Jordan Eberle doesn’t try and stick-handle around the obvious.
He’s a shooter who can’t score.
"I'm a goal-scorer ... that's what I get paid to do," said the Edmonton Oilers winger, who averages about 25 goals a season hasn’t beaten a goalie in 15 games.
He has eight goals in 106 shots, which if math serves us well, is 7.5 per cent efficiency. He has five goals in his last 39 games which is mind-blowing.
“I feel the pressure of not scoring,” said Eberle. “The law of averages says they’ll start going in soon. I’m about 13 per cent (shooting percentage) normally. I’m a strong believer in everything equals out. The positive thing is we’re in a playoff spot and the team hasn’t really needed my offence.”
His defence is good. He’s plus-1 during his scoring tumble since his last goal Dec. 6 in Buffalo and hasn’t been anything worse than minus-1 in any game since Nov. 3 (minus-4 against the New York Rangers). On the season, he’s minus-2.
But he’s not paid $6-million a year just to play well away from the puck. In the last 15 games, he has just 23 shots. In eight of those games he’s had one or fewer shots. He’s had 34, 28, 25 and 24-goal seasons in his first seven seasons. He’s also had 63, 65 and 76-point seasons. He has 26 points right now. For two thirds of the time he’s played with Connor McDavid, and it’s been a struggle.
“It’s been painful for sure,” Eberle said. “But I’m playing well on the other side of the puck and the coach has confidence to put me out there. I think I’m creating things and keeping the puck out of our net.”
Eberle normally shoots from around 22 feet from the net but this season it’s over 26 feet so he’s being pushed farther back by checkers or he’s not fighting enough to get into the scoring areas.
This is the longest he’s ever gone without a goal.
“I’ve gone through my chances ... like any player you want to improve. I go over video every single day,” Eberle said. “I look at my shots, where the goals have been scored in the past, what the differences are,” he said. “I need to find a way to get the shot off quicker, find the little spot, get around the net.
“I want to have more of a bear-down mentality, and, yeah, I need a bounce.”
Eberle’s shot velocity, which has been a concern, maybe isn’t good enough to score from farther out.
He did have a skills coach this past summer to work on his release but it hasn’t factored into goals. What is also a worry is the number of times he’s missing the net on strong chances, which didn’t happen before. He’s trying to be too fine, maybe.
What it also comes down to is shot efficiency. He’s a career 13.5 per cent. This year he’s well off that. A similar sized player Cam Atkinson in Columbus has 20 goals in about the same number of shots and is clicking at 16.5 percent. Artemi Panarin, also about 175 pounds in Chicago has 17 goals and is averaging 15.2 per cent.
“I can’t beat around the bush. Jordan Eberle has to score for our team to have success,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “When you’re not scoring, you have to do a number of other things but you can only talk about those for so long. Eventually, you have to produce and score goals.
“He’s been more assertive the last three or four games, taking the puck to the net ... he had a breakaway chance in Ottawa and we haven’t had as many power-play opportunities which creates more chances for offensive players.
“The smaller players have to get to the spots they need to get to. It makes no sense for a smaller player to get inside and take a beating for nothing if the puck’s not going but there has to be anticipation skills and I’m not just talking about Jordan, you have to know you have to be a certain area to score goals. You go a foot outside that range and your percentage drops.”
Eberle isn’t living in his own little world. He sees what’s going on in other places. Kids are scoring, people like Anze Kopitar have four goals.
“Some of these young guys have 20 goals (Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews) already. Sid (Crosby) almost has 30,” Eberle said. “And then there’s other guys, potential Hall of Famers (Joe Thornton) who have two goals. There’s different sides of the spectrum.
“That said, I’ve always been a consistent scorer. I’ve contributed in that fashion.”
(Jim Matheson/Edmonton Sun)