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Joel Quenneville pondered the nickname long associated with Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw and couldn’t pinpoint the origin.
“ Mutt? He’s probably been called every name in the book,” the Florida Panthers coach and former Hawks coach said. “So I don’t know if there’s anything in particular that stands out with the ‘Mutt’ (nickname). I know he likes animals, but you could call him a ‘rat.’
“Everybody has their descriptions of players that play like him, but certainly there’s an appreciation no matter what he’s called.”
Mutt or rat, Shaw was the gritty forward whose roles included being a nuisance in front of the net and helping establish a culture of toughness and accountability in the locker room.
Those traits might not always show up on stat sheets, but they manifest in the form of Stanley Cups — two, in 2013 and 2015, in Shaw’s case.
Shaw wasn’t the first to help instill that ethic in Chicago and won’t be the last.
Before the Hawks won their first of their three championships under Quenneville in 2010, then-general manager Dale Tallon signed a gritty, defensive-minded, dirty-work center who had won two Cups with the New Jersey Devils: John “Mad Dog” Madden.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Madden was even similar in size to the 5-11, 182-pound Shaw, his fellow Ontario native.
When Madden signed with the Hawks in the summer of 2009, he said he saw similar traits in them as he saw in the Devils.
“With the addition of (Marian) Hossa and the experience last year, it’s a group with a lot of skill and talent and hungry kids who want the Cup,” Madden said at the time, according to Tribune archives. “They have all the elements of making a run at it for this year and years to come. I had no problem giving up security for a chance to win.”
The veteran’s words turned out prophetic.
“Right from day one, I don’t know if accepted is the right word because he stepped into the locker room and guys flocked to him right away,” Patrick Sharp said shortly before the Hawks clinched the 2010 Cup against the Philadelphia Flyers. “He has been through the battle a few times. He’s not the type of leader who stands up and barks in the room a whole lot. When he does say something, he definitely has our attention.”
You have to mention Dave Bolland, too, in the tradition of the hockey rat. Bolland and Hossa carried the mantle into future championships.
Hossa was a multiple Selke Trophy finalist like Madden as one of the league’s best defensive forwards and went on to win two more titles with the Hawks alongside Shaw.
“When I was young, I had a guy like Marian Hossa to look up to,” said Shaw, who on Monday announced plans to retire because of multiple concussions.
Shaw didn’t step down because he didn’t want to see the current rebuild through or didn’t see a role for himself. Doctors advised against him risking more concussions.
“My wife, she used to love when I’d fight, she just enjoyed it,” Shaw said. “Now later in my career, it would always scare her. That’s a sign to move on as well.”
But Shaw knows what a “Mutt” like himself, and the ones before him, can mean to a franchise, the subtle ways that type of player can keep the continuity of competitiveness intact.
“I would love to see the mold I am continue in hockey for generations,” Shaw said. “You do see a little of yourself in players. … You look at a guy like Brandon Hagel who can skate, get on forechecks and play physical. That’ll help in his career. He’s a lot more skilled than me and faster than I was. So I’d like to see him push himself to be more consistent.
“Joel Quenneville always told me: ‘The most important thing you can find in a player is consistency. Because then you know what you’re going to get from them game in and game out.’ I’d like to see young players figure out that part of their game earlier in their career to give them a longer career. You see a little of me in Hages for sure.”
Hagel said that coming into the NHL, he heard that comparison a lot. He said Shaw “was talking to me constantly” about consistency.
“Maybe now I have him beat on the speed, but other than that, that’s something he’d definitely bring up to me and talk to me about,” Hagel said. “It helps me, it puts my head in the right space and I know what I need to do day in and day out.
“Especially hearing it from a guy that had 10 years under his belt and two Stanley Cups, pretty crazy.”
Brett Connolly, acquired from the Panthers at the trade deadline, said having guys in the locker room like Shaw and himself can have a lasting impact. Connolly won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018.
“Well, first, there’s a respect level with those guys that have done it,” Connolly said, “especially Shawzy, a guy that put his body on the line for the team, was a team-first guy, and then Kaner (Patrick Kane), Duncs (Duncan Keith), (Jonathan) Toews and all the guys who were here winning. When they come in the room, there’s a respect level toward them from everybody, especially guys who haven’t won before.”
Like the younger Kane and Toews once did with players such as Madden and Hossa, today’s young core naturally follows the lead of Cup winners.
“For me, I obviously didn’t win here, but I’ve been around a little bit and I’m there to help in any way I can and I’ll continue to do that as long as I can,” Connolly said. “You definitely need guys that have been around, and when you have guys who have won, it makes it better for everyone else.”