To New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight, getting Jordan Eberle’s confidence back needs to be one of the team’s priorities this fall.Jordan Eberle, the Islanders’ top offseason acquisition, was inconsistent in Edmonton, which is why Doug Weight believes that rekindling his fire is a priority this fall.
His thoughts on the trade that sent Ryan Strome to the Oilers in exchange for Eberle was the most intriguing tidbit to come out of Weight’s appearance with EJ Hradek on NHL Tonight. But he also touched on captain John Tavares’ future and the team’s first-ever fantasy camp.
“I think it’s always tough making those deals, you know,” Weight remarked. “Strome is a great kid, and we wish him the best.” But you could feel his excitement when he started to talk about Eberle.
“You can get cemented in some roles, you can get lost in tough times, but Jordan still produced, and he’s a hell of a talent, and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him, and I’m excited for him to get here.”
Strome, 24, was drafted fifth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft but never came close to hitting his high ceiling or meeting the lofty expectations placed upon him. Following a rocky start to the 2016-17 campaign, in which ex-skipper Jack Capuano repeatedly scratched him, Strome turned the corner, producing at a much higher level after Weight took over.
I detailed Strome’s turnaround back in February.
“It’s that character—his work ethic and humility—that has catapulted him back into the conversation. When everybody wrote him off, Strome did what the best athletes do: he worked even harder.”
Strome finished the season with 13 goals and 17 assists, but that’s not the point. In the words of Weight, “he is engaging and cognizant defensively,” and “is shooting the puck well.” That paid dividends: for the second time in his professional career, Strome reached the 30-point plateau.
So it was a little surprising that the Isles traded Strome of all players last month. But, as the saying goes, you’ve got to give to get. And the Islanders sure got.
Eberle, 27, notched 51 points last season—the fourth time he’s crossed the 50-point mark in his career. He’s an elite goal-scoring talent and capable setup man. While he was inconsistent with Edmonton, that isn’t stopping anybody from expressing their excitement.
“Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight told Hradek. “I’m excited to coach him, I’ve watched him a lot, I’ve always admired his skill level and his game. Anybody in the last three-four years who put up 75, 76 points and scored 34 goals [is good in my books].”
Back to the inconsistency: At 5’11”, 184 pounds, Eberle isn’t always capable of winning corner battles with regularity. But it extends to more than that—the right winger, who is expected to start the season on Tavares’ line, sometimes loses his focus.
This happened during the playoffs. When his team needed his services the most, Eberle faltered. He notched just two points in 13 games. “That’s a confidence thing, really,” he told Global News’ Reid Wilkins. “The post-season didn’t go the way I wanted it to go.”
“I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger that sometimes gets lost,” Weight said.