Framing the Issue

This is Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men." Along with wonderful phrases like "the New Jersey hair-splitting convention" the movie is a compelling look into the meaning of reasonable doubt and the power of bias and prejudice. It’s one of my favorite movies. 

There a slight disconnect between most of the msm and the blogosphere on a very important issue involving the Edmonton Oilers. Bloggers have been spending a lot of time discussing Taylor Hall’s future, going into great detail in regard to important issues. Keeping Taylor Hall in the NHL now allows him to leave via free agency (if he wishes) at age 25; if he’s sent back now the Oilers would enjoy his playing rights until age 27. That’s a big deal.

Also, many secondary issues (why on earth can’t these kids play in the AHL at age 18? that is something the league needs to adjust) have been brought up across the blogosphere and at the very least make for an interesting discussion.

The mainstream media appears to be using this discussion as a platform to call out "crazy fans" for being fickle. The radio has been full of diatribes about the silliness of sending Hall away ("give your head a shake") and not at all discussing the actual issue: are the Edmonton Oilers better off starting the contract clock a year (or two years) down the line. For the record, I haven’t talked to one fan in panic nor a crazy person about Taylor Hall. The Edmonton fanbase is taking a kicking here, and they don’t deserve it.

The fact is that there is an issue here that should be addressed: should Taylor Hall be sent to junior in order for the Oilers to get the most out of his pre-UFA career?

My own opinion is here. In that post (and quoting myself, good grief) I said:

  • I’ve always believed (and Earl Weaver taught me) that when a young player is ready to compete at a certain level the best thing to do is elevate him to that level immediately. Don’t put him in a position to fail, but rather take the things he does well and place him in ideal circumstances at the higher level. I think the monetary argument is a secondary consideration (honestly) and that player development should be the only real concern. If Taylor Hall is ready to score 20 goals in the NHL at his age, I believe he’ll be a better player one year from now because he was able to handle the extreme challenges at speed. It is a major step, and if he can do it at this age we may be staring at a Steven Stamkos. That’s what I believe.

Still do. If the Oilers are any good at all when Hall turns 25 he may well sign here again, and the Oilers are going to pay through the nose if he develops so here’s hoping. This is an issue that has enjoyed a longer than normal shelf life–certainly longer than it warrants–partly because the msm isn’t listening.

So let me be clear: these are not panic stricken thoughts of youngsters who hold their hockey cards in their hands while drifting off to sleep, these are not the idiot ramblings of unemployed, middle aged men with Cheesie bags and giants bottles of Coca-Cola.

These are well thought out arguments by adults that have benefits and are worthy of discussion.

  • Clyde Frog

    There are so many reasons outside of just Hall’s development that teams like the Oilers have to factor in.

    Marketability, we know the Oilers will struggle at points this year and if seeing Taylor Hall sells even a 1000 extra tickets a game then you know that will be a factor. (Who doesn’t want to see Taylor on the ice in his rookie season)

    Taylor Halls feelings, sound trite I know but honestly if you start out making him unhappy whether you maintain his rights to 27 or 25 there will be a challenge with keeping him beyond that point.

    Chemistry, you don’t just throw 2 very good players on the ice together and tell them win at the highest level of competition. It is something that has to be developed and nurtured.

    Lastly when dealing with the MSM who was responsible for “Give your head a shake” comment well he works for the Oilers and I firmly believe he feels it is his job to try and control the Oilers brand on the air.

  • Nice one LT. Agreed that the monetary considerations should come second. Hall looks pretty good out there, I don’t see any reason you need to rush him back to junior. Making some cheeky plays and showing confidence, hasn’t cashed any of them to the extent we like but it’ll come, and as you say if he’s read for this level, he should be allowed to adjust to it.

    And I feel if you send him down now so that you have his rights longer, you’re either creating or at least allowing to exist an environment where a player skipping town when he hits UFA status is not only considered allowable but almost encouraged. It’s like “we have you now you bastard and we’re keeping you around as long as we damn well can and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!!” It doesn’t feel like good faith between management and its players and I don’t think is conducive to healthy team building. I feel that if we let these youngsters grow together and enjoy playing here, they won’t necessarily be running for the exits when they’re eligile.

    I think sending him down for contract reasons sends the message we still view playing for the Oilers like being in the jail of the NHL

    • OttawaOilFan

      This argument has come up several times and I don’t think it holds up.

      Is there a single example of a player who did this? His team held him back and he bolted first chance he had because of it?

      I can’t recall one.

      But I do know 2 players who were kept out of the NHL (one was for contract reasons) who looked pretty ready. Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan, both of whom signed long term deals with the teams who held them out.

      • Your point is noted and is reasonable. I suppose my second paragraph is really secondary to what I was trying to say in the first paragraph: that I agree with LT and other posters who believe the first consideration should be what is best for the development of the player, and the contract implications should come after.

        From what I’ve seen, I don’t think he’s in way over his head at the NHL level. In my opinion, he would benefit more from the jump to the NHL, as is happening right now, than spend another year in junior.

        I haven’t read all the comments so I’m not sure how you feel about the issue, but I suspect that perhaps we disagree?

  • WallyWallcakes

    Having the league look at sending 18-year-olds to the AHL is absolutely ludicrous. If you do that, you might as well get rid of the entire Canadian Hockey League, because it’ll become nothing more than midget hockey.

    If you want to change something, make it so NHL teams can’t draft a player until he’s 20, thus allowing teams to send the player back to junior, or down to the American League.

    Yes, it would then change the NHL’s way of writing contracts in terms of UFA eligibility, but I don’t see any scenario where you can start sending 18 year olds to the AHL without severely crippling the CHL.

    • Why exactly should the NHL care about the CHL?

      Given the significant portion of CHL ownership by NHL execs, former execs, former players and even an organization like Rexall Sports, the relationship is cozy, but they are sacrificing individual player development on the alter of CHL ticket sales.

      In a vacuum the NHL shouldn’t give one crap about the CHL losing high profile 18 year olds, its actually in the NHL’s best interest that these players develop properly for the NHL, not sell tickets for the CHL.

    • OttawaOilFan

      I don’t think you have to go that far.

      What about if the CHL and NHL came to an agreement that states an NHL team can only take 1 player out of the CHL and put them in the AHL (before they are an overager) every 4 years?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    It’s been interesting to watch the transition from “if he earns a spot in camp with his play he needs to be here” to “it’s early, give him time”.

    I think (hope?) we all knew he was unlikely to be worth his $3.75 MM cap hit this season. Combine that with the long-term UFA ramifications of having him play this year, and the fiscal/cap angle to this is clear: send Hall to junior.

    Certainly I don’t think Hall’s entitled by right of draft pedigree to a spot, but many do, and I think that’s where the MSM is coming from: that all first overall picks deserve a spot immediately.

    • Jason Gregor

      Jonathon,

      I’d like you to show me where someone said he automatically deserves a spot. I didn’t see any players that were better than him in camp, that would have knocked him back to junior.

      If a player is ready to play, then he should get the chance. Hall has had some great chancees, but he hasn’t buried them. He hasn’t looked overwhelmed. He’s looked like an 18-year-old learning to play against the best players in the game. This experience will make him a better player.

    • C-DOG

      Sending him to junior only makes sense if you are changing his position to centre with an agreement from Windsor, he is a late b-day and has already dominated 3 years on the wing, they need a star to develop asap to help make it an attractive place to play. Paajarvi was already signed for 1 more year in sweden and did not have to come over yet, having 3 kid at the same time will cause problems for elc reasons only.

      UFA at 25 is not a concern as most stars are signed to a long term contract well beyond 25 once their elc is up.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Very nice article, LT.

    To what extent do you think the Oilers are using this as an evaluation period for Hall and Paajarvi with the possibility of being sent down after a 9-game trial? Do you think management is at all considering this?

    Now that the Oilers have come back to earth in the last 2 games, I’ve noticed that the posts are becoming more level-headed. After the initial period of extreme SQUEEE, a pragmatic debate on how to make the Oilers sustainably competitive over the LONG-TERM is a welcome return to the discussion table.