Edmonton Oilers: Eberle and the Rotating Right-Wingers | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

Edmonton Oilers: Eberle and the Rotating Right-Wingers

On Saturday, Jordan Eberle will be back on the top line with Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic. It was this trio that started the season and the line the coaches had hoped would lead Edmonton on most nights in their search for consistent offense. The results, unfortunately, have not been consistent and mostly due to chemistry and the scoring inability of Jordan Eberle.

Scoring wingers can be streaky. That comes with the territory. Eberle has 23 points in 32 games and is on pace for 58 points. That total is actually not terribly far off from his regular season averages. The problem is, he has only 8 goals in that time. This would equal the lowest goal total of his NHL career (since his rookie year) at 20. A player who is supposed to be top line and worth $6 million needs to score more.

In his absence (I say absence because there have been games Eberle has been completely invisible), the Oilers have tried almost everything. They've given shots to third-line players like Zack Kassian and experimented with depth forwards like Tyler Pitlick. The Oilers have moved up rookies like Jesse Puljujarvi and tried out recently demoted wingers like Anton Slepyshev. Nothing has stuck.

The closest to a win on McDavid's wing may have been Leon Draisaitl — a natural center —  but the Oilers aren't keen on keeping Draisaitl on the wing, seeing as how he's driving the play and scoring despite not playing with the Oilers' superstar.

Eberle Needs to Make it Work

Jordan Eberle needs to get going. Perhaps more importantly, he needs to click with McDavid. Coincidentally, Eberle's best chance to get out of this slump is to play with the best player on the team. To go night in and night out with a player that will hold him accountable and wants to win, score and succeed will be good for Eberle's consistency.

The good news is, Eberle already knows how to play with McDavid. While Eberle isn't the fastest skater, he's got experience working with McDavid's all-world speed, What can be added is a willingness for Eberle to do what brought him to the dance. This includes shooting more, finding his scoring chances and being aggressive. He's trending down in every single one of those regards and this is a problem, especially considering the Oilers have no better options.

And, If He Can't?

If Eberle can't get on track, the Oilers may look to do something unique. Taylor Beck was just recalled from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL. If the Oilers choose to give Beck a shot, it would mean another experiment on right wing, but it would also mean taking the leading AHL scorer and putting him with the leading NHL scorer. I'm not sure if and when that's ever been done before.

As unique and interesting as that story would be, it probably isn't the ideal scenario for the Oilers. Edmonton would rather not have to rely on a player who was just in the AHL to come up with mandatory offense for them in the NHL. If Eberle could turn the corner and get himself on a streak here, he'll also be helping out his fellow wingers (like Beck) by allowing them to play in positions they are more suited for.

Out of His Comfort Zone

One of the things Eberle should try doing is expanding his comfort zone. That means becoming more than a one-dimensional player. Unlike a player like McDavid, who will go straight forward, challenging the defense, Eberle shows a consistent willingness to circle back and restart the play. It's not fair to suggest Eberle emulate McDavid, who clearly has more speed and skill on the rush, but with a little urgency, Eberle could draw penalties, crash the net and make things uncomfortable for the defense.

Coach Todd McLellan once told Leon Draisaitl he was a good hockey player. That instead of defaulting to McDavid all the time, Draisaitl needed to play like he knew he was a good hockey player. This may be good advice for a player like Eberle.

Perhaps he needs reminding of his skill level and his ability to score. Perhaps he could be a bit more bull-headed and make that play he's otherwise afraid to make in this drought. Edmonton can't keep rotating wingers forever. Someone needs to stick and that someone should be Jordan Eberle.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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