EBERLE THE NEW GAGNER?

I don’t know Jordan Eberle very well.

During the past two years I’ve chatted with him casually in the dressing room, interviewed him and did a few charitable events together, but I won’t claim that I really know him. We aren’t friends on facebook, which is clearly the foundation to a tight friendship in 2012, and we’ve never gone for dinner. However, I am surprised that after finishing tied for 15th in scoring last year that his production has become a lightning rod amongst some bloggers.

Things I don’t know about him:

  • His favourite colour.
  • Where he lives.
  • What he drives.
  • His favourite band or app.
  • How many goals he’ll score next year.
  • How many goals he’ll score in his career.

Things I know about him:

  • He has excellent hockey sense.
  • He’s a crappy putter, RT Got beat by in match play by 1 today. Made 40 putts and shot 85
  • He’s a huge Riders Fan.
  • He likes to prank call teammates.
  • He’s extremely competitive, "Ebs is more competitive than me. He was always the small kid growing up and he’s had to work for everything. He hates losing, and he feels like he always has to prove himself, which is why he’s so good." Taylor Hall on Eberle.
  • He has never actually received a piece of Wanye’s hair.
     

Guys like Lowetide, Tyler Dellow and Jonathan Willis have written some interesting articles on #14.

Lowetide predicted he’ll score 55 points this year. LT has been more accurate than most in past player predictions, and like most of us he’s struck out on a few. LT doesn’t wear Oiler-coloured glasses when he makes his picks, and he’s usually very level-headed, unless you suggest Scarlett Johansson is only average looking, but I’ll admit I was surprised he predicted this big of a drop for Eberle.

Dellow warned that he might be another Horcoff. Dellow has unearthed some pretty good stuff over the years, but keep in mind he likes stirring the pot like no other. A subtle, "he might be the next Horcoff," is a perfect angle to send Oiler fans into a rage. His point that Oiler management needs to be leery of overpaying a player is extremely valid, but is Eberle a possibility to be a one-trick pony like Horcoff, I don’t see it.

Willis asked how many goals will Eberle score next year? Great topic, because no one truly knows. Willis picked 26. Like Lowetide he expected Eberle to dip. Eberle’s SH% seemed to be the main reason. It is logical to suggest he won’t match his 18.9% total from last year. But isn’t it also logical to suggest that he will shoot the puck more next year?

Eberle fired only 180 shots last year, the fewest of any player who scored at least 30 goals. In fact, Bobby Ryan was the only other 30-goal man with less than 210 shots, he had 204. In his four NHL seasons Ryan has scored 31 goals on 174 shots, 35 on 258, 34 on 270 and 31 on 204. He’s been all over the map.

Eberle also played only 17:35. He averaged one shot for every 7:30 of icetime (roughly). I’m going to assume his icetime will go up, and likely so will his shot totals. I agree his SH% will dip, but I’m not certain that means a massive dip in his goal totals.

If he plays 19 minutes a game and averages the same shot shots-per-minutes, he could pot 32 goals on 210 shots for a 15.2 SH%. If he scores 33 on 210 shots he’s at 15.7% and if he matches 34 he’s at 16.2%.

Scoring 30 goals in consecutive seasons is harder that it sounds. Only seven players have scored 30+ goals in each of the last four years.

Jarome Iginla: Has done it 11 straight years.
Ilya Kovalchuk: 10 consecutive seasons.
Alex Ovechkin: Seven straight years.
Rick Nash: Five years.
Patrick Marleau, Bobby Ryan and Phil Kessel: Four years.

In the last four years only 28 players have managed to score 30+ goals twice.

Vanek, Toews, E. Staal, St. Louis, Spezza, Semin, M. Richards, Malkin, Heatley, Hartnell, Gaborik, Couture and Backes did it twice.

Stamkos, D. Sedin, Perry, Parise, Moulson, Crosby and Carter did it three times.

It isn’t a lock that Eberle will bury 30, but if Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t miss 20 games I’d take the bet Eberle will score 30. He’ll have more icetime, more shots, and with 20 more games with RNH likely a few better passes.

INTANGIBLES

The other aspect I can’t overlook when looking at Eberle is his inner drive.

His willingness to want to win and be a key contributor is the main reason why I believe he’ll be a 30-goal man.

I know you can’t chart determination, drive, heart, desire or leadership, but Eberle has all of that. I know some stats guys mock the "I saw argument," but downplaying it is just as idiotic as those who suggest stats have no value. Both have value, and neither is completely accurate.

When ATB chose Eberle as their spokesperson they did it after lots of research on his character. You’d be surprised how many people they spoke with to try and determine if Eberle was the right guy to use as their frontman. Of course his on -ice ability was a factor, but so was his character.

If you talk to anyone who has been around Eberle since his days in Regina, most will rave about his personality as much as his ability. Steve Serdachny, Oilers skills and skating coach, said Eberle is one of the most dedicated-to-his-trade players he’s worked with. He doesn’t say that about every player, and like a parent, Serdachny isn’t supposed to have favourites. He was just speaking honestly about Eberle’s desire to improve his game.

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that in the past six months, Eberle is near, or surpassed, Sam Gagner is terms of the debate over his ability.

It is easy to look at Eberle and assume his point totals will dip, the odds suggest they will, but that isn’t a sign he’s suddenly not a key player.

In 2011only 14 players had 76 points or more.

In 2012 Eberle was one of 17 to have 76+ points.

Only three players: Stamkos, Giroux and H. Sedin had 76 both seasons. Going off that it is unlikely that Eberle will match his point totals of last year, that isn’t a new revelation, but I don’t think it is a sign that he’s a one-trick pony.

When I look up and down the Oiler roster, Eberle is one of the few players who doesn’t have a multitude of question marks beside his name. Will he be healthy? Will he finally produce? Will he compete? Those are serious questions that we can fairly and accurately ask about many players on the roster, but not Eberle.

I’m surprised he’s become a name many have thrown around as trade bait for a defender, or that he’s peaked in his 2nd season.

Eberle was the only legitimate success story on the Oilers last year. He never went more than three games without a point, and his longest goal drought was the first seven games of the season. He was consistent all season, and on a team filled with inconsistent players, or players who have yet to accept their role on the team, Eberle is the one player I wouldn’t be concerned about.

I’m a tad perplexed as to why the most successful player on the Oiler is the one being questioned the most? 

  • Chainsawz

    Some great posts here. I think Jason and Jonathan cover all the arguments and counter-arguments effectively about Ebs future point totals.

    If I understand Jonathan he is saying that if, and it is a huge if, you could trade one off the fab four as part of a package for a franchise D man, Ebs would be the logical choice right now. This is very, very unlikely, but say LA was crazy enough to part with Doughty for Ebs and a few others, or if the Preds would have taken Ebs and a bit more for Weber? How could we not do it?

    Maybe the biggest argument against it is that it would cast some ice cold water on the team’s attempt to get their young stars to bond and maybe take a little less money to stick together. I thnk this is more of a theoretical argument than a choice that will have to be made.

    • That’s more or less the point, yeah. I’m not an advocate of trading Eberle, Hall or Yakupov, but if an opportunity arises – say a year from now the Predators are willing to move Weber because of financial constraints – I think the team has to consider the possibility that moving an elite winger for an elite defender is a good decision.

      Than it just comes down to which player a team like Nashville is willing to take as a centerpiece, and which player the Oilers are willing to part with (if any).

  • Chainsawz

    I love the strictly stats guys.

    It must have happened once where a player in his third season increased his shooting percentage. So since it happened once, it is reasonable to say that there is a 100% chance it will happen again. And given Eberle has a 50/50 shot at either being below or above that mark, let’s take the average of 100% and 50% and that makes a 75% likelyhood that Eberle improves his totals from last season. Boom.

  • Jason Gregor

    @JW

    I don’t think Eberle has peaked as a player, but based on the number of things that went right for him (most prominently SH%, and carefully managed ice-time thanks to his job riding shotgun for RNH)most prominently SH%, and carefully managed ice-time thanks to his job riding shotgun for RNH)

    Did you know that Eberle scored 17 points in the 17 games that he played when RNH was out. Did Eberle really benefit from riding shotgun.

    • My actual comment was “I don’t think Eberle has peaked as a player, but based on the number of things that went right for him (most prominently SH%, and carefully managed ice-time thanks to his job riding shotgun for RNH) I do wonder if his level of offensive production is sustainable.”

      In other words, the carefully managed ice-time was what I was highlighting, rather than playing with RNH (though I don’t doubt that playing with RNH, especially on the power play, was beneficial).

      In the 17 games that RNH was out, Eberle’s line started more than 60% of their even-strength shifts in the offensive zone. The rest of the team was south of 45%.

      Then there’s opposition. Looking at the home games in that span, Eberle typically played against guys he could light up. Feb. 2 against CHI is a good example – Hemsky got the Toews line, Jones got Hossa and Sharp, and Eberle’s most common opponent was Marcus Kruger. I looked at a half dozen games over that span and sometimes it was less pronounced – Feb. 19 vs. VAN, for example, Eberle played ~2 minutes against the Sedin line, Hemsky played ~4 and Jones played ~6.

      It’s not bad coaching and it’s not a knock on the player – when a weapon’s as hot as Eberle was, absolutely it makes sense to use him in the best offensive situations – but eventually he’ll get more ice-time and he’ll be the go-to guy against Kane/Toews or Hossa/Bolland or the Sedins. When that happens, naturally scoring will get harder – even if Eberle’s level of play rises.

  • billylikestodrinksoda

    @jasongregor

    I think the reason for the reasonable expectations and logic that LT and Willis provide (i can’t speak for the Dellows piece, as I havn’t read it), is to provide a mindset of what management SHOULD be thinking.

    Competent and proper management can’t think like a fan. Management can’t live off hope and say “Well, he’s a year older so he will be this much better” or else they are setting themselves up for failure.

    Good team management can’t hope for best case scenario’s. Which, unfortunately, is what our management has done for the past 5-6 years.

    You look at our Defense last year and it basically lived off hope and a prayer. There was no plan B. It was…

    -Cam Barker will figure it out and be a quality 4/5 dman (nope)
    -Ryan Whitney’s ankle will be fine (try again)
    -Theo Peckham will build off a strong 10/11 season that ended with a concussion (not even close)

    There was no solid top 4 option just in case something went wrong. Even this upcoming year we still need that solid top 4 option in case J. Schultz struggles or whitneys ankle malfunctions. Thinking worst case scenario and planning accordingly is what will make this team better.

    Having reasonable expectations and realistic thoughts is the proper way to run a team IMO.

    Everyone loves Jordan Eberle as a player. From people who think he’ll get 50 pts next year to people who think he’ll get 100 pts. No one is bashing him in anyway. Its just reasonable to look at the low end and set the bar there. Prepare for the worst, but still hope for the best.

    The biggest problem with fans in this city is they raise expectations WAY to high. Happened with Arnott, Hemsky, Horcoff, Stoll, Gagner. Every year some expect exponential growth point and playwise. Its just unreasonable to put that kind of pressure on young players.

    In the end, the player rarely lives up to such high expectations and fans start to view players as failures, when in reality they are very solid NHL players. Just not superstars.

    IMO, no one is bashing Eberle. They are just setting the bar at a lower end in their minds to prepare for such a scenario. They are NOT saying it will happen, just saying that if they were to run a team, this is how they would think in order to have the team’s depth filled properly.

    Sorry for the length but i felt it needs to be stated.

  • smiliegirl15

    There is nothing like a good Saskatchewan boy – character is ingrained.

    I hope Eberle keeps improving. I think he’s the one who was underestimated in his draft year. He’s definitely my favourite player.

  • yawto

    Jordan Eberle = Martin St Louis with a better draft pedigree. Maybe even Eberle can attribute his draft slot to St Louis as teams have learned that a great player is a great player regardless of size. How come no one questions if Jeff Skinner will drop off? I think everyone would agree in a redraft he would be a lottery selection so why can’t people agree that he has the pedigree to maintian his production. I personally think that Eberle and Nuge will guide the Oilers the way Sakic and Forsberg did the Avalanche. The fact that this team can mention a player the Calibre of Taylor Hall outside of these two is a great boon for the future. The #1’s should produce but that doesn’t mean the later picks can’t be as effective and as dominant, especially with the room the #1’s create.

    Great read Gregor and good points. Have to say I hope to be pleasently surprised when Eberle and Nuge flirt with the century mark in points the next time this team plays a full season.

  • I’m still not sure why it’s so implausible that Eberle shoots more this year and plays with teammates who are improving as much as he is, thus potting at least as many points. If Krueger manages his deployment to, you know, actually win games why wouldn’t this be possible?

    I get the “reasonable expectations” thing, and as Oilers fans we’ve become ridiculously pessimistic, but at some point it might do some good to admit Eberle might be one helluva player.

  • OilLeak

    I can see the usual rose-coloured glasses fans are out in full force. I love Eberle, I hope he will a productive Oiler for years to come,but he will regress this year and not just because of the shooting %, but some of the other factors that Willis mentioned, zone starts and quality of competition. Eberle can’t get cushy zone starts and easy competition forever, he’ll need to start shouldering his share of the load that the vets have taken on till this point. That’s what all the fans want, right? Increased responsibility for “the kids”

    Eberle will not score more if his responsibilities are increased, the soft minutes will fall to Yakupov on the right wing this year. I just can’t wait to hear the fans excuses for Eberle’s production dip this year. Chemistry, new system, Krueger, slump, etc etc.

    The excuses will be a load of crap.

  • Ben

    So lets say he only scores 28 goals and totals 66 points. Are people going to be disappointed? I won’t be. Other than Penner’s 30 and Eberle last season those numbers would be right near the top in terms of Oiler scoring in the last few seasons.

  • ubermiguel

    Eberle has been effective at every level in every situation almost immediately. I have no doubt he will still produce when he starts taking the hard minutes.

    Still, he’ll probably regress to a still-very-good 14 or 15%.

    His shot and poise remind me of Sakic and Kurri (heady company I know, but those are the guys that come to mind). They shot 15 & 20% respectively.

  • ubermiguel

    Eberle the new gagner? Thats pretty stupid if people are thinking that. You cant compare the 2 because Gagner hasnt had a season close to Eberle’s and its not even close. Not another slam on Gagner but comparing the 2 is pretty terrible. Who cares if Eberle is a 28 goal guy and a 65 point guy. Its still better than the players of late who have led this team in scoring over the past 13 years. We know how good eberle is, hopefully he can keep it up. If he drops to a 15 goal 40 point guy sure I will be a little disappointed. Staples, and Willis need to get a life already with their advanced stats garbage. Cant stand reading or hearing about the garbage they write/blog anymore.

  • ubermiguel

    My thoughts on Eberle…you can’t truly enjoy macaroni without cheese, they just naturally go together. Why am I saying this? Because IMO successful “elite” players mesh with another to break through the stratosphere to become “special” players. Hull couldn’t have reached his level without Oates, Bossy without Trottier, LaFleur without Lemaire and most notably Kurri without 99. Ebs and Nuge click, plain and simple. Whether they play together or not (parish the thought) is up to Krueger, but when they do the game is played at a different level when the puck is on their stick.

    Eberle has that innate ability to find a seam in the offensive zone, RNH recognizes this and can anticipate where Ebs will be before he gets there. At the same time, Ebs seems (no pun intended) to be able to understand where RNH will put the puck, while at the same time deciding exactly where he should deposit the puck past the goalie. The results have been sublime. Kurri/Gretzky had the same sync of hockey intelligence. Physically they weren’t impressive, but cerebrally they were above and beyond all others of their era. A bold comparison I realize, and I’m not foolish enough to suggest that they can reach they same level, I’m just stating that they play the game in a similar fashion.

    Where will they end up this year? Well you can go RE or Career year, but I suspect that if both RNH and Ebs remain healthy AND play together for the full year, this will be an incredible season. Prediction: RNH 70GP 22G 59A 81PTS (21 PPPTS) Ebs 77GP 37G 52A 89PTS (25PPPTS) S% 18.5 Lofty? VERY, but Kurri didn’t have many shots at the start of his career, he just finished. If the opposition didn’t focus on 99, he would pick them apart on his own. I see the same thing with Ebs and RNH. Bold? Yes, but “Gregor hates a coward”.

    Sit back and enjoy Edmonton. These kids (all of them) are a truly special group…will they make the playoffs this year? Doubtfull, but they will be a blast to watch and we can all talk about this season as we wait for 2013-14 season to come during the summer of ’13. Let’s just hope we can keep them together long enough to realize their potential as a group. GET THE CBA SIGNED!!! PLEASE!

  • DSF

    Eberle is going to have the longest, most productive career of all the young guns.

    Book it.

    While his shooting percentage will likely drop somewhat, increasing his shot totals is not the answer since it would only mean he’s taking lower percentage shots.

    What will propel him is increased ice time and the only remaining question is how he will respond to tougher competition.

    If you’re looking at a player whose production will likely decrease, look at Hopkins.

    In the final 20 games of the season, his production fell off significantly as opposing coaches took notice of him and line matched against him.

    His production on the road shows that he is no where near playing tough competition.

    • John Chambers

      I can respect what you’re saying, but you’re also talking about a guy who was 18 years old the entire season – the youngest player in the entire league.

      Nobody can step in and hold their own against tough comp in the NHL at 18. Nobody.

      The point of a re-build isn’t just to acquire elite talent, but give that talent ample ice time to play, fail, learn, and make adjustments to enable them to reach their full potential.

      Just wait. Nuge will more than handle his own against the toughs in time.

      • DSF

        Well, that’s just not true.

        Gabriel Landeskog just accomplished what you say is impossible.

        Toughest competition among Colorado forwards.

        At evens:

        GFON/60 2.74

        GAON/60 1.94

        Home points:

        41GP 6G 17A 23P +11

        Road points:

        41GP 16G 13A 29P +9

        Landeskog is about 6 months older than Hopkins but he was 18 when the season started.

        Not only did he outscore Hopkins at evens, he faced the toughest competition, outscored them and also killed penalties.

        Hopkins was exceptional on the PP but quite pedestrian at evens and only managed 18 points on the road to Landeskog’s 29.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      With your track record I think it’s safe to say your proclamation of “book it” is the kiss of death for Eberle’s career as a top scorer.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Since the idea of trading one of the fab 4 is now an acceptable topic of discussion…have to believe if any of them are moved, Yakupov or Hall would be ahead of Eberle and Hopkins on that trade pile.

    Hall or Yakupov asking to be dealt may be a more likely scenario….see them getting frustrated quicker than Ryan and Jordan with the molasses in January pace of this rebuild. To have Halls ELC expire without even a sniff of a playoff game may be enough for him to want to sever his time here in Edmonton. Yakupov may come in and rattle some cages with his persoanality, maybe Edmonton doesn’t know how to handle a kid with that much desire to win now.

    I’d be surprised if they were able to spay/nueter a kid like Nail Yakupov and have him buy into all this patience crap. Love to see him come in, score 25 goals by Christmas and start pointing fingers at all the underachievers on this roster. Turn the heat way up on Tambellini and Lowe.

  • DSF

    Jordan will be one of the most consistent players
    ever to play with the Oil. Never worry about him.
    This kid is the real deal. May not be a superstar
    but every other team in the league would love to have him.
    Class act and talented.

    GO EBS GO !! Wear the C !! You or Taylor or Nuge or

    ahhh forget it… lol

  • OilClog

    A positive post about Eberle?! This is awesome!

    Through the last few years of seeing this kid play, it’s like everyone has decided that.. nope I don’t believe what I’m seeing, kid isn’t clutch, lucky shots and bounces…

    Stats and negative blogs be damned.. This Eberle character is going to be fun watching.

  • John Chambers

    Lowetide’s prediction sounds about right… but only because Ebs will likely miss 20 due to injury. These young guns are just not big and strong enough to play an 82 game schedule. So 55 pts in 62 games is probably pretty close.

  • DSF

    He’s 22 years old and he just finished scoring 76 points in his second season. My guess is that his totals probably stagnate this coming season but still. He is the least of our worries and he will only get better going forward. I can’t believe that anybody would even consider mentioning him in trade talks.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Question: Do you guys just copy and paste your comments from Brulé’s big year, and then do an alt – F to replace “Brulé” with Eberle? Or, do you make some slight changes to the text so that it’s not too obvious that you’re repeating the same things you said about Brulé?

    • Ben

      The biggest difference between Eberle and Brule is that the Oilers have been somewhat patient with Eberle by sending him back to Jr, and giving him a short stint in the AHL. Brule was rushed by Columbus and entered the league as an 18 year old, broke his breast bone and has never been the same.

      That said, Brule has played in more playoff games that 90% of the Oilers roster.

  • RNH and Eberle together for the full season equals success for the Oilers. Add Hartikainen to that top line to do the corner work and stand in front of the net will only add to the totals. Eberle gets 85 points this season 41 goals. 16 on the PP.

    The PP will improve with J. Shultz and a healthy Whitney. Add Yakupov. And the threat level that others team have to deal with multiplys.

    The third line will probably be Horc,Smyth and Hemsky. They will eat up the competition. I see a turnaround season for Hemsky.55 points. Smyth and Horcoff 45 -50 points.

    Gagner,Hall and Yakupov. If Hall starts the season on time. The skys the limit. Good luck trying to stop that attack.

    Belanger,Jones and Petrell will see plenty of PK time. The rest of the time will see them in thier own zone on most of the defensive zone starts.7-12 minutes a night.

    Hall is the heart of the team. Eberle the left brain. RNH is the right brain.

    The Oilers will not surprise. They will excel and come close to the next level.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I don’t know whether to laugh at all of these negative comments or rip my hair out! Too many hockey bloggers try to compensate for their relative ignorance of the game by throwing mounds of (sometimes) dubious stats and comparables at the reader. While these stats have some value and relevance, their value is greatly overestimated by many bloggers.

    As for Eberle, have these critics really watched him play? Since the Oilers drafted him, he has consistently improved his game. Every season he has developed faster than anyone could have expected. The player I saw last year was significantly better than he was the year before. He displayed elite hockey IQ, elite puck handling skills, elite…well almost everything related to offensive hockey was at or near elite level in my opinion, stats be damned. His defensive game has also improved. Most of all he has always had a rare calmness in his play. When all Hell breaks loose on the ice, and other players lose their wits, he stays focused and makes sound decisions. He did in junior and he has continued to do so every step during his development.

    Can anyone guarantee he will put up more points than last year? Of course not. So many factors are involved it is just not possible. BUT, thus far Eberle has exceeded all reasonable expectations. I think it is just strange to misuse stats to criticize a player like Eberle, who has played far better and improved far faster than anyone could have expected.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Eberle will get 100 points this season…….if RNH is health for all 82 games! I do not make many predictions but in this case I will.

    I think that his shooting percentage going down has been over analyzed……his shot total will increase playing with a more established RNH and first line PP all season will definitely help!

    This guy is pure gold and will eventually become the leader of the pack!

  • OutDoorRink

    A hundred might be stretching it but hopefully, not by much. I too believe in our boy Jordan and I can’t see any kind of slump or fall off of significance as far as Ebs is concerned. The main reason being, as Jason already pointed out, his absolute determination to win every time that he steps on the ice.

    He’s a kid that, along with his superb puck skills, will never take a night off. That’s his advantage.