Jordan Eberle and P.K. Subban. The pair are vastly different from one another at this point in their respective careers, but the question is why?
Both players are 2-time members of Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, and were teammates on the gold medal-winning 2009 squad. Both players excelled in junior hockey and were highly touted prospects in addition to becoming first round picks. And both players are currently in their second NHL season. But both players are not having measurable success with their clubs.
Jordan Eberle is enjoying a ‘breakout’ season while P.K. Subban has struggled in his sophomore campaign, descending in and out of the coach’s doghouse – and ultimately the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup.
So I ask again, why is Jordan Eberle having tremendous success in Edmonton while P.K. Subban has struggled not only with offensive production but also with his reputation?
I’m not entirely sure, but I think I can venture a guess on this one. Jordan Eberle just gets it. You can’t really say the same for Subban.
In his young career with the Montreal Canadiens, Subban has shown flashes of brilliance. His long distance rushes up ice have almost as much potential to dazzle fans as do his crushing open-ice bodychecks. Subban literally has the full complement of skills necessary to succeed in the NHL. Speed, size, ice-awareness, toughness, and a booming shot are all assets that belong to the 22-year old defenseman, but none of these abilities can overcome the one thing that plagues P.K. Subban: maturity, or in his case a lack thereof.
In his second NHL season, much was expected from the young defenseman after potting 14 goals and 38 points (and 124 penalty minutes) in his rookie year. While Subban’s penalty totals have remained constant – a reflection of his sometimes ‘over the top’ antics on the ice – his point totals are set to regress as he is on pace for only 6 goals and 30 points. The lack of offensive production has admittedly frustrated Subban, but that is no excuse for taking countless stupid penalties – not to mention his propensity for the “slewfoot.” Additionally, opponents loathe Subban for his unending trash-talk and apparent sense of entitlement as a member of the NHL’s most prestigious franchise.
By and large, Subban’s lack of maturity has produced disastrous results in his young career. He is easily considered one of the dirtiest players in the league, he ranks highly as ‘most hated’ among players, and continues to find himself victimized on the defensive end of the puck. It’s gotten so bad that not only has Subban received hatred from opposing fans and players, but the anger has bubbled over among his teammates. In a Canadiens’ practice earlier this season, P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec actually dropped the gloves and fought each other. Admittedly these things happen in professional sports, but when it’s just another example of Subban’s questionable character there is reason to worry.
I firmly believe that P.K. Subban will experience a career renaissance at some point in time, but not before he learns to exude humility and place the concerns of his teammates – and the greater integrity of the game – ahead of his own personal gain. I don’t really like depressing stories, so let’s turn the conversation to Jordan Eberle and look at a guy who, as I said before, just seems to get it.
Jordan Eberle burst into our collective consciousness after an outstanding performance at the 2009 World Junior Championships, most notably in the semi-final in which Eberle scored twice (depicted above) – including the game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds remaining to force overtime – and added a marker in the shootout to clinch a berth in the final for Team Canada. He continued his ‘clutch’ performances on the international stage in the following year’s WJC tourney, garnering Tournament MVP and Top Forward honors. With 14 goals in his World Junior appearances, Jordan Eberle is also Canada’s all-time leading goalscorer in the tournament.
In his rookie season with the Oilers, Eberle notched 18 goals and 43 points in 69 games. In only 50 games played this season Eberle has already amassed 20 goals and 54 points, and is on pace to lead the club with nearly 90 points. Even more impressive is that Eberle has been able to produce offense even while linemates (and no. 1 overall draft picks) Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been sidelined with injuries. Firing at a shooting-percentage of 20.5% Eberle is leading the NHL in that category among players with 100+ shots on goal. In his sophomore season Eberle has truly emerged as a leader of the young Oilers squad.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic for Jordan Eberle this season is the fact that in 50 games played, he has accumulated only four minor penalties. On a pace to finish the season with 32 goals, 88+ points and only 13 penalty minutes, Jordan Eberle has established himself as a legitimate Lady-Byng candidate for the 2011-12 season. If we take a quick peek at Martin St. Louis (the winner of the Lady Byng trophy the past two seasons) and his statistics over the previous two years, we are left with some crude averages: 30 goals, 96 points, 12 penalty minutes. Looks a little familiar, eh?
So what are we left with? Should we immediately anoint Eberle the second-coming of Gretzky and write off Subban as some sort of Alexander Daigle-esque bust? The answer is clearly a resounding no, but it bears repeating that one of these players has lived up to the hype while the other simply has not.
In a recent interview, Eberle was asked about being part of the future for the Edmonton Oilers. To paraphrase his response, Eberle noted that while he revels in being a part of the Edmonton Oilers’ future, he takes even greater pride in being part of the Edmonton Oilers’ present. Ladies and gentlemen, Jordan Eberle has arrived.
Fans of Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge can only hope P.K. Subban follows suit.