Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

In assessing Jordan Eberle, long-term perspective is vital

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 14 RW Jordan Eberle

Despite what you may hear elsewhere (or read in the comments below), Jordan Eberle is a good hockey player and has been a productive member of the Edmonton Oilers. Having said that, 2016-17 was a miserable season followed by a miserable postseason, and that combined with a $6.0 million cap leaves him in a precarious position with the club.

At his best, Eberle is a somewhat one-dimensional player. He isn’t big or physical. He’s evolved into a better defensive player than he generally gets credit for – there’s a reason why he spent the first round of the playoffs hard-matched against Joe Pavelski’s unit as part of Edmonton’s shutdown line – but he still gets in trouble with the puck on his stick in the Oilers’ end of the rink, something which has been a problem going back to his rookie year.

Eberle gets away with these failings because he’s an excellent offensive player.

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There are a lot of different ways to show Eberle’s offensive value. The simplest are goals and points per game.

In the four seasons preceding this one, Eberle has ranked between 30th and 60th among NHL forwards by goals per game. There are 30 NHL teams, and three first-line forwards per team, for a grand total of 90 first-line forwards. Eberle, for four consecutive seasons, has scored at the rate of an average first-liner.

In the four seasons preceding this one, Eberle has ranked between 40th and 75th among NHL forwards by points per game. Again, there are 90 first-line forwards. In three of the last four years, he’s been an average first-liner by points and in one a below-average first-liner.

Both of those numbers are really good, and we didn’t even touch on the high point of Eberle’s career, his 2011-12 performance in which he put up 34 goals and 76 points.

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This year, Eberle ranked 108th in goals-per-game and 105th in points-per-game, both of which correspond to being a very good second-line player offensively. Even in what was, without question, Eberle’s worst season since his rookie year, he’s still easily a top-six scorer.

Even in a bad year, Eberle is a useful NHL player. And given that he’s healthy and only just 27, it’s entirely reasonable to expect him to rebound from that bad year.

Having said all that: Edmonton may want to trade him anyway.

The Oilers have some expenses coming up this summer. Leon Draisaitl’s new contract is probably going to be a long-term deal, and if so it’s probably going to come with an average cap hit in the $7.0 million range. Kris Russell is bound for free agency; Edmonton will either need to pay to keep him or pay for a replacement.

All that money has to come from somewhere, and Eberle’s deal is an obvious target, particularly since it’s going to overlap with Connor McDavid’s new contract next summer.

That doesn’t mean that Eberle should simply be thrown away in the expansion draft. A lot of NHL teams need scoring help, and even at a $6.0 million cap hit there are bound to be some that could be induced to find room for a guy who puts the puck in the opposition net at a first-line rate.

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Consider it this way: If Edmonton were to go out and sign a right-shooting right wing to a two-year deal with a $6.0 million cap hit in free agency, Oilers Nation would overflow with comments praising the team’s management. We’re only a year removed from Vancouver giving a much older Loui Eriksson a six-year contract at that price point; Eberle has outscored Eriksson in five of the last six seasons.

Right now, it’s easy for Oilers fans to be down on Eberle. Not only did he have a bad season and a worse playoffs, but he’s been around through the lean years and those players have all fallen out of favour. Edmonton’s management, though, must know how few players have scored at Eberle’s level over the last five years, and appreciate the way his offence must look to a team like the Kings or Panthers or even Islanders.

Bottom line: Jordan Eberle is a good player coming off a bad year, and even at $6.0 million brings something hard to find in the NHL: the skill to score 20 goals year after year after year. He’ll be useful in 2017-18, whether or not he’s playing for the Oilers.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • Oilers8597

    Trade Nuge or Ebs for Trouba so he can play with Russel, Ebs and a 2nd or Nuge straight across for Trouba, probably gotta hold back salary on both of them though

    • Travis

      Sure, that’d be great for Edmonton, but why would the Jets want to do that? They’re set for Top 6 forwards; it’s a goalie they need, or an LHD. And if it costs you Hall to get Larsson, it’s going to take way more than Nuge or Ebs to get Trouba. Maaaaybe if you asked for Tyler Myers instead, a deal could be done, but stop kidding yourself that Winnipeg would part with Trouba for anything less than a king’s ransom.

  • Spydyr

    Too bad he did not look as good on the ice as he does on paper.

    Eberle is a soft,slow player , who is weak on the wall, bad in the defencive zone, a muffin of a shot, no one timer, lazy on the backcheck , makes bad line changes. He never hits or finishes a check a flyby perimeter player who seldom goes into the tough areas of the ice. He plays with very little intensity or passion. Does not appear willing to make sacrifices to his body in order to win.

    He gets by on his offensive abilty alone and that has dried up .He has been on the decline since signing his big deal.

    • Flames fans find him quite humorous, my Flames buddies had a good chuckle when he coughed up the puck to a black helmet. He is of no use to the new squad. I believe it was his royal highness Lowe that said half the GM’s in the league would swap rosters right now. There are only 4 players left from that era, and I believe PC will purge the balance. I also believe that is necessary for the franchise to move forward. Rarely hear from or see either Mac-T or Lowe anymore and that is a good thing. My dog still barks on command to both those names, and just for yuks, Danny Macocia as well.

    • Jonathan Willis

      On some of these points:
      – “bad in the defensive zone” / “lazy on the backcheck” – What do you think of Todd McLellan using him in a shutdown role against Joe Pavelski in Round 1? Is McLellan a fool, or are you overstating your case?
      – “muffin of a shot” / “no one-timer” – It’s pretty impressive he’s scored 20+ goals for four straight years given what a terrible shooter he is.

      • Bagged Almond Milk

        I think it was more of a line match-up (Nuge vs Pavelski), than Ebs….. Ebs, was just there because that was his line for the entire year (a highly paid 2nd line, that under performed. In any series, with McDavid and Drai on the 1st line, the Oil should win if the 2nd line matches the other teams for plus/minus….. that should have been the Oilers big advantage throughout the playoffs, but Ebs and Nuge were no where to be found). Ask 200 hockey men, or 200 math people, Ebs is not a good defensive player, he’s shown it time and time again. “Bad” is probably an understatement, actually. Terrible is the word I’d use, he (and Lucic to some extent), cost us goals in the Ana series and ultimately the series….

        – FOr the 2nd point, sure he has some offensive skill, lots even. But he’s not irreplaceable…. He never seems to score “big” goals, and many of his goals seem to come at opportune times, for him (EN, Weak opposition)….. EBs has been given every opportunity to put up goals, PP and 1st line Minutes…. and he has put up some pretty good numbers. When Maroon was given the same PP time and First line minutes, he actually put up 27 goals, so a large part of Ebs production, IMO, is a result of the golden opportunities he has been gifted

      • Derian Hatcher

        Or was McLennan HOPING and PRAYING that Ebs would see how all of his teammates were leaving everything on the ice and competing and possibly pick up some hints / connect the dots that this is how big boy hockey players compete in the playoffs. Justify his goals all you want but one single play tells you everything you need to know about Jordan Eberle the hockey player.

        This is Ebs gifting the puck to Brandon Montour (Eberle’s man btw), when Perry was bearing down on him. Ebs then failed to race off the wall to try to stop Getzlaf. I believe it was after this game where his coach (who is no fool) stated “Not enough” when asked what the team is getting from Eberle.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8JVbBH11HI fast forward to 1:30

        If you want to pump Eberle it may be more accurate to say that the offense /goals he provides is worth the soft, lack or grit and perimeter play is exemplified often in the playoffs this year. But there is no way anyone with reasonable knowledge of the game can deny how soft he plays.

        If Chia and TMac want to hold on to him for his offense, fine. But let’s call it like it is; the visual evidence is there. Little heart, little desire, scared, soft. He showed it time and time again. If you can’t see it, you’re in denial.

        • Well said. it would appear most of the MSM is in denial. If he popped 30 a year and actually even looked like he cared, I would cut him some slack. Again the MSM keeps referring to him as a sniper, do they not have dictionaries anymore? Soft and uncompetitive.

          • Freddie the fog

            Guys who score a minimum of 20 goals in todays trapped down Nhl have value. You need to score goals to have a chance at getting to the playoffs. A change of scenery can be a huge boost to a player. We’ve seen this already with players who left town

        • dolenator

          I also watched McDavid blow past his guy cheating for offense resulting in a goal against. I have also saw eberle the first forward back to break up a play in his own end. Eberle didn’t earn his own million this year but nhl players are still human and are going to screw up from time to time

      • Spydyr

        He was using the entire line against Pavelski I think it has more to do with Nuge’s defensive awareness and play then Eberle’s. Sure Eberle has scored 20+ goals for four straight years. How many of them were from wicked shots that beat the goalie cleanly and how many where picking up goals off of other hard work? I can’t think of many goals when you could say Eberle blew one by the goalie.

        • I just literally cannot believe that anybody still defends this guy. Long term, here is the story, he is a pansy, always has been , always will be. End of story. Hopefully next year we are discussing how we managed to dump him without retaining salary. That is something to look forward to. The real crunch comes in 18/19 so he may well still be around, but you can bet he will be on the actively being shopped list after his putrid playoff performance. Even more of a muffin than regular season. He would be better suited to a non contact sport.

          • so you’re one of those people who thinks that the other 30 GM’s in the league don’t see the same thing in Eberle that you see, and they’ll be lining up to take him off Edmonton’s hands, right? Essentially, what you’re saying is that you’re a better judge of NHL calibre ability than everyone currently employed in the NHL, because you think someone will trade for him, despite his non-NHL ability? Are you literally overqualified to work in the NHL?

        • i’m not sure it matters who did the dirty work to create the chance. the puck has to go in the net, and Eberle puts it there. I think one of the reasons the NHL awards points for assists it to recognize that sometimes it’s someone else that does a lot of the heavy lifting even if they don’t put it in the net. I get that you might be new to hockey, and that never occurred to you.

      • Shameless Plugger

        Don’t bother. Spydyr couldn’t hockey his way out of a wet paper bag. The guy is perpetually negative. I’d be willing to bet my mortgage of all the comments he’s made over the years less than 5% have anything positive to say about the Oilers. He only looks for things to complain about. Your wasting your breath Willis.

        • Spydyr

          Sure I have been negative during the last decade any sane person with any hockey sense should have been .I’m not all sunshine and rose colour glasses believing no Oiler player can ever do wrong like some writers and commentators here. If anyone in the Oiler organization fails I will call it like i see it. Now that the team has finally turned the corner other than a few players I believe the Oilers are finally headed in the right direction. I have mentioned that many times the last few months.

    • Mr. PopnFresh

      Agree 100%. I would love to see every Eberle goal/assist in a non-stop video for the 2016-17 season. I watched just about every game this season and honestly, from my memory, none of the goals he scored stand out in my mind but like I said, it would be great to review them all and then have a debate over this.

      • Actually the only standout goal I can recall was his first against Kiprusoff. That is what we thought we were getting. There are probably more highlight reels than that but that is the only one that stands out. Shortly thereafter he developed an allergy to blue paint that apparently his doc could not find the cure.

      • btrain

        As with all critiques of this player you need to evaluate him the same as you would to comparable players. If it’s offense then watch ever player who scored around 20 goals last year and see just how different Eberle’s are. You can make assumptions all day but the fact that you know a fraction about other 20 goal wingers as you do about Eberle makes you biased and unable to make an accurate evaluation by analyzing him alone. There is a reason people don’t ask how but how many.

    • Big Nuggets

      all true. but that also sounds like Brett Hull. except the shot. Hull could snipe like a mofo. if only Ebs could get his shot going the weaknesses in his game wouldnt stand out so much

  • 4000miaway

    “2016-17 was a miserable season”

    2016-2017 Regular Season
    GP G A P +/-
    82 20 31 51 3

    You’re a pretty amazing guy when you don’t miss a game, rack up 51 points and people call your season “miserable”!

    • Oil Can

      Let’s put it into another perspective. If you take away the first game of the season and the last five games of the season. Then Ebs had a grand total of TWELVE goals and 42 points. That left a hell of a lot of the year with very low production. And that includes the empty net goals and assists.

  • TKB2677

    It’s pretty simple math. When you have 2 elite centers who will be making anywhere from 17-20 mill combined. #1 you as a team can’t afford to have too many players, especially forwards making more than 4 mill and #2 when your centers are as good as McDavid and Draisaitl, you don’t need to be spending big money on wingers to score.

    If you look at the Pittsburgh model. They have 2 elite centers then primarily a bunch of interchangeable, good but not over spectacular wingers, Kessel being the exception. Hornqvist is a good example. He’s a very good winger who consistently scores 20-25 goals and hovers around 50 pts playing with one of Crosby or Malkin. He had 21 goals, 44 pts in 70 games this year. If he plays a full season, he is close to 25 goals and 50 pts. He makes 4.25 mill. Eberle is a good player but he is not 1.75 mill better than Hornqvist. They have Sheary. A young player, due for a raise. He can 4 times his salary and still be making 2 mill less than Eberle and will score 20-25 goals, 50+ pts playing with those centers. Sheary had 23 goals, 53 pts in 61 games.

    So in a good year, Eberle is around 27 goals, 60 pts. So basically you are playing him almost 2 mill more than say a Hornqvist to get maybe 3-5 more goals and 10 pts? Doesn’t add up to me.

    • crabman

      Totally agree that paying a player less for relatively the same production is a good thing. The problem is getting said players. For every Hornqvist there is a Ladd. I doubt they find a cheaper replacement in FA at least after last years over payments by everyone and this year is a weaker FA class. If they can move him for a player that has a lower cap hit but the tools to play on one of our top 2 lines the move should be made. But as it is right now I don’t think there is an internal replacement today and FA usually doesn’t work out if the goal is to save money.

  • toprightcorner

    This year Eberle looked a step behind the play. It also looked like he had a hard time thinking the game fast enough, he was either too late to get to the right spot or he would skate right through it instead of stopping. Eberle has never been the type of player to sacrifice for the sake of the team and that showed in spades during the playoffs where he would avoid taking the hit and give up the puck.

    I don’t think the Oilers should dump Eberle this summer, but if the right move comes along, then sure. I see it more likely he gets traded mid season and likely to Las Vegas as they will realize by Christmas that they have no ability to score goals.

    The reason why I would trade Eberle in the next 5-7 months is not because he doesn’t produce offense, but because he is not a playoff player and the Oilers need to add players who can play a tough playoff style game. Justin Williams would be a UFA example who scored 24 goals this year and averaged over 20 over the last 4 years. He may be a little short on talent compared to Eberle, but the skill he does have also shows in the playoffs.

    Every player then Oilers look to add, Chairelli needs to consider if their game translates to the tough playoff style in the West. If it is a definite no, then move on.

    • crabman

      Williams COULD be a good replacement on a 1 year deal but he is getting older and I wouldn’t want to sign him past a year. He is a killer in the playoffs though and if he could stay healthy he is exactly the type of player that would help down the stretch and in the playoffs.

  • Shredder

    I guess my model for a successful team has more upper end talent on defense than what we’ve got, and bigger wingers who can win battles in the corners. Eberle is still a great player in my mind, but for the model that the Oilers seem to have, and the one that I feel is going to be successful, it might be worth trading him for a bigger winger who’s cheaper or a quality defenseman.

    • neojanus

      It was disappointing to see Eberle refuse to physically engage in the playoffs. His refusal to take a few hits on the boards led to goals against.

      He is a valuable player to have. 50 points is important. But he is paid too much for the role he plays on a team that has money woes in the near future.

      In the modern NHL, these steep contracts are killers and we are going to get pennies on the dollar again.

      The bright side is that McDavid can make others players better around him. Maroon doesn’t really belong on a top line, but 97 creates offensive potential in every player that can tap a puck.

      I feel optimistic that that 2 RW position can be addressed with the depth a superstar brings the 1 RW just by being on the team.

  • Rama Lama

    He may be a good player according to your chosen stats……..but to the average non-stat driven hockey fan he is what we call an average player. If he could do more than wrist a puck into the net occasionally, I might give him more credit. If he could make plays, drive plays, hit, play sound defensively, and one-time pucks, in my mind this would make him worth 6 million.

    Showing up for ever fifth game does not make him a top-six player.

    • Jonathan Willis

      “but to the average non-stat driven hockey fan he is what we call an average player”

      I’m sorry, but any fan who thinks a regular 20-goal man is an average player in the modern NHL doesn’t know what an average player is.

      • Butters

        My main issue with Eberle is his foot speed. I think if we would have made it past the Ducks, the Predators would have torched a lot of our wingers with their speed, Eberle especially.

      • Bagged Almond Milk

        Above average offensively, below average defensively, in heart, smaller than average, hits less than average= average, at best……. -48 career with the Oil

  • Mitch64

    I feel that the oilers should make a 1 for 1 trade with florida for bjugstad a 6’6 right shot center who has been a underperformer but could benefit from change of scenery. The kid needs some work but he has a elite skillset and could work well as either a 3rd line center or top6 rw. Adding the size and skill of this player will benefit our top6 matchups aswell

  • Butters

    The Oilers used their second line as checking line in the playoffs. I would think they should be able to figure out how to assemble a checking line that doesn’t cost 18 million dollars. If you were to draw up a checking line, I am not sure I would have Eberle on it, or Lucic for that matter.I don’t want to be too critical, MCL is up for coach of the year, but that’s my 2 cents.

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    I am wondering, what constitute as a down year?
    I mean in his eyes, he got more points this year than last (yes he played in more games)
    His points per games dropped from 0.68 to 0.62 consider last year was not a down year but if you want to say thats a down year as well in 2014-2015 he was at 0.78. His time on Ice though is 16:46 with the 0.62, 17:51 with his 0.68, and 19:02 with his 0.78. I didnt do the math but isnt that all pretty close to 2.1-2.5 points per 60 mins?

    So my main question, what year are we comparing when we say its a down year this year for Eberle? Or is it a down year because his shooting% went from 14.5% to 9.6%. He has been shooting more this year by 35 shoots (almost one more shot every 2 games)

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Willis, do you have any insight on his stick? Apparently he had a skills coach change it this past summer, and his shooting percentage plumeted….. What gives? Why wouldn’t he change it back to what got him where he was?

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    He may be ok to have around during the regular season, but he was a liability in the playoffs, and I think if the goal is to win the cup, he should be playing elsewhere…….

  • Florescent Oil Orange

    Okay you like the numbers. So…. Honest question here you have stated he has earned point of a first liner 90 players league wide. My question. Are we getting value what’s the average salary of the top 90 forwards?

  • I am Batman

    So this “one Ebs article per day” thing is just click bait or what?
    Every single writer has said something in these regards and I don’t see any blog bringing any new take or value.
    We get it: Oilers Nation writers love Eberle. Nobody seems to address the fact that he is a lazy bastard though.

    I just hope Chiarelli already made up his mind about it and Ebs gets the door shown to him soon . If the bloggers in ON are going to cry and howl as when the Hall trade and 9 months later we are on another playoff run, even better….

  • Kr55

    I have more faith in Nuge taking his game to another level than Eberle. Eberle has been on a slow decline after coming out of every summer a slightly slower version of himself from last season. He needs to not be complacent with his training and add some speed and strength to his game. He was pushed around all playoffs in the offensive zone.

    I hear the Datsyuk comparison a lot for why you can’t give up on a guy early because of unproductive playoffs, but Datsyuk is a very different type of player. Imagine from the Detroit org perspective, seeing Datsyuk, a guy oozing talent that basically lives in the gym and is working his butt off on his game every day. Of course you don’t give up on him. His lack of production was likely mostly bad luck. Then imagine from the Oilers org perspective looking at Eberle. A guy that hasn’t improved physically since he broke into the league, still struggles defensively, a “sniper” that still can’t 1-time a shot. There are warning signs here.

    Nuge on the other hand, lots of room to grow still. I hope he has a good summer adding some explosiveness back into his skating. He’s worked hard adding weight the last few summers, it’s time to work on the speed again now that he’s bulked up more. He is much more likely to take the Datsyuk route in playoff production.

  • Oilerchild77

    Whatever. He’s got an albatross of a contract and obviously doesn’t fit into the play-style philosophy of the team. He isn’t part of the plans and his production can be replaced in the aggragate. If you can move him now without having to retain salary, why wait?

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Defend him all you want, but the fact is Eberle is paid to score and couldn’t do it in the playoffs, and was a failure on McDavey’s line in the reg. season.

    • Freddie the fog

      Take this for what you want….When the oilers played the NYI in 1981 in the quarter finals they lost in 6 games. FFW to 1983 the Oilers played the Islanders again in the finals and were swept. In 1984 Wayne Gretzky scored his 1st ever playoff goal against the same Islanders. In his 3rd series against them. And back then ALOT of goals were scored.

    • SSB1963

      So was Lucic on McDavid’s line. It was obvious that the experiment didn’t work with McDavid but I would say that once the Lucic, Eberle and RNH Line was put together it was more effective.

  • 1979

    This is right on the money Jonathan and why everybody just needs to stop the ridiculousness about Eberle! He is extremely valuable. There are far fewer complaints about Lucic and there were several games he played that were a tire fire! Lucic was a giveaway machine some nights and contributed very little. There are always going to be ebs and flows (no pun intended) to players games and I am confident that Eberle will contribute well either in Edmonton or elsewhere next year. Sometimes I just hate how much of fair-weathered friends Oilers fans are.

  • Freddie the fog

    You guys should be talking Eberle up. Not spending so much time pointing out the negatives. Dont we want a decent return when he is inevitably moved ? Maybe opposing teams Gms or someone working in a mgmt capacity reads oilersnation !!

    • Oilerchild77

      You don’t think other GMs know EXACTLY what Jordan Eberle is? Trust me, they know because they have professional scouts that do nothing but evaluate players all day, every day, and I doubt very much that they care what people like us think. The entire hockey world knows Eberle is available, so we don’t have to hide our opinions anymore.

  • RJ

    Well, I was half-right.

    I knew the Eberle defence articles would show up, and I even called what they were going to write. “Let’s look at the long-term success of Eberle!” and ignore the significant changes
    In Edmonton. Ignore that Eberle’s point totals and PPG have been dropping every year.

    But I was guessing it would be Gregor or Lowetide that wrote the article not JW. Bagged milk threw a curve!

  • Joeboot

    His best was 5 years ago and is showing a significant negative trend. Doubt we’ll see him improve unless he takes the off season to improve speed, the game is slowly passing him. I look at the kaos that Nashville creates in front of Gibson because of speed/grit, Ebs can’t/won’t do it. For 6 mil, no, 4 maybe I’m not complaining.

  • Matty39

    Is this a possible scenario:

    The Oilers make a trade and send Eberle to Florida for Demers. Then the Oilers ask Sekera to waive his NMC. In turn they expose him for the Expansion draft. Very unlikely that Vegas selects him as he is out 9montha with a ACL injury.
    This scenario rids us of the Eberle contract, gets us a NHL Dman and leaves possible $ available to go to Conor and Leon extensions and maybe a 3rd line C like Boyle or even Hanzal to address our terrible face off %

  • paul wodehouse

    …exposing 14 in the expansion draft gets the team what coming back? value (diminished as it is in his case) is only ever going to be a factor in a trade … 93 and 14 together makes more sense in an off season trade … wait a minute is there a team interested in two useless in the playoffs players anyway? In Chia I trust !