August 02 2012 08:02AM
The Edmonton Oilers struck gold when selecting Jordan Eberle 22nd overall in the 2008 entry draft. How good can he be? What should we expect from him this coming season? What is reasonable?
I started doing 'reasonable expectations' series a few years ago when it became clear that we as fans are pretty awful at predicting the future. One of the main reasons? We're fans. I'm certainly a person who is prone to bias (Marc Pouliot, anyone?) and those expectations usually end up in disappointment when the players we cheer for fall short of their goals.
What's that old line from Seinfield's George? It's not you it's me? That's the ticket.
First of all, a few words about Jordan Eberle. I think he's top drawer. I do believe that Stu MacGregor's selection of Eberle #22 overall may end up being the best bit of draft work he'll ever do, and am thrilled the young man is an Oiler.
When I set out to do 'reasonable expectations' every year, the idea is to create a fair 'line in the sand' for each player. Considering their past performance, their age, their future role on the team and the circumstances under which they scored in the previous season.
Eberle's case this year is somewhat unique. We don't really have enough information (three years is usually good, but not always: Ryan Smyth's first four seasons were wildly dissimilar), Eberle had a major jump across the board and we don't know how much of what he did is sustainable at last season's levels.
WHAT IS REASONABLE?
The major thrust of RE is trying to draw a 'reasonable' line in the sand for a specific player. I don’t consider the RE series to be “predictions” per se. David Staples suggested in his original article that the Eberle number was a prediction and Jason Gregor picked up on it yesterday. But if we were in a ‘dobber hockey’ hockey pool then 55 points might be a little low. ‘Reasonable expectations’ is designed to create a line in the sand that says “this is the reasonable spot.” Lower would be a disappointment, higher would be a thrill!
I am sincere in suggesting that we should be thrilled if Jordan Eberle hits 60 points this season, and that more would represent an outstanding year.
We have no right to expect Jordan Eberle to score 76 points again this season. Why? Because he doesn't have the track record (yet) for us to reasonably project this kind of season again next year. Will he score 40 in a season? Don't know. Is the 11-12 season his career year? Don't know.
We have two NHL seasons to go on, and Eberle increased his point total by 16 GOALS AND 33 POINTS! I believe it's very reasonable to ask how he got there and if he can do it again. A few reasons for my projection:
- 3.08 5×5/60, ranking him 2nd in the NHL. He’s a fine young player, but it is not reasonable to expect the same performance next season. He was tied for 7th in the entire NHL in even strength points.
- His zone start was 60%. We can’t assume he’ll get the same treatment this coming season. What if Yakupov gets the push on a line without Eberle? It could happen
- Eberle’s shooting percentage was a huge leap from his rookie year. It is not reasonable to assume he can sustain it.
- The PP. He went 10-10-20 on the PP. With Hemsky healthy and Yakupov’s shot also available, we can’t assume Eberle will score at that level this coming season. Eberle was tied for 43rd in PP points this past season.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If Jordan Eberle scored 76 points again this season we can move the 'reasonable expectation' forward because it'll be closer to a proven level of ability. For a player to go from 43 point to 76 points with a zone start push and a giant leap in 5x5 and powerplay scoring is one thing, but if he can do it again? Music!
One final note: I am so impressed with the posters at Oilers Nation and Oilers bloggers and posters across the board. From everything I've encountered--the Staples article to Jason's to the comments to my conversation with Jason and Robin Brownlee on JG's show yesterday--EVERYONE involved engaged in the conversation without making things personal or bringing the discussion down with counter productive verbal.
Five years ago on many blogs and websites this kind of discussion would have derailed into name calling and general tomfoolery. I am so impressed with Oilers Nation, the posters here, my blog, the Cult of Hockey and everyone who took time to put their opinions into the internet ether. I also enjoyed--but was not surprised by--the high level of discussion with Jason and Robin Brownlee yesterday.
Now. Let's hope Jordan Eberle kicks the hell out of next season and we can re-visit this question and have a giant snicker at my RE.
All the best,