Jordan Eberle’s sophomore season with the Edmonton Oilers is impressive any way you look at it, but the degree to which he’s accomplished more with less in terms of ice time is truly amazing. It’s also puzzling.
Eberle is the Oilers leading scorer in a runaway with 24-30-54, leaving him 13 points up on Taylor Hall and his 19-22-41, and he’s managed that despite not getting any favors from head coach Tom Renney in terms of his overall ice time per game.
Eberle ranks sixth among Oiler forwards at 16:47. That’s right, sixth. You have not fallen down the stairs and hit your head. Renney’s leading scorer isn’t second or third or fourth or even fifth. As of today, Eberle sits sixth in average ice time per game behind Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Hall, Ales Hemsky and rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
At even strength, Eberle ranks even lower, sitting a notch down in seventh at 13:16. That leaves him behind Hemsky, Smyth, Hall, Horcoff, Sam Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins.
In terms of power-play time per game, Eberle has been a go-to guy for Renney as he ranks second at 3:30, trailing only Nugent-Hopkins. On the other side of special teams, Eberle has played only 44 seconds shorthanded this season. Not per game. This season.
Whether Renney is employing a win-now approach or deferring to player development – I’m guessing both are a consideration – I’m having difficulty understanding this less-is-more application of ice time. What about you?
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
Simply put, for the most part, Renney’s most productive player, Eberle, is accomplishing what he has without the benefit of the kind of ice time less productive players are getting. That also holds true, to varying degrees, with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, who is out with a sprained shoulder.
OVERALL ICE-TIME PER GAME
EVEN-STRENGTH PER GAME
POWER-PLAY PER GAME
SHORTHANDED PER GAME
Others: Paajarvi 14 seconds, Hall 3 seconds, Gagner 2 seconds, Hemsky 2 seconds, Nugent-Hopkins 1 second, Eberle 0 seconds (44 seconds through 51 games, as listed by NHL.com).
SO . . .
I’m not sold that it’s necessarily productive for Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins to see the kind of ice time shorthanded that Horcoff, Belanger, Jones and Smyth do, but I can’t imagine it would hurt to get them a shift here and there, particularly if Renney can get them out at the end of a penalty kill.
Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall are also getting their fair share of time on the power-play, so if Renney intends to bump them up in overall ice time closer to Horcoff and Smyth, gains are going to have to be made at even-strength.
Will that happen down the stretch drive? We’ll likely get a good indication of that with six of the next eight games at Rexall Place, where Renney controls the final line change and the match-ups.
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