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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

EberNucic Needs to be Better

I don’t think this is news to anyone who’s been watching the games, but the Oilers need to get more from the EberNucic line. 

While it’s all well and good that the second line has been relatively effective on the defensive side of the ice, the Oilers desperately need them to put some pucks in the net. Between the three of them, only Lucic has a playoff goal and that came way back in the first game against San Jose — that’s not good enough. Fortunately, Edmonton has been getting contributions from their bottom six that have helped them win games. Those goals shouldn’t really be counted on but rather viewed as the cherry on top of the sundae.

Gregor had some great points about these three guys in his latest article and I wanted to break them down a little bit further (quotes will be indented).

Eberle:

It is obvious that McLellan wants more from Eberle, and Eberle wants to do more as well. “It is frustrating. The good thing is we are winning games, and up until tonight we hadn’t been giving up much defensively, but…” said Eberle. The fans are frustrated with Eberle, as is the coach, and so is the player. The harsh reality of the playoffs is he needs to show up soon. At the very least, he needs to create some quality chances and be emotionally involved in the game.

Of the trio, Eberle has been the most disappointing to me. Ebs ended the year on a goal scoring streak but hasn’t been able to get much of anything going in the playoffs. Eberle has one lonely point through three games against the Ducks and has mustered only four shots in the three games. For a guy that is expected to produce offence, he’s not even firing the puck as much as you would expect from a guy that’s supposed to score goals.

Clearly, Eberle’s confidence has been shaken because he doesn’t look like the same player that ended the year on a high note. Todd McLellan has clearly noticed the drop in play as Eberle is averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time so far in the second round of the playoffs. While I agree that Eberle’s defensive play has improved it’s not nearly good enough to be able to balance out the lack of offensive production.

Lucic:

McLellan said it was Eberle’s first time here, but it isn’t for Milan Lucic and I believe those two both need to do more. Lucic needs to get more physically involved in this series. He has shown he can find ways to contribute without scoring points, but we haven’t seen that this round and didn’t see much of it in round one.

When Milan Lucic signed his contract last summer it was his playoff experience that was going to be one of the biggest adds to a team that was starving for some experience. Well, now that we’re in the second round, it’s time for Lucic to cash in on that experience and start being the straw that turns the drink. Outside of Game one against the Sharks, a game in which Lucic got a goal and an assist, he’s been more or less invisible. That’s tough to do for a man of his size.

As Gregor pointed out (above), Lucic is the kind of guy that is still able to contribute even if he’s not putting up points, but he hasn’t been doing that. Aside from his big hit on Cam Fowler in Game 1, we haven’t really seen the human wrecking ball that Lucic can be. When he’s playing like a juggernaut, Milan Lucic is very effective and an imposing figure to play against. We need to see that guy come to life in Game 4 because the 13 shots on net (playoff total) aren’t getting it done.

Nuge:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can’t finish. He has had some great looks. He’s skated very well this series. His edge work has been outstanding, none better than the chance he created last night in the second period, but once again he couldn’t score. You hope this is just a funk for RNH, but considering how many good looks he has had the past few seasons and not finished, you wonder if he’ll be able to score 25 goals? If I’m the Oilers, I’m asking him to work on his accuracy and faceoffs this off-season.

Of the three, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has arguably been the best and most consistent player on this line throughout the playoffs. Nuge has done the Gord’s work in shutting down the other team’s best players, and he has been recognized for it, but he also needs to find a way to contribute on the scoreboard. To his credit, RNH has registered two assists so far against the Ducks, leads the team in shot on goal, and was a big part of Pat Maroon’s goal last night. If Nuge can shake his snake bite then his points total could catch up to his fine defensive work.

Nuge continues to struggle is in the faceoff circle, where he’s rolling along with a brutal 42.1%. That means that the Oilers are chasing the puck more often than not when Nuge takes the draw and it’s making him spend too much time defending rather than moving the puck the other way. If I’m Nuge, I’m locking myself in a room until I can figure out what I need to do to win more draws. If he can do that, then he should be able to get his offence going rather than spending so much time defending.

TL;DR – BE BETTER

At the end of the day, these are three $6 million players that are expected to produce and are not doing that at a level that we need them to. While EberNucic have been relatively effective in their own zone, that’s only half of the story. They need to figure out how to produce more offence and they need to figure it out ASAP Rocky. The Ducks are a deep and experienced team, and if the Oilers want to close them out then they’re going to need more than one or two lines going. And they’re going to need them going at both ends of the ice.

  • Thumby

    Eberle is not a Chia Pete type of player – he’s gone. Lucic will win a game for us this series and Nuge is solid except at faceoffs – they are keepers. Good bye Eb’s! I wont miss the button hook – muffing shot king one bit…

  • Prongers Promises

    Lil Nugey and his pirate goatee are the only things working out on that line.

    I think the story that isnt getting enough attention is the Ducks “Flying” to Kelowna to escape the media/hype around the city. As Rishaug mentioned it is a complete joke. Why are they allowed to escape reality and hide out instead of facing the daily media gauntlet. I cant believe the league approved there escape.

    Its evident they are shaken with our commitment to this team and thirst for victory. We deserve a pat on our own back as Edmontonians.

    Enjoy your days off Getzlaf. Might as well leave the kettle on. You’ll be headed back to Kelowna in a few days.

    • corky

      They said on global that the oilers are considering something like this also, possibly in a round three situation. If the shoe was on the other foot then would you agree, or is any team, oil included, wrong by doing this? Seems like youre making a mountain out of a mole hill. Also, whose to say there wont be media reps there? Vancouver sportsnet bureau has nothing to do right now.

  • Oil9744

    Nuge and Lucic are still playing well but yes, definetly have to produce more, and they still have value, Eberle on the other hand…wow…he has been by far the most dissapointing Oiler this season, he started the year on the 1st line with the MVP of the NHL and still couldn’t produce, remeber when everyone use to say “wait till you see Ebs in the playoffs! He’s gonna be so clutch!”……Ya were still waiting Ebs…I don’t know what team could possibly want him for 6 mill a season, unless Oilers hold back 2 million of that contract for the next 2 years maybe?? Trade him to Jersey with his buddy Hall for the rights to Kovalchuk I’d say!

    • Ronr68

      Trade for a 34 y/o over priced winger? No thanks! We’re already going to have serious budget issues in the next two years. Getting rid of Eberle will be its own reward. I don’t know what happened to him, and I don’t care anymore. He’s getting paid $6M per year. That’s more than enough to play like you care. Drai is going to cost us $7M/yr. What’s Connor going to get? $10M? $11M? What’s Chia going to say when Orr calls him and tells him how much Connor wants, other than, “Okay”?

      • Can't Fix Stupid

        Kovalchuk is a washed up, “me first” type of player that is not going to help at all in the dressing room. People think Eberle doesn’t play solid D? Kovalchuk doesn’t have a clue what to do below his own blue line never mind that his contract runs until he is 40. It would be suicide to bring in Kovalchuk. No thanks.

  • Spydyr

    Hockey sense dictates that what Eberle brings is just conducive for being a playoff player. Seems more people are starting too see what I have been preaching for quite some time now.

  • Serious Gord

    Eberle just isn’t thinking the game fast enough and his shot/release is far too slow. I don’t see him recovering and his contract is already a boat anchor.

    Lucic is an enigma. He has the tools and physique to be a terror that also scores but he is entirely unpredictable mentally – showing up some nights and not in others. You would think as a mature player he would have learned how to motivate himself. With his contract he too is a boat anchor. Is there no way to motivate him?

    RNH has the game save for one thing – and he shares that weakness with mcdavid – his shot is weak and inaccurate compared to many of his peers. I presume it is something he can work on but in the middle of the playoffs is not the best time and he’s had this issue for at least two seasons. Is he a boat anchor? I don’t think so – he can be traded for a return not much different than his salary – decent two way centres are a pretty rare asset.

    • RJ

      From everything that I’ve read, playing that wrecking ball game takes a tremendous physical toll on a player. Lucic was willing to pay the price when the Bruins won the Cup.

      Now he coasts on reputation. He gets paid like an elite performer without actually being an elite performer. He’s the exact kind of player you give a 1-2 year contract because you never know when the bottom will fall out.

  • Spoils

    Not sure the fine folks of Edmonton realize just how loud us Cali Oilers fans were in Anaheim. We deflated those Ducks. Talbot turns it around next game, McDavid dials up a game, and we get another unlikely hero goal for a 3-1 win and 3-1 lead heading into gm5. GOil!

  • Leaking5w-30

    Since Nuge is now a checking center I’d take Ebs off that line to get him some softer matchups. Swap him with Kassian. Maybe Kas’s enegery gets Lucic more engaged and the better matchups gets ebs some looks

  • slats-west

    In a series or rather playoffs when every team is talking about how certain players can initiate with physicality and dictate the game … It’s completely perplexing why after every game we don’t hear from Carlyle about why Lucic is unstoppable. Seriously there isn’t a player on the ice who can do what he can do ..SO DO JUST GO OUT AND DO IT!!!!!!!

    • JumboJim

      I thought of it as a “cheat play,” but one in which the Ducks used a loophole. Thanks for that article, slats-west, as it shows clearly that it was a downright illegal play. Great find. Quote from the site:
      “What happened here, is that the player who was chasing the puck carrier made a substitution at his bench at the door inside the zone and that his replacement jumped on the ice from the door at the other end of the bench in the neutral zone. This is a penalty for “too many men on the ice”. Although both players involved in the substitution were within the 5 feet gap allowed by the rules, an unfair advantage was created on this play by using the length of the bench”

  • Ronr68

    When Crosby first came into the league he was brutal in the face-off and he turned himself into one of the best. So, why can’t Nuge and McDavid do that too?

  • Oiler Al

    Lucic would be a good player if only he didnt have the bad case of “fumblitis”. Cant take a pass, cant make a pass.! He hoodwinked Chairali big time with that contract, that borders on fraud.

  • GCW

    Pretty sure Woodcrofts bizarre deployment of the second power play unit isn’t helping. Only power play I have seen recently that doesn’t have players on their off side. Eberle is never in a good position to shoot. He belongs 8 feet from the net on the left wing.

    • Oiler Al

      I think Eberle would rather play the right side, so that he can use his “backhand roof daddy shot”, that is if he ever lets go of hanging onto the half wall.

  • Play Dirty

    I’m a huge Lucic fan. He had a tough time time with the puck last game but I don’t think he is a poor puck handler overall. I commented after the game that we desperately need to bang bodies and Lucic is one who needs to step it up. That said, for him, Kass, Darryl et al, it’s gotta be tough not knowing where the penalty spectrum is going to be for any given game / period /shift / team.

    • btrain

      I don’t think you read the article. If you ever listen to Rishaug he gets a little emotional and, as most media folks, is paid to create interest. So if he can provoke emotion from fans, he is good at his job. Not that his comments are not somewhat valid, they are just exaggerated. Anyway, Staples, the author of the article and someone who is very quick to criticize Eberle, is defending him in many ways. Staples, as we can all agree, feels Eberle needs to do more offensively.

  • I am Batman

    The most consist player of the trio is not Nuge, it’s Eberle. He consistently sucks.

    Where are all Ebs defenders? Come out of your dark corners, bring your 14 jerseys with you…..

    • Spydyr

      The Eberle defenders are waiting until he picks up a patented Eberle second assist or an empty net goal. Remember the wait until the playoffs Eberle is clutch people…..crickets.

      • Seriously Bored

        Lot of people said wait and see what he can do in the playoffs before you make a decision. I was actually curious to see who would peform better between him and Nuge. Ebs has had a few solid games but nowhere near what he needs to be offensively.
        Would not be surprised to see him traded this summer as Nuge is clearly a more valuable player at 6 mil and looks like he really wants to keep playing playoff games.

        • Ryan68

          If you were a G.M. would you pay $6M/yr for Eberle? It isn’t whether or not he’s gone this year (he is), it’s whether we can get ANY sort of return for him.

      • I, too had high hopes for him. Looks like he would rather be somewhere else. He is not helping, hopefully he sees the pressbox tonight and for the rest of the playoffs, I would rather see someone from the farm , who may not get it done, but at least would show an effort. He has had several opportunities and just continues to fail. Time to turn the page on this guy.

  • Hemmercules

    I hope they get Eberle off that line. Put Slepy in there or anyone else. Try someone on their off wing, whatever. Lucic and Nuge need a spark on that line that can support the puck in the offensive zone. I have been an Eberle fan since day one but he’s just terrible right now. He’s lost on the PP, his shots and passes are soft and inaccurate most of the time. They tried to make him a two way player and the opposite happened, he flipped to be better defensively and got terrible offensively. You know Chia can’t be liking what he sees, Ebs will be lucky to be an Oiler come next season.

    Off topic, I was at the game sunday and I have to say that I hate when dmen try to pound the puck around the boards when they are breaking out because they dont see an available pass. Russel and Nurse do this too often and they get bit for it. Ringing the puck arounds the board should never be an option on a breakout unless there is no opposing player anywhere close to that side of the boards. Flip it out to centre or get some support rather than giving the puck away in our own zone.

    • Space Pants

      Couldn’t agree more on giving it away around the boards. I was yelling at the TV about the hot potato defense in game 3. Puck possession went out the window and it was all about trying to get it out over the blue line.

  • ScottV

    It’s a disjointed flawed line. Lucic needs complimentary line mates that are o zone possession hogs, or capable of it. Lucic, Nuge, Eberle are not collectively – regain possession kind of guys.
    Would have been way better off with Lucic, Drai and Kassian, although you would prefer a little more offensive upside than what Kass brings.
    PC should have brought in more reinforcement at the deadline, dropping Pouliot, Nuge and Eberle to 3rd rotation.

  • Tombstone

    When Ebs is one the first line he doesn’t have to skate with the puck or play physical, that’s what McDavid and Maroon are for.
    When Ebs is on the Second line he doesn’t have to skate with the puck or play physical, that’s what Nuge and Lucic are for.
    Eberle when he’s no scoring
    Useless

  • Dobbler

    I don’t think that anyone can defend the way Eberle is playing right now (certainly not in the context of a $6mil contract), but I’m not sure I’m ready to right him off as a player for good. When he’s on, his hands are as good as nearly anyone in the NHL. The previous knock on his defensive game isn’t as big a deal anymore. He’s played big international games and looked good. He’s played great in the NHL. You can’t deny the guy has a ton of talent. He just isn’t using it right now. It’s hard to figure these situations out. It’s not like Yak or Jultz, who clearly had some talent, but never really had much success in the NHL. I think it would be a mistake to trade him, unless you got a really good return on him. I just gotta think that he’ll get it together eventually and start earning his $6 mil. Gord, I hope it will be in the playoffs this year.

    • Spydyr

      So you expect a team to eat his 6 million and give back a really good return?
      Good luck with that. Now think what Chia can do with the 6 million once Eberle is off the books.

  • ScottV

    Eberle – like Hall, is emblematic of the mis-handling of what developed as spoiled self absorbed brats, who were given way too much – way too soon.
    He’s lost the eye of the tiger long ago, if he ever had it. The call is to put yourself out there, do whatever it takes – to war for each other, toward a spectacular group accomplishment – trying to win the Stanley Cup. Eberle isn’t answering the call. He’s convinced himself that he exclusively a white collar – pretty play scorer. Not my kind of guy – even if there is the odd scoring play that silences some of the wolves every now and again. When not scoring – useless.

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    Here is a random thought I had reading a few articles the last few days.
    What if we swap Kassian on the third line with Eberle?
    Sure Eberle cant play a “Checking” 3rd line role, but Kassian to me may give Lucic a bit more comfort to play a more crashing game than having to cover a poor Right wing check.

  • Sammy p

    Yes let’s get rid of Ebs,he’s a boat anchor,muffin shooter,butonhookig bust,he’s gotta go so say all the wanna be mangers ,like they also cried for the scalps of players like Petry and Schultz. How has Petry been doin’ with the Habs?
    How has Schultz been doin’ Jultzing with the Penguins.?
    Yep Ebs has gotta go ,by popular demand of the young and the restless crowd.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      “Dont get rid of Eberle, he is a playoff performer. When we reach the playoffs he will perform.”
      I believe that is what people been saying for the past 7 years.

      • corky

        Plus the living off ebs World Junior last second goal moons ago, hoping to tap into that again is long in the tooth. Every team has a guy they need to get rid of. It does the team and the player good for a fresh start. (Except Yak)

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          The way Eberle is playing though, Yak isnt much worse. Just saying, How many times have a player been trying to cover for Eberle then get the backlash of being called out.
          I still question why that ‘A’ is on Eberle chest, I mean what leadership has he shown, is his thought “I may not be able to hurt you with a hit, but TAKE MY SNOW STORM”
          *cough* Game 2 first shift to Fowler *cough*

  • btrain

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect more offense from these guys but at the same time, lets not loose sight of the importance of not only keeping the opponents top line off the score sheet but often keeping them on their heals in their end of the rink. Something that this line has done better then their opponent most of the playoffs thus far. Lets also stop underestimating and discounting the fact that role players on any Stanley Cup winning team are an integral part of the offense that got them there as top lines are often quite even. In other words, scoring from the bottom 6 and guys like Adam Larsson is not a bonus or a cherry on top, it is often the key to winning in the playoffs.

    If we are objective and separate our bias/emotion we will find examples from each of the remaining 8 where role paying guys have been the difference offensively for their clubs. You can also find individual disappointment in each of the remaining 8, where key offensive players/producers in the past, have produced less then expected (Shattenkirk 1 goal, Perry, Stone, Bonino, Stepan, Neal, Craig Smith, Carlson, Kreider, Zach Smith, Cogliano, Sheary, Perron, Kunitz, Daley, Fisher (0pts), Bouwmesster (opts), Hossa (honorable mention with 0pts), Hagelin). Every team is currently going through similar situations. So I completely agree that we should expect more from EberNucic but we are not dealing with an extraordinary problem here. Considering the trends across all teams and, most importantly, considering the Oilers record thus far the Oil are looking just fine. Lets also keep in mind that there is plenty of script left to be written and plenty of time for EberNucic to totally redeem themselves with a big game.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      Isnt the best way to defend a team is to have a good cycle in their end? If they dont get a shot on your shift but you got 5, isnt that a better defensive play than allowing 3 shots and having 1 shot.
      Basically what I am saying, sure Eberle isnt the only one, I mean Hopkins not winning a faceoff and from the first second of the game Edmonton having to backtrack into their own zone does not help.

      What gets me, sure you can say multiple players not scoring or producing points, atlease they are contributing on both ends of the ice, Eberle not producing nor even hitting the net when he shoots, what does he contribute to the team? There is a reason why his minutes and time on ice is falling.
      One minute of the game and its a 1-0 lead for you. Who would you have on the ice, Eberle or Hossa? Eberle or Cogliano? just saying that I rather have a player willing to finish a check than to skate up to him and snow storm him with a smile.

      • btrain

        To your first point, and I may be wrong, but the EberNucic line has a pretty good looking Corsi suggesting they are outshooting their opponent, even though they often start without the puck. So your point is correct but you can pencil this line down as achieving in that area. Therefore, you can also credit Eberle, as part of the line, as doing his job defensively by out shooting and often out chancing his opponents aside from a couple games where several players were not good.

        Second, if you have watched the deployment of his lines throughout the playoffs, TMac has been deploying Eberle in the final minutes when protecting a lead. Would I prefer Hossa, noted has one of the best defensive forwards in the game in that situation, you bet I would. Would I prefer Cogliano who has remarkable speed, probably. But that doesn’t make Eberle useless and it doesn’t discount the job he has done defensively so far. Even his physicality and his willingness to take and make a hit has ramped up for the most part and I find it difficult to overly criticize this aspect of his game.

        What is frustrating for me, is that I want to count on Eberle after the top line, to go and get a goal when the team needs one. To find the areas in front of the net that have made him so successful in the past. Not many can get puck to shelf in tight as quickly as he can but he needs to get to those areas. His deployment on the PP is also frustrating for me as it takes him away from these areas. With all that said, it takes one goal for him to redeem himself and wake up offensively.

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          Call me a traditionalist, sure on paper they may look decent, but have you actually watch them play? Only reason they are winning the Corsi isnt because of Eberle at all, Hopkin is shooting (granted not cashing in) but he is the reason why they are doing well. Eberle looks lost out there if you actually watch a game.

          To your second point, just listen to TMac comments about eberle to the press after last game.

          The frustrating thing about Eberle to me, sure he has skill no one can question that but the fact that what he has been doing now that he is snake bitten. He looks lost, and uninterested. When your in a playoff game and you have to give a snow shower instead of playing the body, he isnt giving 110% because to him, he makes the same if he hits someone or not, hes locked in for a couple more years garentee a paycheck. Its like he has no motivation which he has not had since he signed that contract.
          People say “give him till playoffs” and we have, has his attitude and work ethic changed? Not since last month, it has improved since Hall left yes, but its not an improvement. We as oilers fans might have to bite the bullet and say…Eberle isnt what we projected him as in the world JUNIORS

  • YFC Prez

    We’ve seen kassian surprise a couple times in the playoffs with his ability to push the play.

    We’ve seen eberle capable of playing without the puck. I know that’s not what he’s getting his money for but he’s been defensively solid. So why not switch the two for a game and see what happens.

    Kassian and lucic on the same line could be devastating and playing along side kassian may awaken the monster in lucic.

    Maybe eberle finds his confidence in his game through his responsible defensive game.

    Sound oversimplified but it may be worth a shot. I am mildly concerned with lucic, but have major concerns over eberle. I would move ebs away from nuge first.

    We all agree though. 2nd line has not been good enough.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      To be honest, Eberle was also pretty soft defensively, Reporters are starting to point out how soft Eberle is, He rather run than hit, he is a pylon out there that maybe he wack a moving puck, why do you think teams go down the right side so much. Because speeding past Eberle is easy, and the fact they know they wouldnt be hit by Eberle. Maybe the odd wack from a stick and that also did not help Schultz or Petry when they were here.
      I agree try Eberle on a 3rd line, Kassian or slepy on the 2nd line. Create a bit more size and hitting that Rackel is obviously taking advantage of.

  • paul wodehouse

    …the only reason 27 is included in the silly line name is because this monster of a player (that’s why they got him) has been slotted and stuck with these two puff balls … imagine if you could …in an alternate world >put 27 with Getzlaf and Perry…BAZINGA!!!

    • Oiler Al

      My alternate world would allow Lucic to play with Getzlaf and Perry, but only in a Ducks jersey…… that way the Oilers could sign T J Oshie in the off season, and have a real power forward.

    • AJ88

      Have to ask, do you think Lucic plays well in his own end? Moves the puck well, clean on the stick passes, engages opposition to get the puck out of his own end? Try watching without your rose coloured glasses on and see who does 90% of the work on that line on the Oilers side of the redline.

  • Vanoil

    I guess the bloggers have given up on the “shared responsibility theory” of a line winning a face-off as opposed to a centerman. If that’s the casewhy not let Lucic take the draws like Draisaitl is doing on the McD line. If the bloggers’ collective acumen says only bigger centerman can win draws, that should be the analysis /solution advocated on here. Or they can simply give it to the whole line and let Nuge continue to tie up the other center to get a scrambled draw and count on his linemates to win the draw for him. Regardless, you get my point that allocating blame to Nuge alone seems a little over-done at this point … especially in light of McDavid’s struggles (and Desharnais’ struggles as well for that matter). Hell following the collective blogger logic we should be putting in Lander & Hendricks as 3C & 4C respectively while moving Letestu & Draisaitle to 2C & 1C , b/c faceoffs are SOO important. Yes, that makes a lot of sense …. NOT! (Enough already.)

  • camdog

    When Eberle broke into the league his shot from the slot was very good. Over the last couple years the game has changed a bit, that shot is no longer there or it’s there for a shorter period of time. Defenders are blocking that shot more times than not. Coupled with a few injuries here and there and his shot doesn’t seem to be the same as it was when he broke into the league. Over the last year his defense has improved, but that has compensated for his lack of offence. If he isn’t playing on a first or second line he isn’t really productive. At 6 million dollars a season it’s a tough pill to swallow – do you wait and hope he adapts or do you move him along and take a flyer on another player possible in the same situation?