GM Ken Holland and the vast majority of Oilers fan want this player back. But why?

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Devin Shore? Pass.

Hard Pass, in fact.

That’s my first and second thought on the notion of bringing back Devin Shore to the Edmonton Oilers next season.

But might I be wrong?

I’m certainly out of step with where the Oilers are headed on this player. Oilers GM Ken Holland recently made it pretty clear on Oilers Now that he wanted Shore back.

“I’m going to speak for Tipp (Oilers head coach Dave Tippett) and I,” Holland said to host Bob Stauffer. “We liked what Devin Shore brings. He can play left wing. He can play centre. He can kill penalties. He can check. If he’s a healthy scratch he waits his turn. He’s got a good attitude. He supports his players. He’s what, 26 years of age, so he’s not old. He’s conscientious. Yes, in all probability, I would see us re-signing Devin. He talked about in his last five years he had played for eight different coaches… Hopefully we can provide stability. Those are the types of players that you need to grow into a bit.”

Most Oilers fans are also open to Shore returning. In an on-line poll, more than 70 per cent favour him coming back on a one-year deal.


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Let’s just assume I’m wrong here and Ken Holland and Dave Tippett and most fans are right.

Indeed, lets’ do a quick mental exercise and assume that the Edmonton Oilers go deep into the playoffs the next few seasons and one of the reasons was that Devin Shore proved to be a valuable depth player.

How did I get it so wrong on Shore on my first and second thoughts about him?

1. As mentioned, Tippett and Holland have a much higher opinion of Shore than I do. They obviously have a much better sense of Shore as a person and teammate than any fan does. They know how he got along with the squad. They know how he handled it being a 13th or 14th forward on the team. They know how he handled it being waived. They know his practice habits. They also know far more about team building and team dynamics than any fan. They may well see Shore as the kind of role player who has the right mix of skills and attitude to give Edmonton a boost and –I can’t stress this enough — they’re in a better place to make such an assessment than any of Shore’s critics. Tippett and Holland have also demonstrated they can pick out players that many fans would axe, and then have those players excel for the Oilers. Goalie Mike Smith is the best example of this. Josh Archibald is a player I wasn’t that impressed with last year, but was clearly a Tippett favourite. Archibald won me over this year with his improving two-way play.

2. My own analysis of Shore is based on in-depth video analysis and careful note-taking about Shore’s play at even strength. In this regard, he was the second worst regular winger on the Oilers in 2020-21, ahead of only Kyle Turris, just behind Zack Kassian. He was the least likely regular Oilers winger to make a major contribution to a Grade A scoring shot for at even strength. On defence, he was average. He especially struggled on defence when he played at centre. The game seemed to move too fast for him when he was that key defensive spot. It’s this careful and in-depth video analysis that has me doubting Shore. That said, I did notice improvement when he moved away from centre to the wing. He looked reasonably effective when he played on a checking line with Jujhar Khaira and Josh Archibald at the end of the regular season. He also looked effective in the playoffs, especially in Game Four, when Tippett benched others but stuck with the fast and hustling Shore. If Shore does become a contributor on the Oilers, it will because Tippett found a defined role as a checking winger that Shore bought into and did well at. Is that possible? Unlikely but I can’t rule it out.


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2. Holland mentioned that he liked Shore at centre and on the PK, but I saw him struggle defensively in both rolls. In fact, when it came to Oilers forwards on the PK in 2020-21, not one of them leaked a higher rate of Grade A chances against than Shore. He sometimes had trouble cutting out cross-seam passes and covering off point shots. He made 13 major mistakes on Grade A chances against in 45 penalty kill minutes, 0.58 per two minutes on the PK. In comparison, Kailer Yamamoto was at just 0.16 per 2, Jujhar Khaira, 0.25, Gaetan Haas, 0.29, Josh Archibald, 0.41, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 0.47 and Leon Draisaitl, 0.47. If I had to pick one player on the bubble to bring back, it would be Haas or Khaira, not Shore. Those two were also better than Shore on defence when they played centre at even strength. But Shore is younger than Haas and has had better recent health than Khaira, so maybe that tilts things towards him a bit.

3. Critics of Shore often point out just how badly the Oilers got out-shot, out-chanced and out-scored when he was on the ice at even strength this year. Of course, this kind of  stat analysis only goes so far. The Oilers also got out-shot and out-chanced when Connor McDavid was on the ice at even strength in 2019-20. Players pick up all kinds of false positive and false negatives when they’re rated in this manner, with McDavid in 2019-20 being a prime example. He was a great even strength player that year no matter what his shot shares say. When it comes to Shore, his poor shot shares match up with his poor Grade A scoring chances plus-minus and his weak penalty kill numbers. This is why even on second thought — when I dig more deeply in Shore as a player — he remains a hard pass for me. But, again, there could be something the numbers are missing, things more evident to Tippett and Holland. And, if I’m completely honest, I must admit Shore’s OK size and good speed, along with his decent play in Game Four and on that checking line with Khaira and Archibald, all add up to make me wonder if he’s not got more to give. If I’m proven wrong, that is indeed the case.


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4. The most likely reason I’ll be proven wrong is that the bet on Shore is so small. The potential reward is much greater than any risk. Shore earned just $700,000 last year. If he gets $800,000 this year, he helps the Oilers against the salary cap. They can send him to the AHL with no cap penalty. They could sign a half-dozen players like Devin Shore for $1.0 million or less and not have any cap issue out of it, mainly because they could all be stashed in the minors with no cap hit to the NHL team. Why not do that? Why not bet on a bunch of them, including a known quantity like Shore, and see if one turns out? What’s the downside with Shore? It’s the opportunity cost of one roster spot on Edmonton’s 50-man roster and it’s the playing time Tippett gives him which he may squander and fail to put to good use. But if Tippett has four-to-six forwards in the Shore category for next season, all of them AHL-NHL tweeners on near league minimum contracts, Edmonton can quickly move on from Shore if he doesn’t pan out. And if Shore does stick as an effective shut-down defensive winger and penalty killer, Edmonton will have got a useful glue player at a bargain price. This is the best argument to sign him back.

Even as I’d take a hard pass on him on first and second thought, I can see the the wisdom of such a bet.

On third thought, I’m OK if the Oilers sign him.

I doubt it works out but there’s hardly any downside if it doesn’t.

Staples on politics

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UPLOADED BY: Malcolm Mayes ::: EMAIL: ::: PHONE: 780-288-3542 ::: CREDIT: Malcolm Mayes ::: CAPTION: For Edmonton Journal use only. John A. Macdonald believes Canadians are losing their heads. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)

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