As the hockey season draws near, there are many questions that will face the 2017-18 version of the New York Islanders. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made. Over the next 30 days, our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
We’re halfway home to the start of the regular season. 15 days to go. So why not bring up the newest New York Islander, Jordan Eberle.
For the last year and a half, Eberle’s name surfaced around the Islanders. The Edmonton Oilers forward seemed to be one of the targets that the organization was eyeing as the team looked for another solidified winger to play with John Tavares. As the offseason kicked in to full swing, the rumors of Eberle being dealt to the Isles got hotter by the day. On the day before the draft, the trigger was finally pulled.
Eberle was dealt to New York for Ryan Strome in one-for-one deal. The trade seemed to not come to the surprise of many especially with how much Strome struggled the past two seasons.
There was a lot of talk about why the deal was made. Whether it was Eberle’s performance in last years’ playoffs — two points in 13 games –, him not being able to produce with Connor McDavid, having some trouble with the coaching staff, or being accused of playing a “soft” game. Aside from those reasons, the Isles brass decided to take a chance on the 27-year old. They saw Eberle as a player who could add another element to the offense. A player who needed a fresh start. A still relatively-young guy who has a chip on his shoulder. What could also be taken in to account for why the team brought Eberle in was his friendship with captain John Tavares and their history of playing together. He also had familiarity with Thomas Hickey, Jason Chimera and Johnny Boychuk all being from the Alberta area where they all trained together.
After the trade was made, Eberle was welcomed with open arms by the organization. He continues to say all the right things and seems ready to prove a lot of people wrong.
Now we all know what happened when Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, who were free agents, when they came to the Islanders last year: It took them some time to adjust before they became comfortable. The hope is that Eberle doesn’t go through the same process this season. In my opinion, I don’t think he will. Eberle did get married over the summer, and he doesn’t really have to worry about the whole family aspect with the trade. From a team perspective, Eberle has the chance to be the biggest upgrade of any team from the offseason.
It’s almost set in stone that Eberle will be on the first line with John Tavares and Anders Lee.
Tavares is Tavares, and Lee is coming off the best season of his career. Eberle on that line adds another bonafide playmaker, while his skillset is the kind of attribute that could make that first line one of the most feared in the league. Eberle should find himself a home and success on the Islanders power play as well. His passing capability will be a weapon that will allow his teammates to find open space, and also create more balance on an improved man-advantage. The first line is where Eberle belongs, but that doesn’t mean that if he were to be moved around the top-nine that he wouldn’t be able to adapt and be able to contribute with likes of Ho-Sang, Nelson, Ladd, Bailey, etc.
It was said that Eberle’s season last year, where he only recorded 51 points, was a “down” year. If those numbers are a down year for him, there’s no reason he won’t thrive on the Isles. Going from the hockey-crazed city of Edmonton to the less-crazed city like New York could relieve some of the pressure off Eberle, and help him defy the expectations set for him from the fans and writers.
Now that he’s here, the expectations are very high for Jordan Eberle and the New York Islanders. He was brought here as one of the missing pieces to the puzzle to help turn this club in to a contender. If Eberle flourishes this year, the team will be ready to do damage.