Jordan Eberle played seven seasons for the Edmonton Oilers.
He had whopping 125 teammates.
He laced up his skates with 45 different defencemen, 15 goalies and 65 forwards.
He had four head coaches, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins.
He had one interim head coach, Todd Nelson, and also Craig MacTavish for three games.
He had 10 assistant head coaches.
Eberle scored 165 goals and 382 points in 507 regular season games. He led the Oilers in EV goals, PP goals and was tied in game-winning goals, 22, with Taylor Hall over the last seven seasons.
He was traded to the New York Islanders on June 22nd, and Jason Strudwick and I caught up with Eberle to discuss his time in Edmonton and looked ahead to New York.
Jason Gregor: You’ve either read or heard your name in trade talks for a while. Did that make being traded less surprising or easier to accept?
Jordan Eberle: Um, you know what, it seems like the last three years for sure my name has come up in the mix. It’s been difficult to talk about it in the last year for sure. It’s been a hot topic when you talk to people in the streets. You never expect to get traded, you know that stuff is going on, but you’re never sure. You get the call, you’re obviously surprised, but once it settles in, it’s almost a relief that all of the talk is over and you can go back to your day-to-day life because no one is talking about it (laughs). When I say it’s a relief, I mean more about the rumour, not leaving Edmonton. But it settles in and I’m very excited.
Jason Strudwick: When you heard all of the rumours did it get inside your head or were you able to push it out and not worry about it?
Eberle: Playing in a Canadian market like Edmonton obviously there is a lot of media, social media has taken off over the last number of years, you try and push it out but ultimately it’s going to come back to you when you have to do media and what not. Someone is going to talk about it.
You think about it and you try to do the best that you can to not let it bother you, especially in the summer when you’re trying to enjoy your summer and you see all of the rumours. You try to maybe get away from the game a little bit, but it always comes back. It was hard to completely ignore it.
Gregor: Since you came into the NHL you’ve scored the 24th most goals in the entire league. Pretty productive. You talked about how this past season was a little bit of a down year for you offensively; twenty goals, fifty-one points which isn’t terrible for most players, but for a guy who’s averaged 26 goals per year, that’s considered a bit of a down year. When you look back on your season, you improved your play away from the puck and defensively, but struggled to score. Did that impact your offense? Was there a connection?
Eberle: I think you focus more about making the right decisions and you’re not cheating as much. That definitely is going to maybe take away a chance or two, but even at the start of the year I felt like I had a ton of chances. I just wasn’t capitalizing on them. A lot of posts had a little bit of bad puck luck. I don’t think it (better defensively) was why my totals were down. At points, I was overthinking things.
So, there’s always factors that key into all of it and for me, I still like to think I’m a finisher and I have a lot of good years ahead of me. Getting the chance for a new opportunity, new scenery and kind of a new chapter, I’m excited for that.
Gregor: You’ve been in the league seven years. You finally got your first taste of the playoffs. I know you were disappointed in how it went personally. The team winning is what matters most, but you wanted to produce more points. What do you feel you learned about your play in the postseason that you would like to improve on the next time your team gets in?
Well, the first thing was just getting that experience, understanding what type of game it is and just being there. I think more than anything you don’t have to answer those questions anymore about playing in a postseason game. I think that was a big thing coming into our run last year with the Oilers was how inexperienced we were. They don’t have to answer that question anymore.
So that first off is big. I think that obviously for me personally, obviously the goals didn’t go in and productivity wasn’t there, but I thought that we had a great first round and being able to play a defensive role, but I need to find ways to score more. As a guy, and being an Oiler fan growing up, and playing there for a long time it would have been very disappointing if I didn’t even get to play in the postseason as an Oiler. So it’s nice to have that.
GOING TO LONG ISLAND
Strudwick: Have you had a chance to talk to new head coach Dougie Weight?
Eberle: I have yeah, and obviously being an Oilers fan I watched him a lot. I think you look at how the team did under him when he took over last year, they did very well. I know quite a few guys on the team. I’ve played with them whether it’s World Championships, World Juniors, whatever, even when I was a young kid. I know quite a few of the guys on the team. I’m excited for the travel for sure in the East, as you know Struds, it’s a little bit easier in the East than in the West. So that will be a bonus.
Strudwick: Oh, it’s so much easier. I mean you think about it, the Islanders are going to drive to MSG and you’re going to drive to New Jersey. That’s six road games that you don’t even have to get on a plane for. It’s going to be so much different for you.
Eberle: Obviously trades are part of the business and inevitable in hockey. It’s very rare that someone plays their whole career [on one team]. In Edmonton I think I was the last guy left from my first season. I’ve gone through a lot of teammates and talking to a lot of guys, a lot of guys come from the East. They talk about the travel and the benefits, you learn things like that. I hope I can take advantage of it.
Strudwick: Have you had a chance to reach out and talk to [John] Tavares?
Eberle: Yeah, you know what, the team has been great. As soon as the trade went in a lot of guys were shooting me texts and Johnny called me. Obviously knowing Johnny from, man, we played together probably when we were fifteen years old, to World Juniors, and a few World Championships together. Obviously he’s a leader of that team and a great player. So, to have him excited that I’m coming there, it means a lot. Not only that but they have a lot of good players and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Gregor: You mentioned you talked to Weight, I don’t know if he said, ‘I’m expecting to at least give you a shot on Tavares’ wing.’ Are you expecting to get a look there when the season begins?
Eberle: (Laughs) You know what, there’s definitely speculation, but for me right now my mindset is to have the best summer I can as far as trying to get my body ready for an 82-game schedule plus playoffs. I’d like to give a good team over there a good push, but my main focus will be to get my mindset and my body right to be ready for next season.
Gregor: When you say “get your body right”, what do you mean? Do you need to get faster, do you need to get stronger?
Eberle: There is no question on both, and I’m sure everyone is doing the same thing. You’re trying to get faster, trying to get stronger. The game is what it is, it’s grown as far as speed wise but you still have to play the right way and play smart. I like to think I’m reaching my prime right now and that I have a few years in there. I think the biggest thing is you have to look at how people are training now too. You want to train smart as far as keeping your body healthy so it’s going to be able to maintain an 82-game schedule and more. You obviously have to keep that in mind, but I think that there is always one thing you want to focus on specifically each summer. Speed is one thing for sure that I want to focus on this summer. I’m going to do a lot of skating and try to get myself ready.
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
Strudwick: Ebby let’s go back to your first year in the NHL, that was my last year in the NHL and I don’t blame you at all, my time to leave had come.
Strudwick: When you finally eclipsed me for the number of multi-goal seasons in the NHL, I believe I had four and I think you’re at seven, was that a significant milestone for you?
Eberle: (Laughs) Ah, you know what, it’s funny you say that because on my resume that’s one of the things that I wanted to get done right away as soon as you retired. I wanted to make sure that I surpassed you. I was very proud to do that. (Laughs)
Strudwick: Well congratulations buddy. Not everyone can do that in the NHL. You could almost double it this year if things go well.
Eberle: I definitely want to continue to build on your multi-goal season success.
Gregor: Well you’re still tied in playoff goals, so you’re going to have to try to beat Struds in that category next year.
Strudwick: I won’t be able to pass him. I wasn’t used properly.
Eberle: I think I’ve got the upper hand. (laughs) I don’t think Struddy is coming back.
Gregor: Now going back to your rookie season. Is it true Struddy had to buy your and Taylor Hall’s suits, and then you guys had to reimburse him because your Visa’s only had a $500 limit?
Eberle: It is funny how that story gets bigger every time he tells it. He builds something on it, but the true story is it was Taylor. Taylor’s card didn’t work or something like that. Mine worked. I was twenty years old. I knew how the world worked a little bit, (laughs) not as much as Struddy, but I definitely could pay for my own suits. (Laughs)
Strudwick: Well buddy, ok I didn’t want to bring it up, but you’re the one who brought it up. It was awkward and you asked the teller ‘do you accept some club cards? And you brought out a stack of Subway cards and were like ‘I had these in Regina, these are good in Saskatchewan.’ And unfortunately the guy didn’t get it. Now Ebby, you’re getting married this summer, congratulations. You’ve got a great fiancé, very lucky guy. As far as dancing? Is there protocol? I have some sweet moves.
Gregor: Please don’t let Struds pick the songs.
Eberle: I mean I don’t know if Studdy will know any of the music after 2000. Dancing, yeah, to be honest I haven’t’ seen your moves. You know what, that will be something I’m definitely going to look forward to; and your suit. Playing with you for a year, your style is not up to par that’s for sure. Your suit will be a talking piece I’m sure.
Gregor: In 2010/11, what was your first impression as you got to know Mr. Jason Strudwick?
Eberle: (Laughs) Well anyone who knows Struds, knows he’s a pretty big guy, so you’re intimidated right off of the bat but you get on the ice, you start skating with him and you’re not so much intimated anymore (laughs) because…
Strudwick: Do you want to know what’s funny, I don’t know if you remember this, but on the first day of training camp everyone was talking about Eberle and Hall. We’re doing this one-on-one drill. I start at the red line and go touch the blue line and take it back. I think the forwards had to go down and touch the top of the circle and go back, and I’m like ‘Ebby, I got you.’ I don’t even think I touched the blue line, he was already scoring on the other end. I was like ‘yeah, I think that this is the end.’ (Laughs)
Strudwick: I was like ‘I hope no one saw that.’
Eberle: You know what, from day one Struds has been awesome. He’s one of those teammates, and I think that a lot of guys can attest to it, he’s a character guy and a fun guy in the locker room. He made everyone feel involved and made the room great.
Gregor: You had a great start to your career. In your first game you score, what turned out to be the goal of the year on TSN, against the Calgary Flames and Oilers fans loved it. You had many highlight reel goals over your career and this past spring you finally made the playoffs. Is leaving a little easier now that you were able to experience the playoffs in Edmonton?
Eberle: Yeah, absolutely. Coming in my first year playing with guys like [Shawn] Horcoff, [Ales] Hemsky, and Ryan Smyth later on that’s the biggest thing they talked about; the ’06 playoffs. And me being an Oilers fan watching it you understood how passionate Oiler fans are and how great it was. Definitely awesome that I got a chance to experience that, and obviously with MacDavid at the helm, they’ve got a great team and the expectations have gone up for sure and I’m sure they’ll be able to meet them.
I got the sense Eberle knew a trade was coming. As he said a player is never completely prepared for it, but it wasn’t a complete shock. For many years Eberle was one of the few bright lights in an otherwise dark time in Oilersnation. He was a damn good goal scorer, and while he had some weaknesses in his game, I’d much rather have a goal scorer with flaws than a checker with flaws.
The timing of his trade makes sense as the Oilers will be signing Connor McDavid (later today) and Leon Draisaitl to massive contracts. I won’t be surprised to see him score 25 goals, or more, in New York and over seven seasons I thought he was a pretty solid Edmonton Oilers on and off the ice.
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