On Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks are honoring Andrew Shaw's legacy after he retired from hockey following last season. A long history of concussions is ultimately what forced Shaw to make a choice, risk his health or end his career. Fortunately for his health and well-being, Shaw chose the latter but is still adored by the Blackhawks faithful.
In addition to this awesome t-shirt, the team is honoring him when they take on the only other team he ever played for, the Montreal Canadiens. The Blackhawks got it right when setting this night up, and Thursday night's festivities will certainly be a treat.
As we look back at Andrew Shaw's playing days, and some of the best moments of his career, it brings up an intriguing comparison and question. Is Brandon Hagel the present-day version of Andrew Shaw for Chicago? Shaw hears the comparisons, and he had his own answer to said question.
However, I personally want to dive into this question a little more. We will compare Hagel to Shaw in this piece, and how aspects of their games correlate to one another.
Is Hagel Truly Shaw?
When comparing these players, there are a few areas of their games to consider. The first is offense, which feels pretty easy and necessary to analyze. However, the other areas of physicality and role are additional things to consider.
Andrew Shaw has already publicly said that he believes Hagel is more skilled than he was. However, Shaw was not a slouch when it came to scoring. In fact, his first five seasons in Chicago saw him post four double-digit goal seasons. The only season he failed to reach double digits was in the shortened 48-game 2013 season. However, he still tallied nine goals that year.
Once he moved on to Montreal, Shaw also exceeded that double-digit threshold in all three seasons despite never playing more than 68 games. The injuries started to catch up with Shaw in Montreal despite his solid offensive outputs. Finally, Shaw's final two seasons saw him play a combined 40 games with Chicago, ultimately leading to him stepping away from hockey.
On the other hand, Hagel has only played in the NHL for just over one season. He skated in 52 games last season during the shortened campaign, tallying 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists). This season, Hagel has eight goals and eight assists in 30 games. He has missed the last three games due to COVID-19 protocols. However, he is possibly due to return on Shaw's legacy night.
That said, over an 82-game pace, Hagel would be a 44-point player. Shaw only exceeded 40 points once in his career. Hagel's pace last season was roughly 38 points over 82 games.
So far, it appears Hagel does have an offensive upside in comparison to Shaw. However, let's continue to analyze their play.
Physicality can be measured in a few different ways, and certainly none of them are perfect. However, hits, penalty minutes, and fights appear to be decent indicators. Fights have relatively gone down, even in Shaw's era, so we'll focus on the first two. When comparing numbers, it's easy to see Shaw is the clear winner.
Shaw tallied over 100 penalty minutes once but routinely recorded between 50 and 70 minutes per season. A lot of that can be attributed to being very aggressive, and sometimes getting called for a penalty. In Hagel's case, he has 17 penalty minutes in 83 career games. In addition, Shaw was always more of a hitter than Hagel is. Shaw tallied between 70 and 168 hits in all but one year of his career. In addition, Shaw delivered over 125 hits five times. As for Hagel, he only has 80 career hits, which Shaw accomplished as a rookie in 37 games. Advantage: Shaw.
A player's role can be very subjective due to his play style. Once again, we aren't saying this is a perfect measuring stick. However, for the majority of Shaw's career, he functioned as a middle-six player in a grinding role. That was largely in part to the depth and talent on the Blackhawks' rosters in his first stint. When he returned to Chicago, and even when he was in Montreal, he played an elevated role, more often in the top six than the bottom six. Despite the role difference, his offensive numbers were still fairly consistent.
For Hagel, his first 20 games or so were vastly spent in a fourth-line role. However, in the last 30 games or so last season, and through 30 games so far this season, Hagel has been a staple in the top six as a change-of-pace winger to what the Blackhawks have in names like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. On these current teams, Hagel's skill is needed in a more prominent role, where Shaw wasn't always required to be a top-six guy.
Truthfully, I see the comparisons and why people see Shaw and Hagel as similar players. However, they're both unique in their own ways. In fact, I personally think Hagel plays more like a Brandon Saad in Chicago than Andrew Shaw. Shaw was physical, nasty, and an irritator. As for Hagel, he's a strong, two-way forward who can not only score but be responsible defensively.
In the end, I don't think they're at all the same player. However, they're both players that exemplify the blue-collar attitude that is Chicago, and that's why they draw comparisons. As hockey fans, we can enjoy each of these players separately. However, together we can compare them as fan favorites who work hard and play hard for our favorite team.