For much of this season Stars fans have heard a lot about a pair of forwards: Adam Cracknell and Devin Shore. The first has gone from offseason depth acquisition to body-banging cult hero. The second is an expected AHL contributor using both hands to seize early season opportunity.
The pair has received plenty of attention, but is it warranted? It’s easy to get lost in the moment following a huge hit, a clutch goal, or a pre-game storyline. So let’s sift through a little data – some of the traditional variety, other bits of #fancystats – and see what they have to say about Dallas’ new dynamic(?) duo.
*Note: SAT stats reflect 5v5 play
There have been big goals, and lots of talk about how ably Shore has stepped in as a contributor in the Stars’ lineup. Really, they’re not entirely wrong. Considering age and experience, 13 points, five goals, and significant time on the power play (2:17 APPTOI) speak highly of how management must feel about Shore’s ability to contribute.
Thing is, the underlying numbers also have a story to tell, and theirs is a bit more reflective of how little NHL hockey Shore has actually played. So far this season, the Dallas Stars have dressed a total of 27 skaters. Of those players, none have seen worse than Shore’s -92 SAT differential, and only Jason Dickenson (in a 10-minute cameo) can claim worse than Shore’s -8.1% SAT Rel. Those are not good numbers.
But all is not lost! There is actually a lot to like in Shore’s offensive game. He’s a top ten player in terms of points per 60 minutes (1.77 – 8th), goals per 60 minutes (0.68 – 10th), and assists per 60 minutes (1.09 – 8th). The young center is also fifth in primary assists (6 of his 8 assists are the primary), which is often a strong indicator of true playmaking ability.
Lest we write Shore off entirely, remember, it is difficult to generate offense at the NHL level (ask the rest of the team). Yes, there are some deficiencies in Shore’s game, but it looks like he’s bringing at least one big league skill to the table (an ability to create offense). Perhaps more experience throughout the rest of the lineup will help him sand down some of the rough edges, as will more personal experience playing at the NHL level.
It feels like the totals should be higher, doesn’t it? When Craig Ludwig mentioned last night that Cracknell had a pair of game-winning goals, he neglected to mention those tallies represented half of Cracknell’s total output for the season. There’s certainly enough fawning over the burly forward’s game to get a little confused, and low pre-season expectations could be part of the equation as well. So which is it?
After the loss to St. Louis, Cracknell is one of 11 current Stars (10 if we subtract Ales Hemsky) generating a positive shot differential (+11). He is one of 13 players (removing Gemel Smith, Hemsky, and Justin Dowling) not posting a negative SAT relative to his teammates (2.2% SAT Rel). To cherry-pick a few meaningful names, that’s higher than Jamie Benn, Stephen Johns, and John Klingberg. Cracknell also remains a positive force if we refine for Close (+12) or Tied (+20) games.
While it is true that many of the players ahead of Cracknell play tougher minutes, at higher volumes, or both, that he is contributing beyond any reasonable expectations is undeniable. At this rate, Cracknell has every opportunity to shatter his previous career high of 10 points in 44 games, set with the 2015-2016 Vancouver Canucks.
So does this mean Stars fans should be less satisfied with either player? My take would be no. Devin Shore seems able to score at the NHL level, but also does his share of “rookie things.” Cracknell-on-the-scoresheet, meanwhile, will never quite measure up to our affection for Cracknell-on-the-glass. That’s okay. Both men can be what they are to the Stars and contribute in a positive way. Fans certainly deserve at least something to be excited about in an otherwise frustrating season.