JORDAN EBERLE: A HOCKEY BRAIN

Robin Brownlee
April 23 2012 10:57AM

In a game that lends itself to a pre-occupation with size, intimidation and brawn, Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers serves as a reminder hockey IQ and the ability to think the game matters.

Coming off a sophomore season in which he scored 34-42-76, Eberle is already a terrific player by any standard. As of today, and as expected, he's a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy -- awarded to the player judged to have exhibited sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct and a high standard of playing ability -- with Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders.

At just 21, Eberle is trying to become the youngest player to win the Lady Byng since Paul Kariya did it in 1996. If Eberle wins it, he'll join Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri as Oilers to earn the award, which is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The release from the NHL is here.

With just 10 penalty minutes in the 78 games he played and a 33-point increase over his rookie season in the books, the five-foot-11, 185-pound Eberle is proof positive skill, speed and hockey smarts, like size, matters.

NO CONSOLATION PRIZE

The Lady Byng, frankly, gets a bad rap where NHL awards are concerned. It's perceived by some as a consolation prize or a secondary award reserved for soft, perimeter players who put up points but don't really compete the way robust bangers and net-crashers do.

That's wrong on both counts, of course. Byng candidates compete every bit as hard as their more robust teammates do, they just put a premium on using brains over brawn and they do it within the rules. Eberle, as well as Moulson and Campbell for that matter, are the epitome of that. Gentlemanly conduct sounds so, well, you know . . . These are smart players who think the game.

With past winners like Martin St. Louis, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Mogilny, Ron Francis, Joe Sakic, Gretzky and Kariya, Eberle has an opportunity to join an exclusive fraternity of hockey brains. A group of players you'd do pretty well with if you were starting a franchise.

In a sense, that's exactly what the Oilers are trying to do now as they rebuild in an attempt to return to contention. If the Oilers are going to pull it off, it'll take skill, size, depth, determination and the right mix and balance of talents to make it happen. First and foremost, it'll take players who think the game like Eberle does.

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

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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 yawto
April 23 2012, 10:55AM
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Ebs should be the first oiler in a long time to bring home some hardware and the start of many more to follow.

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#2 Rama Lama
April 23 2012, 11:08AM
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Totally agreed.

It's too bad that players want to distance themselves from this trophy.......it seems to me if you can play in this league, take all the punishment that comes from being a top 3 player, put up major points, and do it without taking penalties, you are a pretty tough and disiplined player.

Every team covets players like this.

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#3 Oiler Al
April 23 2012, 11:11AM
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Ask yourself this question.. If you had the choice to add a player to your roster, out of the three finalists in the Byng, which one would you pick? Easy answer .. Eberle! That should be the winner, hands down.

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#4 Jayamania
April 23 2012, 11:13AM
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"Trade Eberle"

Signed: Advanced stat nerds

Worst argument ever!!! His value is so high right now cause of his shooting percentage, so you better trade him.

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#5 Quicksilver ballet
April 23 2012, 11:29AM
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Perhaps that hockey brain could move to center. If we're to believe Peter Laviolette, the best two centers in the world, Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby are almost the exact same size. The cerebral Jordan Eberle, he's a special player on the right side, maybe he's even a better/more effective player in the middle.

With Yakupov and Hemsky on the right side already, maybe he'd be a surprising good fit at center. The Oilers would still have that 6'1" beast at center in Hopkins if we're concerned with size down the middle.

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#6 knobby
April 23 2012, 11:42AM
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Apart from his cerebral approach to the game Eberle has one other skill that is hard to teach. That skill is the desire to come through with the big play, big goal and big moment on the biggest of stages. His clutch goal scoring is as good as anyone I have ever seen.

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#7 Talbot17
April 23 2012, 11:53AM
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I view the winner/nominations for this award as intelligent players not taking penalties that hurt your team while producing points consistently and efficiently.

Eberle is a steal to win this. Campbell has put up good numbers for this but I think tougher competition would have been if Hossa or Eriksson were included in this nomination.

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#8 Spartacus
April 23 2012, 12:35PM
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Not only does Eberle seldom take a penalty, he never complains when he doesn't get a call.

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#9 HallFever
April 23 2012, 12:57PM
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YAKUPOV

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#10 michael
April 23 2012, 01:18PM
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The winner of this trophy is a no-brainer. Clearly,with due respect to the other two nominees,the winner is Eberle in a walk.

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#11 Gazmort
April 23 2012, 01:27PM
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Couldn't agree more. Not that the Hall & Nuge don't have big-game quality, but there's something about Eberle - if you could only have one player on the ice in the last minute of a big game, it'd be him.

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#12 Harlie
April 23 2012, 02:01PM
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haha Horse Teeth and apples. CLASSIC!!

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#13 Time Travelling Sean
April 23 2012, 03:23PM
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And they say looks and talent don't match.

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#14 Jerod
April 23 2012, 04:44PM
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Would Alain Vigneault be a possibility for Edmonton as coach?

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#15 TigerUnderGlass
April 23 2012, 04:53PM
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New plan.

Hall, Eberle, RNH, and Yakupov should each center a line. Then we would have unmatchable depth at center and nobody could ever beat us. Wing is irrelevant. We can sign AHLers to ride the wing. 82-0!!!!!!

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#16 Newj
April 23 2012, 05:12PM
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I'm an Eberle fan & followed him since he was a Regina Pat, but, I don't really see him as a centre.

Maybe he will prove me wrong but I like him firing goals off feeds from RNH. Those two have a chemistry unmatched in the league. Both think the game similarily & have that 6th sense of where each other are. I wouldn,t want to see that end. And not just together on the PP.

Just my observation but I wish for RNH to continue to center Ebs.

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#17 Jimmer
April 23 2012, 07:10PM
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Spot on Brownlee...

"With past winners like Martin St. Louis, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Mogilny, Ron Francis, Joe Sakic, Gretzky and Kariya, Eberle has an opportunity to join an exclusive fraternity of hockey brains. A group of players you'd do pretty well with if you were starting a franchise."

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#18 striatic
April 23 2012, 07:31PM
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i'm pretty sure Campbell wins this.

as a defenseman his low PIM count is extremely remarkable given the nature of the position and the time on ice involved.

he's had an excellent season on a team that has made the playoffs for the first time in years.

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#19 Robin Brownlee
April 23 2012, 09:27PM
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I tend to agree with you. Campbell looks like the favourite to me.

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#20 Oilcruzer
April 24 2012, 08:49AM
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Nice.

Stauff had a good interview with Ebs yesterday (on the podcasts if you check it out).

They leave Thursday for the Worlds.

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#21 The Soup Fascist
April 24 2012, 09:28AM
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@ Brownlee

I suppose you are right about Campbell. Statistically it is amazing to take as few PIMs as he did, playing as many shifts as he did. And he put up very good numbers.

But in the back of my mind I can't help wondering if a D-man, with that few infractions / minutes played, is doing his job in his end. Not saying you need to goon it up, but are there not times when you NEED to face wash the guy who sprayed your tender or whack a guy who came in late after a puck? Or go after the winger who just ran your D partner through the boards? I apologize if I sound ignorant or boorish, but shouldn't a defenseman be "expected" (not sure if that is the right word) to take more "necessary" (not sure that is the right word either) penalties than a forward, just by the nature of the position?

Not underselling the fact a lot of great players have won this award and it is an honor for Eberle and the other nominees. I just have to ask the question if the Panthers tenders or Campbells D partners are happy that he got this nod?

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#22 Chris
April 24 2012, 09:41PM
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Jayamania wrote:

"Trade Eberle"

Signed: Advanced stat nerds

Worst argument ever!!! His value is so high right now cause of his shooting percentage, so you better trade him.

People who know advanced stats would not be saying trade Eberle. In fact, they'd be saying the exact opposite. His relative corsi this year was 5.7, and last year it was 8.5. The reason it's lower this year is because the relative corsi of Eberle's QOC was higher, therefore he was playing agsint better competition. It did help his case that he started in the offensive zone over 60% of the time, but that's how your supposed to use a kid in his early 20s. One thing I would caution is the fact that Ebs' PDO this year was at 102.9, and that number usually regresses to 100 over the long haul. Expect Eberle's shooting percentage to dip a bit, but Dubnyk's save% should keep it around the 100 mark.

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#23 Chris
April 24 2012, 09:43PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

@ Brownlee

I suppose you are right about Campbell. Statistically it is amazing to take as few PIMs as he did, playing as many shifts as he did. And he put up very good numbers.

But in the back of my mind I can't help wondering if a D-man, with that few infractions / minutes played, is doing his job in his end. Not saying you need to goon it up, but are there not times when you NEED to face wash the guy who sprayed your tender or whack a guy who came in late after a puck? Or go after the winger who just ran your D partner through the boards? I apologize if I sound ignorant or boorish, but shouldn't a defenseman be "expected" (not sure if that is the right word) to take more "necessary" (not sure that is the right word either) penalties than a forward, just by the nature of the position?

Not underselling the fact a lot of great players have won this award and it is an honor for Eberle and the other nominees. I just have to ask the question if the Panthers tenders or Campbells D partners are happy that he got this nod?

Nope, I think Campbell's year was legit. He seemed able to play effective 2 way hockey, and all of the advanced metrics point to that suggestion as well.

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