Taylor Hall, Opportunity and the 2014 Olympics

Yesterday, TSN’s extremely well-connected Darren Dreger listed five players at left wing on his projected Canadian Olympic depth chart. After those five names, he listed four other players as left wings fighting for a spot on the team. That’s nine names total; Taylor Hall’s wasn’t even mentioned.

It’s pretty unlikely that Dreger just pulled those names out of thin air. Anybody who follows hockey knows that he has sources, and given the number of NHL people involved in the Hockey Canada selection process it’s a pretty good bet that he’s given us a decent look at what the management group is thinking.

Hall’s Chances

Despite Hall’s well-publicized lapses in the defensive zone, there’s no doubt that he stacks up extremely well against the nine guys on Dreger’s list offensively. Even if we stack the deck against Hall – starting the clock in his rookie season and giving no weight to his improvement since then – he shows very well:

Player G/82 A/82 PTS/82
Eric Staal 28 48 76
Patrick Sharp 34 40 74
Taylor Hall 32 40 72
Jamie Benn 26 44 70
Chris Kunitz 32 38 70
James Neal 35 34 69
Patrick Marleau 33 34 67
Logan Couture 33 32 65
Matt Duchene 27 35 62
Milan Lucic 26 35 61

If we nix Hall’s rookie year, he’s seventh among Canadian forwards in points-per-game since 2011.

It’s more than scoring, too. Hockey’s a game of what a team creates versus what it gives up, and Hall was incredible in that regard last season. With Hall on the ice in 2012-13, the Oilers out-shot the opposition 36-32; with him on the bench those numbers fell to 23-32. That’s an insane tilt, the mark of a true difference-maker, one of the very best players in the entire world.

Is it frustrating that Hall sometimes cheats for offence, or occasionally turns the puck over while making plays? Yes, it is, because he could be an utterly dominant player and instead he’s just a very, very good one. It’s probably going to cost him an Olympic spot, even if it shouldn’t.

But it’s also an opportunity for Edmonton.

Coachable Moment?

It’s a pretty good bet that Hall wants to play for Canada. He represented his country at the World Championships last summer and he played in various international tourneys as a junior. Last year, of course, was marred by Lindy Ruff’s usage of Hall but if anything that should only go toward illustrating the same point.

People aren’t going to take Hall seriously as one of the game’s greats – even if he is one – until he’s as enthusiastic about work in his own zone as he is about putting points up on the board. He’s already shown an ability to adapt his game, focusing on being more aware of hits and improving his play-making; he can make another shift to be a more responsible two-way player.

Self-preservation likely helped motivate the first change. Getting his proper due can help motivate the second. And ensuring that Hall makes that jump is one of a bunch of challenges facing Dallas Eakins.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Zamboni Driver

    Well, it sucks for Oiler fans that they won’t have any of their own in the olympics. Thats why I’m especially excited to watch Darnell Nurse in the world juniors.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Using the stats as they currently appear for the 2013/2014 NHL season, this is why Taylor Hall isn’t part of the convo:

    Giveaways per 82 games

    Eric Staal 63

    Patrick Sharp 15

    Taylor Hall 120

    Jamie Benn 76

    Chris Kunitz 46

    James Neal 31

    Patrick Marleau 70

    Logan Couture 68

    Matt Duchene 26

    Milan Lucic 76

    Taylor Hall is a giveaway machine. If you think that leads to bad results in the NHL, just imagine how much worse it is when you are turning the puck over to perennial all-stars and snipers.

    Patrick Sharp, by contrast, gives the puck away almost ten times less. Even the most giveaway prone guy on the list after Hall only give the puck away half as much.

    • Do you know who leads the NHL in giveaways (raw and per 82)? Erik Karlsson.

      Do you know who else is in the top 10 amongst F?

      Phil Kessel
      Joe Thornton
      Ryan Getzlaf
      Logan Couture.

      Giveaways are a great stat, until you realize they are counted differently in every single rink.

      Edmonton has played 15 home games and 17 road games this year.

      At home they have 220 giveaways (14.7) and on the road they have 134 giveaways (7.9/game).

      The guy in the Oilers rink counts giveaways at nearly twice the rate of the other buildings. So the question then becomes, how much of an impact does that have?

      Hall has played 12GP at home and has recorded 26 giveaways (2.2/game). He’s also played 13GP on the road and has 11 giveaways (0.8/game).

      If you want to use the giveaway/takeaway stat, you have to use road only.

  • Zarny and Spydyr you seem pretty impressed with hearing yourselves but I would urge you both to say less, much less. Your endless drivel only confirms that you both played hockey and football without a helmet and that narcissism is an unattractive quality.

      • Spydyr

        It is true that I don’t have to read your comments but skipping around your drivel takes time. If you and Zarny insist on caterwauling back and forth without intelligent thought or even a sense of humour the kind thing would be brevity.

  • No chance does not play a 200 ft game.

    They already have players that are fast and can score.

    I guess if a number of players get injured before the Olympics he has a chance.

    Also Hall has never played in the playoffs he does not know pressure at the NHL level

  • S cottV

    When Hall, learns to play the “team game” then he can be considered for National teams.
    They are called TEAM for a reason.. and not ME.

    Lacks defensive skills, and as mention way to many turnovers… there is no room for error on the Olympic teams.

    I think many of Oilers struggles stems for to many guys playing the ME game.. Hall, Eberle, Yak, Gagner, Hemsky, Schultz Jr… Time to gel boys.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I don’t envy the selection committee in any way as no matter who they pick, if Canada doesn’t get gold, it will be wrong, no pressure or anything…

    With considerations like the international sized ice (which wasn’t used in 2010) and IIHF rules (which are a lot more strict on hitting) it is really hard to judge who would be the best to play for Canada as how they play in the NHL is of course a factor, but trying to figure out if their style of play is suited to the international game and how quickly they can become a “team” is huge here.

    I would have thought that the closest replication to playing on a larger ice surface would be when teams play 4 on 4 so maybe that is a small factor in team selections.

    I would think that maybe a player like Hall would be good for the Olympic team as his skating ability and speed would be a huge asset on the big ice. His decision making I think is maybe his downfall, as well as his defensive work which is not horrible horrible, but could be better and may be with time. There’s time for him and he will eventually be on an Olympic team. I’m sure he will be on the World Championship team at least, though sadly will be probably gonna be one of the least cared for WCs since 2010 🙂

    • S cottV

      In some ways the big ice favors Hall and in other ways it doesn’t.

      Similar to 4 on 4, big ice puts more of a premium on possession hockey because the straight dump and forecheck does not work as well, as opposition d men have more time and space to work the puck out.

      Teams that dump it have to be more selective about where its dumped, to have a line mate be first to the puck or to be right on the opposition d man who retrieves.

      While possession is at more of a premium, which favors Hall – turnovers that cause odd man rushes are even more dangerous on big ice -which doesn’t favor him. You have to have some patience and pick your spots, or its in the back of your net. More dangerous because a 3 on 2 or 2 on 1 yields more time and space than normal and is much harder to defend.

      Bottom line – there are guys better suited at this point in time, to do what has to be done on the 3rd and 4th line. Play responsibly – limit opposition chances, chip in with some timely goals, and let the top 2 lines do the bulk of the scoring. Doesn’t sound like a Hallsey assignment to me.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I agree completely. Like I just replied to another fine chap, he needs his game to develop and in time he may be Olympic quality, just not this time. Hope he sees that and realises he needs to work harder on his game.

    • camdog

      “I would have thought that the closest replication to playing on a larger ice surface would be when teams play 4 on 4 so maybe that is a small factor in team selections.”

      Did you forget that Hall played in the World Championships last season? Did you see the 2 turnovers he made in the neutral zone that lead to 2 goals against? On the large ice Hall failed last season. This failure is the reason why he is not getting any consideration for the Olympic team.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I agree that he was not so good in the WC last year, I think it is more to do with his decision making and his lack of a defensive game as he would be playing 3rd/4th line ish if he was to make the team (I’m aware he won’t of course, but hypothetically) . If/when he becomes a more complete player, he would be considered, but there are players currently available for Olympic duty that would be better at the role he is playing for the Oil (first line minutes etc) if that makes sense.

        If his game improves, he may one day be a serious Olympic consideration, he has time on his side and barring any crazy injury there is still the potential of 3 Olympics still for him.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Anyone sticking to/with the idea that Hall should be in Sochi.

    Ask yourself this.

    Who has been the best player on the Oilers this year? Keeping in mind that the Edmonton Oilers are, what? third-last in the NHL! (hurry stats nerds correct me)

    The fact is there would be a debate between Hall and Perron. And actually I’d side with Perron as the best Oiler to date.

    In 19 billion years no one is talking about Perron going to the big Dance. So why in the world would Hall be considered this time around?

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    The Team Canada selection committee is doing us a huge favour…….they are sending a message to Hall, Ebbs and others that they need to become more well rounded players if they want to represent Canada……..that’s a message that is not yet getting through via the Oilers coaching staff.

    If they heed the advice, Hall, Ebbs and RNH could ALL make the next Team Canada in 2018.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    What’s lost in the discussion is the fact that the Olympic team does not roll 4 scoring lines and 4 powerplay units. They need some of those skilled guys to play checking roles and kill penalties, which is why there is a bias towards players with at least some defensive skill (i.e. a 200-foot player).

    Hawerchuk was known for accepting a more defensive role for Team Canada in the 80’s; Yzerman in the 90’s. It’s unfortunate that Hall will not be put into a situation where he can be clearly assigned a defensive role on a team full of all-stars and feel peer pressure to live up to that role (he has no true peers on the Oilers to pressure him the same way). Of course, Hawerchuk and Yzerman showed better at the Worlds when they had that chance early in their careers.

  • Spydyr

    Your team is up by a goal with under six minutes to play.Hall coughs the puck up at your blue-line. The other team scores the tying goal.

    That play tonight is why Hall is not in the conversation for the Olympics.

    Could you imagine that happening in the Gold medal game?

  • Johnnydapunk

    I think Halls play as of late is raising eyebrows but the guy needs to use his teammates a lot more. He could easily be the fastest guy on the Olympic team but he needs to realize he isnt the best option on a rush. Hall is an absolute bulldozer on the ice most nights and is just going to get better. When he figures out the complete game hes going to be unstoppable. There arent enough lunch pail players on the Oilers right now ie: powerplay. With all of this being said being a citizen of Canada and watching the Olympics will be nice and hoping Canafa gets a gold which I don’t think they will. Having a rested team isnt a half bad thing when all of the top players come back on the wrong side of 60 plus games already played this season including a ten hour flight and time change both ways.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Let those guys go over play in the olympics, they get tired and jetlagged coming back here. All the Oilers players are well rested and make the run for the playoffs next spring in the second half.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Anyone arguing that Taylor Hall should be on Team Canada needs to take a step back, remove the Oiler-goggles, and put down the Kool-aid. He has speed. Some nights he has heart. His raw physical attributes are second to none.

    However, his mental side of the game is brutal. I think that is why he ends up getting crunched nearly every game, tries to stick-handle through 3 NHL defenseman, and turns the puck over shift, after shift, after shift.

    He has the physical tools most people would die for, but his hockey IQ needs to be upped 100 points if you want to even mention him for the Olympics.

  • Zarny

    Perhaps I’m dating myself, but I remember a time when guys like Messier, Anderson and Gretzky use to routinely cough up the puck.

    Yea none of those players were any good, should have traded those bums the first year, instead we had to endure 10 year of them!!!

  • Spydyr

    But my argument is that Hall is a better all-round player than Kunitz. Sure, Hall has some deficiencies in his game (I think they are a little overstated), but I would rather have Hall on my team than Kunitz. Doesn’t matter if I’m the GM of the Penguins, Oilers, or Team Canada.

    If you take Hall over Kunitz as GM of both the Pens and Oilers, why wouldn’t you take him over Kunitz as GM of Team Canada?



    But for real, if Claude “Invisible for the first 25 games” Giroux is in the mix, then how the hell can Hall not be?

    And what about the injured, overvalued Nash? Ryan Smyth has more points than him and Thornton, and Smytty needs a walker to get to the rink these days.

    There are too many questionable picks for Team Canada right now, which seem to be based on “what guys used to be” instead of the young drive and passion in guys like Hall that seems to get overlooked.