Drew Remenda’s takes on the Edmonton Oilers as an analyst for Sportsnet often don’t sit well with fans of the team – “often” might be understating, as a matter of fact – but there’s no disputing that he calls things as he sees them, even if there’s plenty of room to disagree.
I respect Remenda for that, even if he rubs many Oiler fans the wrong way, because I’d rather have a commentator offer up an honest take with an edge to it instead of defaulting to the role of fart-catcher and yes-man because he’s associated with the team or works for a broadcast rights holder. You can find plenty of that around the NHL and pro sport in general.
Remenda got my attention, and maybe yours, again this week by sharing his opinions about Jordan Eberle on Oilers Now with host Bob Stauffer. Eberle’s taken plenty of criticism after a poor post-season, something that’s been duly documented, and he got more of the same from Remenda in a discussion with Stauffer that was anything but canned company fluff. Some highlights:
- On Eberle and what he brings for his $6 million salary: “The one I’d sell would be Jordan Eberle for a couple reasons…. Objectively you look at Jordan Eberle and he just doesn’t do enough for me. He stays on the outside too much.”
- On money better spent: “To me, Jordan Eberle will have value in the market, Jordan Eberle will be a guy that can bring you some pretty good return, but I also think it’s $6 million you’ve got to free up to give two of the best young players (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl), if not the two best young players in the National Hockey League, two of the young best.
- Is Eberle out of chances?: “Again, it’s just being objective. People can say what they want about me, but I’ll be honest with you in what I think about hockey, and what I think is happening is on the ice. To me I don’t think Jordan Eberle gave you enough or showed you enough to deserve to get another chance.” For context on all three comments, the entire item is here.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Whether you agree with every word that Remenda said or not – he also criticized Eberle’s practice habits during the interview – I’m guessing a lot of you are nodding in approval at the sentiment he expressed. Fans aren’t happy with Eberle right now, nor should they be. Neither was coach Todd McLellan during the playoffs, and he said so. McLellan did, however, take issue with how Remenda characterized Eberle’s practice habits, for public consumption at least, in a follow-up interview with Stauffer. You can read an account of that here.
Like I said, while we can debate the merits of every word said by Remenda, the crux of what he said rings true with a lot of people, me included. More than that, though, I’ve been around long enough to know there’s absolutely no way that Remenda criticizes Eberle the way he did unless he’s completely out of step with how GM Peter Chiarelli and McLellan feel about the player. I don’t think that’s the case, even allowing for McLellan’s rebuttal to the practice comments. What else is he going to say?
While it’s not a case of Chiarelli, McLellan or any other hockey-ops person rubber-stamping what Remenda or any other affiliated broadcaster gets to say, there is certainly blowback if you’re way off base in the estimation of those who run the hockey club. Glen Sather used to be a master of delivering messages through writers and broadcasters close to the team. I’m not saying Remenda is playing messenger here, but my guess is he won’t be called on the carpet by McLellan or Chiarelli for what he said, either.
The bottom line, the way I see it, is the writing is on the wall for Eberle, like it or not. Chiarelli will be doing everything in his power to move Eberle along this off-season and I doubt No. 14 will be here when next season begins. That’s not because Remenda sounded off this week, it’s because that’s what Chiarelli intends to do. Remenda is just telegraphing that shot. I think he knows what’s-what.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- To use a cliché, Matt Hendricks is a pro’s pro and the kind of veteran every successful team needs in the dressing room, but circumstances dictate we’ve seen the last of him as a player here. It’s the end of the line. Hendricks knows it: “I’d love to be back in Edmonton, but with the direction they’re going, I don’t think I fit in,” he said.
- Hendricks, 36, gives you everything he’s got, but the fact is he’s got some hard miles on him and there’s simply not much left in the tank. His spirit is willing, as was the case with Ryan Smyth, but time’s up, at least as a player with this outfit. Hendricks didn’t play a single game during the post-season. He’ll make a helluva coach, if that’s the route he wants to go, somewhere down the road.
- Iiro Pakarinen, 25, who just signed a contract, is going to get a shot at the bottom-six minutes Hendricks used to play next season and he looks like a good fit to me. Pakarinen has got some sandpaper in his game and he can bang. He’s not going to provide much in the way of offense (he’s tallied 8-12-20 in 94 games) but that’s secondary in the role he’s pegged for.