July 25 2016 09:00AM
Sup, Oilers Nation? I'm here to let you in on a little secret today:
Jordan Eberle isn't elite.
Wanna know another secret, though? It totally, absolutely does not matter.
Defining Jordan Eberle
Drafted 22nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2008, Eberle has become one of the most productive players in his draft class in the following handful of seasons.
That's not a subjective stat; he's literally one of the top three point producers in his class. Only Steven Stamkos and Erik Karlsson have managed to rack up more points than him since hitting the NHL, and both have played at least 50 more games. Stamkos has played in 144 more!
Bottom line: he's put up more points than Mikkel Boedker (drafted 14 spots ahead of him), Derek Stepan, Adam Henrique, and Drew Doughty. In a draft class that certainly isn't full of busts, he's held his own.
Overall, he's put up 145 goals and 331 points in 425 games since hitting the NHL in 2010, finishing with at least 60 points three separate times and at least 70 points once. His only sub-20 goal seasons were his rookie year, where he put up 18 tallies in 69 games (still pretty nice, if you ask me), and the lockout-shortened year (in which he found the back of the net 18 times).
If he doesn't hit the 500-game club this year - and creep near that 400 point mark - *he's almost certain to hit it the year following. At that point, he'll be just 28.
From a possession standpoint, Eberle is in a losing position, of course. He's played on a poor possession club for his entire NHL career, never sniffing the postseason and playing with little to no veteran sheltering from the first time he took the ice.
Still, he - like fellow (ex) Oilers winger Taylor Hall - has managed to hold his own. On a team that basically hit Sacramento Kings-level incompetence for what amounted to an entire decade, he's posted possession numbers, both offensively and defensively, that align with top six talent.
Here's a look at him, comparing him to his draft class's most 'elite' talent:
Stamkos has put up better Corsi numbers (which loosely correlate to possession), but not by an absurd amount - and he's done so on a much better team.
Stamkos has also found the back of the net more consistently, but Eberle has been a bit better at generating playmaking, based on his assist totals and A60 figures.
Overall, Stamkos has been better - but not by much.
Looking outside of his draft class, Eberle's point production doesn't exactly fade away, either. Of all forwards since 2010 with at least 5,000 minutes of ice time, Eberle ranks 14th in point production overall at even strength. When you account for all situations, he only falls to 32nd -- and of the players who have outproduced him in all situations, nine of those players have won Stanley Cups in that time frame. Of the ones who outproduced him and haven't seen results in the form of a championship? Names such as Patrick Marleau, Claude Giroux, Alex Ovechkin, and Stamkos grace that list. No other player who has failed to see the postseason since 2010 has managed to outproduce Eberle in that time frame.
The Oilers have been absolutely miserable, but it certainly hasn't been because Eberle has been any kind of slouch.
Using the word 'Elite'
Personally, I hate the word elite.
I hate it. I really do.
It's subjective, for starters. What I consider elite at one position may be different from what another person considers elite at that position -- and then you have to consider that what measures 'eliteness' varies from position to position.
Can you be an elite shot-blocker? What about an elite stay-at-home defenseman, versus an elite defenseman? Don't even get me started on elite goaltenders, either -- we'd be here all day.
As a result, I think that 'eliteness' is in the eyes of the beholder. One person may consider being the third highest-scoring player at any position in a particular draft class to make someone elite. Another may think that being one of the best playmakers at a particular position makes someone elite, or being the 32nd highest-scoring forward in the NHL since 2010 in all situations.
Still others, though, are a bit pickier with the word elite. It's like the arguments about 'untouchable' players during the trade deadline; depending on what you use as your qualifier for a word, extremely good talent may fall short of deserving certain accolades.
Personally, I think that there are probably only four or five players in each conference that deserve the word 'elite' in any given situation.
As a result? Eberle, who is probably one of the top 10 forwards in the Western Conference, fails to make the cut.
There are 30 teams in the NHL. If every single team had an elite defenseman, center, right winger, left winger, goaltender, shot blocker, powerplay specialist, and face-off guy, the word would lose its meaning. At best, teams probably only have one or two elite guys on their roster at any given time -- and those are the championship-winning teams.
For the Oilers, let's assume that Connor McDavid is an elite center.
(Who are we kidding. We're not assuming it; of course he's elite).
Let's also assume, for the time being, that Milan Lucic is an elite power forward. That's two players who fit the bill for the 'cream of the crop', the best of the best.
That also leaves Jordan Eberle on the outside, looking in as just a very very, extremely competent forward who is arguably one of the best right wingers in the entire Western Conference.
Maybe we'll still need to trade him. Maybe Oliver Ekman-Larsson will wear a track suit to a team meeting next year, Shane Doan will throw it into the locker room showers, and the Coyotes will look to move their elite left-shot defenseman. Maybe, at that point, Eberle will make perfect trade bait.
In order to win a cup, though, you don't need a roster of 22 'elite' guys. Elite is a stupid word, full of subjectivity and misinterpretations. Cups are won by well-balanced rosters, with very good players at each position and the potential for elite players as well.
Stop hating Jordan Eberle.
*Initially, this article suggested that Eberle is close to the 500-point mark, because neither the author nor anyone else can read. BLAME MY PROOFREADERS, NATION! (Thank you to those who caught that quickly, though).