Sunday, January 10, 2021

Hawks Preview: Andrew Shaw Autographed Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith may not have been told in those words, but Chicago Blackhawks GM (and now President of Hockey Operations) Stan Bowman's moves for the past couple seasons have at least strongly hinted at the fact that he's in the rebuilding process, and trading away one #1 goalie (Robin Lehner) and not re-signing another (Corey Crawford) as well as parting with a defenseman as good as Erik Gustafsson could not have made it clearer. And one reason why is because its top stars (and former star defenseman Brent Seabrook) account for too much of the salary cap to be able to fix problems on the fly - it's the cost of building a team that wins three Stanley Cups and rewards loyalty with too much bargaining power.

What makes their odds look good:
Toews remains a very good two-way center, although no longer a Selke Trophy finalist per se due to the rise of Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers) and Phillip Danault (Montréal Canadiens); Kane remains one of the five or ten best forwards in the world; Alex DeBrincat's shooting percentage should be back at 10-12% this year, which will result in another very good offensive season; Pius Suter dominated in Switzerland - perhaps a strong middle-six showing in the NHL is in the books for him; 18-year-old Lukas Reichel was the second-best German player outside the NHL last year, we just aren't familiar enough with the DEL's rise yet to be able to place that accurately on the world/NHL spectrum, but going by Leon Draisaitl and the word on Tim Stützle, the country's made tremendous progress and may compare to the Swiss and Slovaks; Keith is slower but still relatively efficient; Dominik Kubalik looks solid; Ian Mitchell is ready to play against adults full-time, but may be a couple of years away from the NHL.

Question marks:
Are either of Malcolm Subban or Colin Delia ready for a #1 job in net? How long will Toews be out with his mysterious ailment? Is Dylan Strome more of a 0.6 or 0.75 point-per-game player? The answer is the difference between a #2 and #3 center and could force the Hawks to either need to make a trade or fast-track a rookie (say, Kirby Dach) to a spot they may not be ready for.

If the next coupe of years will be hard on Kane, Toews, and Keith, they'll help the organization rebuild relatively quickly so they can contend again in 2024-25; the hardest part (losing with a core that's being churned over) is nearly over, and the next step (losing via learning through mistakes) is just around the corner.

Seventh in the Central Division.

One feel-good story with the Hawks this year is Andrew Shaw's return from a concussion after 14 months. The two-time Cup winner who was diagnosed with ADD in 2016 can definitely still fill a leadership role on a middle-six and contribute offensively once in a while; after all, he had his best offensive season in 2018-19, posting 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists, +17, 71 penalty minutes) with the Canadiens, before getting traded back to Chicago.

Here he is wearing the Rockford IceHogs' red (away) uniform on card #212 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and AHL Rookie sub-set:
He signed it in blue sharpie in 2018-19.

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