Rookie Camp: Jordan Eberle Watch

Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009 01:30PM

With the long weekend behind us, preparations for the upcoming season are beginning in earnest. For the Oilers, right now the focus is on the prospects attending the team’s rookie camp.

I know that my favourite feature of the Oilers’ official site is the interview footage with the players and coaches, and they’ve done a fine job of that so far through rookie camp, with players like Jordan Eberle, Alex Plante, Philippe Cornet, and Brett Breitkreuz all doing interviews. The theme in a lot of these conversations was what the players need to work on, and in that respect it was a real pleasure to watch Jordan Eberle’s interview.

Going right back to draft day, there were three things that were frequently highlighted in scouting reports as possible negatives for Jordan Eberle: size, speed, and effort level. Based on his comments at camp, Eberle’s well aware of what he needs to work on:

I don’t think I gained as much weight as I wanted to, but I definitely feel a lot stronger and faster, and that’s the main thing I took out of [last year]. As far as skating-wise, I worked really hard on my skating with Steve [Serdachny] and definitely brought that up.

Eberle can’t do anything about his height, but the fact that he’s working on gaining weight is a positive. That’s one of the key reasons I don’t think Eberle will stick with the Oilers out of camp, actually: with very few exceptions, physical maturity is a must for NHL players, and Eberle’s probably better served getting stronger back in junior where he won’t be lining up against the big players that NHL teams covet.

I also like how Eberle doesn’t hide the fact that he would have liked to gain more weight, and that honesty gives more credence to his evaluation of his skating. The Oilers like drafting intelligent players, and Eberle (a scholastic player of the year in junior) seems to fit that mold and also seems blessed with self-awareness. It’s going to be fun following him this season, wherever he plays.

Another reason that I’m fairly confident that Eberle will be returned to junior is a comment made by Tom Renney yesterday. It’s hard not to assume that he was talking about Jordan Eberle when he told the media this:

Without a doubt - keep your expectations realistic. That goes hand in hand with the organizations as well. I think the biggest mistake of all is organizations that really project a player as being in the starting lineup on opening night, and that’s very dangerous.

It remains to be seen if the Oilers’ organization is going to become more dedicated to not rushing their prospects, but so far it seems as if that’s the direction Steve Tambellini wants to go; personally, I think it’s a very good idea.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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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#1 Zwantinus
September 08 2009, 01:58PM
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Work Eberle slowly, don't rush him. He'll turn out great.

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#2 BruceM
September 08 2009, 02:01PM
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No need to rush Eberle this season, we already have a game of Musical Smurfs.

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#3 B.C.B.
September 08 2009, 02:06PM
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Still think Eberle might get a couple NHL games before he is sent down to the WHL. IF he excels in TC, I would think he gets about 2-4 games in the big league.

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#4 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 02:10PM
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Thanks for the blog JW, I was begining to go through ON withdrawl.

Couple things:

- Is MPS at rookie camp?

- Any update on Plante's progress? He'd be a great "suprise" pick to pan out, and would round out the defense nicely when Souray/Vish are on their way out.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009, 02:17PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

I believe MPS started training camp with his SEL team back in August.

Plante had some things to say; here are the quotes that grabbed my attention:

“They want me to keep improving my footspeed and my mobility; that’s something that’s always huge for a bigger guy. They also want me to pick up on some of the smaller things, how to separate guys from the puck and move the puck out of our own zone.” “That’s something that I’ve been trying to get better at in my off-ice over the summer, trying to get a little bit bigger, trying to improve my foot speed and like I said hopefully it shows.”
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#6 Chris.
September 08 2009, 02:18PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Is MPS at rookie camp?

No. His season is already underway in Europe.

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#7 OvenChicken8
September 08 2009, 02:22PM
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Chris. wrote:

No. His season is already underway in Europe.

I wonder if they'll bring him over next year to play in the WHL or OHL to get him accustomed to the North American style.

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#8 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 02:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I believe MPS started training camp with his SEL team back in August. Plante had some things to say; here are the quotes that grabbed my attention: “They want me to keep improving my footspeed and my mobility; that’s something that’s always huge for a bigger guy. They also want me to pick up on some of the smaller things, how to separate guys from the puck and move the puck out of our own zone.” “That’s something that I’ve been trying to get better at in my off-ice over the summer, trying to get a little bit bigger, trying to improve my foot speed and like I said hopefully it shows.”

Thanks, has their been anything from the orginization regarding his (Plante) progress?

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#9 Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009, 02:25PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

I've been out of the loop this past weekend (a 26-hour round trip to Vancouver by car will do that to you) but I don't believe there's been much.

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#10 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 02:25PM
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OvenChicken8 wrote:

Chris. wrote: No. His season is already underway in Europe. I wonder if they’ll bring him over next year to play in the WHL or OHL to get him accustomed to the North American style.

I hope they do, Flames did that with Backlund last year.

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#11 Cam
September 08 2009, 02:26PM
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Thanks for giving us a fresh post,JW!

BruceM wrote:

No need to rush Eberle this season, we already have a game of Musical Smurfs.

In answer to that. I pulled data off of NHL.com for the NW Division comparing size and weight of our roster with that of the other four teams.

Avg Weight/Height - Forwards 204.2 / 6' 1.65" - Minnesota Wild 197.7 / 6' 0.62" - Edmonton Oilers 193.5 / 6' 0.36" - Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6' 0.96" - Calgary Flames 194.4 / 6' 0.23" - Colorado Avalanche

Avg Weight/Height - Defense 205.9 / 6' 1.6" - Minnesota Wild 209.5 / 6' 1.8" - Edmonton Oilers 204.7 / 6' 1.5" - Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6' 2.8" - Calgary Flames 198.7 / 6' 0.6" - Colorado Avalanche

Compared to the other teams in the NW, the Oilers are comparable. We even have the heaviest defensive core. I don't know if we need to freak out as much as we are.

I think the issue for the Oilers is balance: the second line is entirely made up of small people... but the team as a whole doesn't look so bad.

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#12 Matt
September 08 2009, 02:27PM
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Yes Jonathan, can I please get more paraphrasing of vague, sunshiney comments from unnamed club staff? Back to the radio for me, I guess.

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#13 Chris.
September 08 2009, 02:28PM
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@ OvenChicken8:

KP says that both MPS and Lander (who play together in Timra) are honoring the last year of contracts. We'll seem them both in camp next year and decisions will be made then.

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#14 Ender the Dragon
September 08 2009, 02:30PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: As I was reviewing other Jonathan-less sites in your absence, I ran across a name I hadn't thought about in awhile; Alexei Mikhnov. It looks like he's still toiling away in the KHL and while he's not a point-a-game kind of guy, he'd still seem to be somewhat useful to the Oilers in theory. What do you think, Jon; is there any chance this guy ever comes back to North America?

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#15 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 02:31PM
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Cam wrote:

Thanks for giving us a fresh post,JW! BruceM wrote: No need to rush Eberle this season, we already have a game of Musical Smurfs. In answer to that. I pulled data off of NHL.com for the NW Division comparing size and weight of our roster with that of the other four teams. Avg Weight/Height - Forwards 204.2 / 6′ 1.65″ - Minnesota Wild 197.7 / 6′ 0.62″ - Edmonton Oilers 193.5 / 6′ 0.36″ - Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6′ 0.96″ - Calgary Flames 194.4 / 6′ 0.23″ - Colorado Avalanche Avg Weight/Height - Defense 205.9 / 6′ 1.6″ - Minnesota Wild 209.5 / 6′ 1.8″ - Edmonton Oilers 204.7 / 6′ 1.5″ - Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6′ 2.8″ - Calgary Flames 198.7 / 6′ 0.6″ - Colorado Avalanche Compared to the other teams in the NW, the Oilers are comparable. We even have the heaviest defensive core. I don’t know if we need to freak out as much as we are. I think the issue for the Oilers is balance: the second line is entirely made up of small people… but the team as a whole doesn’t look so bad.

Ya, like you said, I think the problem is where the size is. The bottom 6 is pretty solid size wise.... Really though, IMO anyways, we just need to replace one of O'sully/Cogs with a Hartnell/Horton/Michalek guy and we'd be fine physically.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009, 02:33PM
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@ Matt:

Happy to help, Matt ;)

I'm feeling optimistic today. Tomorrow I'll go back to explaining why the team is doomed.

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#17 SkinnyD
September 08 2009, 02:34PM
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It will be interesting to see how Eberle does at main camp - I caught the rookie session on Monday - he looked great. Skating was fantastic, and he's slippery like Patrick Kane. Of course, this is only compared to the other young'ns.

Would love to see him do another year in junior, a solid year in the AHL (maybe?) then up here - may be tempting to bring him up next year if he keeps improving and growing quickly. He's smart...knows where the puck is going and has the capacity to make extremely quick, accurate passes.

I thought both he and Plante stood out. Although so did Katz' unexpected arrival!

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#18 Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009, 02:34PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

I don't think Mikhnov will ever play in the AHL again, and I don't think the Oilers will risk a one-way contract on him.

Too bad, because he seems to have the skill based on his KHL play.

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#19 dyckster
September 08 2009, 02:35PM
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Matt wrote:

Yes Jonathan, can I please get more paraphrasing of vague, sunshiney comments from unnamed club staff? Back to the radio for me, I guess.

What the @#$% are you talking about?

It may not be your intentions, but you're coming across as a bit of a d/bag.

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#20 Chris.
September 08 2009, 02:35PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

. Really though, IMO anyways, we just need to replace one of O’sully/Cogs with a Hartnell/Horton/Michalek guy and we’d be fine physically.

...And avoid signing Comrie.

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#21 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 02:38PM
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Chris. wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: . Really though, IMO anyways, we just need to replace one of O’sully/Cogs with a Hartnell/Horton/Michalek guy and we’d be fine physically. …And avoid signing Comrie.

Any update on that?

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#22 Robin Brownlee
September 08 2009, 02:38PM
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What associate coach Tom Renney said about Eberle this morning at Rexall Place. I asked about expectations of Eberle.

"The one danger, because he's highly touted and an early pick and those types of things, is that he comes in figuring it's by acclamation that he'll get an NHL job," Renney said. "We can't fall into the trap of all these reports about this young fellow, either. Our staff really hasn't seen an awful lot of thim, outside of Pat. "Pat's seen him play within his peer group at the under-20 level, if you will. He's got a feel for him there, but this is the big leagues, this is NHL hockey played by a broad spectrum of ages and experiences.

"What we have to do is keep our expectations for him realistic, but, also, our demands of him (are) no different than anybody else. We're not going to discrimminate against him, but keep our demands of him very high. "To see how far we can push him, how far he can come, how he responds to that and what he's able to do with all of that come his time to really try to nail down a position. It may or may not happen this year."

I asked if the make-up of the roster, having several small forwards already, will work against Eberle.

"If you look at contracts and room to kind of squeeze him in, it presents a difficulty, but I know that Steve (Tambellini) is fully aware of that and he's also very aware of the fact he wants to put the best team on the ice he possibly can. If that means having to do business to make room for Jordan Eberle, we'll do that. "That said, it's a process to make an NHL team. It doesn't happen in two weeks, it doesn't happen in two months. In some cases, it doesn't happen in two years. We're at the front end of what we think will be a nice, healthy NHL career. Does it start this year? We're not sure, so it's kind of speculative and I think that's one of the things we have to avoid."

What assistant GM Kevin Prendergast said about Eberle this morning.

"I don't have any questions with him," Prendergast said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's been put in pressure situations and he's responded to it. "The big thing is patience. If we really feel he's ready to play in the NHL, he'll get every opportunity to do that. If we feel he's just just a little bit, maybe, behind, it isn't going to hurt him to go back to junior and play in the World Junior Championships again. "At the end of the year, we could always bring him back at that point. The ball is in Jordan's hands. As to how he goes about it, I know Pat (Quinn) is going to give him every opportunity."

"Again, he's improved. You want to see that from any kid coming into their second camp. You want to see improvement and a step up. "He's deceptive with is speed. He doesn't look like he's moving, but you never see guys catch him. He's very elusive. He knows how to get away from people and get into the open areas. "He's the type of player we're looking for in the organization, but we're not going to rush him. He's just on the cusp."

"The kid's a smart hockey player. He doesn't put himself into positions where he's going to get hurt. He plays both ends of the ice. He thinks the game really well. He's the type of player you want in your organization. "It's just a point of timing. When is the right time and when is the wrong time? We'll see at the end of camp where we are with him."

"You always look at the big picture, but if he's going to make you better you find a way to put him in there. Again, it'll come down to how he does in camp."

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#23 Oilersordeath
September 08 2009, 02:46PM
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Does anybody have a update of the extent of Tony Rajala's injury, when do they figure he will be back on the ice?

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#24 Greg MC
September 08 2009, 02:49PM
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Hey Jonathan,

You are no longer listed as a voice of the nation, are you moving on to something else?

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#25 Chris.
September 08 2009, 02:52PM
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There is a very real difference between outproducing/outshining a few vetrans at camp, and susataining that high level of performance in the ultimate "Men's League" for 82 games. My take, is that Tambo is a more patient/prudent man than Lowe and is less likely to alter his logterm plans based on a single camp... My guess, is that Eberle will have to be outright sensational to stick...

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#26 bingofuel
September 08 2009, 02:58PM
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@ Greg MC:

Jon still writes here... But his YouTube video is messing with the menu...

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#27 Matt
September 08 2009, 03:02PM
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@dyckster #19: oh, that was my intention. But good on Brownlee for posting detailed quotes from identified on-the-record people.

I think it would be an interesting project for someone to go back over a few years worth of collected September quotes from org people (any org, really) to see who the realists are and who the sunshine-blowers are. Does Oilers Nation have a summer student? Intern?

Surely it would be of interest to fans to know that (say) Kevin Prendergast consistently oversells prospects relative to anyone else.

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#28 Greg MC
September 08 2009, 03:03PM
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@ bingofuel: Thanks, good news!

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#29 ScubaSteve
September 08 2009, 03:10PM
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I would tend to agree with those that want to take it slow with Eberle, for a couple reasons;

If he can't crack the top 6 (which I don't think he can this year), he's better off in Jr, playing top minutes.

To have him play with the big club would waste some of his entry level contract, something we've seen done with other prospects.

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#30 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 03:10PM
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Chris. wrote:

There is a very real difference between outproducing/outshining a few vetrans at camp, and susataining that high level of performance in the ultimate “Men’s League” for 82 games. My take, is that Tambo is a more patient/prudent man than Lowe and is less likely to alter his logterm plans based on a single camp… My guess, is that Eberle will have to be outright sensational to stick…

Does Tambo have that much input in personal decisions? (ie who makes the team)... I'd guess that will fall on the coaching staff.

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#31 Korruption
September 08 2009, 03:11PM
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Cam wrote:

Thanks for giving us a fresh post,JW! BruceM wrote: No need to rush Eberle this season, we already have a game of Musical Smurfs. In answer to that. I pulled data off of NHL.com for the NW Division comparing size and weight of our roster with that of the other four teams. Avg Weight/Height – Forwards 204.2 / 6′ 1.65″ – Minnesota Wild 197.7 / 6′ 0.62″ – Edmonton Oilers 193.5 / 6′ 0.36″ – Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6′ 0.96″ – Calgary Flames 194.4 / 6′ 0.23″ – Colorado Avalanche Avg Weight/Height – Defense 205.9 / 6′ 1.6″ – Minnesota Wild 209.5 / 6′ 1.8″ – Edmonton Oilers 204.7 / 6′ 1.5″ – Vancouver Canucks 199.1 / 6′ 2.8″ – Calgary Flames 198.7 / 6′ 0.6″ – Colorado Avalanche Compared to the other teams in the NW, the Oilers are comparable. We even have the heaviest defensive core. I don’t know if we need to freak out as much as we are. I think the issue for the Oilers is balance: the second line is entirely made up of small people… but the team as a whole doesn’t look so bad.

It doesnt count because Dustin "Donair" Penner throws the calculation out to lunch. Remove DDP and we are 5'10 185 average

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#32 Bob Cob
September 08 2009, 03:14PM
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Dont rush Eberle, he'll be ahead of Schremp soon enough.

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#33 Tayranchula
September 08 2009, 03:23PM
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Is Rajala at the training camp, and is he for sure playing with Brandon Wheat Kings this year? I think that is the sleeper draft choice of the 09 draft. What about Kytnar anything new with him?

I think MPS Eberle Rajala are going to make a good future ahead of us.

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#34 Woogie
September 08 2009, 03:32PM
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@ Bob Cob:

ZING***

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#35 MattL
September 08 2009, 03:32PM
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@ Korruption:

Every team has guys like Penner and Smac who throw off the averages. What we really need is a median, instead of a mean... right stats people?

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#36 Cam
September 08 2009, 03:34PM
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@ Korruption:

5 10' is the bottom of our scale... Liam Reddox was the smallest at 5' 10" and 180 lbs. Then Cogs at 5' 10" and 184 lbs. Even Gagner is 191 lbs. Stortini, Moreau, MacIntyre and Penner are all on the large side.

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#37 HoNich
September 08 2009, 03:48PM
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J WILLIS IS WRITING FOR thescore dot see ehhhh.

Congrats on that one bud, you deserve it. Your articles are always informative and interesting, and the fact that you now write for the score and still post articles on here is a blessing for all of us. I hope you go far with it, best of luck!

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#38 Jonathan Willis
September 08 2009, 03:58PM
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@ HoNich:

Thanks.

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#39 HoNich
September 08 2009, 04:02PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ HoNich: Thanks.

Ohhhhhh noooooooo, I don't accept your thanks. I should be thanking you. I don't know how many times I was boored out of my tree and you came up with some article detailing some insight I never would have come up with. I haven't read the sports page of a newspaper since discovering this site, and thats in large part to you. I think alot of us can say thanks to Mr. "Ballin'-article-a-day" Willis

*Holds lighter in the air as a tear rolls down cheek*

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#40 kingsblade
September 08 2009, 04:17PM
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Matt wrote:

Yes Jonathan, can I please get more paraphrasing of vague, sunshiney comments from unnamed club staff? Back to the radio for me, I guess.

Apparently reading comprehension is not your strong point, so maybe the radio is indeed the place for you.

The article was discussing the player interviews. The article was centered on the statements made by Eberle. In fact, the only reference to staff anywhere was a direct quote from Renney.

If you're going to be an a$$hole at least try to make sense, you comment doesn't relate even vaguely to the article, and was stupid at best.

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#41 Dominoiler
September 08 2009, 04:40PM
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"No need to rush Eberle this season, we already have a game of Musical Smurfs."

Boo-Yeah... hehe.. nice...

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#42 Chris.
September 08 2009, 04:51PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Does Tambo have that much input in personal decisions? (ie who makes the team)… I’d guess that will fall on the coaching staff.

The roster is full... adding Eberle means subtracting *insert name here*... As G.M. Tambo should have the final say regarding the development/utilization of all players and prospects. (Quinn works for Tambellini) That said, I'm sure if Quinn wants to keep Eberle, Tambellini will allow it.

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#43 Tommy
September 08 2009, 04:59PM
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Thanks RB for the summary of the quotes, better than the newspaper any day. I sometimes read the Journal online the next day and catch myself thinking - this is old news, why is this stuff even being posted?

And I second the congrats for JW. You going to be writing NHL related or Oiler specific stuff for thescore?

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#44 Ogden Brother
September 08 2009, 05:04PM
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Chris. wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Does Tambo have that much input in personal decisions? (ie who makes the team)… I’d guess that will fall on the coaching staff. The roster is full… adding Eberle means subtracting *insert name here*… As G.M. Tambo should have the final say regarding the development/utilization of all players and prospects. (Quinn works for Tambellini) That said, I’m sure if Quinn wants to keep Eberle, Tambellini will allow it.

And if Quinn doesn't think he's ready I'm sure he stays in the W ;)

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#45 B-rad
September 08 2009, 05:11PM
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@ kingsblade:

well played sir.....well played.

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#46 Chris.
September 08 2009, 05:17PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Or in the case of Lowe/MacT: the coach can beg for established talent but be told by management that *insert name of guy with no pro experience here* is ready.

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#47 Dallas
September 08 2009, 06:02PM
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@ Korruption: 35 or more goals for Penner this year. MARK MY WORDS. If not I will eat them. This team will surprise many this year, gots that feeling. I think I heard Penner is in incredible shape this year. GO OIL

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#48 Dallas
September 08 2009, 06:06PM
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Actually gonna back that statement up a touch 30-35 for penner, I'm a crazy optimast BUT......

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#49 ronaldo
September 08 2009, 06:22PM
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I believe it's best for Eberle to stay in junior, eat his spinach and grow/ develope. Of course if he's good enough to force the issue, then that's a good problem to have. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm just so happy to have new material up at ON. *tear runs down cheek*

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#50 kurri_17
September 08 2009, 07:51PM
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Cam wrote:

answer to that. I pulled data off of NHL.com for the NW Division comparing size and weight of our roster with that of the other four teams.

Umm, avg data doesn't mean anything. We have at least two outliers. Try throwing together a median and avg/median size of top 6 forwards or a graph showing this.

The Oilers are small on offense where it counts

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