in the rough but a grain of gritty sand with more heart and spunk than any diamond. Diamonds are known for being one of the hardest substances known to man. What the Blackhawks unearthed in this draft was something even more valuable and durable, a hard-nosed scraper just waiting for his chance to let his inner grit shine on the NHL stage.
139 chances teams had to snatch this little bugger and no one saw this coming except maybe Shaw himself. Even the Blackhawks let him slid to the 5th round. They however, must have seen something they liked in the Right Winger and luckily for Chicago we now all get to experience the Shawzer as he is
affectionately called by coach Q and his teammates.
Shaw came from the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), you know that league that Patrick Kane came from. Shaw’s team was the Owen Sound Attack. He is not big in stature at 5’10’ but what he lacks here he more than makes up for in character. There is no mistaking he is a hockey player with more battle scars & stitches on his face than in a baseball. He had modest numbers he was not ranked in the top 20 of league scorers while in the OHL. In fact he ended the regular season at 81 ranking. So there was nothing that would suggest that he would or could be a stand out on a big stage like the NHL or maybe there was. It seems Shaw had a liking for big stages even in the Juniors.
When he was in the OHL his last year was his best. He had 54 points (22G, 32A) and a +17 plus/minus rating in 66 games with the Owen Sound Attack, and shared 11th in the OHL with 135 penalty minutes, I said he was scrappy. 1 But what is even more amazing is his stats when his team went to their postseason. His stats nearly tripled in the same amount of games indicating he must not let pressure get to him. He probably doesn’t even know what it is.
In the playoffs in 20 games he recorded 17 points (10G,7A) and a +4 with 53 PIM but beyond the stats he ranked 3rd on his team with his 10 goals and helped his team to a Championship where he led everyone on the team with 7 points (2G, 5A) and was given the OHL’ Hardest working player of the year award. Character, determination and fortitude to say the least on display in these stats is what he exhibited. This is probably what caught the Blackhawks scouting teams eye.
But that was the junior leagues it would be a whole different story in the NHL or would it? Shaw was called down from Rockford along with Dylan Olsen D, in early January because of injuries and a suspension to Daniel Carcillo. The 20-year-old was given a 3yr entry level contract, but more importantly he was given a chance to help the Blackhawks and help them he did. Shaw has helped the Blackhawks when they’ve needed it the most. His debut was against the Flyers in Philadelphia and he scored a goal.
When Shaw was called up by the Hawks he said “It’s the most exciting day of my life,” Shaw said. He also said “I play hard, physical and get under the skin of the opponent, I just go to the net and try to get some greasy ones.” 2
And get greasy ones he does. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and is a master of what I call the Shaw shaft redirection. He manages to sacrifice his body to get to the tough areas in front of goalies and has a knack of deflecting pucks either with this stick, body or anything he can. This endeared him right off the bat with the Hawks’ faithful. He was beloved so much he started a twitter phenomenon called #ShawFacts. Hawks fans would tweet statements similar to the most interesting man in the world that set the twitter world ablaze and made him an instant cult hero.
Shaw however, slowed down on the stat sheets and found life in the NHL is maybe not so easy after all. He got away from the things he did well and just that quickly was back to Rockford. He was turning the puck over too much which, resulted in goals against the Hawks. His defensive game needed some work and is why the Hawks sent him back to the AHL. Remember too all the Hawks were struggling with positioning in the defensive and neutral zone during this time. They could not afford any more turnovers.
Grit is defined as “firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”. 3 Face hardship he did, Shaw understandably disappointed did not give up and just needed to wait for his next chance. The one thing about an NHL season you can guarantee is there will be injuries. Plenty of them in a 82 game season. Shaw was called up again in late February and has not looked back since.
I think Shaw still needs to work on his defensive game like backchecking but I see an improvement. The first time round Shaw was maybe a little out of control now he still plays with enthusiasm and energy but is a little smarter about it. He seems like he is more aware of where he is on the ice and who is around him and what his options on the ice are. I also see Shaw more determined than ever to stay in the NHL. He’s had a taste of the good life, the big show and playing with world-class players couple that with his tenacity and hard work it spells NHLer.
Shaw is a Quenneville favorite. What’s not to like after all. Shawzer has found his game in the NHL. In his last five games he has 7P (4G,3A) a +5 and 2 PIM. He has been on the Bolland line which is perfect for him to hone his defensive skills and a perfect line to keep his edge on the checking line with Bolland and Bickell. Players in the NHL are learning Shaw is like a human boxers speed punching bag. You can take big shots or hits at it but it always comes back until you wear out from hitting it. Think that doesn’t let the league know this kid has toughness and metal.
It is only fitting that Shaw plays in Chicago, a city known for big shoulders and appreciating a hard work ethic. Shaw puts the sand in the sandpaper. Shaw shows us that with hard work and being fearless you can turn dreams into reality. An underdog can become a cult hero. If he turns up his production with the Hawks in the playoffs like he did in the juniors who knows the heights this kid will reach.
After the Blackhawks battled with the Vancouver Canucks in a bruising , emotional game that could be a glimpse of the Hawks playoff round competition, was Shaw overwhelmed? No, scoring the game winning OT goal he basically said it was the most intense game he ever played in and if that is what playoff NHL hockey is like he can’t wait. In other words bring it, gimme your best shot, I’m ready.
This reminded me of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn when he was about to go one on four against outlaw Lucky Ned Pepper & his gang in the movie True Grit. In the classic scene when Cogburn takes the reins of his horse in his mouth and pulls out a rifle in one hand and a six-shooter in the other and declares “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch”. 4 If all of this sounds entertaining it should. Detractors will say Shaw is too young and it’s just his guts that have gotten him this far. All I have to say to them is. “ Well come see a young, gutsy scraper some time. “
1 taken from NHL website for player stats http://www.NHL.com
2 taken from Chicago Suntimes original article dated 1/4/11 by Adam Jahns
3 Miriam Webster online Dictionary – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary
4. taken from Paramount Picture “True Grit” 1969 film