An off season debate is swirling around Jordan Eberle's shooting percentage. To some, Eberle has reached his high water mark; to others he's only just begun. Another Oiler had a similar problem in the early part of the 1990s and it created expectations that contributed to him eventually being sent out of town. That player was Jason Arnott.
As an NHL rookie way back in 1993-94, Jason Arnott scored 33 goals on just 194 shots. While it seemed then that the sky was the limit for Arnott, it turns out that those 33 goals were a career high. Arnott matched the feat fifteen seasons later with the Predators in 2008-09, and also managed to crest the 30 goal plateau in 2005-06 with 32 tallies.
In that 1993-94 season, Arnott's shooting percentage was 17% in a time when an average of 10.7% of shots were going into nets league-wide. Over the course of Arnott's career, his shooting percentage would be north of 16% just two more times. Those were the two seasons in which Arnott reached 32 and 33 goals. His career shooting percentage is 12.1%.
Arnott would be traded in 1998, after just 208 more games as an Oiler. In those games he fired the puck on net an impressive 748 times (3.6 per game), but scored only 67 goals (9.0% shooting).
The bright side? So far Arnott has scored 417 goals and 938 points in a long career of 1244 games. Just shy of being elite, Arnott has still been a very solid contributor to six NHL teams and spent a total of 18 years in the league. He won the Stanley Cup in 2000 with the Devils and scored the clinching goal in double overtime of game six.
If Eberle follows a similar career path the Oilers will have a very good player on their hands. Even if he's just a 27 goal man like Arnott.
Injuries and a perceived lack of effort played a part in Arnott's fall from grace in Edmonton, but so did a decline in his shooting percentage. He went from an 11.5% shooter in 1995-96 to 7.7% the following year, and finally fell to just 5% in his last 35 games as an Oiler in 1997-98. Nevermind the fact that he was a shot machine (and therefore theoretically a possession machine). The once-untouchable 33 goal rookie was ultimately shipped out of town in a crate marked "Fragile" and "Damaged Goods."
The Oilers and their fans must not make the same mistake with Jordan Eberle. He and Arnott are very different players, but they are similar in the amount of hope and expectation they evoke in the fans. If Eberle goes on to score 30, 40 or 50 goals each season, everyone will be happy. But if he ends up as a 25-27 goal man, the most important thing will be to not chase him out of town because of a perceived decline. Arnott never topped 60 points with the Devils, but he also won the Stanley Cup.