January 06 2014 10:41PM
Listening to some Oilers fans and pundits it sounds like Taylor Hall is a complete failure as a player, and any mention of him for the Olympic team is laughable.
I don't expect Hall to make the team, because the hockey world is infatuated with "safe" players, and a turnover is criticized 10x more than a great play, but mainly because Canada has a lot of depth.
However, I believe it is time for some clarity regarding Hall's game.
Here is a quick list of who I believe Canada (not me) will pick for the team, in no particular order:
There are many others who should be considered like Duchene, Seguin, Hall, E. Staal, Kunitz, Marleau, Carter, Letang, Giordano, Boyle and Crawford, and I'm sure my prediction won't be 100% accurate.
Some very good players will not make the team, but during the past few weeks I've read and heard comments from people that make it sound like Hall is a terrible player.
It's gotten so bad/funny that today people said they would take Duchene over Hall because he has "better hands." One guy said, "Duchene can stickhandle in a phone both, and he has had more Highlight of the Night honours than Hall. I did not know that making it on Sportscentre was part of the evaluation process, nor did that make you a more effective player.
Duchene can deke better than Hall and he stickhandles more, but Hall is a better skater, can beat goalies on the rush, from 20-30 feet out, and he has outscored Duchene 144-109 since the beginning of the 2011/2012 season. So having better stickhandling skills is now more valuable than producing 35 more points?
I've learned a lot during the lead up to the Olympic team selection.
The major knock on Hall seems to be his turnovers. There is no arguing he turns the puck over, and he sometimes tries to be too fancy. However, he has eliminated the toe drag from his game, and he is improving his overall game. He is a young, dynamic player, and getting all the bad habits out of his game won't happen over night. It rarely does for most players.
The final roster will be full of players with more experience than Hall, but very few of them have been more productive during the past three seasons.
Since the beginning of the 2012 season Hall has scored 144 points in 144 games; 13th most in the NHL and during that span is he one of only seven players who have averaged a point a game.
Crosby: 1.53 (514 career games)
Stamkos: 1.20 (390 career games)
Giroux: 1.07 (375 career games)
Neal: 1.05 (378 career games)
St. Louis: 1.03 (1,021 career games)
Tavares: 1.01 (334 career games)
Hall: 1.00 (209 career games)
Hall is producing with the best players in the game, and all of them have more experience and are on much better teams. Even Tavares' Islanders were good for one season. Hall is producing his points with the worst defence corps in the NHL. I don't think you can overlook how well he has produced considering the quality of his teammates compared to the other top scorers in the game.
The other aspect that can't be overlooked is that Hall scores the majority of his points at even strength. It is harder to score 5-on-5, yet Hall is the 3rd most productive ES scorer in the game this season.
Crosby is averaging 0.93 ES points/game, Getzlaf is at 0.85 and Hall is at 0.84. Despite all of his turnovers and supposed lack of an overall game he produces incredibly well at even strength.
Over the past two seasons here is a look at the most productive players at even strength:
I'm not suggesting Hall's overall game is as good as those who will make the Olympic team, but people need to calm down and recognize that very few active players produce as much as Hall has early in their careers. Hall has worked on improving his overall game, and while he does that he has still managed to produce points. He isn't sacrificing offence, because he cut out toe drags or has become better at stripping pucks of the opposition by backchecking harder. That is a good sign, because it shows he will be able to improve his overall game, and likely become even more dangerous offensively.
And that is why people should be excited about his long-term potential.
His overall game is developing nicely, but it's become ridiculous how much criticism he has faced leading up to the Olympic selection.
Scoring goals and producing points is the hardest part of hockey, and Hall is one of the best in the NHL, yet it seems during this entire process all anyone focuses on is his defensive game. That doesn't surprise me, because many coaches, media and fans have decided that sound defensive play is more valuable than scoring points.
Hall can learn to become better defensively and to protect the puck better, but you can't teach other players to be as dominant offensively as he is. I believe too many of us are guilty of watching games and only focusing too much on the negatives, and too often downplaying the positives. Hall can do things that very few players in the league can do, and that won't change once his overall game matures.
Hall can make an unreal pass through legs and sticks, but if it doesn't result in a goal it is forgotten about 30 seconds later. However, if he tries to make a high risk pass that doesn't work he is looked at as a risky player.
Seems a bit unfair, no?
I understand why Hall won't make the team this year, but the suggestions that players like Duchene and Couture are significantly better players is ridiculous.
I would understand if fans in San Jose and Colorado felt that way, but it seems that all the losing in Edmonton is starting to turn some Oiler fans into constant cynics. You should be frustrated with the losing, but your frustration shouldn't be aimed at a 22-year-old who is producing on par with the best offensive players in the NHL.
You should be annoyed at Kevin Lowe. You should be annoyed at Craig MacTavish for icing the weakest blueline in Oiler history, but breaking down Hall's game and suggesting he isn't good is barking up the wrong tree.
He is only going to get better, and everything points to him become an elite player. If management can do their job and surround him with some decent players the Oilers should have success. Winning teams have great players, and as Hall matures he I can see his game becoming elite.
Hall not making the Olympic team as a 22-year-old shouldn't subject him to harsh criticism or inaccurate pot-shots about his game. The fact he is even in the conversation should be viewed as an accomplishment, and his play and future potential should be the main catalyst to believe the Oilers might eventually improve one day.