EDMONTON, Alberta — Who knew there were so many TV news cameras in Edmonton? But sure enough, there they all were on Wednesday, surrounding Jordan Eberle after the Islanders practiced, eager to record his thoughts on returning.
And those thoughts were relentlessly positive, no matter how many times he was asked about the scrutiny, some of it negative, that he faced in seven seasons as an Oiler before the Islanders traded Ryan Strome for him last June.
“It’s an awesome place to play,” he said, and insisted he did not consider his treatment by fans or journalists unfair, notably after he scored no goals in 13 playoff games last spring.
“The media’s never been unfair,” he said. “They show it how it is. If you’re not playing well they’re going to tell you.”
Still, Eberle agreed that there is something to be said for a kid who grew up in Saskatchewan and played here to transition to the relative tranquility of the Islanders’ world.
“Obviously, you’re not being watched as closely, that’s for sure,” he said, “but just playing in the Long Island market doesn’t get enough praise, for the fan base there and whatnot. But obviously the media attention is not as high-level as it is here . . . I think when you don’t have that in Long Island as much, maybe it gives you confidence a little bit more.”
Eberle, 27, has not disappointed. He called the Islanders a “good fit” for a guy in need of a fresh start. He is third on the team with 23 goals, his fifth season in a row and sixth overall with 20 or more. (His 165 goals as an Oiler rank ninth all-time for a Hall of Fame-studded franchise.)
But coach Doug Weight said Eberle’s production “would probably be like the third or fourth thing on my list in being pleased with him. He’s just been a great addition in every way.”
That includes playing alongside rookie star Mathew Barzal. “They have great chemistry,” Weight said. “I think he’s been a bit of a mentor and taught him a lot.”
Eberle has another year left on his contract, so he presumably is part of the Islanders’ near-term plans. The short-term plan is to win Thursday and snap a seven-game winless streak.
How does he think Oilers fans will greet him when he takes the ice at Rogers Place?
“I’m really not sure what to expect,” he said. “I’m excited. I have a lot of good memories here . . . Hopefully, they don’t boo me, that’s for sure. Hopefully, they give me a warm welcome.”