By eye, Taylor Hall is an NHL player. This is what I think, and it’s certainly the consensus opinion among editorialists in the mainstream media. Despite that opinion, Hall’s stats line remains underwhelming: seven games played, one point (an assist), and a team-worst minus-4. What do Hall’s underlying numbers suggest?
There are a few different angles we can look at Hall’s season through, but I thought we’d start with even-strength scoring chances, since even those skeptical of advanced statistics seem to find some value in those numbers (correlation to those fancy Fenwick/Corsi calculations notwithstanding). Courtesy of Dennis over at mc79hockey.com:
- Game One: +8/-3 = +5
- Game Two: +2/-3 = -1
- Game Three: +1/-3 = -2
- Game Four: +3/-5 = -2
- Game Five: +6/-4 = +2
- Game Six: +1/-3 = -2
- Game Seven: +4/-4 = even
- Totals: +25/-25 = even
“Even” may not sound impressive, but it is; not only is Hall coming out even against NHL caliber opposition, but he’s easily outpacing the team as a whole (they’re a cumulative minus-18 at even-strength through seven games).
Corsi numbers tell a similar story; Hall’s a hair below even by that count but easily leads the team overall, and he’s done it without the advantage of a bunch of offensive zone starts. He’s also been drawing more penalties than he takes in the early going.
Despite all those numbers, the offence hasn’t come yet, either on the power play (where Hall’s getting regular minutes) or at even-strength (where Hall’s 14:05 per night puts him third among forwards). I’m confident that it will, at least at even-strength, and the underlying numbers support that confidence.
Does that mean the Oilers will be right when they choose to keep him up past the nine game mark? Likely it depends on individual perspective – those who value the greatest possible competitive integrity will say yes, while those looking at the Oilers long-term cap situation and prospects for 2010-11 will say no, both with some justification. The former can point to the fact that Hall is ready, while the latter will be disappointed that the Oilers didn’t use Hall’s superficially slow start as an excuse to save some money down the road.
Both should be happy that the first overall pick looks like such a good player so early in his NHL career.