It appears as though Jay Woodcroft is more inclined to give players he’s developed more of a chance at the NHL level now that he has taken over head coaching duties. This was indicated by him inserting Tyler Benson into the lineup for consecutive games after sitting seven and electing to scratch Devin Shore.
Benson played very well in the American Hockey League (AHL) under Woodcroft for multiple seasons and has had trouble finding any scoring touch or traction in the NHL. Maybe a coach that knows him the best is what he needs. Benson is getting more of a chance, and with that, Shore is sitting more and Woodcroft isn’t favouring more veteran players like Dave Tippett did.
A quote from Tippett indicates how the situation was before, and one from Woodcroft now shows where the Edmonton Oilers are at with their lineup. On Jan. 24 while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman were out, Tippett said, “he’s working hard. He competes hard. Sometimes there’s different things we look at. Without Hyman, we need penalty killers in there.” This indicated that Shore was a trusted penalty killer which some teams do need, but with the high-end talent killing penalties now, he is out of the mix and not relied on as he was then.
Then on Feb. 14, Woodcroft stated, “him being in the lineup means I believe he can help our team win.” This was referring to Benson, and with Shore the player sitting in his place and the team running seven defencemen for the three games under Woodcroft, it looks like Shore may be on his way out.
There has been no source saying he has asked for a trade or the Oilers are shopping him, but it makes sense if you look at the connection between Woodcroft and Benson, a player in Shore’s way to get ice time. You can also likely guess that Dylan Holloway will join the Oilers before playoffs and the team possibly even add another depth forward with size and physicality. Where does that leave Shore? Probably not playing too often, as seen in the 2:27 of ice time he got in the win over the Los Angeles Kings.
With that, there are teams that are struggling more on the defensive side of things and in need of a penalty killer and to shore up the depth if you will. I will give three possible destinations Shore can land, as he still has one more year left on his contract at $850k.
The Winnipeg Jets are a team that is desperately trying to get back into the playoff race in a tough division. Their best bet may be to sneak into a wildcard spot, but they will need to get more help from their bottom lines. They are relying heavily on young players to fill out the bottom of the lineup without all of them fully adjusting to the NHL.
Though Shore is only 27 years old himself, he has played in the NHL since he was 21. The same can’t be said for the Jets players like Dominic Toninato, Jensen Harkins, Evgeny Svechnikov, Kristian Reichel, Kristian Vesalainen, and Austin Poganski. Not only would bringing in Shore add a bit of experience to a lacking bottom of the lineup, but Andrew Copp may also even be moving, and Shore could fit right in the bottom-six in his place.
Shore has scored 29-plus points in the three seasons where he has played at least 50 games and is fully capable of playing around 14 minutes a night. The Jets rank 26th in the NHL with a penalty kill that is only 75 percent. That has been a downfall of the team and has taken them out of games. The Oilers’ penalty kill with Shore on it in the first part of the season was dominant, with him a big part of that. If they have any chance of climbing back into the playoff race and salvaging this season, a smaller yet important move could be taking Shore off the hands of the Oilers and giving one or two of their young players more time to develop in the AHL.
With one year remaining on his deal, the Jets would also have him for next season and would not have to pay too much for him at all. The Oilers should just be trying to move him at this time since they have Brendan Perlini still on the active roster, Colton Sceviour, Holloway, and Cooper Marody options for them.
The Colorado Avalanche is another team that has struggled on the penalty kill and should be looking to bring in someone who can help with that and their depth that is being tested. They are most likely going to make a big splash at the trade deadline for a forward, but should also consider a smaller addition as well.
The Avalanche are definitely an offensive team, and they even get contributions offensively from their players while shorthanded. Logan O’Connor, for example, is tied in the league-lead with four shorthanded points. The problem with their penalty kill is they allow a ton of shots and aren’t very efficient with keeping the puck out of their net, working at 76.9 percent.
When you compare the shots for and against while Shore is on the ice shorthanded for the Oilers and when Avalanche penalty-killers like Darren Helm and Tyson Jost are on the ice, there’s a big difference. Shore has spent less time on the penalty kill than these two players, but the team has been much better in allowing fewer shots against and shooting on their opponents. Shore has been on the ice for 11 shots for and 44 against, good for a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 20 in 31 minutes of ice time. Comparatively, Jost has played three times as much, there has only been 19 shots for, and 188 against for a CF% of 9.2. Helm has twice as much time killing penalties and his stats aren’t much better than Jost’s. His team has 16 shots for and 115 against, a CF% of 12.2.
Offence while on the penalty kill isn’t the most important, but if the team is getting shots for, then the play is far away from their own net and the penalty time is ticking down. With the sheer amount of shots against, it is just more likely that more will go in. Whether it’s positioning or not as active of a stick, Shore would be an upgrade and improve an area that the powerhouse Avalanche could use help in. The Avalanche also have five rostered forwards who are free agents after the year, so it would save them having to get one more forward for next year. With the Avalanche going all-in, nothing shouldn’t be covered.
The Nashville Predators may not need as much help on the penalty kill as the other two teams, but they could use an upgrade on their bottom line. As it stands right now, Nick Cousins is injured for a while. He also plays on the fourth line and the team has been forced to insert Cole Smith, a player who has played a total of eight NHL games into the lineup.
Cousins plays both left wing and centre, just like Shore and is also an upgrade over heavyweight Michael McCarron. The Predators are also a team that is still not set on a group of forwards who can kill penalties, as only two of them have over two minutes shorthanded per game and six more forwards have between 50 seconds per game and two minutes. Shore could come in as a bottom-line option and create some consistency for the Predators and give them a fourth-line player with term.
Shore has become a casualty of circumstance. The coaching change and a healthier team has pushed him down and out of the lineup. So earlier than expected, it is time for the Oilers to move him and make room. It would be worth it to get back a draft pick that they have used over the past couple of seasons.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.