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Jordan Eberle is Not a Perimeter Player

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Despite what some people think, Eberle is not afraid to go to the "tough areas."

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It's the most wonderful time of the year in Edmonton. There's snow on the ground, and family and friends are getting together to share in the great winter tradition of calling the Oilers soft, and hypothesising the trades of talented young players for Cement-skates McSandpaper, the rugged defensive defenceman from that team that you never watch, who are in front of us in the standings. You know, all of them.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle seem to be the names that most fans and media members have on the trading block. To be clear, I don't really see the harm in fans speculating about trades they would make, if given the power and opportunity to do so. I don't think there's such a thing as an untouchable asset. If I were Peter Chiarelli, and someone offered me a working time machine, and the rights to every member of the 1987 Canadian Canada Cup team for Connor McDavid, I would definitely have to call for a meeting with my time travel plausibility team (and you thought Corsi fans were nerdy). After all, I'm a huge Norman Rochefort fan. His name literally means rock strong. That's so gritty!

The thing I'm less fond of, is when people act as if quality players are hurting the team more than they're helping it, because of some perceived flaw in their style of play.

The tweet above is an example of the type of sentiment I'm referring to. I'm not trying to pick on Matheson. He's a legend, and still one of my favorite mainstream Oilers reporters. To his credit, he also tweeted this:

This is something I totally agree with. I don't think Eberle has been 100% this year, since returning from a preseason shoulder injury. But he's a very good player, who probably wouldn't get a fair return on the trade market if he was traded right now.

The statement I have an issue with, is that it's "not in Jordan Eberle's DNA to score many goals from the blue paint". Eberle will never be confused with Ryan Smyth, so if Matheson means that Eberle literally won't score many goals by standing on the edge of the crease, and deflecting shots off his face, he's right. But that doesn't mean that Eberle won't go to the tough areas to score. He's anything but a perimeter player, and the numbers prove it.

In his career, Eberle has attempted 1111 shots at 5 on 5. 857 of those were unblocked, and 641 of them have been on net. Of all of his attempted shots, 784 of them have been characterized as scoring chances, based on war-on-ice's definition of the term (meaning that the attempt didn't come from a low-danger area). Additionally, 358 of Eberle's career 5 on 5 shot attempts have come from a high-danger area (otherwise known as home-plate).

Only Taylor Hall has more high-danger scoring chances for the Oilers, since the start of 2010, with 376. But Hall, who is easily the team's most prolific shooter, has attempted 1368 shots over that timeframe. Hall is often correctly characterized as a fearless net-driving player, willing to go to the tough areas, in order to take high quality shots. But Eberle actually takes a higher percentage of his 5 on 5 shot attempts from high-danger areas, 32.2% to 27.5%.

How about comparing Eberle to a true power forward, like Milan Lucic. Surely the 6'4" 235lb Lucic goes to the front of the net more regularly than the 5'11" 181lb Eberle. But according to shot location data, that's not true.

Since the start of 2010-11 (5 on 5):

Eberle Lucic
Ind. CF 1111 1366
Ind. HDSC 358 345
iHDSC/game 0.97 0.75
iHDSC/iCF 0.32 0.25

As you can see, even compared to the most powerful of power-forwards, the pint-sized Eberle is anything but a perimeter player. He has a 14.0% shooting percentage for his career, and it's because he has great hands, and a willingness to attack the high-danger areas in order to take quality shots, despite being one of the smaller players in the league. In my book, that's not the type of player who should be considered soft.