PUSHING THE RIVER

Lowetide
January 01 2014 11:01AM

I think we've established that Taylor Hall is unlikely to make the Olympic team—he's on my team without a throw—but as the calendar turns it's important to keep in mind what Hall's been through this season, and what he's been doing recently.

TAYLOR HALL BY MONTH, 2013-14

Early in the season he was a center, and then he suffered an injury. Although he didn't miss a lot of time (7 games), it certainly had an impact when he returned to play. Still, Hall has been improving and recently has been very good, especially at evens (he has 11 of the team's 81 even-stength goals). In Hall's last 6 games, he's 3-7-10 +4. Things aren't back to normal (his Corsi For % at 5x5/close is lagging from previous seasons) but he's trending in a good direction.

I'd love to see him at the Olympics, but Hall's performances for the Oilers are the real thrill for this fan. Taylor Hall is a difference maker, and the team's recent record (2-0-2 in the last four game) has a lot to do with #4.

Even having a season that looks wonky based on his own established levels, Hall is one of the top players in the game (76th in GVT right now and trending) and if Team Canada passes on him they're addled.

HE CAN'T PLAY DEFENSE!

The 'he can't play defense' argument went full sail during the WHC's last year, when Lindy Ruff chose to hamstring his own team and move Hall down the depth chart. Hall's ability to push the river and help possession makes him BETTER than a defensive forward—the best defense is a good offense—and hockey fans can go overboard making this argument.

Example: Gretzky. People would bitch and moan about his ability to play defense, completely disregarding the fact that the puck was rarely in Edmonton's zone with 99 on the ice. I know, I was there and I did it! Today's modern metrics allow me to understand that Gretzky's offense was so good that the defensive side of the game was reduced markedly with him as part of the solution (that became less of a factor as time wore on, but as an Oiler the ice was tilted in a major way—more than at any other time in history is my guess).

Now, I'm not comparing Hall to Gretzky, but the dynamics are the same. What Hall does well (drives defensemen back, opening up space for zone entries on sorties) has extreme value in possession metrics, and pushes the river in Edmonton's favor. Now, they don't do enough with it, but that's another discussion.

If the group choosing Team Canada focuses on that, Hall makes this team in a breeze.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

My guess is Team Canada passes on Hall, and that he uses it as fuel to punish the hockey world. As an Oiler fan, that's the best thing about looking forward to 2014.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#101 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 06:39AM
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The Olympic was and continues to be plagued by two things:

old boy network favoritism -Nagano and Turin being the most egregious examples but not the only ones.

Too conservative an approach - this is understandable as the pressure on the group picking the team is enormous and taking a chance that ends in failure can tarnish ones future in the team canada management.

Both of those factors weigh against halls selection as he is outside the eastern based old boy network that currently has the lead in picking the team. And he definitely would be seen as a risky option.

I had a brief on air discussion about hall in the Olympics with stauffer a few weeks ago. He broached the idea of a line with Seguin hall and duschene. IMO that would be a very lethal trio that would terrorize opponents especially on the wide Olympic ice. But there is no way in hell the cardinals will take that chance.

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#102 outdoorzguy
January 03 2014, 04:10PM
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Hall is about as much of an Olympian as I am!! Are you kidding me you actually think he has the skill to play on that scene?

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#103 Czar
January 01 2014, 11:50AM
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@The Real Scuba Steve

Don't ruin my baileys buzz with that talk.

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#104 K_Mart
January 01 2014, 12:01PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Well I for one am happy that Hall is not going to Russia. Firstly, he is motivated right now and I suspect not being considered for the Olympics is a driving factor?

Secondly, anyone that plays in this tournament usually comes back in an altered state which requires 10 games to recover. Since we are trying to make the playoffs, ( we can do it we need to go 40-1) a fresh Hall on the team is needed so why send him to Russia.

On a side note I was wondering if anyone else feels that Eberle is really lacking on the shooting. His need to wrist everything is costing him opportunities.........I would make him watch 100 Jarri Kurri goals and he would quickly see that half his goals came from one-timers.

Yeah. Ebs has to learn to one time the puck. It was an obvious deficiency in his rookie year and I just figured he'd work on the slapper and add it to the repertoire over the following three years. But here we are and he hasn't really improved his slapshot/onetimer at all.

He is still putting up the offense and is looking like he will be a career 60-70pt guy, but I sure hope we don't see much more of what JW pointed out in the GWG from last night. Ouch. Ebs really failed hard on that play.

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#105 K_Mart
January 01 2014, 12:16PM
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How's Pitlick been doing since his injury?

I like him much more than Joensuu and hope he can steal that job from him.

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#106 Serious Gord
January 01 2014, 06:48PM
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An tangential to the topic of Gleason - if there's a worse GM than the Lowe/tambo/MacT group it's Jim Rutherford.

He has made some doozy mistakes over the years and yet he still seems to survive - the 'canes owner grew up a red wings fan - maybe it's the same syndrome as Katz has...

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#107 Alsker
January 01 2014, 09:36PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

I agree.

That line would have been much different t with Yak on it. Eberle and Gagner are too slow on their own and need Yak's speed.

Not to mention someone to blame for the f*ckups.

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#108 Oiler Al
January 01 2014, 10:12PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I would hope the Oilers were very interested in Gleason he was exactly what they need, and they would have had to trade someone for him, the problem is Gleason had a limited 5 team no-trade clause, I would have to assume Edmonton and their brilliantly run organization would have been on that list.

Oilers don't need a Gleason. They just got rid of a similar player with similar contract... Smid.

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#109 Rod from Viking
January 01 2014, 10:53PM
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@Oiler Al

He is a lot harder to play against and is an excellent fighter so really he and Smid are not the same except for the contract. I don't know what happened to Gleason but he used to play a lot like the one K-Lowe let get away, one Matt Greene, but according to Mr Willis he is not the same player he was and he is only 30.

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#110 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 07:58AM
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Rdubb wrote:

as I was reading your comment I found myself "somewhat" agreeing with you, until your 2nd last line when you said you "sometimes agree"...it is my opinion that this serious gord character is generally so far out to lunch it is pitiful, and when he cannot beat you in an argument, he'll try and pick apart ones punctuation, why, just to make himself feel better. When gord does this, he proves to me to be woefully inadequate in talking about sports, thus he must be a teacher or professor of English lit or something along those lines... Generally, the un-educated sports babble that he tries to discuss has most of the sports educated people giggling like school girls. It is obvious that gord has never donned the pads or equipment of any real sport, & if he did, he sat in the corner... just an observation from the stuff written and his responses to people. "when you can't beat them, pick apart their grammar" is the quote he lives by...

Please cite the case where I have ever attacked ones punctuation/grammar.

There are indeed instances where I rebut someone's argument because they have used language or terms that over-reached - but that is not the same as what you assert I to.

As for my lack of on ice experience, I would point out that in sports as in eggs you do not have be able to play or lay to judge and comment.

Not that I am comparing myself to them - but many commenters on sports have never played the game - Howard Cosell - he wrote a book using that as its title; John Shannon doesn't even know how to skate.

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#111 Romanus
January 02 2014, 11:08AM
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Kr55 wrote:

Gags -2 last game looking as clueless as he usually does in his own end. Eakins is talking today like Yak is getting a great opportunity again next game playing with Gagner. As you said, when Gags doesn't do his job in our end AGAIN, it will be Yak sitting out. Did I miss something? Is Gags buddies with Katz now? Did he move into Horc's old house? Something is completely off here.

Yaks had the worst +/- well before he played with Gags. We just have more than one guy lost in his own end.

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#112 Zarny
January 03 2014, 04:29PM
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Hall will be in the conversation but in the end the process will leave him off the team.

He has 88 pts in his last 81 games and the highest pt/gm for LW over the last year. But he's only 22 and was the youngest player at the orientation camp by almost a year.

He also has no playoff experience so it's unlikely Hockey Canada would put on one of the top 2 lines. His struggles at the WHC and his weaknesses over 200 ft make him an unlikely candidate for the 3rd or 4th line.

For Oiler fans however, Hall has shown that he is the real deal. Another 2 years experience and he'd be a lock for the Olympic team.

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