Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Heavy Expectations for Edmonton’s Newest Project

We find ourselves standing directly in front of the 2017-2018 Oiler season. Coming off the heels of a second round exit, some individual awards for the Captain, and another year of development for what was still a relatively young team, the expectations are high. And that’s understandable. Except when it isn’t.

I turn my focus to one of the newest faces on the team, Ryan Strome. This is a player with some lofty expectations from the team and from fans. For reasons I do not fully understand, the Oilers are doing nothing to quell these expectations for Strome.

As the newest Oiler forward (is he a center or a winger?) comes to Edmonton he has been immediately plugged onto the top line. This was confirmed by General Manager Peter Chiarelli and subsequently the coaching staff has indicated that is how camp will start as well. This sets up a straight across comparison between Strome and Eberle, the man he was traded for. It’s true that the comparison would happen anyway, but now there’s no hiding behind one being a scoring winger and the other being a utility center/winger. If Strome plays on the top line the only real measure for success is offense (either individually or as a line).

Even McDavid himself said that Strome could be the sleeper fantasy pick of the season because he will be placed in such a great position to score. The increase in quality to teammates and access to Power Play time will boost that offense, per the Captain. That’s a heaping helping anticipated scoring.

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When it comes to the player’s attributes, the ones that the Oilers believe will make him a fit with McDavid are his IQ and his shot. I certainly cannot speak to his Hockey IQ. It’s a buzzword, no doubt, but I like things can actually be measured. If someone is physically healthy and possesses great hockey IQ they should, generally, be performing by their early 20’s in some category or another. Either way, we wait to see on the hockey sense part of his game.

The shooting though…we have information on the shooting. Ryan Strome is a career 8.8% shooter in the NHL. Last season was the first time he cracked double digits in percentage at 11.4% in his final season with the Islanders. In terms of volume, it’s been trending the wrong way since he joined the league.

2013-2014: 9.62 Shots per 60 (3rd among NYI Forwards)

2014-2015: 8.63 Shots per 60 (4th among NYI Forwards)

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2015-2016: 6.99 Shots per 60 (6th among NYI Forwards)

2016-2017: 6.03 Shots per 60 (12th among NYI Forwards)

So we have a relatively low percentage shooter who also trended down to be a low volume shooter as well. It certainly explains how Strome went from 17-33-50 at his career peak to 13-17-30 last year. The plain truth of it is that Ryan Strome cannot be described as a shooter nor as a sniper. He may have a good shot on his own, in practice. However, in NHL game situations that just hasn’t been the case.

At the same time, Strome’s on ice possession numbers took a huge tumble as well. He similarly fell from near the top all the way to the bottom. This is a player who has struggled in all facets of the game over the last two full seasons. To ignore these struggles or to hope they get washed away with a change of scenery is wishful thinking on the part of the Oilers organization.

There is a lot of confidence that Strome will succeed on McDavid’s wing. There doesn’t even seem to be a hint of hesitation and they certainly aren’t easing him into the role as of yet. Playing with McDavid is the greatest gift any top 6 winger can ask for and I’m sure he’s excited, but I think there ought to be more caution about predictions with Strome. Even if he has a 30% increase in offense (The McDavid Effect) over the last 2 seasons, we’re still talking about 40ish points.

Ryan Strome is entering the 2017-2018 season as a reclamation project but with the expectations of a top 6 forward. If he joins the squad and becomes the newest Pat Maroon – a perfect fit with McDavid and an offensive producer – then that will be fantastic. If that’s not the case, we really shouldn’t be surprised though. He hasn’t been the player the Oilers are telegraphing him to be in quite some time.

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  • Glencontrolurstik

    If it doesn’t work out like you pessimistically predict. I’d like to see Strome centre the 3rd line with Jokinen & Pully.
    And maybe get our moneys worth from Nuge on RW on the top line… However the McD & Strome families have history outside of hockey, so it should be tried until it doesn’t work… So many options this year, I like the depth for the most part.

      • Hemmercules

        Pessimistic or not, your articles tend to come across that way more often than not. Im a pretty cautious Oilers fan as well, tend not to get my hopes up too much until I see some real results.

        I dont see any problem trying him out with Conner in camp. The goal after all is to have Drai centre his own line. I don’t mind Conner talking Strome up a bit either, why not give the guy some confidence right out of the gate?

        Last season wasn’t a great one for the Islanders overall. I can easily see Strome have a pretty nice season even without playing with Conner. This new Oilers team doesn’t eat up and spit out new guys like they used to do.

        • Keyser Soze

          I’ve found that if the byline says Matt Henderson, just skip the article. He is sometimes so biased, condescending and illogical it hurts. Feels to me like a sheltered person with little life experience – maybe he’ll grow into a real journalist some day.

      • 2centz

        It should also be noted that Strome is coming into an entirely new system in Edmonton,where offence is encouraged more. Strome has also registered in Selke voting. So worst case when comparing with Ebs,is now we have a guy who will back check,get dirty in the corners,playing a 200ft game,instead of a 20ft game.

        • Samesame

          The trade was always going to be a loss in the truest sense of the word, but fact remains he needs to at least get 40 pts. Anything less is a total disaster regardless of what he brings defensively. That would be a giant leap backwards from eberle. In fact, 45-50 is what we NEED from him. This team hasn’t actually won anything yet and we’re already purposefully losing trades due to cap.

          This whole “effort” narrative isn’t only bs, it’s totally inconsequential. This is the NHL, trying hard doesn’t matter if you don’t produce

      • fasteddy

        Frankly I was happy they were able to get anything resembling a potentially decent player without having to retain salary. Ebs has some wicked hands but I gave up waiting for the skills to translate to consistent game altering play.

    • Marshall Law

      So… McDavid and Strome will have chemistry because McDavid was friends with Strome’s little brother? The comments section on this site can be jarring sometimes.

      • 2centz

        Ryan also watched Dylan play over 200 games with Connor,I’m sure he picked up on a few tendencies,no? The three Strome boys and Connor are also all pals outside of hockey too,so again,I’m sure they all have a good relationship. But for me personally,the icing on the cake was when McDavid told everyone that Strome is going to be this years fantasy darkhorse. These two are going to be so exciting to watch.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I ecourage all to read the Willis article on The Athletic. Willis watched 10 Strome games last year and provided a fairly detailed analysis in to his play, pros and cons, as well as progression throughout the year, pre and post coaching change.

    Shots, shots, shots – we know Stome has been (and will be) encouraged to shoot much more and that will be a must if he is playing with McDavid. Hopefully he is able to do it – he has a pass first mentality and that may be tough to break.

    At the same time, Klefbom was encouraged to shoot more last year and it was obvious he took it to heart and was actively looking for opportunities to shoot the puck in the second half of the season.

      • camdog

        No completely incorrect, Eberle was getting traded regardless of his offensive success with McDavid, because his other attributes are believed to be sub par within the organisation. Contrary to belief offensive success of a player does not necessarily translate into team success or value within an organisation. It is possible however that if Eberle had clicked with McDavid the Oilers may have got a better player than Strome in the trade.

        • Marshall Law

          Lol so if Eberle would have put up 90 points last year, he still would have been traded? He got traded because his production wasn’t matching his cap hit. If he was still putting up 70 point, 30 goal seasons, he’d still be on the team.

          • camdog

            Eberle was dissed on multiple fronts for hit poor work ethic in all facets of the game. Hall was traded as much for what was perceived as an attitude problem in the dressing room. It didn’t matter how much Hall was going to produce he was deemed a cancer in the room by those from the Old boys Club. The day he showered the coach with the water bottle was the day the organisation decided they didn’t view him as a core player. PC has never had a problem trading wingers that are weak character players and it has never mattered how much they produced.

        • Samesame

          Not fact. Had he clicked for 65 and they were integral together in making a run, they absolutely may have looked at other avenues to save cap. At the very least it’s certainly plausible. They didn’t justvtade him because of those other attributes were lacking. It was because they needed cap space, and the offence he was expected to provide at 6mil, wasn’t there. I also believe pc thinks he can get somewhat comparable production from strome . Maybe even a total breakout for a very talented young player

      • Spydyr

        If you don’t feel a players stats will improve playing with McDavid your “hockey IQ” may be lacking. Eberle had a weak shot, was lazy, defensively unsound ,did not hit and was scared to get hit. Strome is an improvement on everything listed above.

        • Marshall Law

          “Eberle was terrible and Strome is better in every way”

          *Compares stats of two players over the course of their careers*

          “Perhaps I’m talking out of my ass”

          • Samesame

            Someone actually made that statement??! At this point, strome can’t hold eberles jock. Fact. Maybe he’ll work out, even be better. Kid does have some skills. But everles offensive numbers over the last half decade aren’t just decent, they’re like true first line scoring winger numbers. Averaged like 60 per over 82 games. Say why one will, but the guy scores

  • 15w40

    Pretty sure the Oilers didn’t trade for Strome because he was an Eberle clone. I would imagine the sincere hope is that he will play both sides of the puck equally well and go to the more difficult areas in the offensive end. If he can get 35 points or higher and be counted on to get pucks out of his own end then he has done what he was brought into do IMHO.

    • JimmyV1965

      Strome had the second worst +/- of any forward on the Islanders. While this stat can be misleading, no one has ever accused Strome of sacrificing offence to focus on defence. The team sees something there though so maybe there’s hope the change of scenery transforms the player. The Strome who played in New York was awful. On a positive note, Hamonic’s +/- was by far the worst on the Islanders.

    • Samesame

      35 points is a huge step back for a team that hasn’t won anything and is trying to establish further steps up the NHL echelon. There is no way replacing eberle with 35 points and better defence is acceptable

    • AJ88

      35 points or higher? What you are saying is he will not be playing much with McD. Anyone playing with McD/Maroon better be scoring in the 60 – 70 point range or McD will be back with Drai or maybe RnH will get a shot. 35 points will not be acceptable as a regular with McD.

  • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

    I feel like if “the Mcdavid effect” is going to be brought up, you should look at Maroon as a direct example. His point production (based on points per game with Anaheim vs. points per game with Edmonton) increased by 46% after coming over from Anaheim (including games where he didn’t play on McDavid’s line). If you project that increase into Strome’s stats from last season only, he would score about 44 points. If you project it based on his last 3 year average point total, he would increase to about 53 points this year. I feel like Maroon is a pretty comparable player, has a good skillset but constantly in the coach’s doghouse. I don’t think its unreasonable to believe that Strome can elevate into the 50 point category, which would make the Eberle trade a very good one considering the salary cap implications when we look back on it.

    • Samesame

      Competing plus minus on different teams….it must be 2005.

      But here an interesting one –
      Strome career Avg per 82 gp- 36 pts.

      They aren’t in the stratosphere as of today

  • madjam

    McDavid was able to take a lesser talent offensively in Maroon and double his offensive output in short order . Now , he should be able to double Strome’s output as well . That should be the bottom line – if McDavid did it for Maroon , he should do it for Strome . Yes , believe it or not Strome’s stats from this year will be as relevant as Maroon’s were when he first came here . In a nutshell , you can probably throw his old stats in the garbage . My hope is he outdoes Maroon in scoring , as well as Eberle when he was there – both of which I feel are reasonable playing with McDavid and a revived Maroon . You go by past stats you only obtain a tainted pessimistic view of the player , and that should not be the case playing along side McDavid . I’m looking at point production around the 60+ range if he remains on top line .

    • OriginalPouzar

      Some credit needs to go to Patrick Maroon himself.

      Firstly, his skill was underutilized in Anaheim. He is a skilled player that was not put in a position to succeed offensively in Anaheim – he did produce with good players in Anaheim during the few times where he was given a chance.

      Secondly, he work his ass off last off-season (and, from accounts, this off-season) to get himself in better shape to be able to have success.

      Thirdly, he has the skill to identify the role he is playing and what needs to be done to succeed in that role – where to go, where to get the puck to, etc.

      Fourthly, chemistry is a real thing – he has it with McDavid, other left wingers (Hall, Lucic) did not.

      McDavid didn’t double Maroon’s output on his own.

      • JimmyV1965

        The key there I think is that Maroon worked his ass off. If Strome did that as well, there is hope. Mcdavid can make players better, but it all starts with the player himself.

      • RJ

        It’s a nice narrative to give all the credit to McD for Maroon’s improved production.

        The only fly in the ointment is that Maroon was always recognized as having elite skill. His biggest problem was his conditioning was less than elite. (Hence the “Fat Maroon” nickname).

        Kudos to PC for taking on a reclamation project that panned out.

    • Trevy

      And then what? If Maroon has another season like last, he’ll certainly price himself out of the Oilers salary cap. Now you all hope that Strome has a banner year with McDavid, on a contract year no less and then have to pay up for him as well. Isn’t the whole reason you guys got rid of Eberle was to save recoup some cap?

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    As much as i am a believer in the “McDavid effect” Strome has already been a guinea pig with a similar effect. The “Tavares effect” we saw very average players like Mat Moulson and Kyle Okposo look like super stars alongside Tavares and then were traded and were exposed as painfully average players. Stome was not effected by playing with Tavares and he may not be effected playing with McDavid either. Just like Eberle, Lucic, and Hall. it’s not pessimistic to think Strome wont be that good because in reality he probably won’t be. We traded for his cap situation not his skill. 40-50 points would be fine from him.

  • TKB2677

    Matt Henderson’s new whipping boy.

    Eberle is a undersized, not overly fast, one dimensional player who’s had holes in his game on game 1 of his career and still has the same holes in his game after 507 NHL games. Maybe he has improved slightly in his weaker areas but he hasn’t improved a ton and he is still a player who if he doesn’t score, he hurts your team. To make matters worse, he was always an average skater at best but over the last couple of seasons he hasn’t looked as explosive or dangerous like he used too. So he’s either slowing down or teams have figured him out. So at 6 mill for a one dimensional player, he’s WAY overpaid.

    In a cap world and when you have 2 players making as much as McDavid and Leon combined, in my opinion you have to have a lot of players surrounding those big money players who are cheaper but more importantly versatile. In Strome they get a player who is right handed, who can play center or wing, you can play up and down your lines and who is WAY cheaper now and even when he signs a new contract will be WAY cheaper than Eberle. He can play in different roles, he can play in different positions and do more things than Eberle and saves you money. Eberle is a 6 mill right winger who HAS to play in your top 6 to succeed. He HAS to be on your top unit PP to do anything. He’s never playing center if injuries happen. He can’t play on a 3rd line if you need him too because he doesn’t have the game or checking ability to do it. I don’t know if Strome could do it because I don’t know him very well as a player but since he is a center, there is a potential he could be on your PK just because centers are usually more defensively aware than wingers due to the requirements of their position. Eberle we know for sure will NEVER be on a PK. So if Eberle isn’t scoring you a ton, I am talking like 65 pts, he’s not earning his money because he does nothing else.

    My fear for Strome is that there will be some fans who only look at points. They did it when the trade was made. The argument right off the bat after the trade was made was “Eberle in a bad year had 20 goals and 50 pts, look at Strome’s numbers, they sucked, Chia got fleeced.” If all you look at is goals and assists then yes, there is a good chance that Eberle will score more than Strome. But how many goals did Eberle cause because of his lazy, don’t give a crap play defensively? I can think of a brutal one in the round 2 of the playoffs where if Eberle gave a damn, the Oilers may have won that game. They were up 3-0 and that was a back breaking goal on HIS slack ass play. So if Strome is flirting with 20 goals and 40-50 pts while being a bit of a swiss army knife for the team, then I think that is great.

  • Kal Tire

    I find your pessimism reassuring. You have been wrong on just about every hockey assessment you have made on here (Hall trade being the “worst trade in franchise history”, Russell not being a top 4 d-man, shouldn’t have traded Yak, etc., etc…) Looking back at your history and stats when making these hockey type assessments it looks like Strome is quite likely to become the ying to Connor’s yang and score 35 this year…

    • Roberto

      That’s a very good point… and I think we could actually put the numbers into the formula and make it a measurable stat…. Number of times Henderson has been correct compared to the number of times he’s been wrong made into a percentage based upon the number of times he’s offered an assessment of a player. I’d guess that his player assessment stat is wrong 90% of the time, every time. Strome’s going to be fine, and maybe even really good. His first season, and Jr numbers, show that he obviously has the ability to score. Confidence is huge in hockey, and I think a change of scenery and playing with the best player in the world, he might just start to light it up. If he scores a few early, I wouldn’t at all be suprised if he outscores EBS, while outperforming EBS in all other areas. Opportunity is also huge in hockey, and EBS has been fed PP minutes and all the 1st line time he could ask for his entire carreer, while it looks like Strome was not. Hendo, the cooks will prepare the Crow. It’s currently in the smoker, in the early steps of preparation… Bring your appetite brother, it’s a dish best served cold.

    • Right. Kris Russell is actually good and Strome will score 35 this year…No. I can clearly see how I was wrong on everything now and nobody is showing unrealistic expectations on a player whose career high is literally half that number.

      • Kal Tire

        I’m not saying Strome will score 35. He might not even play with Connor. Maybe he finds a home with Leon. I’m not sure how many he’ll score, but what I am sure of is that the team will be better this year than last year and Strome will contribute to that. I like the trade. I’m simply pointing out that you’re often wrong when it comes to this sort of thing. So it is more likely that he’ll beat expectations than not.

        And Russell is good. Our veteran NHL coaches and veteran NHL GM think so. They pay him and play him accordingly. We’ll take their word over yours always. Every time.

      • 2centz

        You sure have tunnel vision,don’t you? Because a 5th overall pick has never faultered under one system,and succeeded in another,do they? If Patrick Maroon can score close to 30 with McDavid,why can’t Strome. Sometimes I think you hate,just to hate Matt. I’d say Strome is a way better player than Maroon,so please explain why Strome cannot score 30 on Connors wing?

  • nuge2drai

    I could score 15 goals playing with McDavid.

    It would not surprise me to see Strome score 30.

    Maybe go back in time a couple years and write an article on Maroons chances of succeeding with the Oilers.

    This article is absolutely pointless.

  • OilCan2

    I’m glad Calgary got Hamonic; especially at such a steep cost in draft picks.
    Strome; like any traded player is a gamble. If he pays back Maroon sized benefits then we win big time.

    • Trevy

      I’m glad we got Haminic too! The “steep” price we paid is all in part because we have lots of depth and can afford it. Besides we can easily recoup draft picks if we were desperate. If Strone pans out like Maroon did last year, what do you think it’ll cost you to retain him and Maroon for that matter? Say good bye to Nuge for starters..

      • 2centz

        Lots of depth hey? Is that why you guys got Spencer Foo,by promising him a roster spot,that’d he’d have to earn in edmonton? You guys have as much depth,as my back yard doggie pool.

  • Sammy p

    It would only be fair to compare same stats for Patrick Maroons performance pre McDavid and post McDavid before your Strome comparison becomes relevant.

    Pre McDavid and

  • when I read articles that use a lot of stats to make a point, I always like to see an explanation for why the stats are what they are. I don’t see that here. I just see the stats, and the implication is to make of it what you will. Anyone can whip out a calculator and punch in some numbers, but if you want real credibility in your writing, explain why these things are happening. If a player isn’t getting as many shots as he used to, explain why. You must surely be watching all the games. Is it because he isn’t getting into the right places? Is it because the other teams in his division are all significantly better and can effectively eliminate him from the game? Is his body breaking down, and he doesn’t have the strength to get a shot off as quickly? Does he need glasses? Is he distracted by an off-ice issue? If you’re just going to give us statistics without explaining the cause, you’re not really giving us the entire story.

  • Play Dirty

    You’re basing this article on the fact that Chiarelli said he’s going to start Stome at 1RW in -training camp-. Given the status of the Oilers’ RW lineup, and the fact that he was traded for our previous best RW asset that probably makes a lot of sense. Would you prefer that McLellan said he was going to start him at 3RW and work his way up and, by the way, we don’t know what we’re going to do about our 1RW?

    You are amazing at pulling things out of context and putting a negative spin on them in an attempt to come across as the smartest guy in the room.

  • OldOilFan

    Strome’s scouting report when he was drafted emphasized his play-making ability.

    Maybe Oilers mgmt sees him as potential setup man for McD and Maroon. (McD frequently had difficulty “finishing” his brilliant rushes to the net, last year – because he got in too close or “too tight” to the net. Strome could potentially help in that situation: by taking the puck and protecting it just long enough for McD or Maroon to get open…?)

  • JimmyV1965

    For all the people who call Eberle lazy, please explain what you mean. The worst player in the NHL is a world class athlete. I might be wrong here, but my gut feeling tells me world class athletes don’t get there by being lazy. Maybe Eberle’s parents are rich and they paid the Oilers to draft him. I know he’s scored 165 goals in the NHL, but I estimate 140 of them were flukes.

    • TKB2677

      I called Eberle a lazy player and I will be glad to explain what I mean. I called Eberle a lazy player because of his unwillingness to battle for pucks. When you don’t have the puck, you have to go get it. At 5’11 (yeah right) and 184 soaking wet, he’s not blessed with tremendous size. So he’s not going to out muscle a 6’2, 215 lbs dman for a puck. So that means he has to battle hard to try and get it. He doesn’t do that. He’s not hard on the puck as in its easy to get the puck from him. There are lots of small guys who are dogged on the puck and its hard to get it from them. Eberle is not one of them. He doesn’t back check hard. No one expects him to win a Selke but he coasts into his own zone WAY too often. How many times have we seen Eberle’s guy going to the net all alone and there is Eberle behind him coasting and when the goal is scored, Eberle slams his stick and throws his head back because he knows he screwed up again. It doesn’t take a lot to lift a stick if you are trying to do it. In the playoffs in the second round, when the Oilers were up 3-0, at home (I was at the game and watched this in front of me) the puck was in the Oilers zone. This was the Perry interfering with Talbot goal that didn’t get called back by the way. Eberle had the puck, he was all alone, flipped the puck weakly up the boards, saw it wasn’t going to get out, started to skate towards it, saw a Ducks player coming to get the puck and the STOPPED. Eberle pulled up, let the Ducks player get the puck and it was in the net. If Eberle does his job, not be lazy defensively, engages the Ducks player and at the very least tries to get the puck so in turn the Ducks player has to work for the work even for a couple of seconds, that goal doesn’t happen.

        • TKB2677

          Never once did I say anything about hitting. If you don’t skate hard back to your zone, is that not lazy? Other than anyone with the last name Eberle, most people would say it is. It’s not the 80’s where its OK to stand at the center line slapping your stick on the ice for the puck. You are expected to at least pick up your man and stick check him. When it’s 5 on 5, everyone has a man so you can’t let you man skate around the ice wide open. That has nothing to do with being physical, that’s hockey basics. Pick up the open man. What does being strong on your stick and strong on the puck have to do with hitting? It doesn’t. Engaging in the play and going after the puck has nothing to do with hitting. Nuge is not a big guy or a overly physical player but you don’t see him standing there watching the other player with the puck. He gets in there and battles him. This isn’t participation hockey where everyone gets a turn with the puck. If you don’t have the puck you have to go get it. You don’t have to blow a guy up to go after the puck but you do have to get near a guy, go tie up his stick. The opposition isn’t going to just give you the puck to be fair.

        • Rock11

          Mario was called lazy all the time early in his career. Some people look at a certain style and being stoic and immediately assign a character flaw to it. I don’t believe Eberle was lazy. I believe he understood his strengths and weaknesses and played the game to accentuate the positive and minimize the weaknesses. What many people here fail to comprehend is that many different skill sets are needed to build a winner. For too long Edm didn’t have enough size and toughness. Now all everybody wants is size and toughness but you also need finesses and skill. That can be as intimidating to the opposition as a team full of Lucices…Lucici… not sure what the plural of Lucic should be but you get the point. Oiler fans tend more toward the knuckledragger end of the spectrum though and Eberle didn’t fit into that fandom.

          • Big Nuggets

            you’re analysis I feel is more applicable to the RNH debate than the Eberle debate. If Eb’s could have remained a 30 goal threat or done anything in the playoffs the nay sayers wouldnt be so loud. Eberle unfortunately has not adapted his game over the last few seasons and became largely ineffective.

  • Thumby

    Eberle was a minus player in every way and with every player. If strome comes out positive plus minus we are miles ahead regardless of absolute point totals. How does being in the ice for 50 goals for and 60 against at evens help when you don’t do anything but cherry pick for points as Eberle did? My guess is we’re 10 points better overall this year if we stay as healthy as we did lastly year.

  • RJ

    There is still an unanswered question for me.

    Letestu did very well with McD because he could shoot a one-timer. Eberle for all his skill could not.

    How is Strome’s one-timer?

  • daryl

    Sorry but you are wrong confidence is the most important aspect of a players worth to the team and Strome lost it if you can’t get that back playing with Conner then you are not an NHL player.