SHOW US SOMETHING, EBS

Robin Brownlee
December 16 2016 04:05PM

EberleStock

After a much needed three-day break from what’s been a hectic schedule for the Edmonton Oilers, it looks like Jordan Eberle will be back playing right wing on Todd McLellan’s top line with Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic when the Tampa Bay Lightning come calling at Rogers Place on Saturday. 

The way I see it, there’s no time like right now for Eberle to get his game in gear and, really, given some needed rest and the company he’ll be keeping against the Bolts, no excuse for him not to. While Eberle, who has 8-15-23 so far this season, hasn’t been nearly as bad as his staunchest critics would have you believe, there’s room for improvement. He hasn’t been at his best. Not close.

“Obviously, he’s a pretty good player,” Eberle said of re-joining McDavid after a brief stint alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “He’s a fun player to play with. I think we’re just trying to find some chemistry again. I think we started off the season pretty well. We’ve played a lot together, so we know each other’s tendencies and it should be good.”

No disagreement from McDavid, who has been dominant no matter who he’s played between. “I like playing with Ebs a lot,” McDavid said. “He brings a lot of different elements to a line and he's one of the most lethal players around the net. Definitely happy to be back with him and hopefully we can find (chemistry) again.”

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Be Better

If chemistry is just another way of saying McLellan needs more production from Eberle, then by all means. Regardless of who he’s played with, Eberle has just one goal in his last 11 games with 32 games in the books for the Oilers. Lucic, who has taken his fair share of criticism as well, has scored 8-14-22. Like Eberle, he’s had his share of off-nights. Like Eberle, there’s more there – you can say the same for Nugent-Hopkins as well.

At Friday’s skate, McLellan had Patrick Maroon with Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula, Benoit Pouliot with RNH and Tyler Pitlick and Matt Hendricks and Zack Kassian flanking Mark Letestu. Taylor Beck, summoned from Bakersfield, could also factor in the forward mix, as could rookie Jesse Puljujarvi. We likely won’t know for certain how the lines will look until Saturday’s game-day skate.

“We start with our team and we look at -- I talked about pairs in the past -- pairs, combinations,” McLellan said. “Where production is coming from, where it's lacking. Who is taking their games up, maybe who is falling a little bit. Then we look at opposition, what might be coming at us from the opponent and how we might play against them. There's a number of different factors that go into it.”

The Oilers have had three days to recharge their legs and their minds as they prepare to face the Lightning. They also have a day between each of the other three games they’ll play between now and Christmas. If Eberle is going to make a push and become as productive as many – me included – thought he might be playing with McDavid, now’s the time to get started.

Being just OK playing alongside McDavid isn’t going to cut it. Nor should it. That goes for Eberle and the big guy wearing No. 27 as well. More, please.

A TIP OF THE CAP

Cam Cole

(source: National Post)

After 41 years of finding ways to seamlessly put words together in a way I never managed, Cam Cole wrote his final column today. Some of you will remember Cole from his days at the Edmonton Journal, which is where I met him. Others know him from his time at the National Post or the Vancouver Sun. Simply put, Cole is the finest writer I have ever worked with.

There have been several tributes written about Cole by friends and colleagues closer to Cam than I since word trickled out a few weeks ago he was retiring, so I won’t re-visit those, except to provide a link to one of them, written by Iain MacIntyre, here. Mac, who I went to school with and spent two years working with at the now-defunct Kamloops Daily News, pretty much nails it.

When I was a kid growing up and wondering if I had what it took to become a sportswriter in the days when daily newspapers still mattered, Jim Taylor at the Vancouver Province was the guy I aspired to become. In the years after I actually faked my way into the business, Cole was the guy, even before I arrived in Edmonton in 1989 and walked into the sports department at The Journal.

I won’t even try to list what I considered Cole’s most brilliant work as a wordsmith, but what sticks with me most is the way he wrote golf, particularly from the Masters at Augusta, starting in 1993 when we flew into Florida together. Cole would spend a few days covering spring training with me – the first year of an odd coupling between the Florida Marlins and Triple-A Edmonton Trappers -- before taking off to Augusta. I think Cole covered every Masters since then, the lucky bastard, but I digress.

The newspaper business was much different back then. The dailies actually made money. We had pretty generous travel budgets and we made great efforts to spend them. Hell, in the years I covered baseball, I think I’d turned spring training into about a three-week gig – that was covering the PCL Trappers, not a big league team. It was a different time, and one that struck home reading Cole’s farewell column today. It’s here. 

Oddly enough, the Cole moment that sticks with me wasn’t at a Stanley Cup or a Grey Cup. It came one humid afternoon in Cocoa Beach. We were leaning on a batting cage watching Larry Walker of the Montreal Expos getting his swings in. Walker was hacking fat BP fastballs over the outfield fence. I picked up Walker’s display about three homers in and I don’t think it stopped until he’d yanked 12 or 13 straight out of the yard. Cole and I just kind of looked at each other in a WTF moment and laughed. This was work? Mercy, sports writing was a great gig back then. It’s different now, even more so with Cam calling it a career today.

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

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

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 freelancer
December 16 2016, 04:19PM
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Bang on Brownless. I did a bit of digging myself. Even though Eberle looks to be on pace for another 55+ point season, he hasn't been nearly as effective this year. His 5 on 5 numbers are way down and he has an abundance of secondary assists where he didn't contribute much to the play.

Eberle will never be a defense first player but he needs to generate his own offense if he wants to deserve a spot with the captain.

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#2 RyanCoke
December 16 2016, 04:20PM
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Ebs has always been my favorite oiler since he arrived. Kinda sucks he is in a funk. I want us to squeeeeeee for him once more.

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#3 Slipknot 8
December 16 2016, 04:20PM
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This is really the best spot for Eberle, for both him and the Oilers.

If he scores and helps the team great, if the Oilers want to pump and dump Eberle this off season it's great for them too. Ether way, it's time for this guy to put some points up.

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#4 T Ambrosini
December 16 2016, 04:26PM
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Ebs is just one of the many talented vets on this roster who have not delivered the goods... Yet. I truly hope that he, RNH, Looch, etc get it going soon.

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#5 MacT's Neglected Helmet
December 16 2016, 04:31PM
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Agreed. Ebs needs to produce more. Same with his $6M'ates Lucic and Nuge.

It's possible to be a fan of Eberle AND demand more from him.

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#6 Spydyr
December 16 2016, 04:57PM
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Why does Eberle need some rest?It is not like he works hard on the ice.

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#7 Wanye
December 16 2016, 05:05PM
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Cam Cole, Mark Spector, Jim Matheson and Robin Brownlee were the writers that explained the Oilers to me in vivid detail as a kid when only a handful of games were televised. We were/are lucky to have them cover the different iterations of the lineup since '79.

Good Luck to Cam Cole. Hopefully he can continue to be heard/read.

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#8 Bubba Train
December 16 2016, 05:16PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Why does Eberle need some rest?It is not like he works hard on the ice.

Stop being such a jack*ss

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#9 Seriously Bored
December 16 2016, 05:18PM
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Took spider 6 comments to get a useless jab in at ebs, you are getting slow sir!

Ebs doesnt need rest, he needs to get his butt on the score sheet and have some multi point games with connor so the oilers can bank some wins before christmas.

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#10 Rama Lama
December 16 2016, 05:22PM
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Watching Eberle this year has been very frustrating. It seems that he has lost his mojo when it come to shooting. In the past I remember him shooting from all angles and actually being able to hit the net........this year he could not a barn if he was standing right in front of it.

The main difference I have observed is that with Hall driving the play he always seemed to know where to go. With McDavid he never seems to know where to go. This is not a knock against McDavid but speaks more to the chemistry issue he had with Hall. With McDavid he deposits the puck in the slot and Eberle is not a slot type player.

I'm not sure what others think, but I think for Eberle to mesh with McDavid he needs to develop a one-timer and expand his shot selection.

The other thing is Lucic, I like him as a deterrent, but as a first liner he leaves me wanting.

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#11 DieHartOiler
December 16 2016, 05:28PM
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I am really starting to doubt McLellan's coaching abilities and his choice of line-ups is mind boggling. Dont get me wrong i love pitlick but he does not have the skills to play in the top 6. He is best served as a fourth liner along with kassian and letestu. His skill set allows him to thrive in that role, but having him play higher will not do any good for him or the team due to the level of competition he'll face as a top 6 player. And what the &*#@, whats up with mclellan and his f^^&*(( love to hendricks? He should not be allowed to enter the line up unless there are multiple injuries. that guy is f&*^@(! 35 years old goddamit.

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#12 billythebullet
December 16 2016, 05:31PM
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I am seemingly not as worried about Ebs as I am with Looch (big disappointment imo) or as I am with RNH (proving to be vastly over rated). If the Oilers want to be a playoff bound team these 3 need to be vastly better players.

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#13 VK63
December 16 2016, 05:32PM
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I will miss Cam Coles masters coverage. Twas really really good stuff.

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#16 L
December 16 2016, 05:42PM
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Can't wait until he's gone.

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#17 Randaman
December 16 2016, 06:05PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Most fans agree Eberle can be better and that expecting him to be is reasonable.

You still find a way to straggle in, like some Grade 7 off the playground, and say something stupid. Honestly, whoever you are, is this all you've got?

But to be honest, a grade 7 on the playground puts in more effort than Eberle most nights.

I hope this move back to the first line is a motivator for him but based on his season so far, I kind of doubt it. Hope I'm wrong and he lights it up.

Nuge is the one that has me really scratching my head though and yet the media seem to cut him a lot of slack. Must be the baby face.

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#18 Spydyr
December 16 2016, 06:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Most fans agree Eberle can be better and that expecting him to be is reasonable.

You still find a way to straggle in, like some Grade 7 off the playground, and say something stupid. Honestly, whoever you are, is this all you've got?

Why so sour it was a light handed jab?

Since you asked here goes:

1) Eberle has failed to pick his man up on the backcheck many times this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

2) Eberle has failed to play with the defensive awareness that should come with an NHL veteran this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

3) Eberle has been on the ice for more goals scored against then he has for goals scored this season it also has been an ongoing career issue.

4) He has a weak inaccurate shot and his one timer is below Major Midget level.

5) As a player with a letter he does not seem to play with any fire he does not stand up for his fellow players physically and I have seldom seen him approach an official.

6) He is brutal in puck battles seldom winning them.His play along the wall is sadly lacking.

7) He is not physical and avoids body contact.

There are more of course.

The Fanboys love Eberle because he has offensive skill without a doubt. Outside of being a one dimensional player he does not bring much else to his team in terms of intangibles, physicality , defensive play among many other shortcomings.

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#19 Randaman
December 16 2016, 06:21PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Why so sour it was a light handed jab?

Since you asked here goes:

1) Eberle has failed to pick his man up on the backcheck many times this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

2) Eberle has failed to play with the defensive awareness that should come with an NHL veteran this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

3) Eberle has been on the ice for more goals scored against then he has for goals scored this season it also has been an ongoing career issue.

4) He has a weak inaccurate shot and his one timer is below Major Midget level.

5) As a player with a letter he does not seem to play with any fire he does not stand up for his fellow players physically and I have seldom seen him approach an official.

6) He is brutal in puck battles seldom winning them.His play along the wall is sadly lacking.

7) He is not physical and avoids body contact.

There are more of course.

The Fanboys love Eberle because he has offensive skill without a doubt. Outside of being a one dimensional player he does not bring much else to his team in terms of intangibles, physicality , defensive play among many other shortcomings.

I can't argue any of your points. This will at least make the fanboys think before they hit the trash button.

LOL

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#20 tileguy
December 16 2016, 06:21PM
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Wanye wrote:

Cam Cole, Mark Spector, Jim Matheson and Robin Brownlee were the writers that explained the Oilers to me in vivid detail as a kid when only a handful of games were televised. We were/are lucky to have them cover the different iterations of the lineup since '79.

Good Luck to Cam Cole. Hopefully he can continue to be heard/read.

You forgot one Wayne, John Short, Who dosen't remember calling in at least once to complain about the refereeing.

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#21 tileguy
December 16 2016, 06:27PM
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Robin, that bit on watching bp was just lhow Cole would of wrote it, I was right there leaning on the cage with you.

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#23 Spydyr
December 16 2016, 06:46PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Your follow-up list of criticisms of Eberle, whether or not I agree, adds a lot more to the conversation than the comment I responded to.

Robin, I get a lot of flack here for going on about Eberle's many shortcomings instead of listing them over again I thought a little jab may be more appropriate.

Two very important things I forgot in the last post. He is slow and small by NHL standards.

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#24 IRONman
December 16 2016, 07:00PM
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97 and 14 can score.

This constant line juggling is crazy.

Give it 7 games.

14 needs petal to the metal

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#25 Seriously Bored
December 16 2016, 07:12PM
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@Spydyr

You see what you want to see as always. He takes plenty of hits along the wall to make plays and clear the zone. Due to his size he isnt the best wall player but that comes with the territory.

I dont really get the physicality criticism though. Lucic, Maroon, Kassian, Hendricks, etc are the guys who are supposed to be taking care of a lot of that. Why constantly rag on a player for something they cant do and have never done?

You always seem to think because people are fans of ebs that means we think he has all these qualities and are blindless fanboys.

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#26 camdog
December 16 2016, 07:48PM
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"Simply put, Cole is the finest writer I have ever worked with."

I may need to change my screen name, been using the name for close to 15 years. I'm dating myself now, but for me it was a sad day when Cam Cole left Edmonton. There was a lot of talent in Edmonton back in the day, talent that transcended the product on the ice or on the football field.

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#27 XL Lebowski
December 16 2016, 07:51PM
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Robin, thanks for including the retirement of Cam Cole. Always liked him as I do Terry Jones, Jim Matheson, Rob Tychkowski, Spector and yourself. I don't always agree with you guys, but you make things interesting to read.

Wanted to share something I found interesting tonight. It's mid December and I found myself channel surfing seeing if San Jose, Calgary & LA were losing tonight. Haven't done this in years. More often than not, I'm tuning out and seeing who the best Jrs are. It's good to see Oilers moving the needle and yes...here's hoping Eberle and Nugent Hopkins can pick up their games.

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#28 camdog
December 16 2016, 08:08PM
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@XL Lebowski

Joanne Ireland's been pretty good as well.

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#29 XL Lebowski
December 16 2016, 08:12PM
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camdog wrote:

Joanne Ireland's been pretty good as well.

Yes. Forgot to mention Dan Barnes too.

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#30 Jiff
December 16 2016, 09:07PM
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Wish we could have gotten Larsson for Ebs instead of Hall.

But at least Ebs worked on his one-timer this past off season. It's paying very well... So that takes some of the sting away.

It's a joke that they put an A on this guys sweater. Wreaks of McTavish / Lowe type of decision.

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#31 VC Glaswegian
December 16 2016, 10:01PM
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Bravo Brownlee

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#32 IRONman
December 16 2016, 10:07PM
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Justin Shultz is Plus 18. Hmmm

14 is not the biggest problem

D is

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#33 madjam
December 16 2016, 10:35PM
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ROBIN : Can you explain why every veteran over two years on our team has digressed productivity wise under PC and TM ? Why are you so sure Eberle or Hopkins , or even Pouliot will return to productivity 2- 3 years ago ? Has Fayne or Hendricks gotten any better , not to mention some already traded that were diminishing in play here as well like Yak and Schultz ? I think it is a big concern .

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#34 passenger
December 17 2016, 12:22AM
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I love Eberle! Get it done, son!

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#35 slats-west
December 17 2016, 01:12AM
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Cam Cole ..... for those of you who have not read some of his work go read it. Especially his work in the 80's on the Oilers. One of Canada's best story tellers.

I think I developed the most respect for his abilities when he wrote on the San Francisco earthquake during his coverage of the World Series...... the Man was, and is, a gifted writer.

Good luck in retirement Mr. Cole..

Thanks Robin for putting in this piece. You're pretty good too!

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#36 Anton CP
December 17 2016, 01:37AM
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Whatever the problem with Eberle is has more to do with his mental state. He seems to be more interested in inflating his stats line instead of commit to play.

Eberle is a good scorer but he is not scoring at the time the team needs him the most. Game winning goal may not mean anything but consider him that he has 0 is something makes you wonder.

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#37 Connor McFly
December 17 2016, 03:47AM
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Three days off can't fix what Ebs is lacking. He plays smaller than any other small man in the league. Besides heart transplants take months to receive and heal. Ebs heart must be the size of a mouse.

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#38 slats-west
December 17 2016, 09:10AM
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I wish McL would keep the lines together for some time. It seems As a player you can't get any continuity and feeling until they get some familiarity - Edmonton seems to be the worst in the league at this.

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#39 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
December 17 2016, 10:51AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Why so sour it was a light handed jab?

Since you asked here goes:

1) Eberle has failed to pick his man up on the backcheck many times this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

2) Eberle has failed to play with the defensive awareness that should come with an NHL veteran this season it has cost the team points and it has been an ongoing career issue.

3) Eberle has been on the ice for more goals scored against then he has for goals scored this season it also has been an ongoing career issue.

4) He has a weak inaccurate shot and his one timer is below Major Midget level.

5) As a player with a letter he does not seem to play with any fire he does not stand up for his fellow players physically and I have seldom seen him approach an official.

6) He is brutal in puck battles seldom winning them.His play along the wall is sadly lacking.

7) He is not physical and avoids body contact.

There are more of course.

The Fanboys love Eberle because he has offensive skill without a doubt. Outside of being a one dimensional player he does not bring much else to his team in terms of intangibles, physicality , defensive play among many other shortcomings.

Let's take a look at this more closely:

Points 1& 2 are essentially the same point, and they both lack any kind of proof when it comes to "costing the team points." Has it cost the team a goal? Yes, okay. But if you're going to call out Eberle for this, then you'll also want to call out RNH (Philly), Klefbom (Philly), and McDavid in the last few games--just to name a few Oilers that have failed recently defensively and have therefore "cost the team points." Ebs "costs the team points" only if you believe that wins and losses can be blamed on individual players and that it's not up to the team to respond when they're down a goal. Did Steve Smith "cost the team the game" in the 1986 playoffs? No Oiler would say that he did, but a very simple-minded analysis would wrongly make such a claim.

Point 3 is simply not true. At present, Eberle's a -5 with 9 PP points. Do the math: he's been on the ice for more goals for than against. As well, he's been on the ice for a few PP goals where he didn't get a point, so the point is even farther than being true than the +/- and PP stats indicate. Spyder knows this is wrong and he still trots out this sh!t. That's troll-level work.

Point 4 is simply silly. The one-timer argument is meaningless--McDavid has next-to-no one-timer and no one cares. The Sedins don't have a one-timer to save their lives and yet they've both won the Art Ross. The same goes for dozens of the best scorers. As for the weak/ inaccurate claim, Eberle scored 28, 24, and 25 goals in the last 3 seasons. How does one do that with a weak and inaccurate shot? Bad goaltending all around the league, I guess.

Point 5 is a question of how can a player lead. What Spyder identifies as "fire" may not be what Ebs' team mates see as fire. And remember, Spyder can't be relied on to count how many goals for and against Eberle is on the ice for (point 3) and can't seem to understand that you don't score ~25 goals a season consistently with a weak and inaccurate shot (point 4)--and do you think that maybe scoring 25 goals a year can fire up your team? Moreover, Ebs didn't ask for the A. He earned it in the eyes of management. So Spyder's really criticizing management for their belief in Ebs. That's a different argument, and worthy of consideration.

Point 6 is true in many instances. One-on-one against a Perry or Kesler in heavy going in a board battle, Ebs will lose 9 of 10 times. However, in about 7 of 10 plays that rely on seeing where the puck is going to go in the zone, Ebs can or will get to the place along the boards to make the pass or block the puck's progress. This is actually where a lot of his secondary assists come from: he breaks out the puck with a short pass or deflects a clearing pass to prevent it from leaving the zone (when he's on offence) to put his line mates in position for a scoring attempt or to set one up. Nonetheless, as far as weaknesses in Ebs' game goes, this is probably his worst: he'll never beat a Kesler in a board battle on his own.

Point 7 is simply meaningless. Consider that the Blackhawks had fewer hits last year than any other team, and that they're regularly near the bottom of the list in terms of hits and yet always near the top when it comes to competing for the Cup. In fact, Eberle had more hits than Norris and Conn Smythe winner, Duncan Keith last year. And so what. There's more than one way to play the game. For the first 3 years of his career in the NHL critics (like Stan Fischler) claimed that Gretzky was no good because he was "not physical and avoids body contact." Yep, that's right. That was true of Lafleur, Bossy, and has been true of scorers of other high skill players. It's true of Eberle. But, again, there's more than one way to play the game.

As for Ebs being a one-dimension player, his CF% has increased over the last 3 years from 51.0 to 52.0 to 54.8 this year--his career best. He improves the CF% of a vast majority of the Oilers D, especially the younger D. Over all, he makes his team mates better and he makes the D better--at least according to the stats (CF%). That's worth repeating: He makes his team mates better. It's good that Spyder finally lays out his argument against Ebs--and on the board battles there's no question that he's right and on the hitting--for what that one's worth. But his other points are questionable to downright wrong. And his ultimate takeaway about the one dimensional nature of Ebs misses the CF% upside that he brings to his team mates.

By the way, the Eberle whipping boy for a lot of Chicago fans I know is Duncan Keith. He's soft, he doesn't hit, etc., and plays D very differently than other hitting d men--and he makes a ton of money. I shake my head at the Keith haters but I can understand why a fanbase wants to have a whipping boy. It's a complex game and when you can isolate the challenges that the team faces by talking about one player who's the poster child for what you don't like his name gets called out. Toronto did the same thing with Kessel in the last 2 years or so of his time there. As the Penguins experience would suggest, Kessel wasn't the problem in Toronto and Eberle may not be the problem with the Oilers--although that's not to say he's the answer either.

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#40 M22
December 18 2016, 12:00AM
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For me, when Cam Cole left Edmonton, it was the closest thing, in the world of media, to seeing a great player traded away. I was actually sad. Very few sports journalists could make me feel as though reading their articles was a treat - Cole did. Brilliant writer, one of the best.

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