Devin Shore? More like Devin Score, amirite? At least lately. With a brace against the San Jose Sharks, the 24-year old winger took his season tally to five goals. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s almost halfway to the 11 goals he recorded last season. Three of the five have won games thus far, and all have provided a much-needed early season boost. As the calendar flips into November, however, Dallas Stars fans have begun to wonder if this is a new Shore, and whether or not the trend can continue.
We’ll start with the cause of their disquiet. Devin Shore played all 82 games last season, as well as in 2016-17. In those two seasons, he saw significant ice time (14:08 and 15:26 ATOI), including 1:50 (technically 1:51 last season) on the power play. Over that stretch, his most common linemates included the likes of Radek Faksa, Patrick Sharp, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Mattias Janmark, and Jamie Benn.
That is, unmistakably, the profile of a top six forward, but did the production match the role? During that two year stretch, Shore tallied 65 points (24 goals and 41 assists), 17 of which (3 goals, 14 assists) came with the extra man. In 2016, he was sixth on the team in scoring, and in 2017 he was seventh. So, yes, but with one glaring caveat: Dallas’ offense was 18th and 17th in those seasons. It is, perhaps, more accurate to say that Shore was the sixth best option, which is a strange bit of wordplay.
So, what has changed?
For starters, Shore is playing about a minute less each night (14:17 vs 15:26 last season). This is primarily driven by a drop in his time on the power play (0:50 vs 1:51). Shore’s “who” is also a little bit different. Almost a quarter of his shifts have come alongside Faksa and Tyler Pitlick (24.4%). For the sake of comparison, he’s spending about 15% of his time in some combination involving Tyler Seguin. Things might change if Shore continues his torrid pace, of course, but head coach Jim Montgomery seems to have a different view than his predecessors of how the young winger should be deployed.
As a result, what Shore is doing on the ice seems to have altered at least a little bit. In the previous two seasons, Shore shot 10.08% on an average of 1.45 shots per game, and he recorded 24 goals on 238 shots across 164 games. This season, his shooting percentage has spiked to 31.3% while his volume has dropped to 16 shots in 16 games. That drop, more than anything else, is your cold-water moment, Stars fans.
Things certainly change over the length of an NHL season, and with John Klingberg on injured reserve for the next four weeks, that might be even more true than usual for the Stars. My sample size could be flawed. Similarly, it is hard to look at the actual goals Shore has actually scored and see anything overtly unsustainable. It isn’t like pucks are bouncing in off defenders, for instance. Instead, Shore is doing lots of little things right, and putting himself in good positions to get rewarded. The best thing for Stars fans to do is enjoy the ride and hope it lasts a while longer.