The Detroit Red Wings are saying goodbye to Joe Louis Arena on Sunday night, and Riley Sheahan is hoping to say goodbye to a rather unbelievable goal-scoring drought.
It has been exactly one calendar year (April 9, 2016) since Sheahan last scored a goal in an NHL game.
It was the Red Wings’ regular season finale last season, and Sheahan’s goal (his 14th of the season) came in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
He has not scored a goal since, a stretch that has included five playoff games and all 79 games he has appeared in this season.
When you look at Sheahan’s pedigree as a first-round pick, and a player that had scored at close to a 15-goal pace (per 82 games) over his first three years in the league it is an absolutely stunning stat line. This is not a bad player. He has the ability to score goals and has shown it at the NHL level.
But when it really becomes is stunning is when you look at it from an historical context.
This is something that just simply does not happen.
In the history of the league (at least as long as shot on goal data has been tracked) there have only ever been 11 players that have played at least 70 games in a season, recorded more than 100 shots on goal, and not scored a goal.
It has never happened to a forward.
Not only has it never happened to a forward, there have only been two forwards that have reached the 70-game, 100-shot markers and only scored one goal — Shawn Thornton in 2009-10, and Tim Jackman in 2011-12. And neither one of them had anywhere near the skill or offensive pedigree that Sheahan has.
Goal scoring droughts in the NHL are common things, even for the very best players (this is a point I drive home every chance I can get — it is not uncommon for players like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, or any other superstar to go eight, nine, or even more than 10 games in a row without scoring a goal). Putting the puck in the net is the hardest thing to do in the sport, and it only seems to get more and more difficult every single season.
Those lengthy droughts are often times the result of just some bad luck and not getting a bounce to go your way. That is almost certainly a huge part of Sheahan’s season. He may not have had the season he wanted for the Red Wings, but it also takes an unbelievable amount of bad luck to get this far into a season and put that many pucks on net without having one of them find their way in.
He has one more chance to do it tonight.