Jordan Eberle signed a 6 year, $36M contract extension with
the Edmonton Oilers yesterday and the reaction among fans has been mixed.
Eberle is as much of a folk-hero as a 22 year old hockey player in Edmonton can
be in 2012 with some of the most famous goals in World Junior Hockey
Championship history (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kghBi1w-c3E)
successful rookie season (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tB9K_eG8_3I)
, and a
sophomore effort that placed him tied for 15th
in NHL scoring .
These are rare heights for an Edmonton Oiler (since Mark
Messier was traded in 1991, who have we had: Doug Weight and Ales Hemsky?) but
many writers have shown that Eberle’s 2011/2012 season needs to be taken with a
huge grain of salt. While Eberle is clearly a bonafide offensive producer at
the NHL level, his goal totals last season came riding the wave of an
absolutely monstrous shooting percentage (as shown by Mudcrutch here
Tyler’s look at shooting percentages (and most notably, shooting percentage
regression) has led him to the conclusion that Jordan Eberle can be counted on
for just 55-60 pts for the duration of his contract.
Tyler generally produces excellent work and I can’t help but
agree with him when he says “I’d be a lot more surprised if he broke 70 points
without a significant improvement in his Corsi or shot numbers.” It is clear
that we can’t expect Eberle to score once for every five of his shots for the
next 7 years. Jonathan Willis has chimed in
as well of course and his
conclusion after writing this
is that 13.6% is likely a more reasonable target. To follow through on this
suggestion, Willis has predicted we can expect Eberle to be a 26 goal player.
Not bad, but is this worth $6M per season?
The one thing I want to do is attempt to
quantify the natural improvement of a younger player. I’m not talking about
intangible or fluffy “he is young so 34G this year means 40 forever” sort of
stuff – all I want to see is someone taking a thorough run at predicting how many more
shots Eberle might be able to generate year over year. After all, he is just 22
years old and I think it’s safe to say he hasn’t topped out in terms of driving
possession as an NHL player. Coming right up: my (limited) attempt to address
exactly this point.
What did I do? I took a look at the 25 forwards born between
1987 and 1989 who:
- Played 3 or more seasons in the NHL
- Scored at 0.5 pts/game or better
- Took shots
(click to enlarge)
One note: I considered a player’s “1st” season to
be one in which he played at least half the games. If a player got hurt in year
2 or 3 (Max Pacioretty, for example) I left him on my list.
All I did was count games played and shots taken, then look
to see if players were shooting more year over year. Have a look at the data
below. Players are sorted in terms of points per game.
- The majority of players on this list generated
more shots each season. To be specific, 20/25 improved their shooting rates
between seasons 1 and 2 while 17/25 improved their shooting rates between
seasons 2 and 3. Great.
- In seasons 1, 2, and 3, the players on this list
took an average of 1.98, 2.33, and 2.46 shots per game. Over an 82 game season,
this would result in a 28.7 shot improvement in a player’s 2nd
season and a 10.7 shot improvement in his 3rd season. That’s not a
whole lot, is it? For a 13.6% shooter, that’s just 4 goals from season 1 to 2
and less than 2 goals from season 2 to 3.
- Jordan Eberle took more shots than average when
compared to the rest of these players as a rookie and about the same number of
shots as average in his sophomore season. What about season 3?
Sam Gagner actually shows wonderfully in terms
of shot generation (1.71, 2.05, and 2.50 shots per game each season). Did the
wave of good luck in his rookie season damn him in terms of fan expectations or
what? Will that be Eberle in 3 years?
- If he takes this group’s average of 2.46 shots
per game over 82 games, he’ll take 202 shots. If he shoots at 13.6%, that’s about
- If he increases his shot totals by exactly the
same amount from season 2 to 3 as he did from season 1 to 2, that’s only 2.33
shots per game. Over 82 games, that’s 191 shots and shooting at 13.6% that’s almost
exactly 26 goals.
I’ll get into the (many) limitations of what I’ve done in a
second but I should say that I’m honestly disappointed by what I’ve found. When
Tyler and others have harped on about shooting percentage regression, I’ve
always been of the mind that increases in shot-taking would make up for some or
most of it – IE sure, Eberle would probably hit a few more posts but he’d be
shooting so much more that 35G would probably still be a reasonable prediction.
Now, I’m obviously quite a bit less convinced. Is $6M per season good value for
a 30G / 30A player? I suppose that’s the next question.
Obviously, my quick take has some limitations so I’ll point
out the ones I can think of:
- It does not take context into account. I have
not sorted for PP/EV goals, icetime, or quality of teammates/competition. Some
of these guys may have had changes in role which affected their shot
- 25 players is not a huge list.
- It does not look at improvement or decline over
a player’s career. This is the big one: if shot generation improves every year
from 22-28, Eberle’s deal looks better and better. If it plateaus early on,
then $6M/year for a 30G/30A is kind of a “what you see is what you get” sort of
contract. In terms of % cap hit, I’m sure this is a different case but I bet
there are a lot of fans who think Eberle’s contract is great for Edmonton that
were more than happy to see Smyth go to Long Island way back when.
So: thoughts? What else did I miss? Has anyone else been curious
about this same question? How do I get a better answer? (etc.) Anyhow, have a great weekend everybody. It’s beer time here in