There is something wrong with Taylor Hall

Jonathan Willis
January 16 2014 09:05AM

 

According to the general manager Edmonton Oilers, Taylor Hall is coming along nicely as a hockey player. He is making good decisions and playing better than ever this season.

Maybe he's right. But the data emphatically points to something having gone sideways in the game of the Oilers’ best offensive player.

MacTavish

David Staples, in his fantastic interview with Craig MacTavish last week, mentioned to the G.M. that most of the Oilers’ young stars had seen their play slide under Dallas Eakins. MacTavish disagreed, and specifically noted Hall’s play.

“I don’t think it’s accurate in what I’m seeing,” said MacTavish. “When you talk to people that know hockey very well they will tell you that they are seeing structural changes in Taylor Hall. His game is changing.”

MacTavish specifically noted Hall’s play on a goal against Tampa Bay on January 5:

MacTavish described the play as “living to fight another day” – Hall opting for the dump-in rather than trying to beat two players and turning the puck over and favourably compared that style of play to the one employed by Anaheim’s top line.

The Data

Here’s the thing: if Hall’s game has improved, over time we should see that in the results. So, for example, if he’s avoiding the bad high-risk plays he did in years past we should (all else being equal) expect to see that reflected in numbers like his shots against totals. If his two-way play overall is improved, the Oilers should be out-chancing the opposition more frequently than they have in prior years.

But that isn’t what’s happening.

The chart above looks complicated, but it’s really very simple. What we’re looking at is Oilers shot totals with Hall on and off the ice over the last two seasons.

Last year, Edmonton out-shot their opposition by six shots an hour with Hall on the ice. They were out-shot by nearly 10 shots per hour with Hall off the ice; in other words, the Oilers shot differential improved by 16 (a massive, massive number) when Hall stepped on the ice.

This year, it’s a disaster. The Oilers have actually improved significantly with Hall off the ice – instead of getting out-shot by 10 shots per hour, they’re only being out-shot by half that (and yes, that’s pathetic, but it still represents a pretty big improvement). The problem is that suddenly the Oilers are terrible with Hall on the ice. Not only are they allowing 2.5 shots more per hour than they did a year ago, but they’ve gone from generating 36 shots per hour with Hall on the ice down to 27. That’s a massive drop, a 25 percent reduction in shots for.

Well, maybe Hall’s playing tougher minutes. Except that he isn’t; we can go back and look at who Hall is playing and to quote from that linked Tyler Dellow post, “At home, where Eakins has more control over the matchups, Hall seems to be getting matchups as easy or easier than last year.”

Well, is Eakins is starting him less in the offensive zone? Nope; according to Behind the Net 55 percent of Hall’s non-neutral zone shifts were in the offensive zone last season. This year that number is 57 percent.

Hall’s still scoring, but if the shot numbers don’t improve that isn’t going to last.

The chart above shows two statistics. The first is on-ice shooting percentage, and there’s a pretty clear pattern. With Hall on the ice in three of the last four years, the Oilers have done a slightly better job than the NHL average of finishing on their shots, scoring on between 9.0 and 9.5 percent of all shots taken. This year, the total is 11.3 percent.

That means either the Oilers’ top line has evolved into the league’s best finishing line… or it’s riding a streak of goals going in that isn’t going to last.

The second number is “individual points percentage,” which is a fancy way of saying the percentage of goals a player is on the ice for that he gets points on. So a player who is on the ice for 10 goals and picks up nine points, he would have an IPP of 90.0 percent. What we’ve found looking over years of data is that some years a player picks up points on a weirdly high number of the goals scored when he’s on the ice (generally coinciding with a career year) and sometimes doesn’t get those points (generally coinciding with a terrible points year). Over time, though, those totals average out.

Sidney Crosby is the best player in the league at this (big surprise, he’s driving the offence on his line) and generally averages out in the 85 percent range. Taylor Hall topped 90 percent last year and this season is over 100 percent - somehow he has 29 five-on-five points despite only being on the ice for 27 five-on-five goals.

All of this is a long way of saying that Taylor Hall’s great point totals are not to be trusted. The Oilers aren’t generating shots when he’s on the ice. He’s getting away with it because Edmonton is scoring on a high percentage of their shots when he’s on the ice and because he’s picking up points on all of those goals and some other ones besides. History suggests, rather strongly, that these things will not continue.

What to Make of It All

So we find ourselves in a situation where the data we have directly contradicts the statements of the general manager. MacTavish sees Hall’s play as progressing nicely; the data says he’s fallen off a cliff.

Neither of these is to be dismissed lightly.

MacTavish was an excellent coach in Edmonton, something which was dramatically emphasized by what happened to the team when he was replaced by Pat Quinn. He knows much, much more about how players should execute a system than I do, and much, much more than the comments section here knows too.

On the other hand, I’ve lost track of the number of players I’ve seen riding a percentage bubble who have seen their numbers fall dramatically in the years that followed. Jordan Eberle is probably the best recent Oilers example because people will remember the debate following his breakthrough 2011-12 campaign (76 points in 78 games). In the 96 games since he has a total of 74 points, a 63-point pace over 82 games. It’s a fall that was predicted for the same reasons I’ve cited above with Hall.

I hate to disagree with MacTavish, but the data has been awfully reliable in the past and there’s really only one way to interpret it. Something has gone sideways with Hall’s game this season.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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 hankthetank
January 16 2014, 09:24AM
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Nothing is wrong with Hallsy. He is trying to do what his coach asks of him.

Title SHOULD read:

Is Eakins ruining Taylor Hall?

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#2 Manfly
January 16 2014, 09:16AM
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i dunno, i think Hall's play is fine. at lest he's not playing like Gagner!

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#3 Renegade
January 16 2014, 09:23AM
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I don't think there is anything wrong with Hall. I think it's a matter of Eakins system not being tailored for the players.

A sign of a good coach is not to force players to fit a system, but come up with a system that fits the players.

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#5 Tim in Kelowna
January 16 2014, 10:56AM
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I'm not a fan of advanced stats, but they have their place. This isn't it.

Hall is one of the few things going well for the Oilers.

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#6 OILERSORDEATH
January 16 2014, 09:34AM
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Meh, not buying that at all sorry. Hall's been just fine in my eyes. The problem is the team is just a big huge pile of steaming $hit.

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#8 camdog
January 16 2014, 09:33AM
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Don't know what to make of this article, but do have to give you credit for the articles you wrote in respect to Eberle a year or two back. His output wasn't sustainable and so far you have been 100 percent right.

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#9 Spydyr
January 16 2014, 10:07AM
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You know what is wrong with Hall? His coach and his system.

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#10 Toro
January 16 2014, 10:19AM
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I never did agree with Oilers getting rid of Kreuger after only 48 games when the team finally was improving in the standings, and Eakins style of coaching isn't built for this Oilers team, I wonder if Eakins has a longer leash because Mac T won't wanna admit that the coaching change was the wrong move.

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#11 Shifty203
January 16 2014, 09:46AM
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Silly Willis, You can't write an article criticizing #4 here. He is the messiah, the 2nd coming of christ. He could shoot the puck directly into his own net, and it would be someone else's fault.

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#12 Ken
January 16 2014, 11:05AM
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Bring Krueger back. Team is going the wrong direction . Was a lot better last year and they should have given Krueger a full season.

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#13 Puck JammeR!
January 16 2014, 11:14AM
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"Taylor Hall topped 90 percent last year and this season is over 100 percent - somehow he has 29 five-on-five points despite only being on the ice for 27 five-on-five goals."

Sounds like a very useful and reliable statistic.

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#14 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 16 2014, 10:31AM
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It could be a classic case of "hero syndrome" wherein a team is so bad, so deficient in so many areas, that certain individuals, because of their finely honed competitive spirit, take it apon themselves to carry the team, to provide above and beyond effort to compensate for those around them. Of course it is unsustainable over time.

I think MANY Oilers players have suffered this syndrome over the past several years. It's why so many players hit the crapper here, get traded, and eventually rebound somewhere else.

It's the reason that our injury rate is so high. Asking players to make up for overall team deficiencies by blocking more shots, taking more risks physically....like Arcobello taking runs at players much bigger than himself...like Hemsky being constantly injured because he feels forced to go into the tough areas because there is no power forward to do it for him, It's the reason why Petry shows flashes of brilliance then looks pathetic. It's like asking the engine in your eight cylinder car to run on six cylinders, it might get you to the gas station, but it's going to breakdown soon enough.

On the good teams, the balanced teams, the effect is the exact opposite. The effect of good overall TEAM play is that it takes a load off of individual players. It's the reason these teams can take players from anywhere and make them look better than they looked before....ala the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks.

SO, is there something wrong with Taylor Hall?....Yes there is.....What's wrong with Taylor Hall is that he plays for the Edmonton Oilers.....and there would be something wrong with Sidney Crosby if he played here too......and that my friends is on the management.

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#16 Kevin
January 16 2014, 10:17AM
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JW writes interesting article. Then takes his critics to the woodshed for a good spanking. Fine entertainment!

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#17 Taylor Gang
January 16 2014, 03:39PM
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In the top 15 in the league in points on arguably the worst team in the NHL.

Seems to be among the only bright spots if you ask me.

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#18 Truth
January 16 2014, 09:25AM
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Hall gets a point 108% of the time when a goal is scored while he's on the ice? Nice.

All Eakins talks about is his improvement as a defensive player. Hall himself talks about altering his style to extend his career. I think the two of them in conjunction mean a player that takes less offensive chances and leans to safe play over taking the risk for a scoring chance. If the data doesn't lie, he would be better off for the team as a risk taking wild man like he was in his first couple of years, no?

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#19 Rama Lama
January 16 2014, 10:12AM
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I totally agree with this article.........tough questions to ask but justified. Every part of our game has regressed, PP, PK, 5 on 5, Goals for, Goals against, you name it.

Eakins has totally lost this team and most astute observers can see this in the way players have reacted to his systems. This coach is too busy preening himself in front of the media ........this seems to be the only skill he has.

I for one believe that Mac T's biggest mistake was to listen to this egomaniac and then fall for his double speak. We were on the right track with Krueger.......he had the ears and respect of the players.

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#20 admiralmark
January 16 2014, 10:57AM
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Well thats great! You took 1 of maybe 2 bright spots on the entire Oilers season and analyzed it to tell us... Ummmm guess what?! Thats not actually a bright spot either. Thanks.

My question is how would it be possible for "any" player playing on a team this far down in the dumps with more goals scored on it then any other team in the NHL... How can any player look all that great statistically speaking.

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#21 Shifty203
January 16 2014, 09:58AM
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DisappointedFan wrote:

Here's a good read for you Willis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

@Dissapointedfan

Did you even read the article, or the link you've provided? Not once did Willis try to infer a cause. He simply stated the numbers show Hall's play dropping off.

If you want a leg for your arguement to stand on, try actually disputing the numbers.

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#22 They're $hittie
January 16 2014, 11:13AM
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His scoring is right on and he is not the problem. Screw Corsi!

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#23 Bryzarro World
January 16 2014, 09:17AM
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Ya... The Org is garbage..

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#24 Al Nols
January 16 2014, 09:22AM
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Willis, good article.

However, is there a way to examine this in another manner? Let me explan: watching games this year, I notice that Hall often takes a pass in the Oilers zone and starts carrying the puck up from the his defensive zone. Presumably this is because our defence is so weak and we don't have many defenders that can carry and/or pass the puck up effectively through the neutral zone and/or into the offensive zone. This seems to put extra pressure on the forwards (and by my eye Hall specifically) to make a play to make a neutral zone and then an offensive zone entry. Hence the very high number of turnovers...

Thoughts?

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#25 Wigswag
January 16 2014, 09:23AM
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I've watched the games and you can't deny Taylor drives the play for that line. They have stuck Yak on the line to try and jump start him and now Gags. It's not Taylor's fault if they aren't shooting or hitting the net.

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#26 brad
January 16 2014, 09:25AM
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I don't think MacT's comment was regarding the whole current season. I think it was his view of Hall in a smaller sample of games lately. Maybe Hall is realizing that he is a d liability and is trying to improve and the GM wanted to give him a boost, who really knows. But a whole article about statistically showing Hall and and the team's defensive issues because the GM made 1 positive statement seems a bit overdone. I don't think 1 positive statement in a terrible year makes MacT oblivious to his teams situation.

but just IMO

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#27 Reg Dunlop
January 16 2014, 09:46AM
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I think Hall is preoccupied with his desire to be traded. Hopefully he sticks around long enough to introduce Scrivens to a few thin blondes with fake racks so he doesn't miss his wife so much when she refuses to relocate. Face reality, Ben. She was going to dump your hick a$$ as soon as the thick paychecks stopped flowing in a few years anyway.

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#28 Muji
January 16 2014, 11:36AM
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I'm a fan of advanced stats and Taylor Hall has looked a little off at times, but saying that saying that "THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH TAYLOR HALL" seems a bit sensational.

Especially considering: - he's over 1PPG - he started the year at C - he has a new coach this year, again - he suffered an injury during the season (is he still wearing that knee brace?)

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#29 Ol' Jase
January 16 2014, 02:22PM
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@nina russo

How on earth can you possibly cite this as a player getting WORSE?? Are you seriously claiming Taylor Hall is the weak link in offensive production on this team right now??

Again, this is a unit derived stat extrapolated to individual assessment through a suspension of basic logic.

How it is possible to claim Hall is an anchor for anyone that plays with him and cite this as prove is beyond ridiculous.

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#30 redhot1
January 16 2014, 03:18PM
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So the fans accept advanced stats when Smid was brought up, but disregard them when Hall is mentioned? Rose coloured glasses much?

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#31 MacT
January 16 2014, 10:14AM
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Willis, no story here MOVE ON!!! Hall is a great player ...try and be more creative in your posts!

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#32 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
January 16 2014, 10:20AM
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GriffCity wrote:

Hall's play has been hot and cold I will give you that much but certainly not deserving of an entire article. Not when players such as Gagner and Eberle have been doing far worse this season. Hall is still the Oilers best offensive player.

I kind of hate having to rag on you JW but so many of your write ups have no substance to them. If you're going to criticize, do it on a player that everyone will agree on, trust me there are several to choose from.

The stats presented don't match what I've seen by eye either, but what a stupid comment this is.

Willis, please propagate the giant circlejerk that these comment threads have become. Pick an article topic that won't ruffle any feathers. That's why we all come to this website, isn't it?

People rip on Bob Stauffer constantly for not asking the tough questions, then pile on when Willis does.

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#33 MessyEH
January 16 2014, 03:46PM
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Willis, Why do you hate Taylor Hall?

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#36 DisappointedFan
January 16 2014, 09:47AM
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Here's a good read for you Willis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

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#37 Jo3128
January 16 2014, 04:05PM
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My husband and I have friendly debates with regards to the Edmonton Oilers at least a few times a week. Lately it's the debate on what's wrong with the Edmonton Oilers and can it be fixed. The one main difference in our approaches is that he is a numbers guy and I tend to be more psychology minded.

With regards to Hall, I agree with some of the comments that the problem may be more with the team then the player. If you look at the psychology of losing it is clear that team effort dissolves into individual efforts when things go down hill. As this is a team game you can't have individuals trying to do it themselves.

We played on a ball team for many years that was by far the worst in the league and I remember how horrible it was to go to the game, try your best and still expect to lose.

I can't say it's the same thing with the oilers, but with players like Hall and Yakopov who play with lots of heart but not as much head, it may eventually feel like they're trying to hold up the team and that's when mistakes such as horrible give-aways happen.

If lots of luck and a few good trades were to happen to the Oilers and a good winning streak comes out of it I bet you anything that the mistakes will go down and team play will resume.

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#38 s2H
January 16 2014, 08:19PM
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Willis your articles always blow, but this has to be the worst one I've had the misfortune of reading yet. Hall's the best player on this team, period.

here's some stats;

Hall is 15th in league scoring in te NHL Willis is the 15th best "writer" on oilers nation

go home

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#39 jim
January 16 2014, 10:13AM
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Shifty203 wrote:

Silly Willis, You can't write an article criticizing #4 here. He is the messiah, the 2nd coming of christ. He could shoot the puck directly into his own net, and it would be someone else's fault.

Yeah, Any more negative articles you'll be traded to Flamesnation....

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#40 Fish
January 16 2014, 10:28AM
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I wonder if this is related to the 8:00 am practices that Struds referred to as a "reverse curfew". Is there a little too much extra curricular activity going on for Hall to be effective? He is a young stallion with fame, loads of money and beautiful puck bunnies lining up for him.

Coincidence does often mean random and unrelated events

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#41 Old Timer
January 16 2014, 10:39AM
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All these so called advanced stats, including corsi, fenwick and even the old reliable plus/minus, are just a bunch of bull poop.

Anyone who has laced them up or even watched the game for a few years can tell who is playing well and who isn't by focusing on that player while they are on the ice.

I don't need some silly stat to tell me that Hall's game has changed over the last year. Last year, everyone was saying how great he was playing, but to a trained eye there was a lot of bad habits in his game. He is now doing a lot of small things correctly but still gets burned occasionally when he tries to do a fancy play rather than the easy one. I expect that in two years time if he continues to evolve, these turnovers and errors will have all but totally left his game.He will be a much more complete and better player than he ever would have if Eakins had not forced him to make these changes.

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#42 JackFromRedDeer
January 16 2014, 07:22PM
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Dumbest article I've read on here. Taylor Hall does nothing but produce.

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#43 Freewheeling Freddie
January 16 2014, 09:52AM
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The oilers have to find a permanent line mate to play with Hall and Hopkins. Not 89 .This is where a very BOLD move might have to come into play. Advanced stats and corsi numbers are a bunch of crap .The only stats that matter are wins and losses .And I can tell you the Oilers don't have nearly enough. Hall is playing his heart out. With the 2 bold trades we should shoot up the standings and be at least 14th in the west.

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#44 jimb01101
January 16 2014, 10:00AM
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Reg Dunlop,

Ben Scrivens is an Edmontonian with plenty of family and friends in town. I'm sure if he is married she's spent plenty of time in our snowy wasteland of a hometown.

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#45 Terran
January 16 2014, 10:56AM
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I was wondering about a couple things Jonathan. I know you review many games, so you might have the answers. 1. Is the shot drop off perhaps due to Hall taking less low quality shots? Previous years, he would streak into the offensive zone and snap a shot from just over the blue line. This year, he seems to be playing a more possessive game, trying to gain the zone and keep the puck for a better opportunity. Could this explain (part of) the drop off in shot totals?

2. Could part of this be due to Hall trying to restructure his game? I remember reading a few years ago, when Tiger Woods changed his game that there was quite a period of time when his game dropped off due to him having to basically relearn how to play.

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#46 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 16 2014, 03:51PM
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I think the issue here is that MacT and JW are talking about two different things. MacT is happy to see Hall develope a certain style of play....less toes drags, get it deep when it makes sense too do so, etc etc......he's seeing changes in Halls style of play that he calls improvement and that his experience tells him are important. JW is focused on a specific set or sets of measurable results that his experience tells him are important and that happen to point to some limited ways in which Hall may have regressed.

It may simply be that what MacT views as improvement is different than what JW views as improvement. Or perhaps more accurately, it would indicate that MacT and JW have slightly different value systems.

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#47 wintoon
January 16 2014, 10:11AM
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Do the figures Willis has developed in any way reflect the lilelihood that everybody is funneling the puck through Hall in the offensive zone rather than playing to their personal strengths. When you have an alpha male like Hall, somewhat lesser players tend to defer to the alpha player. Can this, in part, explain the lower numbers with Hall than without? Curious.

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#48 GriffCity
January 16 2014, 11:18AM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

The stats presented don't match what I've seen by eye either, but what a stupid comment this is.

Willis, please propagate the giant circlejerk that these comment threads have become. Pick an article topic that won't ruffle any feathers. That's why we all come to this website, isn't it?

People rip on Bob Stauffer constantly for not asking the tough questions, then pile on when Willis does.

Tough questions? Or stupid ones? I certainly don't have any problem with articles or questions that "ruffle feathers" but when it's a bunch of drivel, then that's something else.

Why not write an article on how players face-off percentage is lower on days when they shave their beards, or how too much sock tape can be a bad thing? Those would make as much sense as the correlations in these ridiculous blogs.

Just saying, there are other players to criticize more before Hall.

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#49 Jason Gregor
January 16 2014, 12:34PM
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@Jonathan Willis

If the stats suggest every player got worse playing with Hall, it is possible that the stat might have some flaws?

Why are the players seemingly "playing better" without Hall, yet they aren't producing actual points, outside of Perron, who played very well for a 6-week stretch?

I'm curious if there are comparables for that, or are Hall's 45 games just an oddity.

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#50 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 16 2014, 04:04PM
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Over use or abuse of statistical analysis pains me. However, a select few, and JW is among them, are pretty disciplined with their analytics. It makes his articles interesting and worth reading. Statistics when used properly can add or enhance perspective. Good article. Thanks JW.

I don't see JW raking Hall here, I see him adding perspective to the conversation.

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