One of the hot stories flying around the various interwebs is the news that Jordan Eberle attributes a large part of his slump last year to losing confidence because of the nasty stories that were being written about him.
Predictably, this means some are using this as an opportunity to slag the more water-carrying members of the local mainstream media for complicity in chasing a talented player out of town.
The mitten-stringers meanwhile are directing the slagging Eastward, using this as “proof” to double down on the whole “Eberle is soft” thing.
The funny / sad / odd thing about it all is that Eberle’s story cannot actually be true!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing him of spreading falsehoods. I have little doubt he believes it himself. There might even be an element of truth to it.
But it can’t on balance be true.
First, let’s remember that Eberle has been here through some fairly ugly years in Oilers history, during which young players like Ebs have taken more than their share of criticism.
Nonetheless, Eberle’s been a model of scoring consistency in his time in Edmonton. So if he’s sensitive enough to fall victim to criticism, especially at the (then/now) rather mature age of 26, you’d expect it would have to be some unusually harsh criticism.
The Slump Came Before the Criticism
But here’s the key. Eberle’s slump was a season-long thing. It started early and just kept going. He’d have a few games where he’d look like he was coming out of it, then fall right back in.
Luckily for him, the team had its best season in years, which means much of the heat on the underperforming players didn’t start until relatively late in the season.
In Eberle’s case, the worst criticism came late and then after the season. And it was often the character-assassination kind (“Eberle’s practice habits are questionable”) that seemed to make it clear it was water carrying for the GM in advance of the losing trade of a devalued player.
And so it was. In Edmonton, we’ve been around bad teams for a long time, we’re pretty sensitive to these things.
So to reiterate, Jordan is asserting that what happened is
criticism -> lost confidence -> slump
when in reality the sequence was
slump right off the bat -> more slump -> criticism -> longer slump -> even worse playoff slump -> harsh criticism and water-carrying
Now it is quite possible that the criticism that he heard late in the season, which came as he was increasingly desperate to break out of the slump, might conceivably have made it harder – or at least fostered the perception that it was harder – for him to do so.
That seems reasonable, and also explains why Eberle almost certainly believes the narrative he’s crafted.
But on balance, it’ s not actually possible.
So almost certainly what we have here is a player who went through a nasty and incredibly frustrating but not-at-all-unusual slump, then got (somewhat unjustly) criticized and traded for peanuts.
So how to make sense of it all, especially in light of his also-not-at-all-surprising bounceback this year?
Easy. Layer last year with the narrative that, given what must be for him an absolutely jaw-dropping reduction in “fishbowl syndrome” on the Island, it must have been the harsh criticism last year. It’s the last thing he encountered in Edmonton, and it’s an obvious change with his new situation, so it must be the right answer. Right? We humans are amazingly adept at doing that kind of flawed reasoning, vaguely related to something called the post hoc fallacy.
It’s completely understandable in other words. But for the most part, given the actual sequence of events, it can’t actually be true.