When Brad Shaw joined the Jackets as an assistant coach last summer, the team was looking for someone who could shepherd one of the youngest defensive corps in the League towards success. So far, Shaw is delivering on that expectation.
"Brad Shaw is one of the most intellectual guys I've met as far as how he looks at the game," head coach John Tortorella said. "He's been a huge hire for us. It's a perfect time for him to come together with this group. Shaw is very good at teaching them the subtle little things. It's terrific."
Shaw comes by his understanding of defensive play honestly. He played the position in 377 NHL games, won the best AHL defenseman award in 1986-87, and was named best OHL defenseman in 1984.
When his playing days were done, Shaw transitioned to coaching and earned his way behind an NHL bench serving one year with the New York Islanders and ten years with St. Louis.
When Tortorella asked Shaw to join his coaching staff in Columbus, it was a harkening back to when the two almost coached together in Tampa Bay, and Shaw accepted the opportunity to join the Blue Jackets.
"He's a veteran coach and he's had success in St. Louis," Tortorella said. "Here, it's a very important position as far as handling our young D. He's played the position in the league. He's handled a lot of young D over the years and it's a good marriage, as far as with the youth and having a veteran coach along with them."
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It isn't just Tortorella who sees Shaw as right for the task. Shaw jumped in and got to know his players not just on the ice, but off. During one of the team's first road trips last season, Shaw took each defensive pairing to dinner, just to get to know each player as a person.
"I have never had that before with a coach," Jack Johnson said. "I thought that was really awesome of him to get to know us as individuals. He really took the time to figure out what made each guy tick."
Shaw applied that understanding of his players to his work with the Jackets on ice, including rookie Zach Werenski who set a franchise record in scoring by a rookie defenseman and was a Calder Trophy finalist last year.
"(Shaw) always has something to say, which is what you want as a young guy," Werenski said. "He's always telling you what you're doing well and what you're doing badly. He's honest with you. He's so knowledgeable around hockey. He sees things that I've never even thought about or I've never been told, and he sees it. Having him as a D coach my first year was huge for me."
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Another thing Shaw has brought to his role with the Jackets is using data that's available. Balancing Tortorella's constant reminder of avoiding "information overload," Shaw focuses on relevant things from penalty kill percentage and what happens after a faceoff on the penalty kill to shot attempts. All of which were helpful for a blue line that was working to become more aggressive offensively.
"He likes to use numbers," Seth Jones said. "Numbers are good for you to see where you're at, he's gotten into it more than other coaches I've had."
Shaw's combination of practical teaching supplemented with data brought positive results. According to hockeyanalysis.com, this season veteran defensemen each saw an increase in their five-on-five points per-60 production over the 2015-16 season, while decreasing the number of opponents' shot attempts per-60 that they allowed.
"I think I can speak for the rest of the D," Jones said. "He added a lot to us this year, a lot of new things. He loves teaching. He enjoys that. He'll pull you over from time to time and let you know things. It's awesome to get his advice on a lot of situations."