clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2016-17 in Review: Can the Los Angeles Kings get more out of Nick Shore?

New, comments

Nick Shore had a career year, and yet still seems to be a question mark in the Kings’ plans. What should his future look like?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

For the next month or two, we’ll be taking a look at the players who made the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 season what it was: a crushing disappointment that got people fired an up-and-down journey which managed to be both unusual and familiar. Rather than the good-bad-future-grade format we’ve used in past seasons, we’ll ask a crucial question and answer it using it what we saw this year.

Can Nick Shore be a true top-nine forward?

Nick Shore Career Stats

Season GP TOI/Gm Goals Assists Points Goals For (5v5) Goals Against (5v5) CF% FO% ZSO%
Season GP TOI/Gm Goals Assists Points Goals For (5v5) Goals Against (5v5) CF% FO% ZSO%
2016-17 70 11:21 6 11 17 24 24 54.0% 51.4% 50.5%
2015-16 67 11:24 3 7 10 11 20 60.7% 51.8% 52.6%
2014-15 34 10:47 1 6 7 10 9 52.6% 55.0% 50.3%
Average (over 82-game season) 82 11:10 4.8 11.5 16.3 21.58 25.42 56.3% 52.3% 51.3%
Data from First Line Stats & Puckalytics

Darryl Sutter, in his most Darryl Sutter of ways, essentially said of Nick Shore this past season: well, what do you expect? He’s just another guy. He’s still figuring it out.

Okay, he used more words than that (for once), but the message was clear. After the one-two of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, the other two center positions were open for grabs, waiting for someone to make it their own.

Shore mostly held down the 3C role this year, with the exception of at least one healthy scratch (please know that it was when the Kings came to Chicago and I was upset about it) and time lost at the end of the season due to injury.

But he didn’t excel at it. He was fine, but the team probably needed more.

In fact, he and rookie Nic Dowd were largely interchangeable, the largest difference being that Shore had earned the trust and some benefit of the doubt from Sutter, while Dowd was still getting his feet wet in the NHL. I’d stop short of combining them into one person, a la Jordandy Nolandreoff (Nick Showd? Nic Dowre?) but it’s close. Here’s a comparison chart* which shows you why.

Nick Shore vs Nic Dowd
Own the Puck

*(If you’ve never read these comparison charts before, the “chart guide” tab from Own the Puck will walk you through it, but essentially, the bars represent performance on a scale of 0-10, rather than representing exactly how many goals were scored, for example. A 5 is the average expectation from a player in that given position.)

And while “interchangeable with the next guy down on your depth chart” is something that, for better or worse, is generally true of the Kings’ entire bottom six, it isn’t necessarily what you want from your 3C, which is where we wind up delving into the Trouble with Nick Shore.

Shore’s low offensive output in the NHL (172 GP, 10 G, 24 A) is a marked drop-off from his NCAA (115 GP, 34 G, 59 A) and minor-league (106 GP, 34 G, 46 A) tallies. When the Kings were winning games, the lack of depth contributions from players like Shore (and his bottom-six cohort) wasn’t quite so noticeable. But in a season where it seemed like points were only being put up by Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, the lack of goal support from role players like Shore was glaring.

Nick Shore vs Average 3C
Own the Puck

Shore’s five goals and 17 overall points this year were a new career high for him, but that output puts him on par with players like Marcus Kruger, Derek MacKenzie, and Lawson Crouse. Kruger’s a defensive specialist, MacKenzie’s a grit-and-character guy, and Crouse is a rookie on a team that still doesn’t quite know what to do with him.

Shore’s shooting percentage more than doubled this year -- from 3.3% in 2015-16 to 7.6% in 2016-17, while he took less shots than in his previous full season (79 this year vs. 90 last year). While I’d like to think that maybe he’s starting to figure out how to adjust his shot for the NHL, what’s more likely? That? Or did Shore have an outlier of a year where a few more pucks than expected went in?

If the Kings can’t expect much out of him by way of production -- say, for example, he never exceeds 25 points in a season -- then what can they use him for? Why shouldn’t the Kings cross their fingers and hope that the Vegas Golden Knights pick up Shore’s next contract?

Trevor Lewis. That’s why.

When I touched on Shore in examining RFAs still waiting for contracts, the best comparable I could come up with was Trevor Lewis. That’s truth both in contract/cap hit trajectory and in skill/utilization.

Nick Shore vs. Trevor Lewis
Own the Puck

Lewis, similar to Shore, put up big numbers before coming to the NHL before settling into a jack-of-all-trades role for the Kings. Need a first line wing for a game? Need someone to fill in on the fourth line? Need to bounce someone around while you’re firing up the line blender? Trevor Lewis, at your service.

Lewis, the perpetual unsung hero of the Kings, is probably never going to be the offensive threat that he was in juniors/the AHL. But over the years, he’s developed into a defensively reliable player, trusted to be on the ice in any situation. He’ll chip in a goal here and there, but Lewis’ true value to this team on the ice is in his absolute versatility.

If I were John Stevens -- and, alas, I am not -- I’d want to start grooming Shore into being the Kings’ next all-around utility player. The biggest hurdle would likely be Shore’s lack of experience at positions other than center; as best I can tell, it’s been his primary position his entire career. Shore’s already well-trusted defensively and is strong on faceoffs (50.2%), slotting in nicely behind Kopitar (52.7%) and Carter (51.9%). He’s a fixture on the penalty kill -- and even finally got a shorthanded goal this year (one of only five scored by the team).

Losing Lewis -- to the expansion draft, a future decision to let him walk in free agency, or any other reason -- could be softened by knowing that there’s already someone in the wings who could stand to be inserted into any open spot in the lineup.

Nick Shore isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly have the skillset of Tyler Toffoli. They’re different players with different strengths. But if the team wants to keep Shore, invest in him and allow him to continue to develop in their system, the Trevor Lewis Career Trajectory may be the best option.

*(If you’ve never read these comparison charts before, the “chart guide” tab from Own the Puck will walk you through it, but essentially, the bars represent performance on a scale of 0-10, rather than representing exactly how many goals were scored, for example. A 5 is the average expectation from a player in that given position.)