Thursday was a whirlwind of a day for Oilers fans. With the announcement that Jordan Eberle had been traded to the New York Islanders for 23-year-old Ryan Strome, the Oilers’ “old core”, consisting of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, lost its penultimate piece. Many Oilers fans were immediately outraged, pointing out the clear difference in value between the struggling Strome and perennial fan-favourite Eberle in a one-for-one deal.
I am by no means innocent of this.
However, emotions subsided and I began to take a more in-depth look at the two players and realized this move might just work out well for Edmonton.
Jordan Eberle’s consistent 20 goal per year pace will be missed. There’s no question about that. There’s also no question that the 27-year-old’s numbers have continuously declined over the past 4 seasons (67pts/82 in 2013-14, 64pts/82 in 2014-15, 56 pts/82 in 2015-16 and a career-low 51 pts/82 in 2016-17). This past season’s dramatic decrease could largely be due to an offseason change in shooting coaches or the fact that he played 2nd line minutes full-time alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose numbers also saw a decrease this season, and tough-guy Milan Lucic, each of whom are on $6m AAV deals.
Now, 20 goals and 51 points for a second-line right winger is pretty good, but it’s not $6,000,000 good. So why did it have to be Eberle that was moved? Why not Nugent-Hopkins, who has only crossed the 20 goal threshold once in his career? Why not Lucic, who has only averaged 52 points per year since the 2012 lockout?
It comes down to playoffs, specialties, and effort. While Eberle had more points than both of his linemates this season, his game showed no signs of improvement. Nugent-Hopkins showed drastic improvement in his two-way game, flashing his potential to be a stud defensive centreman with high hockey IQ. Lucic showed his tenacity and ability to muscle the puck through crowds into high-danger areas in the offensive zone.
Eberle displayed almost no defensive play, physicality, or hockey smarts. He regressed. No way around that. He was far and wide the Oilers’ most disappointing playoff performer, registering a total of 2 assists in the Oilers’ 13 contests. For a guy who waited 7 seasons before playing his first playoff game, you’d expect a little more heart. As was stated1 by Oilers analyst Drew Remenda, Eberle doesn’t put enough effort into either his training or his team.
At 27, you can’t teach a guy good work ethics. At 27, you can’t teach him team morals. At 27, you either have these character traits or you don’t, and it sure looks like Jordan Eberle doesn’t.
I am not a firm believer in ‘addition by subtraction’, but on this new hard-working, gritty Connor McDavid Oilers team, there’s no place for a guy who won’t give it 110%.
1 – http://edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/nhl/cult-of-hockey/shots-fired-jordan-eberle-called-out-for-weak-practice-habits-by-edmonton-oilers-insider