NO FEAR: WHAT ABOUT TAYLOR HALL?

Robin Brownlee
November 28 2011 03:07PM

The fearlessness Taylor Hall shows on the ice is part of what makes him a very special player and favourite with fans of the Edmonton Oilers. It's also a trait that could shorten his shelf-life on the NHL marquee.

While discretion isn't as sexy a quality as the no-guts-no-glory style that has Hall out of the line-up with an injured left shoulder after taking a hellacious hit from Ryan Wilson of the Colorado Avalanche Saturday, it's nonetheless an attribute he'd best add to his game. And the sooner the better.

Hall got starched by Wilson while hustling for a loose puck in the corner on a stiff, but clean hit. He was injured when he hit the boards awkwardly while trying to brace for the impact. Hall left for medical attention, returned and then was done for the balance of the night after a well-placed cross-check from Kyle Quincey of the Avs. From Denver to MRI City.

It's not the first time. It won't be the last.

HE GETS AFTER IT

We've seen this movie before with Hall, no? Before the Oilers even got a crack at Hall at the podium, there was the potentially neck-breaking hit he took from Travis Hamonic of the Brandon Wheat Kings in pursuit of a puck while he was still a member of the Windsor Spitfires.

Drew Doughty lowered the boom along the boards in Los Angeles last season when Hall tried to beat him wide, starting a hey-rube. Then, there was the scrap with hard-nosed Derek Dorsett of Columbus last season in his first NHL fight, a take-no-crap decision to stick up for himself that ended his season with a sprained ankle.

Saturday, it was Wilson, a player Hall ran up against more than once as a junior – somebody Hall, in hindsight, admitted he knew might try to lay him out. Having the book on Wilson didn't stop Hall for going for it. On the same road trip, you might recall, Hall went headlong into the goalpost in Chicago while charging for the net. He escaped injury.

Like I said, it's that kind of reckless abandon and fearlessness that makes Hall the player he is. It pulls fans out of their seats. It sells tickets and jerseys. It creates a buzz. In part, at least, it's that jam and gusto that got Hall drafted No. 1 overall in 2010 by the Oilers after he won a second Memorial Cup with Windsor and his second MVP award. Game-breaker. Difference-maker. Big-time brass.

That damn-the-torpedoes bit is also what had some observers, myself included, wondering if Hall might have to reel the swashbuckling in just a bit in the name of self-preservation at the NHL level. I'd suggest that, 24 games into his sophomore season, it's obvious he does.

A MIDDLE GROUND 

Over at the Cult of Hockey today, David Staples is suggesting Hall needs to incorporate a little nastiness into his game. You know, a well-placed elbow or length of shaft here and there to buy some room and make opponents think twice about taking runs at him. Mark Messier stuff. I'm all for that.

I'd also suggest Hall exhibit a little more discretion. As much as I hate to use the term because it generally has a negative connotation, Hall needs to pick his spots more often. It can't be balls-out in every race for loose pucks and open ice, every showdown with a defenseman. That's easier said than done of course, given playing that way seems part of Hall's DNA.

Let's be clear, I'm not talking about turning Hall into a perimeter player or a snow-throwing Patrick O'Sullivan clone. Nobody wants that. While I see nothing wrong with Hall dropping his gloves now and again or delivering, as Staples says, a well-placed elbow or two-hander, that's not enough.

Simply put, the bottom line for me is that if Hall is going to put himself in harm's way, he's got to know who and what he's up against, rather than fearlessly charging in every time. Size up the situation. Take a peek. Be aware. Play the odds. I know, that's not as catchy as that No Fear thing, but it's smart.

It goes without saying fans of the Oilers don't want to see the edge taken off Hall, to see him throttle it back too much in the name of playing it safe. At the same time, I'm guessing they do want to see him wearing No. 4 for this franchise for as long as possible. That's not a likely outcome the way he plays the game now. 

There is a middle ground between burning out and fading away. Hall needs to find it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Milli
November 29 2011, 09:30AM
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See this team with Hall? See them without? He creates energy with his speed and play, he makes space for others. I hope he can play his game (mostly) with maybe a few smarter plays, but this kid is Dynamic because of how he plays.....On a side note, how bout Eberle's game this year!!!! The kid is on fire!!

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#52 nofool6110
November 29 2011, 10:09AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

2-4 weeks.

Can I still be in denial for 7-10 days?

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#53 OttawaOilFan
November 29 2011, 10:28AM
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nofool6110 wrote:

Can I still be in denial for 7-10 days?

What about 7-10 BUSINESS days??? ;-)

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#54 Bandwagon jumper
November 29 2011, 10:45AM
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Brownlee hit the nail on the head with this one. I cringe everytime I see one of the kids get hit. Hall gets hammered a plenty, Ebs is marginally better off. Nuge seems to be able to roll off most of the contact coming his way.

Those 1984 Team Canada jerseys are my all time favourite. I'd like to see them on the Canadian Junior team some year.

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#55 OilFan
November 29 2011, 11:48AM
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Did Wayne Gretzky get hit very much ? I seem to remember he didn't get hit very often. Two reason for that was Wayne could see the plays before they happened secondly since someone on the team wouldn't allow it. Not sure why the oilers don't seem to realize this. Yes most hits on Hall are clean that's not the point the point is that the oilers allow the other team to run our players. Sometimes a fight to let the other teams know especially in the division.

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#56 Duane
November 29 2011, 12:44PM
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If this keeps up you have to wonder if the Oilers would have been better off long term drafting Seguin. No question Hall is the better player but... for how long? If he keeps getting hurt and does not adjust his game, then does he becomes Hemsky or heavens forbid, Jesse Lumsden. 3 or 4 years from now I wonder what things may have been like with Seguin and RNH up the middle? Remind anyone of Pittsburgh's 3 centers.

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#57 ratzazz
November 29 2011, 12:54PM
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Personally I'm getting sick of seeing all the skill players from the oilers lined up and taken out hard. Maybe Hemsky isn't as fragile as it would appear but just getting hammered time after time gets him hurt again and again. Having a knuckle dragger going out and asking to fight someone ( ASKING!!!) isn't going to solve the problems either. Team toughness. Make the other team pay if they want to hit you. Ever try to hit Glenn Anderson somehow that stick or elbow was always in your chops. Gotta make it very unpleasent to hit someone. Nevermind the guys brought in to take care of these kids and skilled players seem to be just as fragile as Hemsky. Soon as Hall went down Duschene should have had a target on his back. It isn't goon hockey it's protecting your livelyhood. How long do you think Hall is going to last in this league if he gets hurt every year? Till he loses that step? Till he's another Bure? 8 years and finished cause his body can't take it. Just my rant for the day

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#58 russ99
November 29 2011, 01:28PM
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Hall gets hit so much because he tries to make things happen (often by himself) in the offensive zone.

With development of his young linemates and more maturity, he won't have to do that as often.

But to tell the kid to tone down his style in the name of not getting hurt is the wrong message. He's only 19 years old despite playing like a much older player, so he has to learn his own lessons and work through success and failures in the offensive zone himself.

To have that forced by the Oilers brass or staff is to limit his potential, IMO.

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#59 shanetrain
November 29 2011, 01:49PM
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Tyler Seguin is having a fine sophemore season .... through 20 some games.

I am still proud Taylor 'baby moose' Hall is a Edmonton Oiler.

So should you.

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#60 Harlie
November 29 2011, 01:57PM
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Wow...just wow. Look at Gretzky!!!

http://thechive.com/2011/11/08/paulina-gretzky-is-using-the-twitter-machine-properly-34-photos/

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#61 gongshow
November 29 2011, 02:07PM
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Harlie wrote:

Wow...just wow. Look at Gretzky!!!

http://thechive.com/2011/11/08/paulina-gretzky-is-using-the-twitter-machine-properly-34-photos/

It's just too bad that Paulina didn't inherit any of her dad's acting skill.

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#62 FastOil
November 29 2011, 02:44PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Trade Hall before he's damaged goods? Quite a leap, no?

@OB1 Team RNH - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

"Congratulations, this is the first "trade Hall" post I've seen.......Oil fans will have him ran out of town in 3 years......You might just be "that guy" that gets the whole thing underway."

A reasonable, calmly stated thought is different than the hot headed reactionary stuff you are attempting to lump me in with.

Don't be that guy.

@Brownlee

Just a thought. I know a fellow who was in talks with NHL teams before his draft year, a big fast power forward who drove the net like a beast, and lost his shot at the bigs because of a career ending knee injury. The team most interested in him drafted a Russian. Now he can't stand European players and hasn't skated much since. He's a Habs fan, recently we were talking hockey and he mentioned how he thinks Hall is amazing, good for a couple of highlight reel hits a week on TSN, him on the receiving end. I winced. My pal said he doesn't like Hall's long term health outlook as it stands, but of course no one knows.

IIRC Messier made a style change right? Sather convinced him he was more benefit on the ice than in the box, suspended or hurt. If he hadn't done that his story would very likely be different.

I am suggesting Hall is reaching that point. Blowing by/through defenders isn't working for him in the NHL (not that he didn't take his licks in the OHL). I think it's fair to say if he keeps racking up injuries and taking a couple of big hits a week he'll be diminished before he's accomplished anything. I think Hall is really lucky so far that he hasn't been concussed seriously.

Renney seems aware of it, which I was relieved to hear, with his tone it down comment. To me, if Hall keeps with how he's playing now, I would be thinking about what's best for the long run in terms of risk, and before anyone starts I wouldn't trade a player like Hall (if at all) for magic beans.

I don't buy that it's the only way he can play, he is a world class player. He chooses to for whatever reason. This was a concern pre-draft, and Hall supporters (included) said he would adapt to play in the NHL because he is elite. He'd figure it out.

He hasn't got the high risk - low reward aspect out of his game so far. Some plays aren't worth making when you're not in a playoff series. If he takes an interest in longevity, in surviving, of course you want a player that like on your team.

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#63 Archaeologuy
November 29 2011, 03:53PM
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shanetrain wrote:

Tyler Seguin is having a fine sophemore season .... through 20 some games.

I am still proud Taylor 'baby moose' Hall is a Edmonton Oiler.

So should you.

One day Taylor Hall will fully grasp how to unlock his potential. His playing style mixed with his body type, he could be terrifying for defenders.

One day.

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#64 OilFan
November 29 2011, 04:01PM
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Don't think you can coach a guy into playing without fear if Hall changed his game how effective would he be ? His dynamic fast pace style lifts the team and gives the whole team energy kinda like a tilt.

I will be looking forward to watching Hall's dynamic game again in a couple weeks.

If only Renney and his coaching staff understood that when you ask for a fight you don't always get it.

Does the hit really have to be cheap or illegal to get a reaction from our bench boss and role players ?

Yes there's the 2min penalty but when will this team send the message ?

Dallas showed the Oilers colors hitting RNH and Eberle at free will since they knew Renney doesn't allow fighting. Like last season the team is soft to play against just the way Renney likes his teams.

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#65 Quicksilver ballet
November 29 2011, 05:29PM
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Have to think we're fortunate this was only a subluxation injury to Taylors shoulder. Now that there's some wiggle room in that socket i hope he makes it through the rest of the season without injuring that shoulder even worse.

Can't help but think it'll create considerable problems for him for the balance of the season. Would surely ruin his off season needing surgery in April or May. Hope this doesn't turn into a Mike Grier type of situation.

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#66 kevin
November 29 2011, 08:33PM
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with Halls reckless nature will he survive to play to age 24. Any takers for a Hall for Perry trade ?

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#67 Admiral Mark
November 29 2011, 10:22PM
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Quote"Its how i was born" Its in my DNA. Taylor Hall. I hope that was just for the camera's? He needs to make an adjustment to the NHL or risk serious injury "every" year.

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