Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Richard Panik A Better Version Of Andrew Shaw

By Tim Lively
Jan 24, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) with the puck during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) with the puck during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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While Richard Panik was not exactly brought in to replace Andrew Shaw, there’s no doubt the former is a better fit today for the Chicago Blackhawks

While playing for our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, Andrew Shaw was a quintessential fan favorite, and for good reason. Shaw played with an unparalleled amount of gritty determination that likened him at times more to a Tasmanian devil than a hockey player. When he departed during the 2016 offseason, many fans were clamoring for the ‘Hawks to find another player to take up his mantel.

Never known for consistently lighting up the scoreboard, the sheer amount of physicality Shaw brought to the Blackhawks’ gameplay made him a rallying banner for his teammates nonetheless. Shaw was always in the scrum of things on the ice, and despite his small stature, never hesitated to dish out the bodywork. His tenacious playing style made him a significant component to numerous offensive drives, and ultimately two Stanley Cup wins.

Thus, ever since Shaw’s departure, Blackhawks fans have been waiting and watching intently for another ‘Hawks player to emerge with the same level of physical intensity as Shaw. There’s evidence that suggests the Blackhawks’ brass is also conscious of the void Shaw left on the roster, as there is little else to explain why Jordin Tootoo, a forward known for being physical and not much else, is on the team at all.

There are certain circles in Blackhawks Nation that feel Ryan Hartman is a likely candidate for Shaw’s replacement, a comparison that Hartman does not apparently embrace, stating that he is focusing on playing his own game and not looking to emulate anyone.

All the while however, there has been a player on the Blackhawks who has not only quietly stepped up to fill the physical absence of Shaw, but has gone far beyond the role: Richard Panik.

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Making a case for Richard Panik

Ever since his arrival on the Blackhawks last year, Panik has been a bit of a journeyman; bouncing from line to line without being given a chance to really make his mark. Yet no matter what line he found himself on, Panik consistently and relentlessly pursued the puck with verve identical to Shaw, and helped generate scoring drives time and again.

This season, Panik has found himself a bit more settled, rotating between the first and third lines. This small measure of stability has paid big dividends for Panik’s game, as it has enabled him to not only fill Shaw’s old role, but surpass it.

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While I don’t always like hanging my hat on stats, when it comes to Panik and Shaw this season, they are pretty telling.

From a pure physicality standpoint, as of this post, Panik has 115 hits this season, placing him at 46th overall in the NHL, whereas Shaw has 94, which is good for 84th in the league. Both are decent numbers in terms of giving opponents the business, but the X Factor here is amount of time Shaw and Panik spend in the penalty box.

Having a physical player is essential for any hockey franchise, but only if that player is throwing his weight around legally. If the player is constantly putting his team down a man for two minutes every time he feels like getting up close and personal with the opposition, he’s more a liability than an asset.

As of this post, Panik has only tallied up 22 penalty minutes this season, which puts him at 246th in the NHL overall. Compare that to Shaw who has sat in the box for 95 minutes, second most in the league.

Chicago Blackhawks

Again, being a physical presence is a great role for a player to fill, but when they play a physical game and consistently do it cleanly, they damage more than their opponents’ bodies: they damage their minds. Players like Panik who are able to throw their weight around and keep out of the box are the types of players who really get under their opponents’ skin and downgrade their play as a team. For a prime example, ‘Hawks fans need look no further than the success of Dave “the Rat” Bolland when he skated for Chicago.

Offensive improvement

While being an effective intimidator is one thing, we all know body checks alone don’t win games. but here is where Panik is really emerging as a far more valuable asset than Shaw.

So far this season, Shaw has scored seven goals, whereas Panik has twice that amount at 14. During his four-year career with the Blackhawks, Shaw averaged about 14.5 a season.

While it’s too early to determine if this season is an anomaly for Panik in terms of offensive output, if the numbers are to be trusted, Panik could very well be lighting the lamp much more consistently than Shaw going forward. Only time will tell, but as of now the indicators are pretty positive.

Next: Blackhawks' Stat Questions Entering Late-Season Run

While Shaw will always have his place in Blackhawks history, Panik is proving that he in more than capable of not only playing a similar role, but playing a far greater one. It’s time we as ‘Hawks fans start giving Panik his due, and help cheer him on to be the best possible player he can be for the Blackhawks.

FOR THE DAGGER!

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