If I admit my bias when it comes to the type of players I tend to gravitate toward, Jordan Eberle was never much of a magnet for me. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good player during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers because he was. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be a good player with the New York Islanders. He will.
While I favor players with more dimensions to their game than those Eberle possessed – for starters, I like more physicality and edginess than he showed – there’s no question the shifty right winger brought a skill-set that many players don’t have. Eberle had the ability to score goals and generate offensive opportunities. That was his calling card. That’s why he’s an NHL player.
The problem for Eberle, as is the case with players of the same specific skill-set, is that if he isn’t scoring and producing points, then lack of other dimensions is magnified and criticism about the other things that player doesn’t do – play a physical game, compete like his life depends on it almost every single shift and on and on – becomes the focus. We see the flaws. It’s human nature.
So, you get what we got when GM Peter Chiarelli traded Eberle and his $6-million annual salary to the Islanders for Ryan Strome, who is younger and cheaper and, at this point, not nearly as productive. The Oilers save themselves $3.5 million in cap space and get a prospect in Strome who still isn’t a finished product. The Islanders get a player who, even in a down year, is good for 20 or so goals a season. They don’t grow on trees.
I understand why Chiarelli made the move. Players named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the offensive drivers now. Both of them are going to get paid. Eberle? Given his faltering production and the post-season he had, plus that big ticket, he morphed into an expensive spare part representing money better spent elsewhere. I won’t be a bit surprised if he returns to form and finds a fit with the Islanders. Likewise, it won’t be a shocker to me if Strome finds a niche and blossoms here with his new teammates. Good luck to Jordan Eberle.
WHAT ABOUT OSCAR?
Oilers’ D-man Oscar Klefbom finished fifth in voting for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that was awarded to Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames Wednesday. I think that result shortchanged Klefbom and the season he had, but it wasn’t a big surprise, given the history of the award.
Just once in the last 50 years has a defenceman won the award – Brian Campbell of Chicago was voted the honor in 2011-12. Blueliners have won the Byng just five times since the award came into existence in 1924-25. If that’s not an oversight, I don’t know what is. The Byng is presented each year to “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Klefbom played all 82 games for the Oilers this season. The big Swede produced 12-26-38, averaged 22:22 in ice time per game and accumulated just six penalty minutes. Six! If that’s not an example of gentlemanly conduct with a high standard of playing ability, I don’t know what is. I turned in my PHWA card several years ago after serving as Edmonton chapter chairman for many seasons, so I don’t vote on awards anymore, but I’ve never understood the tilt toward forwards when it comes to the Byng.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- McDavid winning the Art Ross, Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award was the first trifecta by an Oiler since Wayne Gretzky used to make off with armfuls of silverware annually and was well-deserved. That said, I put more weight in the Lindsay (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award) than the Hart because it’s voted on by members of the NHLPA.
- GM George McPhee isn’t finished putting together the Las Vegas Golden Knights yet, not with all the D-men he has stockpiled, but it looks to me like he might have a relatively competitive team right away based on the roster now. I’m not sure how they’ll fare in the standings, but hitting the ice for year one with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal and James Neal up front doesn’t look like a bad place to start.
- Bless you, Bryan Bickell.