Ben Eager Still Has Value to the Oilers

If you were to ask Ben Eager I’m sure he would tell you that last season in the NHL was one to forget for the 29-year old.  Playing in just 14 games for the Oilers, scoring one goal and adding one assist while compiling just 25 minutes in penalties is not the pace that Eager would have envisioned.  Yet, when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers, he still has value for the upcoming season.

It would be easy to say last year was a complete write-off for Eager but that wasn’t entirely the case.  His time with the big club was obviously disappointing but when he went unclaimed on the waiver wire and was assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons, Eager made the most of his time in the minors.

Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal recently did an article on Eager and highlighted how he earned himself a second chance with the Oilers following his strong play with the Barons.  In 9 playoff games the former first round pick registered 5 points and a whopping 64 PIMs. Not exactly first line material but that’s not Eager’s game and he knows it.

He came to camp leaner and hopefully meaner, shedding 15 pounds in the offseason.  Eager knows first hand that the Oilers need some grit and sandpaper on their third and fourth lines and he told Ireland exactly that.

“I know we need some size in our lineup, and I believe I can provide that.”

Here is where his value lies.  Standing at 6’2″ and a lighter frame of 225 lbs (last year he was listed at 240 lbs), Eager can play that role of the fourth line role player who can bang and crash to help turn the tempo of the game around.

Couple him with Mike Brown and suddenly the fourth line has not only grit but some much needed toughness.  I’m not saying the Oilers need two tough guys (if you classify both Brown and Eager as that) but they both know their role and can execute it perfectly when healthy and fit.

Given Dallas Eakins new fitness regime, it’s safe to say that Eager knew he better shed the extra pounds prior to camp or a trip to the minors wouldn’t even be in the cards for him. A lighter and faster frame should allow Eager to compete for puck battles and not to mention keep up to the speed of the everyday game.

Five times in his eight year career he’s surpassed the 100 penalty minute plateau and back in 2006-07, then a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Eager racked an incredible 233 minutes of penalty time. Not saying the Oilers need that out of the Ottawa, Ontario native, but a steady hand that can help sheriff the ice when needed will go a long way in avoiding this team being run out of the rink.

If the Oilers are serious about contending for a playoff spot this season then having a combination of Brown and Eager will help distinguish their identity as a tough team to play against.  We all know they have the skill and the obvious holes are in the bottom six forwards.  Size is what this team is lacking up front so if Ben Eager can prove he’s worth one more shot, then maybe his role on this hockey club would be invaluable.

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Tags: Ben Eager Edmonton Oilers Training Camp

  • BillHK

    Although I was really disappointed when he was first signed to the 3 year contract, it was more because of the term and amount given by Tambo than it was the player. Then as now we needed more size and toughness in our bottom forwards, but there were ridiculous expectations for Eager to be a policeman and to take on heavyweights (he really isn’t a very good fighter). He already had some concussion issues and was run over by Tulupov in his first pre-season compounding that issue.

    I agree that there’s good reason to think that he may be a useful part of the team going forward. I always liked the fact that he can skate quite well for a big body, can stick up for team mates when needed, and can be a pain in the paint for goalies. That said,

    Coming off a good post-season in OKC, coming in at 225 lbs instead of 240, with a new coach, and a clean slate, it’s really up to him to make the team this year by playing both smart and tough. He’s got a shot.

    The big concern with Eager is health. In addition to the concussion issue, he’s only played over 70 games in one season.

    • Derek Stykalo

      Great point about the health Bill. Perhaps a platoon of him and Brown on the fourth line could work well? Avoid the wear and tear that a full 82-game sched takes on players let alone those that are grinders. Thoughts on that option? As always, thanks for reading and the comments.

      • BillHK

        I think that Eakins will have fluid line combinations so I expect quite a few players may be in and out of the line up at different times and for different reasons. Some examples would be:

        - Both Brown and Eager in for games against truculence teams where you may expect some attempts at intimidation towards the small skilled forwards.

        - Both Brown and Eager out for games against teams like Chicago and Detroit. (skill vs. skill, it use to be Detriot, but lately, the Oil have recently got Chicago’s number :-p )

        - I would expect Smyth, Acton, Joensuu, Lander and maybe Hamilton will also see time on the 4th line often instead of Eager and or Brown.

        The way the team is structured now, there’s no room for 1 to 3 minute players like Hordichuk or Big Mac, so Brown or Eager will need to show that they can play 8 minutes a game (Or maybe Joensuu takes up boxing in his spare time. LOL).