Life doesn’t always turn out as planned. One minute you’re on a big time television show and the next minute you’re making straight-to-DVD classics. The window of opportunity can close quickly. Thank goodness there are older folks around to give advice.
As we edge closer to decision day on Taylor Hall’s season (should they send him down to junior?) fans of the Edmonton Oilers are beginning to see just how large a step it is from junior to the NHL. In pre-season, when the muckers were on the powerplay and the ten-year veteran minor leaguers played with the superstars, Edmonton’s kids weaved magic into every shift. As the pre-season wound down, the points dried up. Now that we’re into the NHL regular season, time and space have evaporated and the three kids look like, well, kids on many shifts these days.
With the Oilers first loss last night, the coach has an opportunity to change some of the team’s structure. Gilbert Brule is either injured or unable to play in Minnesota (he fell down a lot last night) so there may be some changes there. Ryan Jones has probably earned a shift on a regular line, and to me eye Magnus Pääjärvi has played well enough to grab a spot on the Horcoff line. The question becomes who do they demote?
Probably Taylor Hall. He is "in between" right now, not handling the puck much and chasing it a lot. Off the rush, he doesn’t appear to have the previous drive to get around NHL veterans and is left to make a less creative play (and sometimes forces a play without success). With kids, it takes about 5 minutes to start losing confidence, so this is an issue Renney needs to address.
Shawn Horcoff has already given some insight into the situation. Quoting Horcoff in the the tsn article: "His shifts are too long. And he has to come back deeper for the puck to open up more ice. You have to overwork to get more ice. He’s taking off (too quickly) and the defencemen are right there, but that’s the NHL. These things will come. He wants it so badly, he stays out there because he wants it (to make something happen)."
These are common maladies for young players and can be filed under "errors of enthusiasm" at this early juncture. Will he learn from this? His average shift lengths in the first three NHL games have been fine (49 seconds in game #1; 51 seconds in game #2; 46 seconds in game three) but what Horcoff is talking about are a few prolonged shifts per game. Last night he had 5 shifts over one minute, with the longest being 1:26. Jordan Eberle had 7 shifts over one minutes with the longest being 1:40 (PP). The Swedish teenager had 8 shifts over a minute, the longest being 1:24. Checking the TOI totals for the two previous games, they seem to be about the same as last night’s in terms of the three young forwards.
I think Taylor Hall might benefit from playing on a lesser line for a few games. Elevate the Swede, get Brule out of the lineup until he’s healthy and give Ryan Jones a chance to play with Cogs and Hall on the 3line. Either way, the coach will have to do something soon. Taylor Hall is a very confident young man, but he’s also used to a lot of success. OHL to NHL is a massive gap.