OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD

Robin Brownlee
December 17 2012 06:05PM

I don't know if Jordan Eberle will ever shut up the critics who predict his ridiculous shooting percentage is destined to fall back to more mortal levels at some point in his fledgling career as a pro, but I hope so (even if I think not). That said, does it really matter?

On a rip right now with the OKC Barons that's just nuts, as spelled out nicely in a balanced piece by Jason Gregor here earlier today, Eberle has spent the past two seasons making goaltenders at the NHL and the AHL (in particular) levels look like stiffs flopping around in your typical local beer league circuit.

"Unsustainable," insist the smart guys, dourly pumping their calculators and arriving at the obvious. Of course it's unsustainable – you don't need a spreadsheet to conclude it's highly unlikely Eberle will continue to score at the rate he has been. He'll drop off. Eberle, after all, isn't pumping rubber against the-guys-in-field-hockey-equipment gunners like Charlie Simmer and Warren Young did during their days in the NHL. SIUTBOHC is unlikely.

I know this is a bizarre concept, but is there any chance fans – Wanye prancing around in his No. 14 jersey naked from the waist down in some California rooming house doesn't count -- can just sit back and enjoy the display Eberle is putting on right now without endlessly dissecting what we're seeing?

For those so inclined, there'll be lots of time for I-told-you-so when the NHL eventually gets up and running again.

BACK THE TRUCK UP

David Staples writes a lot of good stuff at the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey. Saturday, Staples, an award-winning reporter (and unabashed Oiler fan), was relaying high praise about Justin Schultz offered by Craig Button, including a reference to Paul Coffey. You can find the item here.  Staples wraps up the item with the following:

"My take? High praise, obviously, from Button, as Coffey was the best or second best defenceman of his era.

Schultz’s game is different than Coffey’s game. Coffey was more of a pure speed, hard-shooting type, Schultz more of a darting type. His game is from the Brian Leetch/Phil Housley school.

So I wouldn’t compare Schultz to Coffey just yet. But having seen Schultz play 24 AHL games, I agree he’s a special player, every bit as strong a prospect as the Oilers other top prospects Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Yakupov."

While there's no question Schultz has been outstanding during his first stint in pro hockey as a member of the OKC Barons, we might want to throttle back on the hype. Coffey talk? How many NHL games has Schultz played?

Again, Schultz's astounding tenure with the Barons might be something that's better off just being enjoyed in the here and now.

OF NOTE . . .

. . . OKC defenseman Brandon Davidson, 21, diagnosed with testicular cancer in October, began chemotherapy treatments today. His initial treatment cycle will last three weeks and then he'll be re-assessed.

. . . This on Twitter today as the NHL lockout hits the mind-numbing bog that is the courtroom. Darren Dutchyshen?@dutchysc "I just filed a disclaimer of No interest in the NHL and NHLPA! "@DarrenDreger.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Quicksilver ballet
December 17 2012, 06:07PM
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Happy Holidays all!

Brownlee's probably still at the shop. With his softer ways now, no way he edits this post. A kinder, gentler Rueben Bronte is upon us.

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#2 David Staples
December 17 2012, 06:25PM
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Of course, it wasn't me who made the Coffey comparison, it was Button, a former NHL GM.

I agree, it's a bit off.

As for Eberle, the real debate is some see him as a 55 point guy, based on his shooting percentages.

I think that's poppycock, based on how many scoring chances the guy creates. And others see his talent and agree that is poppycock, that Eberle is a sure fire 70+ pt. guy.

I agree with your main point, Robin. It's just fun to watch a guy like Eberle, as well as a guy like Schultz. It has made tuning into that wobby AHL.Live feed of OKC games completely worth it.

And convinced me all the more that Schultz and Eberle are the real deal...

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#3 westcoastoil
December 17 2012, 06:53PM
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Good read RB - instead getting caught up in trying to tear the kid down, why not have some fun (a la Wayne style if you wish) and just simply enjoy watching him play. Every once in a while you get an outlier, and as Oiler fans we are lucky enough to have a young man on our team who simply doesn't waste shots and has the hard-earned gift of talent and ice water in his veins. Oh yeah and by all accounts he's a great person too. Even better.

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#5 David S
December 17 2012, 08:15PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Happy Holidays all!

Brownlee's probably still at the shop. With his softer ways now, no way he edits this post. A kinder, gentler Rueben Bronte is upon us.

Ahhhh. Justice. [EDIT]...Wait. What?

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#6 striatic
December 17 2012, 09:07PM
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while i do believe Eberle's shooting percentage will drop off, i also believe that he is capable of maintaining a shooting percentage of 15% or higher for the next few years.

i think his shooting percentage will track something like Stamkos' 17% NHL average. possibly a tick or two lower but still high end.

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#7 Sanaa Montana
December 17 2012, 09:08PM
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The Regina Rifle.!..

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#9 striatic
December 17 2012, 10:21PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Truth be told, I don't give a squirt about Eberle's shooting percentage as it pertains to long-term projections.

If Eberle scores 30-35 goals a season for the next decade, and he certainly appears capable of that, are people actually going to sniff if his percentage drops off?

no.

but part of what makes watching Eberle so wonderful is his ability to snipe, and that ability is reflected in his shooting percentage.

you can look at Stamkos and see that ability IS sustainable if you're a special player.

i think Eberle is a special player.

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#10 McCreeper
December 18 2012, 08:21AM
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I don't know about this lockout stuff. I think the players are forgetting about the fans. Without the fans there is no union to be had. We give the union the power by showing up at games and buying merchandise etc etc. now all we hear from players is they have a right to do this and that and the other thing and none of that involves hockey. It's quite sickening. The players need to speak to the fans more. When they start talking on twitter or the news they make it sound like the owners are the crazy ex gf's who cheated on them and keyed their favorite sports car. This cannot be good for business.

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#11 Tyler F
December 18 2012, 09:06AM
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Great article RB! For those like Staples who argued that Eberle is a 50-60 point man over the summer. I must say shooting percentage is a loose tangible because it doesn't take into account hockey IQ and the fact that Eberle has such a good accurate shot. Every great player is usually an outlier in group statistics. Eberle doesn't just score goals in garbage time either, when you need a big goal... Jordan is on the ice no doubt.

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#12 Spydyr
December 18 2012, 09:59AM
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Coffey, come on now.

I always hate the comparisons to the Boys on the bus.

Maybe after they win 4 or 5 cups.

That should be around 2020, no?

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#13 Will
December 18 2012, 10:04AM
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I think everyone is analyzing largely because there's a lockout and there's not much real hockey being played. As for Eberle dipping his shot percentage, sure fine, but dipping in points? That's just crazy. How anyone could think a kid still in his rookie contract isn't going to get better, and that the players around him won't get better, and they all won't get better together, is just crazy. By this point dipping logic, people are saying a kid on one of the worst teams is going to start getting worse the longer he plays. And if he does lose points, it means he's playing stiffer competition, which also means our other new shiny right wing scoring dynamo isn't playing the stiff competition, and he'll get points.

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#14 Rama Lama
December 18 2012, 10:33AM
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I watched a re-run of an old Oiler game a little while ago. What cannot be ignored ( or calculated) is that the size of the goalie equipment has a very real impact on offence......or the lack thereof.

I suspect that if we returned to goalie equipment of the past, players like Eberle would shoot more and aim less. In my mind he would be a 60 goal scorer.

The modern sniper has to pick his spots so much more than in the past, and accuracy is the only way to put up numbers nowadays!

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#15 TigerUnderGlass
December 18 2012, 11:29AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I was in Kamloops when Rob Brown, one of the guys on Gregor's list for outrageous shooting percentage, had his 212-point season.

Granted, it was a different era, the late 1980s -- hardly anybody was using advanced stats -- but there wasn't the endless slicing and dicing of his prolific performance that seems obligatory now. We knew we were seeing something special, and that it was a one-off. It was a lot of fun. Encore? Didn't matter.

There is a simple joy in watching a talented player like Eberle, yet there seems to be a growing need to clutter what we're seeing with endless analysis and projections. They have their place, but I don't see why we can't put down the calculator once in awhile and enjoy the moment.

In part because analyzing the performance IS how some people enjoy the moment.

Some like to turn off the brain and sort of "feel" a great performance - others like to dig in to it and try to see how a great performance was accomplished.

I don't think it means other people aren't enjoying it just because they enjoy it differently than you.

Interestingly (to me) - I tend to break down and attempt to analyze hockey and Basketball as deeply as I have time for, yet with more traditionally statistically inclined sports like football and baseball I prefer to kick back and watch.

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#16 TigerUnderGlass
December 18 2012, 11:31AM
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Will wrote:

I think everyone is analyzing largely because there's a lockout and there's not much real hockey being played. As for Eberle dipping his shot percentage, sure fine, but dipping in points? That's just crazy. How anyone could think a kid still in his rookie contract isn't going to get better, and that the players around him won't get better, and they all won't get better together, is just crazy. By this point dipping logic, people are saying a kid on one of the worst teams is going to start getting worse the longer he plays. And if he does lose points, it means he's playing stiffer competition, which also means our other new shiny right wing scoring dynamo isn't playing the stiff competition, and he'll get points.

Why don't you look into what arguments are actually being made.

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#17 Will
December 18 2012, 02:20PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Why don't you look into what arguments are actually being made.

I have, extensively. The math certainly makes sense, the comparisons and lists that demonstrate the rarity of a player maintaining his shooting percentages make sense. Why that correlates into less points makes sense. What doesn't make sense, however, is how a player who's always getting better, playing along side team mates who are also getting better, who are all getting better together, is a recipe for less points.

It just seems like everyone's concerned about the numbers and overlooking the facts. Add to all this Eberle's own omission that he shoots to score, not for the sake of shooting, and I think an equally compelling argument can be made that despite his shooting percentage going up or down, Eberle is going to put up big numbers consistently in the NHL. And unlike all the mathematical projects, his goal and point totals actually stand to increase, not decrease as the seasons roll on.

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#18 TigerUnderGlass
December 18 2012, 04:10PM
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Will wrote:

I have, extensively. The math certainly makes sense, the comparisons and lists that demonstrate the rarity of a player maintaining his shooting percentages make sense. Why that correlates into less points makes sense. What doesn't make sense, however, is how a player who's always getting better, playing along side team mates who are also getting better, who are all getting better together, is a recipe for less points.

It just seems like everyone's concerned about the numbers and overlooking the facts. Add to all this Eberle's own omission that he shoots to score, not for the sake of shooting, and I think an equally compelling argument can be made that despite his shooting percentage going up or down, Eberle is going to put up big numbers consistently in the NHL. And unlike all the mathematical projects, his goal and point totals actually stand to increase, not decrease as the seasons roll on.

You say that, yet you only argue against "numbers". Numbers are "facts". Projections are interpretations of those numbers. Your position is based on, "I think these guys are all really good so Eberle is going to score even more."

It remains to be seen which is right, but yours is the far less defensible position, so talking about "facts" doesn't help you.

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#19 Bill
December 18 2012, 04:27PM
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Schultz has a decent opportunity to be the best Oilers offensive threat on the blueline since Paul Coffey.....and that's good enough for me.

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#20 Will
December 18 2012, 04:49PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

You say that, yet you only argue against "numbers". Numbers are "facts". Projections are interpretations of those numbers. Your position is based on, "I think these guys are all really good so Eberle is going to score even more."

It remains to be seen which is right, but yours is the far less defensible position, so talking about "facts" doesn't help you.

Numbers aren't facts. Numbers are used in evidence to support facts, and make claims. You are claiming Eberle will score less points because his shooting percentage has typically been shown to be unsustainable, except in rare cases. I'm saying his shooting percentage was so high because playing with the Nuge and being on the power play gave him the opportunity to be in high scoring chances, with a high likelihood of conversion.

Moreover, by continuing to play with the Nuge, the rate of these scoring chances is likely to increase. There are reams of numbers to back up my claim, and in fact much has been written lately about Eberle maintaining his shooting percentage. By the way, you can project all you want, but the fact is his current shooting percentage this year is way, way better. Possibly due to playing with the Nuge, and growing together as a line. So currently my position that he will post more points, and play better because he will progress with the talent around him, is already on display.

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#22 Wanye
December 18 2012, 05:42PM
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"I know this is a bizarre concept, but is there any chance fans – Wanye prancing around in his No. 14 jersey naked from the waist down in some California rooming house doesn't count -- can just sit back and enjoy the display Eberle is putting on right now without endlessly dissecting what we're seeing?"

Excellent (Mr Burns Voice)

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#23 TigerUnderGlass
December 19 2012, 12:05AM
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@Will

I don't think "fact" means what you think it means.

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#24 TigerUnderGlass
December 19 2012, 12:17AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I tend to look at the numbers more often with baseball, but that's largely because that was my routine in the six seasons I covered the Trappers in the PCL.

We kept our own scorebooks back then and a premium was placed on recording everything because if we didn't do it we didn't have easy access to those numbers at the Triple-A level. We didn't have the statistical databases there are now at our disposal in the early 1990s.

The demands -- and mandate -- of the hockey beat at the dailies was a different matter. Preview, sidebar off the morning skate and a gamer. Bash it off and jump the jet for the next city. Then, an off-day feature. Another preview. Gamer. Sidebar. Rinse and repeat. Advanced stats, even if you had time for them, weren't what they are now on my last year on the beat (2007), let alone my first year.

A seriously hectic life. The shop must feel almost relaxing in comparison.

I don't know how my interest in sports came to be divided that way, but I have a theory. I am much more intimately familiar with hockey and basketball. I have loved hockey since I could walk, and I played basketball at a high level. I can watch those two sports and better see what's happening so I turn to numbers to give me more detail in how players arrived at what I see.

I played both baseball and football as well and, while I had some ability, they aren't as deeply ingrained. For example - I can identify basketball players I've seen or played with from a distance by how they move when they shoot, even if I can't see who they are. Not a chance with any other sport with the exception of a few famous swings. (I can spot Junior or Strawberry etc.)

When I watch football or baseball there is much more for me to gain during the viewing experience and, while watching is entertaining for me with almost any sport, I don't feel a need to go look for more information afterwards watching one of those two.

Asleep yet?

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