Taylor Hall, Olympian

Jonathan Willis
August 28 2013 10:03AM

No less an authority than the TSN panel has predicted that the Edmonton Oilers best player, Taylor Hall, will be sitting at home watching the Olympic games rather than representing Canada in Sochi.

Here’s why they’re wrong.

TSN’s Roster

TSN’s left wing depth chart consists of Chris Kunitz, Rick Nash, converted centre Logan Couture, and Patrick Sharp. With all due respect to those four, there’s simply no way that Hall shouldn’t be part of that group.

The Competition

Chris Kunitz bafflingly gets the top left wing position on the team. The only possible defence of that ranking is that he has familiarity playing with Sidney Crosby, and it’s a terrible defence because presumably it isn’t difficult to look good playing on a line with the best player in the world. Kunitz has spent approximately 75% of his even-strength the last three years centered by either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; Taylor Hall has done it with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff, players that aren’t exactly comparable. Despite being in the prime of his career and on a line with two of hockey’s five best players, somehow Kunitz has a worse point-per-game rate over the last three seasons than Hall, who was breaking into the league and playing in a tougher conference to boot. In three previous seasons Kunitz has hovered around a 60-point pace, so this last year was likely a one-off and if his scoring drops back to his established level nobody will be talking about him as an Olympian.

Rick Nash is likely a better choice for the top left wing position than Chris Kunitz. The 29 year-old is a veteran of international play, having represented Canada at two Olympic games, four World Championships and a World Junior tournament. Interestingly, like Kunitz, his points-per-game rate is actually less than Hall’s over the last three seasons, but he is more of a goal-scorer and arguably more of a complete player at this point in time.

Logan Couture, the converted centre, is another player who finds himself falling just short of Hall’s point-per-game pace over the last three seasons. He has an advantage in that he’s perceived as a better positional defender than Hall but a disadvantage in being a lesser skater and having less experience internationally (Couture has represented Canada only at the under-18’s back in 2006-07). Couture is an exceptional player – and a Corsi monster – but he both doesn’t tilt the ice the way Hall does in terms of out-shooting the opposition and he doesn’t come close to having the same level of offensive dynamism that Hall does. On a team loaded to the gills with converted centres, Couture’s positional strengths defensively shouldn’t trump Hall’s superior ability to drive results in his natural position.

Patrick Sharp should, barring a major drop-off, be on this team. A versatile skater who can play any position, he is both a dynamic offensive player and a skilled defensive forward. He’s coming off a tough year – he really struggled on a line with Dave Bolland for half the season, though he was fine with other centres – but he’s been excellent in the past and shouldn’t be a controversial choice.

Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall is coming off a remarkable season, even by Canadian Olympic team standards. No Canadian player in the lower-scoring Western Conference put up more points than Hall; in terms of even-strength scoring per hour only Jonathan Toews (3.19 PTS/60) had a better rate than Hall (3.15 PTS/60) in the West. Hall finished eighth overall in Relative Corsi league-wide last season and was 20th overall the year before that. In his first three seasons in the league, he’s clear of every Canadian left wing other than 41 year-old Ray Whitney in terms of points-per-game, despite the fact that he’s just started his career and has played for a pretty awful team.

Hall is a special player. He’s Canada’s best scoring left wing at the age of 21 despite playing in the West and there’s a pretty decent case that no other Canadian left wing drives out-shooting the way he does when he’s on the ice. He took a leap forward last year and was the best left wing in the NHL, despite Chris Kunitz's nod as first-team All-Star.

Hall will, barring injury, be a fixture on future Canadian Olympic teams but he’s good enough to play for them right now, and if he picks up where he left off the team’s management will have no choice but to include him.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney steps in from his vacation to imagine what the team's lines might look like if Mark Scheifele is ready to go at training camp:

Despite the many claims (even by me) that Jokinen and Schiefele will be auditioning for the same job of 2C, we can imagine this team organized in such a way as to reveal a hole at centre. Moving Tangradi outside the top-9, Frolik could take his LW role - if only the team had another centre. Does Eric O'Dell get a look for a soft-minutes assignment there? Is that Nic Petan's job down the line? What does the team do when Grabovski is a free agent again next year?

Click the link above to read more (includingthe lines Mccartney settled on), or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 mayorblaine
August 28 2013, 10:12AM
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but what does your "gut" tell you?

Hall deserves to be there.

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#2 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
August 28 2013, 10:14AM
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Olympian pales in comparison to the financial benifits of being a Professional Athlete. Who cares about being a part time Olympian.

Hang onto your full time gig there Taylor. Kids dream of winning the Stanley Cup/playing in the NHL long before adding a gold medal to their safety deposit box. Hockey Canada will need Taylor Hall, long before Hall needs to have that Olympic experience.

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#3 DrDave
August 28 2013, 10:15AM
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Hard to hard with that... Go Hall!!

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#4 Baresnake
August 28 2013, 10:16AM
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Only way Hall isn't on this Olympic team is if Corey Potter follows him around every Oilers warmup.

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#5 Czar
August 28 2013, 10:19AM
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By Christmas Kunitz won't be able to carry Hall's jock.

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#6 LinkfromHyrule
August 28 2013, 10:26AM
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yet another reason why the MSM is (mostly) a joke. You and Gregor both summed it up nicely. A year ago Kunitz was not even in the conversation, and now because of an extremely small sample size they have him as 1LW. I think you could argue that just about any player will play well with the best player in the game.

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#7 The Oilers Shot Clock
August 28 2013, 10:31AM
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I kept waiting for someone on that panel to make an exception or at least bring up how tough of a cut he would be but instead they mentioned just about everybody else.

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#8 Muji
August 28 2013, 10:35AM
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"He took a leap forward last year and was the second-best left wing in the NHL behind Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin."

Not sure if this is an error or a sarcastic poke at the The Professional Hockey Writers' Association...

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#9 Czar
August 28 2013, 10:38AM
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I'd also rather have Hall on the team than Lindy Ruff.

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#11 Archaeologuy
August 28 2013, 10:47AM
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If I'm a Bruins fan then I'm also wondering what else Patrice Bergeron has to do to prove he belongs on the Olympic team. Seriously, extra skater? Are you telling me that Patrice Bergeron is less of a fit to play the 4th line than Ryan Getzlaf?

Team Canada has a knack for out-thinking themselves. This year may prove no different.

Best LW in the NHL, not making the cut. Last year's Norris trophy winner, 8th Defenseman. Best Defensive C in the game, Extra skater.

It's a terrible projection, I hope they are dead wrong.

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#12 Zamboni Driver
August 28 2013, 10:49AM
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"TSN’s left wing depth chart consists of Chris Kunitz, Rick Nash, converted centre Logan Couture, and Patrick Sharp. With all due respect to those four, there’s simply no way that Hall shouldn’t be part of that group."

Well, being invited to the whatever-the-hell-they're-doing-in-Calgary event says he IS part of that group.

However...

I'm pretty sure T. Hall got benched during the "World Championships". That's generally a bad audition.

Hall is an excellent player, and 2018 he'll be right in there, but for this time, not happening.

And we really need to stop suggesting that Eberle has even the most remote snowball's chance, while we're at it.

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#13 Carlos Danger
August 28 2013, 10:49AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It was sarcasm, but I should probably clarify it.

Do chickens actually have a reason to cross the road or are they just walking around and happen to be crossing a road?

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#14 PopeJordon
August 28 2013, 10:53AM
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LinkfromHyrule wrote:

yet another reason why the MSM is (mostly) a joke. You and Gregor both summed it up nicely. A year ago Kunitz was not even in the conversation, and now because of an extremely small sample size they have him as 1LW. I think you could argue that just about any player will play well with the best player in the game.

The "MSM" has been explicitly clear on this point.

"It's not who we think should be on the team, it's who, based on our insight, management/staff may be leaning towards"

This disclaimer has been made over and over and over and over and over again by every single MSM journalist who is reporting and or commenting on the story. It's baffling that people are still missing it.

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#15 Shifty203
August 28 2013, 10:54AM
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You can't really state that TSN is wrong with this list. If you disagree with the choices, then you should be complaining about hockey canada's management, not the panel on TSN.

Their list isn't built around who they would put on the team. TSN isn't choosing any one of these players over Taylor Hall. They said several times that after talking to players, personnel, and management, that they believe this is the list that management is leaning towards at the moment. I beleive they stated this several times during the broadcast, and the article online.

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#17 Reg Dunlop
August 28 2013, 11:10AM
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Who cares what the opinion of TSN's panel was? When games are played in the fall and injuries happen, the potential make-up of the team will change. While it does matter what the actual Canadian Olympic selection committee thinks, it matters more what we oil fans KNOW: we love Hall, our future captain, and we wouldn't trade him for any of the jobbers above him on TSN's list.

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#18 madjam
August 28 2013, 11:10AM
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Left side defence and offence could both use upgrades beyond Nash and Keith . Hall with progression should be there . Seabrook should make defence . If Hall makes it we could even see Eberle , Schultz , Hopkins and Perron possibly taken into account if Oilers are dominant this early season . Heh, maybe even Gagner . Not sold on left side of TSN squad , looks weak for now . Strong right defence and mediocre right offence .

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#19 LinkfromHyrule
August 28 2013, 11:14AM
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PopeJordon wrote:

The "MSM" has been explicitly clear on this point.

"It's not who we think should be on the team, it's who, based on our insight, management/staff may be leaning towards"

This disclaimer has been made over and over and over and over and over again by every single MSM journalist who is reporting and or commenting on the story. It's baffling that people are still missing it.

having not watched these broadcasts at all, I was ignorant to this fact. I tend to avoid sports broadcasts during the off-season, so everything I hear is second-hand in that regard. My opinion of MSM still stands though, far too many mouth breathers trying to push a narrative

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#20 OilFire
August 28 2013, 11:14AM
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@Archaeologuy

No friggin' doubt. I have an unstoppable hate for the Bruins, but if I'm choosing the Olympic team, I've got Bergeron centering Couture and Sharp as a beautiful shutdown line that can also score.

I wouldn't worry too much about the current list not having Hall. If he plays like he did last year he'll be put on the team, no question.

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#21 2004Z06
August 28 2013, 11:15AM
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Please let hockey season start soon so we can read about "actual hockey news" and not every so called experts projection of who will fart and who will smell it first.

This is getting as bad as Sidney Crosby's headache updates.

We will know who will be on the team in 2-3 months time. Let's talk about it then.

Good grief!

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#22 Dennis
August 28 2013, 11:16AM
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Czar wrote:

By Christmas Kunitz won't be able to carry Hall's jock.

Hahah, I read that as "Christmas Kunitz won't be able to carry Hall's jock". God I need the ole peepers checked out.

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#24 Death Metal Nightmare
August 28 2013, 11:22AM
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i dont know?... can Hall handle the pressure and burden of being an olympian when - as some say - he can't handle the burden of being team captain yet? better lobby to send Gagner to the Olympics instead. put up 8 points in a game once and has a cool girlfriend.

/facetious

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#25 The Oilers Shot Clock
August 28 2013, 11:26AM
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I'm betting Kunitz spends the rest of the summer telling Crosby to be careful when getting out of the tub and to remember to cut your food into small pieces.

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#26 916oiler
August 28 2013, 11:26AM
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WTF? Is TSN owned by Americans???

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#27 VK63
August 28 2013, 11:27AM
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I found it interesting that Ray Ferarro claims, Crosby thrives best with straight line style wingers. There may not be a better straight line skater in the game than T hall.

HOWEVER

~That's way too simple an observation for the intellectual tour deforce that is hockey canada. ~

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#28 Dan the Man
August 28 2013, 11:35AM
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Taylor Hall doesn't get the respect he deserves. From the All-Star selections to Lindy Ruff at the worlds to TSN's Team Canada selections. (Maybe those are the only examples but I'm going to pretend there are a lot more because I'm really angry)

Hall is a super competitive guy and things like these will only push him to be better. He will force his way on to Team Canada.

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#29 madjam
August 28 2013, 11:37AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Brent Seabrook is a right side defenceman; if Kris Letang isn't on the team there's no way he should be.

I prefer Seabrook to Letang , and he does well on the big ice surface as well . Doesn't hurt he makes Keith better also . I am also surprised pesky Perry not on list . Like our center position , but Hopkins can thread a needle and may push Getzlaf .

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#30 Rama Lama
August 28 2013, 11:39AM
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I'm not sure how much Yzerman has been exposed to Hall over the last couple of years? I love Stevie Y and hope that his hockey IQ prevails over what the Eastern Media Pundits declare as being required.

Hopefully Babcock will have some influence and pick the fastest, hardest working LW in the NHL.

Here is hoping.

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#31 Cowbell_Feva
August 28 2013, 11:39AM
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Off-topic, and maybe its just me, but the thoughts of having PK Subban on the blueline for Canada makes me sick. Him winning the Norris was a horrible act of East Coast journalists looking at point production and knowing Zero about the game.

The last thing the national team needs is a poor defensive defenseman, that takes one or two bad penalties a game, and runs around out of position to try to lay a highlight reel hit (which 9 times out of 10 does not work). He has a good one-timer...thats it. That and an ego that wouldn't fit through the Russian border. Please leave him at home. If he plays like he did in the playoffs I won't have to worry about it. Letang over PK any day in my mind.

On topic, Lindy Ruff didn't like what he saw from Hall at the Worlds and benched him. JW is throwing out all kinds of NHL numbers, but the game is way different on bigger ice, and after watching Hall play last spring, it was hard to argue with Lindy. Hall will have to have one whale of a first half to make this squad.

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#32 vetinari
August 28 2013, 11:50AM
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Would love to see both Hall and Eberle on Team Canada and a good start to the 2013 NHL season may see them play their way onto the roster.

And, hey, even if they don't make it for 2014, Hockey Canada must like them a lot to bring them in for these sessions and I'm positive that we'll see them on the 2018, 2022 and 2026 Team Canada rosters when they are in their primes...

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#33 They're $hittie
August 28 2013, 12:14PM
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Wow, i dont care about left side right side. This is team canada and the best of the best. Same thing goes for offensive specialist and defensive specialists. We have 8 guys that can do both. Look at the locks. They do both.

Subban to big of liability, marc staal not enough offense.

Best all around, bring both offensive and defense as well as physicality and puck moving. and I dont care about side

Weber, Doughty, Keith, Seabrook, Pietrangelo, Letang

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#34 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
August 28 2013, 12:18PM
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If I was constructing the team, my priority would be skating and chemistry between pairings. I'd want the coach to roll 4 lines and try to have one natural winger per line with balance throughout the lineup (some grit, scoring touch, two way game) without necessarily defining a "checking line". My forwards would look like this:

Stamkos - Crosby - St. Louis

Sharp - Toews - Giroux

Nash - E. Staal - Tavares

Hall - Bergeron - Perry

- Couture - Carter

Getzlaf's out due to footspeed, Perry's in as a natural RW. Kunitz is out as I'm pretty sure Stamkos would do just fine being Crosby's trigger man all by himself. The top line could use a natural RW (St. Louis or Perry) or a natural LW (Nash or Hall) if Stamkos played RW. I imagine him on the left though as his Crosby-fed, right-shooting one timer would be terrifying with him on the left side...

Hall's skating ability, consistent scoring threat and ability to add a bit of physicality to the game puts him on my team Canada every day of the week.

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#35 jets
August 28 2013, 12:31PM
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Kunitz - Crosby - Tavares Nash - Stamkos - St Louis Sharp - Toews - Staal Ladd - Bergeron - Giroux Richards/Carter

No room for Hallsy. Maybe 2018.

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#36 jets
August 28 2013, 12:31PM
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Kunitz - Crosby - Tavares

Nash - Stamkos - St Louis

Sharp - Toews - Staal

Ladd - Bergeron - Giroux

Richards/Carter

No room for Hallsy. Maybe 2018.

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#37 Sanaa Montana
August 28 2013, 12:37PM
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If people can believe that Gagner can be the next captain of the Oilers-then I will believe that Hall can be an Olympian with Canada in Sochi.

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#38 Jeffff
August 28 2013, 12:39PM
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You look at last and how some of these players played .

Nash does not make the team based on last year.

Eric Staal based on last yr does not make the team

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#39 Lochenzo
August 28 2013, 12:44PM
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One other factor that may get Taylor Hall on this team; Kevin Lowe. Kevin has managed to get an Oiler on to previous Team Canadas.

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#40 jetsfan
August 28 2013, 12:54PM
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Ladd > Hall.

Overall, Ladd is the more complete player with much more leadership qualities. If there's a fight for the final LW spot, he is way more qualified than one of the most overrated players in the game, Taylor Hall.

Players on teams that have been in the basement of the league for the past 7 years should not be making the Olympics to represent Canada, when there are much better, successful alternatives out there. Hall especially has no success at the international level, being benched, and that is another reason against him being on the team. So no thanks to him being an Olympian.

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#41 Jackson
August 28 2013, 01:02PM
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Taylor Hall is a thoroughbred, who can dominate all by himself in the NHL. but, with Team Canada he needs to play more of a team game because the competition is higher. Hall will need to prove he can play a 200ft game this year and make players around him better, if he wants to make Team Canada.

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#42 Sailge
August 28 2013, 01:19PM
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jetsfan wrote:

Ladd > Hall.

Overall, Ladd is the more complete player with much more leadership qualities. If there's a fight for the final LW spot, he is way more qualified than one of the most overrated players in the game, Taylor Hall.

Players on teams that have been in the basement of the league for the past 7 years should not be making the Olympics to represent Canada, when there are much better, successful alternatives out there. Hall especially has no success at the international level, being benched, and that is another reason against him being on the team. So no thanks to him being an Olympian.

~ Easy now, your team hasn't made the playoffs since the 90's ~

But seriously, Hall's as good as Ladd already and will no doubt be the better player going forward.

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#43 Reg Dunlop
August 28 2013, 01:23PM
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@jetsfan

Andrew Ladd? Never heard of him. Thank goodness for NHL re-alignment, extra games against the lowly jets will pad Hall's stats just like it did for #99. Gretz would have won the Art Ross if they only counted his points against the jets.

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#44 jetsfan
August 28 2013, 01:24PM
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Sailge wrote:

~ Easy now, your team hasn't made the playoffs since the 90's ~

But seriously, Hall's as good as Ladd already and will no doubt be the better player going forward.

There hasn't been a team since the 90's up until 2011.. And since then, the jets have undoubtedly been better than the oilers. But that is not the point here.

Ladd has two Stanley Cup titles.. Hall doesn't even know what the playoffs are. Ladd had 46 points this last year compared to Hall's 50, but his +/- was +10 compared to Hall's +5. Maybe if Hall had shown he could compete at the international level at the WC, he would be more likely to get in. But he didn't.

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#45 jetsfan
August 28 2013, 01:27PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

Andrew Ladd? Never heard of him. Thank goodness for NHL re-alignment, extra games against the lowly jets will pad Hall's stats just like it did for #99. Gretz would have won the Art Ross if they only counted his points against the jets.

Lowly jets? Sure.. and that's why Winnipeg has been within a few spots of making the playoffs within it's first two years back, meanwhile Edmonton was still trying to crawl out of the basement. Doesn't seem to be working, does it.

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#46 Dman
August 28 2013, 01:40PM
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jetsfan wrote:

Lowly jets? Sure.. and that's why Winnipeg has been within a few spots of making the playoffs within it's first two years back, meanwhile Edmonton was still trying to crawl out of the basement. Doesn't seem to be working, does it.

The Jets finished 6 points ahead of the Oilers last season and they were in the weakest division in the league. Hardly anything to be bragging about.

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#47 Tim in Kelowna
August 28 2013, 01:41PM
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JW, you are wrong about Kunitz. If having him on the team means that Crosby is guaranteed to hit the ground running in Sochi then I want him on the team.

Nash deserves to be on the team because he was great in Vancouver and he is still in the prime of his career.

Sharp is too versatile to ignore, so he would have to have a horrendous October/November to not be on the team.

As far as I'm concerned, Hall takes Coutures spot. Hall is one of the fastest players in the world and speed is may be the most important factor when picking this team due to the larger ice surface. In fact Hall might be a great fit with Crosby because they both love to play a fast-paced north/south game. Not to mention the fact that Hall finished in the top 10 in league scoring last year. If gets off to a good start, they have no choice but to pick Hall.

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#48 Tim in Kelowna
August 28 2013, 01:42PM
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Also, Ladd has to be one of the extra forwards. He would be a spectacular utility player.

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#49 jetsfan
August 28 2013, 01:45PM
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Dman wrote:

The Jets finished 6 points ahead of the Oilers last season and they were in the weakest division in the league. Hardly anything to be bragging about.

There's no bragging.. That was as a response to an Oiler fan (past four seasons placing 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th) referring to other teams as lowly.

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#50 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
August 28 2013, 01:59PM
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Jets blow dogs for quarters.

Book it.

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