Jordan Eberle returned home after his fourth consecutive appearance at the World Championships, and for the fourth straight year team Canada failed to advance past the quarter finals. Eberle was on my radio show on Wednesday and we discussed the Worlds, Lindy Ruff, golf, shooting commercials and what areas the Oilers must improve in, if they hope to become a playoff team.
Jason Gregor: What happened at the World Championships this year?
Jordan Eberle: It’s seems like it has been the same thing every year. It seems like we play fairly well to get to the quarters, but then we can’t get it done in the playoffs. This year we came across a team that plays very well in Sweden. It seems as though every country does such a good job of developing players now, and every team can beat everyone. We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game against Slovenia and they took us to overtime. But it was just so frustrating that we played fairly well and the dumbest thing about the IIHF is that you go into a shootout at the end of a game, it doesn’t end in overtime like it should. I know that everyone knows that once you get to a shootout, anything can happen.
So it’s frustrating and it’s the fourth year not getting out of the quarter finals, it was miserable.
JG: Give me your thoughts on Lindy Ruff as a coach?
JE: He’s a good coach. He’s a very smart guy. Obviously he’s very well known throughout the NHL. I enjoyed playing for him. As the tournament went on he kept giving me more opportunity and more opportunity. I think that he liked the way that I was playing. It was a good thing for me and I know that he’ll get a job in the NHL somewhere, he’s just that good.
JG: You and Taylor Hall didn’t get a ton of power play opportunities, which is obviously what you’re used to and where you guys really flourish. Was it a little frustrating to not get on the PP or do you understand it when you are on a team that good?
JE: You have to take it for what it is. The best team Canada teams that I’ve played for are the ones where guys accept a role and play their best. Let’s be honest, all of the players there play on the power play on their respective teams. When you get there, not everyone’s going to be able to do that. So you just accept the role that you have and try to earn it.
I think that the way that both of us played, later on we started to actually get the power play time. So that’s always a good thing, and it’s just a shame that we had to lose that way.
JG: When you’re at the World Championships and you see a guy like Steven Stamkos, who’s a pure shooter, kind of similar to your game, can you take things away from his game and try to incorporate them into your game next year?
JE: Yeah for sure. Watching him, he has the best shot that I’ve seen in the NHL by far. What makes his shot so much different than mine is that he just shoots the puck so hard, and I think that comes with just working at it and working at it.
JG: Did you talk to him about his shot, or other guys about it, or did you just observe how he works on it?
JE: Yeah they do. For me it’s just more of a watching thing. You don’t want to ask them, I’d be a little embarrassed playing against him, but I watch and see what he’s doing. I think that the biggest thing with him is that he’s got such a great one timer, and how hard his shot is. It’s definitely something that you try to imitate.
JG: I just saw your Coke commercial for the first time this week, how many hours did it take to shoot?
JE: It took about 6 or 7 hours to do that, it was quite a long one.
JG: If you had to rank your performances, how would you compare that to your ATB commercials?
JE: (Laughs) Well, they are a little different. I mean when I saw the script for the ATB ones they were fairly easy because I’m not saying anything. In this one it’s a little more difficult because I had actual lines.
Overall I think I did OK for having zero acting experience. But it was fun to do, sometimes it’s nice to get outside of your wheelhouse year round and do what you want as far as that, and have a little fun with it. At the end of the day, I think I’m going to stick with hockey.
JG: Did you have Hallsey reading lines with you so that you knew your lines?
JE: (Laughs) No, I was actually quite embarrassed because I didn’t know how the public was going to take it, but so far it’s been good. I got a little harassment from the guys, but it’s been good.
JG: Did you work directly with [Jay] Onrait and [Dan] O’Toole? Were you on set at the same times, or did your shoots happen at different times?
JE: No I shot with them. It’s pretty funny, you see them on TV and you kind of expect them to be an act, but it’s really not, in person they’re the exact the same people. They’re pretty funny; it’s going to be pretty tough to see them go from TSN.
JG: Now where did you come up with the name ‘Kevin Wheeler?’
JE: You know what, it’s an actual guy. Coke tried to find a story of a hockey player that was actually a true story. A bunch of people sent in emails and they chose his story. Kevin Wheeler actually came to the set, he’s a nice guy, this story actually happened to him when he was driving, he forgot his gear, got pulled over by the cops, got dressed in the back of the seat, all that. I ended up playing him as a character, that was the whole premise behind the commercial, as well as trying to confuse people about just who this kid was.
JG: Now how old was he when this happened to him?
JE: I think that he was about 10 or 11 when this happened to him; he’s around my age right now. But it was neat to be on set with him, and you could see that he was pretty star struck; he’s getting his person played by an NHL player and Jay and Dan were there, and this is a whole commercial about Coke. You could see that he was pretty overwhelmed and it was pretty neat to see that.
JG: Was the story of the neighbour true?
JE: Yeah, I think everyone really enjoyed the neighbour, which was the funny part of the commercial.
JG: You’ve also got a charity golf tournament in Regina that you are a part of. How many years have you been doing that?
JE: Last year was the first year actually, this year will be the second. It was a huge success, they had a few Oilers come, [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins came last year and [Devan] Dubnyk. I think this year Taylor, [Justin] Schultz, Dubnyk and Nuge are all coming.
It’s put on by the hospitals of Regina foundation. They do a great job of putting it on. It is first class all the way, I think last year raised just over $260,000 for the children’s hospital and the money went towards a specific machine. I’m from Regina and I like to give back to the community that obviously gave me a ton. So it’s great to be a part of that and I think that we’ll have a little fun when we get down there too.
JG: How is your golf game? Have you been teeing it up at all?
JE: I played the other day for the first time. The weather has been pretty crappy in Calgary for the past few days so I haven’t been able to get out.
But I’m looking forward to it, it’s a way to get your mind off of hockey and get away from it for a little bit.
JG: Every summer for the past few years you’ve told me that there are specific things that you focus on during training that you want to improve in your game. What will you be working on this summer?
JE: This summer is going to be huge for me. Like every summer really, you want to be a better player. I think that that is really the biggest thing. I’m going to focus on my skating this year, try to get better at that, as well as shooting.
I think I’m a young enough guy that it’s pretty easy to put on bulk and be faster and stronger, but the way that kids are coming up, and the league keeps getting faster and faster, if you’re not taking care of yourself and not training the right way you’re sure to find yourself behind the eight ball.
Obviously this is a big year for the Oilers. Last year was tough to swallow just how things went. We were in a playoff spot with 10 or 11 games left and then ended up losing it. We really have to take strides in learning how to win.
JG: You’ll be 23 and entering your 4th NHL season. Do you look at taking on more of a leadership role, and do you guys need more vocal guys in the room, more leaders to say ‘Hey we’ve got to change our philosophy because it’s not working’?
JE: Yeah, I like to think of myself as one of the key guys on the team. I’ve been here for 3 years, I’ve had experience overseas, played in certain situations and I get along with all of my teammates and I think that that’s a big thing. I’m going to be a big part of this team, hopefully, and I want to be in a situation where I can lead this team to the playoffs and obviously further.
I’ve talked to Taylor, I’ve talked to some of the younger guys that are going to be around, and obviously some of the older guys too, and we want to get this team going in the right direction.
We showed glimpses last year when we were playing well, obviously moved into a playoff spot. We know that we are going to get back to that someday; it’s just a matter of time.
JG: Are you guys still learning what it takes to win in the NHL, and realizing that it is different than dominating in the AHL and other levels? oD more guys on your team have to understand that?
JE: Yeah, I mean it’s about more than just offense, everyone knows that. You’ve got to play on the right side of the puck. Watching the playoffs right now, you see these one goal games, these 2-1 games, but teams are winning, they’re able to win that way.
We obviously have a lot of offence and goals are going to come, everyone knows that, it’s just a matter of keeping the puck out of the net. We have to find a system, and I think that we did last year, where we really strive toward getting better at it and that’s flying on the right side of the puck and making smart plays. I think that that really starts with the guys who play a lot of minutes; myself, Taylor, Nugent-Hopkins, Horcoff, those guys. We’ve got to be able play on the right side of the puck if we want to win games and it basically comes down to that.
JG: What is your timeline for getting into your off-season training? When will you start?
JE: I just got back about four days ago. I usually try to start when my body is ready. I played a ton of games this year and it’s good to recover, not only physically but also mentally; you need to get away for hockey for a little bit. Some guys are used to taking months off, but for me it usually takes about a week and I get pretty anxious to get back at it. We’ll see. I’m assuming that I will get back into things next week.
JG: When do you get on your skates in the summer?
JE: I usually get on quite a bit earlier. I like to do power skating, try to work on things like that in July, and then obviously August you’re skating every day to get ready for camps. This is a big year with Olympics and everything coming up I want to be on their radar, so you have to have a great summer of training.
JG: I know that this is a very serious topic for you, have you thought about how you’re going to be able to improve your shooting percentage for next season?
JE: (laughs) I love when I hear these questions, but you know what, it’s such a funny stat. I remember coming in last year and hearing that my shooting percentage was going to drop and so were my goals. Well if you shoot the puck more it will drop. For me, it’s just about the quality of shots you take and where you put it. This year was kind of tough. I went through a few games where it was tough to even shoot the puck. But to have a high shooting percentage, you’ve got to be a good shooter.
I take pride in the way that I shoot the puck and I want to put it in. But there are different times too where you are coming down the wing, that sometimes you want to shoot for rebounds, you’re not even thinking about scoring really, you’re trying to just set up another guy.
So there are stats like that that you’ve kind of got to laugh at and put it aside, and not worry about it. There are a million stats that people look at, and I guess it is just a way of keeping them busy.
JG: How much of a bother or hinderance was the broken finger for you last year?
JE: It was tough, but like I always say, every guy is going through injuries. I know that a lot of guys aren’t keen to say anything, but it’s a part of the game and you have to battle through it. Look at guys in the playoffs now, and I guarantee that they are going through stuff. Mine just happened to be something where it was difficult for me because it was tough to stick handle and tough to shoot.
But I really started to feel healthy towards the end of the season, and really started to feel like I had hit my stride and it’s just such a shame that it was a short season. I really felt like I was going to take off. But that just makes you hungry for the next year, so I guess it will help me in my training this summer for sure.
ULTIMATE FAN PACKAGE
For the third consecutive year we are doing our Ultimate Sports Fan package for charity. On June 8th I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I've come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan. Click here and donate $100 and you will get one entry into the draw. If you donate $200 you get two entries and so on.
We only take 100 entries and we will raise $10,000 for MS.
This year's winner will get the following:
A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor