Even prior to Jordan Eberle signing his six-year, 36 million dollar deal with the Edmonton Oilers yesterday, the blogosphere was abuzz discussing his value. He put up mammoth numbers last season, made the all-star team, and the team’s other young star (well, one of them – Taylor Hall) had already signed his long-term deal.
The reason for the buzz was this: Oilers fans blindly love their electric young talent (sign him!), but the advanced stat crowd was pushing back (it’s a bad time after a lucky season!), citing his shooting percentage.
And oh man did that crowd cite his shooting percentage.
Tyler Dellow wrote about it (multiple times, predicting 54-60 points over 82 games, down from 76). Jonathan Willis wrote about it (predicting 26 goals in 82 games, down from 34). Scott Reynolds wrote about it. David Staples wrote about it. Our own Cam Charron wrote about it this morning. Even the Edmonton Journal mentioned it. You get the point.
In most cases, the theory is as follows. Jordan Eberle scored on nearly 19% percent of the shots he took last year, a preposterously high number (fourth highest in the NHL for players with over 100 shots). That is not sustainable. Because of that, the reality is that he’s a 50-60 point guy, and a 25-30 goal scorer, not a 30+, 70+ guy.
With Backhand Shelf being advanced stat heavy (Cam Charron and Daniel Wagner both use them often, Ellen Etchingham and Ryan Lambert both respect them), I feel the need to provide some balance in this debate: Jordan Eberle is not headed for some precipitous fall-off next season if he stays healthy. Also, his extension is pretty damn fair for a guy on an entry level deal after an all-star season. You can dislike it because you think he may fall down the depth chart in the future with all the team’s young talent behind him, but don’t go thinking the dollar amount is unreasonable based on his performance to date (well, under the current cap anyway – we’ll be able to better judge it once the new CBA is signed).
I just cannot believe how little this kid’s age has been referenced in the discussion. Like he’s not going to improve?
Yes, your average player doesn’t see huge spikes and dips in their shooting percentage (which the advanced stat crowd thinks is luck – it varies from player to player because it isn’t entirely) without seeing results that exceed or fail-to-meet expectations. But there’s more to hockey than that. These aren’t computers playing the game.
Jordan Eberle will play next season in the NHL as a 22 year old, and it’ll be his third NHL season. He is still physically maturing. As with all players who crack the NHL at a young age, it takes awhile to hit their ceiling.
In the WHL, he scored 55 points as a rookie. Then 75. The 74 (less games). Then 105. He got bigger, stronger, faster, and more used to playing at that level. That happens at every level.
If Eberle’s shooting percentage were to fall (it will considerably), does that mean he’s a 50 point player? Of course it doesn’t. He’s going to be a better player next year because of physical and mental development. He’s going to be a better player because the Oilers exceedingly young team is another year older, and undeniably has more talent on the roster. He’s going to create more, and be the benefactor of more chances. Even if that development is incremental, it’s something (he’s also expressed that he’s had the best summer of training of his life).
I could see Jordan Eberle being a 70 point guy over the next six years (again, assuming he’s healthy), and frankly, I think the Oilers would be disappointed if he isn’t. As he showed in junior, he also has the capability to be among the best at his given level, meaning this is a guy who could go off for a 90 point season somewhere along the way. If 2/3rds of these young Oilers turn out to be what we think they can, I don’t think it’d be possible to play 82 games alongside them and put up 50-60 points with his talent level.
Eberle could score 30-plus goals again next season. I think he may need more shots to do it, but I think he’s going to get more. At the very least, I think he’s going to be able to get himself better looks to bury those shots too.
There’s way too much attention being placed on one stat here. The human element matters.