Devin Shore was one of probably two (in my opinion)* significant players on the Stars roster who the Stars can afford to trade, and whose value to other teams might be greater than his value to the Stars.
Shore earned Ken Hitchcock’s trust last season over many other forwards, and while his scoring never quite caught up with his ice time, he showed himself to be an NHL player, which is at least a moderate success for the last decade of Dallas drafting.
*Esa Lindell, but we’ll discuss this in another piece down the road
With that in mind, it’s a bit of a reality check to realize that Shore, who will remain under team control beyond this year for a modest cap hit once his RFA situation is sorted, netted a 32-year-old who has scored but thrice this season in Andrew Cogliano.
Perhaps it was the 25-game goal drought that hurt Shore’s value, or perhaps it was the fact that most selling GMs prefer to wait until the trade deadline to maximize their return, and the Stars needed to do something with all the negativity swirling around the team. This is, unmistakably, some thing, but the truth of the return might be that this is just about as much as the Stars could hope to get for a player whose play hasn’t lived up to the trust he earned last year.
Shore was a player who could chip in 30 points or so, but the reality is that his 5v5 scoring is 4th-line. His points-per-60 rate last season was 1.05, good for 10th among forwards (or 11th if you include Curtis McKenzie), and that was despite playing significant stretches of time with Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Jamie Benn. That, along with the abysmal -30 rating in his traditional scoreline, led to some dissonance between what the coaching staff last year seemed to like and what seemed valuable for the purposes of winning a hockey game.
So, while Shore can put up some points, it’s safe to say he’s not really someone capable of driving his own bus when it comes to offense. That said, this season has seen Shore’s points/60 jump back up to 4th among Dallas forwards (though his goals/60 are still solidly of the 3rd-line variety). In other words, Shore’s goal drought notwithstanding, his offensive evaporation (at least, at even-strength) hasn’t been reflected in his points totals to the degree of Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa’s.
Points are fickle in small samples though, and there were more reasons for this trade. To that end, there is surely more to come before the deadline, but looking at this trade on its face, it seems like a little bit of an improvement for Dallas:
Cogliano is fast, and has always been. He will surely be less fast in two years, when the next Gary Bettman Lockout Special© arrives, but for the moment, this looks like the sort of move a team looking to get better right now should be making all the time: trade a young player a year too early rather than a year too late in order to get something your team needs.
Right now, this team needs Andrew Cogliano more than Devin Shore. It’s not a huge margin between them or anything, and of course there’s greater risk with older players than with younger ones, but this trade seems, prima facie, to be an exchange of defensive-mindedness for offensive capability. That’s what a team scoring at a 15-year-low pace should be doing, especially with great goaltending behind them.
There’s a cost for upgrading, however, and the dollars and risk of Cogliano’s contract aren’t nothing. In fact, this move feels a bit like something the Stars should have done over the offseason (though the Ducks probably wouldn’t have been willing then) rather than signing Blake Comeau.
Comeau is the parallel-universe version of Cogliano in a lot of ways, actually. Both are bottom-six as far as recent scoring rates, but Cogliano skews offensively a bit more. Both are signed for two more years in Dallas, and both can kill penalties well and provide Veteran Leadership, in theory. Of course, Comeau’s veteran leadership hasn’t seemed to do much in Dallas this year, so it’s probably best not to hope that Cogliano magically gets everyone to Think Like Champions overnight either.
Teams get significantly better not by way of personal chemistry or even culture, but by having better players. Devin Shore is a wonderful person who will be dearly missed by fans, media and teammates alike, but the Stars have put themselves in a position where they don’t have the drafted depth champing at the bit to push things out of the Mire of Mediocrity. Thus, trades become necessary. This trade isn’t going to hurt them long-term, but it won’t fix all their issues overnight, either. Still, this looks for all the world like the right time to trade a player, and the right sort of change to make to the team.
The imperative right now can be none other than this: Get more offense. Get faster. Don’t hang on to players hoping they’ll transform into offensive catalysts overnight. Get your playmaking center whose goal-scoring days are waning someone on his line who can, in fact, score goals.
The Jason Spezza Impact
Cogliano will play tomorrow night. Likely on line with Spezza— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) January 14, 2019
I think Andrew Cogliano will be a big help to Jason Spezza (or even Radek Faksa), simply because the Stars have too many underperforming wingers in their bottom nine.
To wit, Jason Spezza’s five most frequent linemates this season:
If you’re Spezza this year, you have to be tearing out your hair a little bit. Nichshkin and (lately) Condra are the only two forwards who have really been helping get the puck up the ice with you, but they’re also far from goal-scoring machines, to put it lightly. Jamie Benn has spent portions of games beside Spezza (and Spezza has generally produced in those games), but it’s been 15 games since numbers 90 and 14 have spent more than a few shifts together.
Take the St. Louis game, for example. Jason Spezza played with Condra and Janmark, and he set up at least two golden scoring chances (and rang one off the bar from distance himself), but the team had nothing to show for it until a late faceoff-win by Spezza led to a deflected point shot that Condra potted from the side of the cage.
Spezza’s line was the team’s top threat all game, with Spezza himself looking like its best player. That’s not saying much the way Dallas has played the last two games, but it does help me put Spezza’s (and Klingberg’s) comments the other day into context.
Think of it this way: Spezza is the team’s oldest player, and he’s still their 4th-highest scoring forward this year. After being ostracized by Ken Hitchcock on his way to a career-worst year in 17-18, Spezza has taken it upon himself to rebound under Jim Montgomery, and he has done so; he is 5th in Points/60 this season, just behind Devin Shore (or 4th if you include power play time).
Of course, we all see the $7.5 million next to Spezza’s name on CapFriendly, and that must mean he deserves our ire because he’s not “earning” his contract, right? But hey, we’re not writing that check, and the Stars should be grateful they have a playmaker at all on the second line. If Spezza hadn’t been so durable through the length of his contract—remember when his back was a huge concern about his extension?—then the Stars would probably have been out of the race by now, or at least have been forced to make an even more costly trade to bolster their depth. Instead, Spezza has played (often through pain), and averaged 76-ish games per season. That’s real value for a team in need of it, and he was quite valuable in his first three seasons. Front-loaded is how long-term contracts are usually going to look in terms of return on investment, in case those who signed Jamie Benn to his extension need a reminder.
To that end, I can understand Spezza’s comments the other day about each individual needing to prepare themselves. Yes, he’s a leader, but this team also exiled him a bit last year, bringing in a new coach who never gave Spezza much of a chance from day one, ultimately scratching him and relegating him to 4th-line duty. That wounds a player’s pride, and for Spezza to be gutting it out this season on the least offensively gifted team he’s played on since accepting a trade to Texas (after refusing one to Nashville, remember), well, you can understand how he might bristle at the suggestion that he hasn’t done his part to drag others into the fight (which he did against St. Louis, by the way).
He was more or less demonized by his coach and the fanbase last season, with media and fans talking about buyouts or outright release. Now, after publicly stating earlier this year that he would happily come back for much less money, he sees a bad team looking for someone to blame, and he’s mighty proud of how he’s found ways to produce even on this squad.
Criticize his play as deserved, absolutely. But I, for one, am willing to forgive him for asking the younger players (which is to say, everyone on the roster) to take some responsibility for their own struggles this year, too. Goodness knows he’s gotten enough grief for his own struggles without ever blaming other players, and he’s come out the other side still producing in the last year of a deal that was always going to have some odor on the end of it relative to his prime. I don’t see how we’re supposed to blame him for the team’s dearth of scoring from players in their own respective primes, but I digress.
Michael Mersch Recalled from Texas
The final move from today is a bit unexpected. With Joel L’Esperance on a tear in the AHL, Dallas has instead chosen to recall 26-year-old left wing Michael Mersch. He is scoring a bit in Texas, but without a corresponding move announced yet, it’s a bit of a curiosity why the Stars would opt for Mersch over L’Esperance. Still, we’ll wait to see if this is the latest in the Dowling/Condra/Gurianov rotation, or if there’s something else going on.
However, I believe the Stars do have an open roster spot right now, so perhaps this is just some insurance in case a Brett Ritchie move comes off tomorrow before the game. Purely a guess, but yours is as good as mine for the moment.
FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled left wing Michael Mersch from the Texas Stars, Dallas’ top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Mersch, 26, ranks eighth on the Texas Stars with 20 points (9-11=20) in 29 AHL games this season. The winger also ranks second on the club with 91 shots on goals and shares fourth with three power play goals. Mersch has recorded three points (1-2=3) in 17 regular-season NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2015-16 campaign.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Park Ridge, Ill. was originally selected by Los Angeles in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft and was signed by Dallas as a free agent on July 1, 2018.