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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Oilers miss Eberle’s goals?

Jordan Eberle is a productive goal scorer. It doesn’t matter if you like his style of play or not, the fact is he can score. He produced 165 goals in his time with the Oilers, 24th most in NHL since the 2010/2011 season. That is excellent production.

Eberle only scored 20 goals this past season, his lowest total in a full 82-game season. Even in a down season he was still tied for 85th in goals across the NHL. Today, the Oilers don’t have a full-time right winger who has proven he can score 25 goals consistently. Leon Draisaitl scored 29 goals last year, but he played half the season at centre. I don’t see him as a regular winger moving forward, although I’m sure he will play some this season with Connor McDavid.

The Oilers have some younger players they hope can replace Eberle’s production, but I’m not sure it needs to come from one player.

Eberle’s career numbers are better than his 20-31-51 season last year, and that is a good thing for the gentlemen looking to replace him. The reality is the Oilers have McDavid and Draisaitl moving forward. They will be looked upon to provide a bulk of the offence. Milan Lucic has scored 20+ goals and 50+ points five times. He had a down season scoring 5×5 last year and he’s only 29 years old so I expect him to improve there, but his overall numbers were good. He can still produce. Patrick Maroon is coming off a career year, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been challenged by Todd McLellan and his staff to rediscover his offensive creativity. Those five will be expected to be the offensive leaders.

The players looking to replace Eberle’s 20 goals won’t have the pressure of being go-to scorers, at least not this season. If one emerges as a legit threat that is a great, but none of them will have the expectations to score 20-25 goals.

Instead of looking at a one-for-one replacement, I think it is better to look at how much production the Oilers need from the RW. Here is the Oilers production from RW last year.

Player                          GP           G        PTS
Eberle                          82           20        51
Leon Draisaitl            43           15         44
Zack Kassian              79            7          24
Anton Slepyshev       41            4          10
Tyler Pitlick               31            8           11
Jesse Puljujarvi        28            1            8
Iiro Pakarinen          14             2           4
Total                      318          57        152

In a full season there are 328 games played among the four right wingers.

**Last season, the other ten were split between Matt Hendricks, Jujhar Khaira and Anton Lander, but I did not go back through each game to figure out which games they played RW. Draisaitl’s first game with McDavid exclusively was January 5th versus Boston. There were a few games from then on where he would split his time with McDavid, when McLellan switched lines, but he played the vast majority of the second half on the right wing.

I suspect we could see Draisaitl play both centre and RW this season, so including his games played last year was key.

Draisaitl was very productive with McDavid and I’d be stunned if they don’t produce whenever McLellan decides to play them together.

For argument sake, let’s say Draisaitl plays half a season on the RW. That leaves 287 games for the other players to slot in on RW. Here is the production from the RW last year in 275 games.

Player                          GP           G        PTS
Eberle                          82           20        51
Zack Kassian              79            7          24
Anton Slepyshev       41            4          10
Tyler Pitlick               31            8           11
Jesse Puljujarvi        28            1            8
Iiro Pakarinen          14             2           4
Total                      275          42        108

Right now the Oilers have Slepyshev, Kassian, Pakarinen, Puljujarvi and Ryan Strome, who would vie for those 287 games. Pakarinen is likely the odd man out when the season begins.

So the RW only needs to produce 42 goals to match last season — not a daunting total. Remember the Oilers were eighth in goals scored last season, 243, and they were tied for eighth in EV goals with 166. Even with Eberle having a down season, the Oilers were not starving for goals. They finally have depth. Their defence scored 35 goals, a jump from 24 goals in both 2016 and 2015, an increase of 45%. Most would expect McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Lucic and Maroon to produce the bulk of the goals and the defence should be close to last year’s totals.

When you break down last year’s RW production, I don’t see them being desperate to find goals, but they will need solid production from all four.

Kassian said in our recent interview he expects to score ten, hopefully more. I doubt he will have as many goals disallowed next year as he had this past season, so ten seems realistic.

Slepyshev had four in 41 games last year which prorates to eight in a full season. Would it be unrealistic to expect him to score one more goal every 41 games and reach ten? He gained a lot of confidence from his play in the playoffs, and I could see him starting on RW with Draisaitl and Lucic.

Puljujarvi scored in his first NHL game and then went goalless in 27. He won’t repeat that. I don’t believe he is a lock to stick all season in Edmonton, but he will be given every opportunity early on.

When Draisaitl plays the middle, then Strome or RNH will move to the wing with McDavid. I’d hope either of them could pot ten goals playing half a season with McDavid. Jussi Jokinen can also play the right side, and when line juggling or injuries occur, I’m sure we will see him play 20-30 games on the right side.

Just playing the odds, you’d expect one of Strome, Puljujarvi or Slepyshev to score at least 15 and likely more.

Unless one of them has a Maroon-like breakout season, I don’t expect any of these players to score 25 goals like Eberle averaged in his tenure in Edmonton, but it isn’t necessary they do so this season. They just need to find enough offence to match last year’s totals for the entire right side.

The right side is the least experienced and has the most question marks of the three forward positions right now, but regardless of who skates there this season, they don’t have to be great for the Oilers to have success. Of course a breakout year from one of them would be great, but because of the other offensive weapons, the Oilers aren’t desperate for one player to replace Eberle’s goals.

Which RW, excluding Draisaitl, do you think will lead the Oilers in scoring from the right side?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • The last dynasty

    I think we’ll miss Pitlick’s 8 goals in 1/3 seasons from the 4th line more than Ebs’ 20 from the 1st & 2nd line. Ebs had 2 empty netters and a hat trick the last game of the season in a blowout. We can probably get 15 goals out of #98 on that line if need be this year.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      Can someone explain to me why lots of people discount the final game hat trick on Eberle’s part? I’ll accept the beef with empty netters, but goals are goals, doesn’t matter when we have clinched a playoff spot or not. Might as well deduct the first 4 goals Auston Matthews got on the first game of the season for the leafs, because hey, how much impact does the first game of the season have on the season as a whole? (Hint: the same impact the last game of the season)

      • harborman

        If I remember correctly, Eberle had 16 goals going into the last 2 games of the season, which were back to back against Vancouver. The Canucks were awful and the talent level they iced was no better than an average AHL team. So in my mind, Eberle’s goal stats benefitted from playing a non competitive team twice the last 2 days of the season.

    • Samesame

      Having Connor mcdavid has totally skewed most oilers fans perception of this squad. His amazing and pretty much unmatched skill has convinced most that the team as a whole is also pretty much infallible. You guys better hope he doesn’t get injured for any serious amount of time, the defence stays healthy till sekeras back and talbot doesn’t regress in the least, or you’re all in for a rude awakening

  • Wayde

    I don’t mind where you’re going with this, Jason, but – devil’s advocate here – shouldn’t the goal here not be to JUST break even every year in goal production? Instead, shouldn’t it be to actually improve?? If that’s the goal, I think resting on our laurels and hoping the missing production is just matched is a path that gets us no further than last year, all things being equal. I would rather have gone out and secured a better, more accurate, “replacement” for Eberle (say, Jagr on a one-year deal until we know if JP or someone can contribute more?) in order to facilitate that improvement this year.

    • Wayde

      I’ll actually ammend this…I think the goal should be an improvement not just in goal production. It should be an improvement in goal differential. In which case, I still think Jagr helps us with that.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t think Oilers rested on their laurels. Most of their improvement will come from within as much of the team is still young and has significant room to improve. The point of the article was the RW didn’t produce a lot last year and matching that production won’t be very difficult, and in fact they should be able to exceed it.

  • fasteddy

    I think all that matters is whether the team combined scores more/less/same amount of goals. If goal scoring is a problem and they score 30 less, (or their GF/GA difference is out of kilter), then we can look back and say whether Eberle’s goals were missed.

  • Bills Bills

    Hopefully RNH. He has a deceptively good shot and playing on his off wing could give him a chance to release it more. I would like to see him with fewer defensive responsibilities and see if he can bring back that incredible vision that he was drafted first overall for. He can score and I don’t see his talents being properly utilized as a third line checking center.

  • WhoreableGuy

    Jiri Hudler is still out there as a UFA. Would anyone take a chance on him at $1-1.5 million for 1 year? He only made $2 million last season in Dallas.

    A cheap way to add a few points.

    • Natejax97

      Looking at the cap, I think Peter is about done unless there is a trade. I am sure he has to take JP and CMD bonus money into account, and keep his 1 or 2 roster spots available for a trade deadline add. Like Hudler, like Jagr…but a Patrick Eaves type pickup first week in March would be fantastic!!

  • wiseguy

    Remember when we were all so worried last year about how we were going to replace offence when we lost that dynamic, offensive driver who was one of the top 3 LW in the NHL? Pretty sure the offence and goal differential took a giant leap forward.

    • Natejax97

      Yup. Imagine what the big white board in Chia’s office looks like right now…50 options, 23 spots, and still haven’t signed our first round pick this year lol…depth!!! Its a thing.

  • Mitch92

    The right side will suffer from nogoalovs more if Draisaitl is moved to centre. That would put a lot of pressure on Strome who should score 15 in his sleep and Puljujarvi who is not a huge goal scorer but will rack up the assists. Slepyshev could probably reach 15 if he plays a full season but he may not get the minutes. Will Jokinen play any right wing? Puljujarvi may be a factor there.

  • Mitch92

    After further thinking, the effect of expansion should improve our overall team scoring being that we are a youngish dynamic team with lots of fire power including the best offensive player in the game. Older slower teams who just got worse will suffer at our hands. The pool just got wider, not deeper.

  • OilCan2

    Team effort will probably more than fill the gap left by Ebs. Kass, Slep and PJ should do very nicely. As mentioned spare centers and the new hire JJ can easily build on last years numbers. The future is so bright I bought new sunglasses.

  • Roberto

    A goal prevented is as good as a goal scored. In that sense, I think the Oilers are already in a better position than they were with Ebs, taking top minutes and PP time. I expect all of the aforementioned to improve. I’d guess Strome gets 15 give or take, Slep will score more, same with JP and Kassian. They will get more opportunity and are a year older which should drastically help slep and JP. I’d expect the drake to score at least 10, and likely more from the other side this year, and could certainly see him getting some time with McDavid. Did he play RW or LW in the playoffs when he played with McDavid?

  • nuge2drai

    Lol what a hilarious title.

    The Oiler make up the lost goals just by removing lazy and the amount of times the play died on his stick.

    I blame him for the down year of Lucic and Nuge 5×5. I don’t think their are more opposite style players In the nhl than Lucic and Ebs.

    Good riddance.

  • Ryan68

    What “goals” are you referring to?!?!?! The 16 he got in the first 80 games or the 4 he got in the last 2 against the Utica Comets?!?!? He doesn’t fit this team anymore. No shame in that. The Oilers are big, tough, mean, (albeit reasonably clean) team now. None of those adjectives describe Eberle. Even our high end guys play big. (McDavid’s hit in SJ game 5). Anyone see Eberle laying the body…ever? Stop whining about everything. It took a year for some people to get over Hall-Larsson. In Chia I trust. Can we replace 16 goals!?!?! SHEESH!!!

    • Ryan68

      The Purge is finally complete. Nuge is the last remnant of DoD , (Aside from MacT and Lowe playing with their model trains, or whatever they do now) and he’s bought into this team. I don’t think he’ll be here long, but I’d actually miss Nuge after next year. Hall leaves and we become a playoff team. Eberle’s gone and we’re now a favourite to win it all!!! You must be high off your @$$ to think we lost a damn thing.

  • GK1980

    Still scratch my head over why chia traded eberle. He may not be a playoff performer but he can help get the team in. Hopefully someone steps up this year to replace his goals.

  • Samesame

    The easy dismissal by so many posters of one of the leagues top Scoring right wingers over the last half decade is laughable. It’s like people don’t understand how tough goals are to come by in the NHL. Not one of the projected guys we have to fill his spot have proven anything near what he has. Namely true firsts line numbers as a career average! In some cases some of the guys we got haven’t proven they can score more than at a bottom 6 rate, let alone averaging around 60 pts per 82gp over a career.
    But facts be done damned, we’re like totally the favs now. Everyone will improve, their won’t be any steps backwards and it’ll just be smooth sailing……it’s painful to read how little most people understand the NHL

  • bazmagoo

    McDavid, Draisaitl, Slepyshev, Cagguila, Lucic, Kassian will all score more this season. Add the additions of Jokinen and Strome to the mix and Eberle’s goals will not be missed imo.