by Andrew Saadalla, Guest Columnist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Andrew Shaw ((Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Andrew Shaw ((Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

MONTREAL, QC. — Get comfortable, folks. Montreal Canadiens fans are in for six years of Andrew Shaw’s willingness to crash the net and go to the dirty areas of the ice. You’re in for a little over 2000 days of pure grit, and over 65 months of witnessing true character ooze from every pore of the two-time Stanley Cup champion. Fans should consider themselves lucky, because the 25-year-old has a tendency to score roughly 15 goals a season.

He should be able to hit that mark (or more) in Montreal by playing alongside David Desharnais and Daniel Carr on a third scoring line. Moreover, when general manager Marc Bergevin signed Shaw to a six-year deal last June, he knew very well what he was getting in the player he helped draft in 2011 as part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ scouting department. After all, Shaw has a history of performing well in playoffs by scoring opportunistic goals, according to the Habs GM.

But Andrew Shaw is far from perfect, and no one has ever called him a saint. In fact, only one game into the regular season schedule and he’s already coming under fire for his questionable and, dare I say, senseless and violent tendencies.

Let’s backtrack a little.

On Tuesday September 27th, the Habs hosted a pre-season game against the Washington Capitals. With less than three minutes to go in the second period (of an absolutely meaningless match with the home team is up 4-1), Shaw sped into the corner and slammed Capitals defenseman Connor Hobbs. As Hobbs fell to the ground, visibly affected by the impact of the hit, Shaw decided to crosscheck him (for good measure, I presume.)

Shaw was subsequently assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. Two days later Shaw received a three-game suspension from the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety. Frankly, he deserved it. However, he did take the time to speak with journalists and apologized for his actions, vowing to henceforth exercise self-control.

Andrew Shaw (Photo by Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Andrew Shaw (Photo by Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

I’ve read comments from fans who applauded Shaw’s behavior. They mention a “lack of character and leadership” which sunk this franchise into a seemingly never-ending spiral last season, and how this Andrew brings both of those elements to the table every single instant of every single day. I get that. But Shaw has a history of being suspended, and one of the most glaring incidents involved a homophobic slur directed at an opponent last season. Additionally, a certain hand gesture in that same game cost Shaw $5,000 in fines.

I’ve heard people say that it’s about time the Canadiens bring in a dirty player; that far too often, they’ve been on the receiving end of questionable hits and it’s hard to deny the latter part. The problem is that Shaw is needed on the ice. He’s evidently better-served in the lineup as opposed to sitting out.

On Thursday night, with under 10 seconds to go in a 4-1 victory for the Canadiens, Shaw brought a player to the ice with a slew foot. It was a player who did not deserve to potentially get injured on a boneheaded and utterly useless play.

And guess what? Shaw did not earn himself a suspension after being served a match penalty once the final whistle had gone.

What on earth can possibly be going through a player’s mind? Why would anyone want to potentially place their team and coach in a situation where they’re forced to readjust their strategies because of a selfish play that leads to absolutely nothing beneficial?

It’s not like No. 65 was mandated with the responsibility of sending a message to the Buffalo Sabres, of all teams. There’s no bad blood and nothing that even remotely resembles a rivalry between these two clubs. In this instance, I have to admit that I found Shaw’s behaviour deplorable.

There’s no room for that kind of garbage in the NHL. Purists will tell you that fighting and hard-hitting body checks define what the National Hockey League has always stood for, though I challenge them to rationally defend actions similar to Shaw’s. I sincerely believe those are the same people who are stuck in the past and never adjust themselves to current times.

Realists will acknowledge that this game has been headed towards speed and skill rather than pure brute, and I like to think that I’m a part of the latter school of thought. I’ve been saying for years that the NHL is evolving and that fourth-liners with solely checking mandates are a dying breed, and you need not look further than this article published by CBC last April justifying exactly that.

Look, I salute teammates who stick up for each other. Too many times, this was something that the Habs could not pride themselves on in recent years. While Shaw fits that bill, I cannot respect a player who lacks in maturity and has a tendency to hurt others physically and possibly emotionally.

Would it have been so much to ask of him to at least wait a few weeks before reverting back to his usual ways?

Buckle up, folks. You might learn to love Shaw (if you already don’t), but he is going to frustrate the heck out of you more often than I’d like to admit.

Also, maybe head coach Michel Therrien should consider benching him in 4-1 games…


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