Back in the olden days, Ben Eager would have played for one of about three or four NHL teams. Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston, tough teams that could intimidate.
Eager’s counting numbers are a nice comparable for old timey Flyer Bob “Hound Dog” Kelly; last season’s 68gp, 7-10-17 120 for Eager would be a nice (adjusted for scoring effects by era) Bob Kelly season 35+ years ago.
Ben Eager is filthy.
Oiler fans are going to have to get used to having a “bad guy” on the team (Georges Laraque, gentleman fighter he is not) and coach Renney is going to have to coach him up and get him to take fewer costly penalties. When he was in San Jose in the spring, their coach (Todd McLellan) liked his physical style of play but didn’t like all those penalties.
- McLellan: “I’ll take Ben Eager’s game without the penalties any night. He was an honest guy, battled hard, skated, fought through everything.”
NHL Prediction for 11-12: 69, 8-8-16 (.232)
- Who does he replace? JF Jacques.
- How big an upgrade? I believe it will be significant. Ben Eager can play NHL hockey.
- What happened with Jacques? Two things. First, injuries had a tremendous impact on the guy and I don’t know that we ever got to see the player at his best. Second, he lacked a certain ability to move the play forward consistently.
- Hockey sense? Man, I hate that phrase. I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to start talking about hockey sense because then we’re getting into areas that can’t be measured and then we’re back to boxcars and hockey cards. I do think he had some trouble with some of the basics, especially after his back started giving him trouble.
- Quinn got a lot out of him, put him on the top line. Suffice to say that it was ill-advised and that it was not a fair move for the player. Jacques’ style didn’t fit Hemsky’s, and it doesn’t take a lot of hockey sense to see that’s true.
- Back to Eager. Where does he play? Four line minutes, four line mates, chipping in some offensively and providing a physical element.
- Plus he has a Stanley. Well I’m not a person who believes that gives a player extra intelligence or elevated ability, but do believe the Oilers could learn about how to use him based on Chicago’s coaching strategy that spring.
- How did they use him? 4line help and opponent, 6 minutes at evens a night, no PP and no PK time.
- Is he the most talented 4line player the Oilers have on the roster? No, Belanger (who as of now is projected in the role but is overqualified), Hartikainen, Brule are probably more talented too.
- And Ryan Jones? Hmmm. I’ll say no. I’d take Eager over Jones at even strength and I don’t think either of them belong on the PP.
- Eager the enforcer over Jones the energy player? Right. Eager scored 1.36/60 at 5×5 this past season (courtesy Gabriel Desjardins’ behind the net) and Ryan Jones was at 1.38/60 at 5×5 during a career season. The previous season it was 1.94 to 1.21 in Eager’s favor.
- Eager at 6 minutes a night and you’re happy. Right. 6 minutes a night, cut back on the penalties taken and let him agitate like an old time washing machine. I have him playing 9 minutes a night in the RE template because the coach will try him in several roles until he feels comfortable with him.
- And if someone gets injured he moves up the depth chart, right? Hmmm. The Oilers have Hall, Smyth and Paajarvi ahead of him and Hordichuk behind him on the roster. Hartikainen is in the minors and you also have Petrell, Hamilton and others in OKC. I’d probably elevate Belanger into the top 9 no matter the position of injury and then look at Brule (if healthy) and Hartikainen before moving Eager (and then Jones) up to the top 9.
- You know Renney will use him in offensive situations. I don’t think the results will be there if they play Eager 15 minutes a night. So he might try it but the player he’s demoting among Hall, Smyth and Paajarvi is a better option. Renney isn’t going to do a Pat Quinn “hey, what about Jacques WITH Hemsky?” move, I’m pretty confident in making that point.
- So, RNH-Eager-Eberle opening night? Yep. Book it.