In Shaw's case, he played smaller than he was. 6'0" and 190lbs is at best average for a NHL defenseman, but Shaw played smaller than that, hampering his own game. He was not very strong, and did not hit with much authority. He relied on strong positional play and active stick with his good reach to play defense. Physically he would push players with his stick but never intimidated a soul.
He was far more comfortable with the puck. He was a good skater with a long stride, though he was by no means quick. He was a very intelligent player with the puck, and could read plays as they were developing. He would often advance the play with a well placed pass.
Detroit drafted Shaw in 1982. Shaw would complete his junior career with some outstanding offensive numbers with the Ottawa 67s and also was a strong member of two Canadian world juniors entries. In his last season, 1982-83, he was named as the OHL's top defenseman.
Despite his strong showing Shaw and Detroit were unable to come to a contract so the Red Wings moved him to Hartford in 1984 for next to nothing.
It took 5 seasons of apprenticing in the minor leagues, but Shaw finally made it to the NHL on a full time basis in 1989-90. His 3 goals and 35 points was the second most among "rookie" defensemen that season. Only Viacheslav Fetisov (who had even more experience than Shaw) had more.
Shaw would quietly play two more seasons in Hartford before joining the expansion Ottawa Senators via the expansion draft. Shaw would play two seasons in Ottawa, scoring a nice 11 goals and 64 points in that time, though his combined minus-88 was a little scary. Ottawa often chose to team Shaw with even more undersized Norm MacIver together. MacIver, a fan favorite, took the role of offensive catalyst and tended to wander all over the ice. Shaw was asked to play more of the conservative defensive role, on his weak side, to boot. He was game but never really thrived in the situation.
Aside from a brief re-appearance with Washington and St. Louis, Shaw rounded out his career with the Detroit Vipers in the IHL.
Shaw was an effective player who gave a full and steady effort to the best of abilities. He must be admired for that. And he used his hockey intellect to become an excellent coach, including half a season behind the bench as the head coach of the New York Islanders.