In what must be regarded as a surprise move, the Edmonton Oilers appear to have decided against adding Jordan Eberle to their line-up for the remainder of the season. Once the WHL season concludes, Eberle will play professional hockey, but he’ll do it with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League.
Oilers executive (for the time being, anyway) Kevin Prendergast spoke at length on the decision, and stressed many of the same points the Oilers emphasized when they tagged Gilbert Brule for the AHL after acquiring him from Columbus in exchange for Raffi Torres.
I like the decision. I’ll admit that part of me wanted to see Eberle play for the Oilers over the last bit of this season, but at the same time it’s a huge jump from Major Junior to NHL hockey, and starting in the AHL is a good way for Eberle to get his feet wet. He did it last year and did well offensively (although his plus/minus was pretty ugly).
The other reasons provided seem like bunkum to me : apparently Steve Tambellini needs to assess the guys on the NHL roster right now (what else is new?), a bunch of Springfield Falcons have a future with the Oilers and Eberle should get used to them (most of the kids with potential are already on the roster) and the environment in Springfield is really good (it isn’t). But none of that matters; the Oilers don’t want to rush him and I can get behind that kind of talk.
Depending on how Eberle does, it’s entirely possible he won’t be on the NHL roster to start next season either. That strikes me as improbable, given that the Oilers need to sell tickets and Eberle will help with that, but the fact they aren’t rushing him into the line-up now suggests to me that they may go that route.
It’s no secret that I’ve been highly critical of Steve Tambellini’s moves as the Oilers’ manager, but if he can bring some patience to the Oilers development system, that will be a positive step.