Starting The Clock: Jordan Eberle

Jonathan Willis
July 28 2009 04:18PM

The salary cap era has been interesting, to say the least. One of the common themes of it has been that it pays off far more to develop younger players because they generally make less money due to a more restrictive contract.

That’s true, but many people take it to mean that young players should get more of a shot as a result. In point of fact, the opposite is true – at least for junior-aged players.

It’s because of the basic career curve. Will a player be better from the age of 18-20 or from 19-21 or from 20-22? In virtually every case, the player aged 20-22 will outperform the player aged 18-20.

Take Nathan Horton of Florida as an example. He was drafted in 2003, and spent the 2003-04 season in the NHL (55GP – 14G – 8A – 22PTS). Because of that, when the lockout came in 2004-05, he spent the year in the AHL (21GP – 5G – 4A – 9PTS). In the final year of his entry-level contract, Horton broke out offensively (71GP – 28G – 19A – 47PTS). That ended his three year entry-level deal, and burned three of his RFA years too, taking him closer to unrestricted free agency.

Now, let’s say that he had not been added to the NHL roster until 2005-06, when he was really adding some offense and competing in a top-six NHL role. His three seasons on his entry level deal would have looked like this:

  • 2005-06: 71GP – 28G – 19A – 47PTS
  • 2006-07: 82GP – 31G – 31G – 62PTS
  • 2007-08: 82GP – 27G – 35A – 62PTS

That’s a lot more bang for buck. The Panthers pay the same amount of money regardless, but in the first case they paid it for a player who only contributed top-six minutes for one year of three. In the second case, they pay it for a player who could be counted on for 27-31 goals every season. Additionally, it would have kept Horton a Panther longer – adding two more years of restricted free agency before he could test the open market. Meanwhile, if the Panthers really needed a 22-point scorer in 2003-04, they could have signed one cheaply via free agency; Horton simply wasn’t good enough to provide something the Panthers could have gotten for the same (or given that high-end rookies make considerably more than league minimum, less) money.

This is just an example, but it’s one case of many.

An argument against the policy that seems so sensible from a financial perspective is the development angle. Granted, I haven’t done a full-scale study, but from what I’ve seen and read it seems just as likely that a prospect will have his development derailed by injury in the NHL as he is by slow progress in junior. Horton had both his 18- and 19-year old seasons cut short by shoulder surgery; that may have happened in junior but it would have been much less likely. With a little more weight and physical maturity (which he would have had if he’d come into the NHL at 20) the injury trouble might have been avoided entirely. In the worst-case scenario, a player like Gilbert Brule can see his career completely derailed.

Sam Gagner is another example. He was lucky enough to avoid serious injury – a concussion suffered on a Nicklas Grossman hit during his rookie year turned out to be minor. He’s been more prolific offensively than Horton too, scoring 49 and 41 points.

That said, he was overmatched as a rookie. Those 49 points came along with a -21 rating; a rating that improved to -1 just a year later. He becomes a restricted free agent next year, at age 21. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the age of 25.

The Oilers will probably keep him. They got lucky on the injury front, and they’ll find the money from somewhere. But would the team have been better off to delay his entry into the NHL until he was 19? Probably. His 49 points looks impressive, but that -21 rating was both deserved and wasn’t helping the team win any games.

The point here is not to make this mistake again. The organization is making noises that Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson won’t even get a look until 2010-11. That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t get them out of the woods. Jordan Eberle is getting some attention as a roster option next season, and I think that would probably be a mistake. His 74 points isn’t exactly lighting the league on fire; players drafted this past year (Kane and Schenn to name two) posted better numbers than that. He isn’t big, and he probably isn’t going to be a good defensive player right away; he went -5 in just 9 AHL games this past spring.

If he’s ready to contribute – and I mean really contribute, contribute enough offense while not looking totally clueless in his own end – than by all means play him. But don’t bring him up if he’s going to chip in 30 points and be a liability in his own end – like Ales Hemsky was when he was rushed into the league at 19.

It’s stupid to start the clock on these kids ticking before they can actually help the team win games.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#151 DanMan
July 29 2009, 01:40PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

What high-end skill did he have other than Gaborik for limited amounts of time?

What has he won, other than 02-03 when he made the conference finals?

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#152 Prop Jay
July 29 2009, 01:41PM
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Dear Oilersnation,

Today is wednesday, not saturday, not sunday, not even a monday which falls on a holiday , but rather a working wednesday. I expect updates. Many Many Updates.

Real reporters don't let news come to them. They make news. Look at eklund. There is a journalist with some integrity and work ethic. Does he complain that it's slow? Nope.

He just grabs the old eklund generator; hammers out a hemsky for zherdev deal; spins up some "more in a bit", and most importantly delivers the goods. I expect the same from ON.

*throws up in mouth a bit before pressing post comment* *secretly hopes this doesnt get him banned* *Throws up in mouth again* *presses post comment with eyes closed*

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#153 DanMan
July 29 2009, 01:44PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Your list is pretty ridiculous. You are flat-out wring on Penner, Grier, Weight, Rem Murray - you know what, pretty much all of them, except the ones that have only had MacT as a coach in the NHL.

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#154 bingofuel
July 29 2009, 01:45PM
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*toying with the prospect of banning Prop Jay for his continued insolence*

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#155 Jonathan Willis
July 29 2009, 01:45PM
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DanMan wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: What high-end skill did he have other than Gaborik for limited amounts of time? What has he won, other than 02-03 when he made the conference finals?

You do know the he used to coach New Jersey, right? He won something called a "Stanley Cup" while he was there.

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#156 Jonathan Willis
July 29 2009, 01:46PM
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@ Prop Jay:

Gold.

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#157 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 02:03PM
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DanMan wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Your list is pretty ridiculous. You are flat-out wring on Penner, Grier, Weight, Rem Murray - you know what, pretty much all of them, except the ones that have only had MacT as a coach in the NHL.

Translation please.

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#158 MattL
July 29 2009, 02:05PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

You're wring, deal with it.

I think he's questioning your statistics.

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#159 Bob Cob
July 29 2009, 02:06PM
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Prop Jay wrote:

He just grabs the old eklund generator; hammers out a hemsky for zherdev deal

Are you saying Eklund isn't credible, now I dont know what to believe, my world doesn't make sense. I haven't been this shocked and dismayed since I found out Kermit the Frog was just a piece of green felt with someones hand up his ass.

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#160 Sean
July 29 2009, 02:07PM
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I still don't get how thats Taveres' magical play...

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#161 Wainwright Dan
July 29 2009, 02:08PM
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Potulny and Reddox signed by Edm ...

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#162 Jonathan Willis
July 29 2009, 02:14PM
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Wainwright Dan wrote:

Potulny and Reddox signed by Edm …

Source?

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#163 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 02:14PM
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MattL wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: You’re wring, deal with it. I think he’s questioning your statistics.

Now that I look back, Wieght/Grier/REM only had their 2nd best point seasons under MacT (still pretty good for long careers with multiple coaches).

Penners PPG totals

Ducks .37 .55

Oil .57 .48

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#164 Rice
July 29 2009, 02:17PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Wainwright Dan wrote: Potulny and Reddox signed by Edm … Source?

The Oilers Website

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#165 DanMan
July 29 2009, 02:32PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Douggie's 100 point season came under Ron LOw, I believe. Some others on the list, like Grier had their best offensive season under Kevin Lowe. MacT started in 2000, not 95. Penner scored 29 and 45 points with randy carlyle

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#166 DanMan
July 29 2009, 02:35PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Thats the old NHL anyway. Trapping teams don't win these days.

I know you will mention Anaheim. But there is a difference between shutting down the other top line and trapping. Anaheim forechecks as hard as anyone, and their forwards play a more offensive style for the most part

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#167 West Coast Oil
July 29 2009, 02:36PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

And my point is you can’t develop what isn’t their. The (vast) majority of high end scores are taken top 10, with a high concentration in the top 5. Penner had his highest point total here. Syokora put up roughly career avg numbers here. Lupul… I’ll put a some of the blame for his season on MacT, but he certainly never helped himself Look at Coles numbers in the PO, it should be starting to come clear that he just doesn’t “have it” anymore, I’d be willing to bet that is crystal clear after this coming season.

Yes Penner had his highest point total here but also his lowest goal scoring total. I'm not sure about you but I would rather have Penner with lower points but more goals than high points and all of them assists. Penner had seasons of 39 and 29 goals before coming here and going 23 and 17. Lupul 28 before dropping to 16. Players who had potential like Torres and JFJ fizzled.. I am saying if we had an offensive minded coach our skilled players would succeed more. I am still on the fence regarding Quinn and Renney but Renney has shown he will give his skilled players a lot of leeway to use their skills and Quinn pushes a hard forecheck game.

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#168 Prop Jay
July 29 2009, 02:41PM
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@ Bob Cob: Kermit the frog is made of felt????????????

Not made Frog?????/

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#169 Jonathan Willis
July 29 2009, 02:47PM
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@ DanMan:

Nonsense. Detroit and Pittsburgh trap in certain situations for crying out loud.

Besides, you're ducking the point - a defensive system doesn't mean an inability to either a) coach offense or b) win hockey games.

As far as your offensive example (Anaheim) you can tell they played an up-tempo, offensive-style game en route to their cup win simply by looking at their famous "Nothing" Line.

You want to see run-and-gun, I get it. But that's hardly the only way - or even the best way - to play the game.

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#170 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 02:52PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: And my point is you can’t develop what isn’t their. The (vast) majority of high end scores are taken top 10, with a high concentration in the top 5. Penner had his highest point total here. Syokora put up roughly career avg numbers here. Lupul… I’ll put a some of the blame for his season on MacT, but he certainly never helped himself Look at Coles numbers in the PO, it should be starting to come clear that he just doesn’t “have it” anymore, I’d be willing to bet that is crystal clear after this coming season. Yes Penner had his highest point total here but also his lowest goal scoring total. I’m not sure about you but I would rather have Penner with lower points but more goals than high points and all of them assists. Penner had seasons of 39 and 29 goals before coming here and going 23 and 17. Lupul 28 before dropping to 16. Players who had potential like Torres and JFJ fizzled.. I am saying if we had an offensive minded coach our skilled players would succeed more. I am still on the fence regarding Quinn and Renney but Renney has shown he will give his skilled players a lot of leeway to use their skills and Quinn pushes a hard forecheck game.

When did Penner have 39 goals?

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#171 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 02:53PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: And my point is you can’t develop what isn’t their. The (vast) majority of high end scores are taken top 10, with a high concentration in the top 5. Penner had his highest point total here. Syokora put up roughly career avg numbers here. Lupul… I’ll put a some of the blame for his season on MacT, but he certainly never helped himself Look at Coles numbers in the PO, it should be starting to come clear that he just doesn’t “have it” anymore, I’d be willing to bet that is crystal clear after this coming season. Yes Penner had his highest point total here but also his lowest goal scoring total. I’m not sure about you but I would rather have Penner with lower points but more goals than high points and all of them assists. Penner had seasons of 39 and 29 goals before coming here and going 23 and 17. Lupul 28 before dropping to 16. Players who had potential like Torres and JFJ fizzled.. I am saying if we had an offensive minded coach our skilled players would succeed more. I am still on the fence regarding Quinn and Renney but Renney has shown he will give his skilled players a lot of leeway to use their skills and Quinn pushes a hard forecheck game.

You should check out some old NYR message boards. They had all the same complaints about Renney that Oil fans had about MacT...including the "stunts offense"

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#172 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 02:57PM
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DanMan wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Douggie’s 100 point season came under Ron LOw, I believe. Some others on the list, like Grier had their best offensive season under Kevin Lowe. MacT started in 2000, not 95. Penner scored 29 and 45 points with randy carlyle

Ya I corrected that REM/Grier/Weight all had their 2nd best seasons under MacT...still not bad though.

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#173 DanMan
July 29 2009, 03:11PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Yeah everyone traps in certain situations. But who doesn't send 2 guys in on the forecheck when down 2-1 or 3-2 late in a game like MacT did so much last year?

We can disagree on systems. But you are set in your belief than defensive hockey is the way to go, just as I am set in my belief that offensive hockey is better. I think for this team, the Oilers, the last 3 years have showed us that when you have more skill up front, playing a tight game gets you nowhere.

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#174 LOIL
July 30 2009, 12:23PM
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Why do people on here insist on describing what they are doing with "*" around the comment? This is an adult oilers site. Not a "Hanna Montana rules" site. Give it a rest.

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