NO FEAR: WHAT ABOUT TAYLOR HALL?

The fearlessness Taylor Hall shows on the ice is part of what makes him a very special player and favourite with fans of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s also a trait that could shorten his shelf-life on the NHL marquee.

While discretion isn’t as sexy a quality as the no-guts-no-glory style that has Hall out of the line-up with an injured left shoulder after taking a hellacious hit from Ryan Wilson of the Colorado Avalanche Saturday, it’s nonetheless an attribute he’d best add to his game. And the sooner the better.

Hall got starched by Wilson while hustling for a loose puck in the corner on a stiff, but clean hit. He was injured when he hit the boards awkwardly while trying to brace for the impact. Hall left for medical attention, returned and then was done for the balance of the night after a well-placed cross-check from Kyle Quincey of the Avs. From Denver to MRI City.

It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last.

HE GETS AFTER IT

We’ve seen this movie before with Hall, no? Before the Oilers even got a crack at Hall at the podium, there was the potentially neck-breaking hit he took from Travis Hamonic of the Brandon Wheat Kings in pursuit of a puck while he was still a member of the Windsor Spitfires.

Drew Doughty lowered the boom along the boards in Los Angeles last season when Hall tried to beat him wide, starting a hey-rube. Then, there was the scrap with hard-nosed Derek Dorsett of Columbus last season in his first NHL fight, a take-no-crap decision to stick up for himself that ended his season with a sprained ankle.

Saturday, it was Wilson, a player Hall ran up against more than once as a junior – somebody Hall, in hindsight, admitted he knew might try to lay him out. Having the book on Wilson didn’t stop Hall for going for it. On the same road trip, you might recall, Hall went headlong into the goalpost in Chicago while charging for the net. He escaped injury.

Like I said, it’s that kind of reckless abandon and fearlessness that makes Hall the player he is. It pulls fans out of their seats. It sells tickets and jerseys. It creates a buzz. In part, at least, it’s that jam and gusto that got Hall drafted No. 1 overall in 2010 by the Oilers after he won a second Memorial Cup with Windsor and his second MVP award. Game-breaker. Difference-maker. Big-time brass.

That damn-the-torpedoes bit is also what had some observers, myself included, wondering if Hall might have to reel the swashbuckling in just a bit in the name of self-preservation at the NHL level. I’d suggest that, 24 games into his sophomore season, it’s obvious he does.

A MIDDLE GROUND 

Over at the Cult of Hockey today, David Staples is suggesting Hall needs to incorporate a little nastiness into his game. You know, a well-placed elbow or length of shaft here and there to buy some room and make opponents think twice about taking runs at him. Mark Messier stuff. I’m all for that.

I’d also suggest Hall exhibit a little more discretion. As much as I hate to use the term because it generally has a negative connotation, Hall needs to pick his spots more often. It can’t be balls-out in every race for loose pucks and open ice, every showdown with a defenseman. That’s easier said than done of course, given playing that way seems part of Hall’s DNA.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about turning Hall into a perimeter player or a snow-throwing Patrick O’Sullivan clone. Nobody wants that. While I see nothing wrong with Hall dropping his gloves now and again or delivering, as Staples says, a well-placed elbow or two-hander, that’s not enough.

Simply put, the bottom line for me is that if Hall is going to put himself in harm’s way, he’s got to know who and what he’s up against, rather than fearlessly charging in every time. Size up the situation. Take a peek. Be aware. Play the odds. I know, that’s not as catchy as that No Fear thing, but it’s smart.

It goes without saying fans of the Oilers don’t want to see the edge taken off Hall, to see him throttle it back too much in the name of playing it safe. At the same time, I’m guessing they do want to see him wearing No. 4 for this franchise for as long as possible. That’s not a likely outcome the way he plays the game now. 

There is a middle ground between burning out and fading away. Hall needs to find it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Milli

    See this team with Hall? See them without? He creates energy with his speed and play, he makes space for others. I hope he can play his game (mostly) with maybe a few smarter plays, but this kid is Dynamic because of how he plays…..On a side note, how bout Eberle’s game this year!!!! The kid is on fire!!

  • Bandwagon jumper

    Brownlee hit the nail on the head with this one. I cringe everytime I see one of the kids get hit. Hall gets hammered a plenty, Ebs is marginally better off. Nuge seems to be able to roll off most of the contact coming his way.

    Those 1984 Team Canada jerseys are my all time favourite. I’d like to see them on the Canadian Junior team some year.

  • OilFan

    Did Wayne Gretzky get hit very much ? I seem to remember he didn’t get hit very often. Two reason for that was Wayne could see the plays before they happened secondly since someone on the team wouldn’t allow it. Not sure why the oilers don’t seem to realize this. Yes most hits on Hall are clean that’s not the point the point is that the oilers allow the other team to run our players. Sometimes a fight to let the other teams know especially in the division.

  • OttawaOilFan

    If this keeps up you have to wonder if the Oilers would have been better off long term drafting Seguin. No question Hall is the better player but… for how long? If he keeps getting hurt and does not adjust his game, then does he becomes Hemsky or heavens forbid, Jesse Lumsden. 3 or 4 years from now I wonder what things may have been like with Seguin and RNH up the middle? Remind anyone of Pittsburgh’s 3 centers.

  • OttawaOilFan

    Personally I’m getting sick of seeing all the skill players from the oilers lined up and taken out hard. Maybe Hemsky isn’t as fragile as it would appear but just getting hammered time after time gets him hurt again and again. Having a knuckle dragger going out and asking to fight someone ( ASKING!!!) isn’t going to solve the problems either. Team toughness. Make the other team pay if they want to hit you. Ever try to hit Glenn Anderson somehow that stick or elbow was always in your chops. Gotta make it very unpleasent to hit someone. Nevermind the guys brought in to take care of these kids and skilled players seem to be just as fragile as Hemsky. Soon as Hall went down Duschene should have had a target on his back. It isn’t goon hockey it’s protecting your livelyhood. How long do you think Hall is going to last in this league if he gets hurt every year? Till he loses that step? Till he’s another Bure? 8 years and finished cause his body can’t take it. Just my rant for the day

  • OilFan

    Hall gets hit so much because he tries to make things happen (often by himself) in the offensive zone.

    With development of his young linemates and more maturity, he won’t have to do that as often.

    But to tell the kid to tone down his style in the name of not getting hurt is the wrong message. He’s only 19 years old despite playing like a much older player, so he has to learn his own lessons and work through success and failures in the offensive zone himself.

    To have that forced by the Oilers brass or staff is to limit his potential, IMO.

  • shanetrain

    Tyler Seguin is having a fine sophemore season …. through 20 some games.

    I am still proud Taylor ‘baby moose’ Hall is a Edmonton Oiler.

    So should you.

  • OilFan

    Don’t think you can coach a guy into playing without fear if Hall changed his game how effective would he be ? His dynamic fast pace style lifts the team and gives the whole team energy kinda like a tilt.

    I will be looking forward to watching Hall’s dynamic game again in a couple weeks.

    If only Renney and his coaching staff understood that when you ask for a fight you don’t always get it.

    Does the hit really have to be cheap or illegal to get a reaction from our bench boss and role players ?

    Yes there’s the 2min penalty but when will this team send the message ?

    Dallas showed the Oilers colors hitting RNH and Eberle at free will since they knew Renney doesn’t allow fighting. Like last season the team is soft to play against just the way Renney likes his teams.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Have to think we’re fortunate this was only a subluxation injury to Taylors shoulder. Now that there’s some wiggle room in that socket i hope he makes it through the rest of the season without injuring that shoulder even worse.

    Can’t help but think it’ll create considerable problems for him for the balance of the season. Would surely ruin his off season needing surgery in April or May. Hope this doesn’t turn into a Mike Grier type of situation.

  • OilFan

    Quote”Its how i was born” Its in my DNA. Taylor Hall. I hope that was just for the camera’s? He needs to make an adjustment to the NHL or risk serious injury “every” year.