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? 

  • Oil Fan in Ottawa

    Splitting hairs for a minute:

    – I have never read Lowetide’s RE series to be actual predictions of how many points a player will score, but rather drawing a line in the sand and saying, “when we evaluate this guy at at the end of the season, this is a reasonable barometer for how he did.” The distinction is subtle but is there nonetheless – i.e. LT might predict Eberle will pot 70 points while contemporaneously thinking that the reasonable expectation from him should be 55.

    I raise this only because you state that Lowetide has “predicted” 55. I also note that Staples had an article yesterday where he said Lowetide “predicted” 55 versus Staples’ sixty-something.

    Readers (including LT) – please feel free to correct me if my head is up my ____.

  • Oil Fan in Ottawa

    People are questioning him because they haven’t seen him play in over 3 months and have forgotten what he looks like out there.
    Kids got sick mitts and one of the best wristers in the game today, he’ll be just fine.

  • Maro12

    I dont care if his numbers drop a bit.When the meaningfull game is on the line the guy is “MONEY”and for that reson alone the few that would trade him for a dman should take a long hard thought on that.I love the passion of fellow OIL fans but we can be quick to run guys out of town.My biggest concern is that the young guys can stay healthy.

  • Maro12

    Not saying that Eberle isn’t going to regress but I am reminded of the 2001-02 when everyone called Jarome Iginla a one trick pony as well. Sure his point totals did regress but he has shown that his “Cinderella” year was not a fluke. I guess only time will tell with Eberle.

    • That’s actually a pretty good example. Iginla set highs in both goals (52) and shooting percentage (16.7%) in 2001-02 that he hasn’t matched since.

      He scored 35 goals in 2002-03 and in the nine seasons since has scored 32-43 goals eight times, hitting 50 once again in 2007-08.

      Edit to add: The drop-off for Iginla was just a hair under one-third; the equivalent drop-off for Eberle would put him at 23 goals (three less than my prediction).

      • John Chambers

        A couple of points. First, the statistics of a large sample number cannot accurately be applied to an individual, the error bar is too big to make the comparison meaningful.

        Second, even if he did do an Iginla-like dip in production, is there any team out there that wouldn’t want an Iginla-like player with Iginla-like numbers on the team for the next 10 years?

        • I actually wasn’t attempting to apply Iginla’s numbers to Eberle.

          What I was doing was showing that the ‘remember when they said this about Iginla argument?’ was a bad one because the exact same sort of regression I’m expecting for Eberle is what we saw with Iginla.

  • Maro12

    Finally, someone else who is on the same page as my thoughts on eberle. I often think these bloggers just look at numbers and dont actually watch the game with their eyes. Eberle is a pure goal scorer. He doesn’t waste his shots by dumping it on net. He will drive to the slot or toe drag and go top cheese. Most of his goals were pure snipes. With the Nuge dishing cross ice passes, how could poeple think reaching 30 is unattainable?