In certain debates there can be no wrong answer, only differing opinions, and I think this article is one where there is no wrong answer.
Yesterday during my radio show Ryan Rishaug and I debated who would we rather have in a game seven; Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle? Rishaug picked Eberle, while I picked Hall.
Unlike previous years when we’ve debated the merits of young Oilers, this is the first time in the last decade where I can honestly say there is little downside to either player. Both are incredibly talented, have a desire to win, have scored key goals and they still have room to improve.
But there is no fence sitting today. You take one or the other.
During a quick text/twitter poll on the show the majority (71%) leaned towards Eberle. Rishaug talked about his ability to be "clutch" and that he has the "it," that only special players have in key situations. Of course he is referring to Eberle’s heroics as a member of Canada’s World Junior team.
Or maybe this is why people feel that way…
There is no debate that Eberle was the go-to-guy at the WJC. Twice he electrified a Nation when they were on the brink of losing. He will go down as one of the best "clutch" goal scorers in Canadian WJC history.
Here’s a quick look at their numbers when playing for Canada at the U18 and WJC:
We’ll never know if Hall would have matched Eberle’s eight goals and 13 points in his 2nd stint at the WJC, because Hall was playing in the NHL, but they each had ten goals between their first year at the WJC and the WJ18. Of course Eberle’s two game-tying goals will live on in Canada hockey history, and when he added the first goal in the SO win over Russia in 2009, his reputation as being "clutch" grew even bigger.
Hall has also been a go-to-guy early in his career. He won back-to-back Memorial Cups while being named the MVP both years. He was also the OHL playoff MVP in 2009. His playoff numbers in junior were ridiculous.
It is hard to compare Hall’s junior numbers to Eberle’s because Hall had a better supporting cast, but he was still the class of his team during the playoffs. During those two OHL championships he tallied 71 points, the next closest forward was Dale Mitchell with 46. Adam Henrique had 42, Scott Timmins scored 38 and Greg Nemisz had 32. Ryan Ellis was the other dominant Spitfire those years scoring an amazing 64 points as a blueliner.
While Hall had a solid supporting cast, he was clearly the offensive anchor.
Eberle’s junior playoff stats are solid despite never winning a round in the WHL.
Eberle was great at the WJC and Hall dominated for two years in junior.
IN THE SHOW
Their junior and WJC numbers are great, but what they do in the NHL will be the utlimate measuring stick. Two years into their NHL careers, there isn’t much separating them, other than games played. Eberle has produced three more goals and 24 more points in 21 more games.
The theory around choosing a player for one game is that they will perform when the pressure is the highest. Eberle did that at the WJC and Hall did it two years straight in the OHL and Memorial Cup playoffs. Unfortunately we haven’t seen what they can do in the NHL because the Oilers haven’t been close to the postseason.
I did a quick check on GW goals in their first two seasons, and Hall has a slight 11-9 advantage over Eberle. GW goals don’t always mean they were scored at crunch time, so I don’t put too much stock in them. Here is a quick glance at the GWG from the past two seasons.
2:53 of the 2nd period in 4-1 win over Vancouver.
0:14 of the 2nd in 4-2 win over Columbus.
3:58 of the 3rd period in 4-1 victory over Montreal.
3:32 of the 2nd frame in 6-3 win over Columbus.
3:10 of 1st period in 5-0 victory over Toronto.
19:31 of the 3rd period in 3-2 win over Colorado.
0:23 into OT in 2-1 win over Blues.
15:36 of the 2nd period in 5-2 win over the Sharks.
14:35 of the 3rd frame in 5-3 win over Thrashers.
Hall had one OT winner and scored once in the final 29 seconds.
13:18 of the first period in 3-1 win over the Flames.
13:16 of the 2nd in 4-2 win over St. Louis.
12:44 of the 2nd period in 2-1 win over the Capitals.
15:51 of the 1st period in 6-2 victory over Nashville.
9:24 of the 3rd period in 5-3 win over the Jets.
3:26 of the 2nd frame in 2-0 blanking of the Flyers.
0:17 of OT in 4-3 win over the Senators.
6:01 of the 3rd in 3-2 win over Colorado.
3:06 of OT in 2-1 win over the Kings.
15:29 of the 2nd period in 5-2 victory over Minnesota.
6:55 of the 2nd frame in 3-2 over the Canucks.
Hall had two more OT winners.
Both have proven they can score big goals in big games. The one thing that does surprise me is how many have suggested that Eberle is a much better goal scorer than Hall. Eberle has incredibly gifted hands and he’s scored some electrifying goals, usually going top-shelf or deking out a defender and the goalie, but it’s not like Hall is a plug who just crashes the net and hopes the pucks deflects off of him.
They both are scorers, just in different ways. Hall can overpower goalies with his shot, and create chances on his own, while Eberle has pinpoint accuracy and excellent hands in tight.
Like I stated earlier, I don’t think there is a wrong choice, but when I was forced to make a choice I took Hall and Rishaug choose Eberle. Only time will tell who was more accurate, but I don’t think there is a wrong answer. The only way we’ll find out is when the Oilers make the playoffs, and even then I’m not sure I would base everything on one game.
But for fun I will ask you to choose. We will have all different opinions on why we want Hall or Eberle, but if you respond choose one.
I don’t want comments like, "I’ll take Hall for the first 58 minutes, but I want Eberle in the final two."
No fence sitting.
The great part of this debate is that by this time next year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov might have produced their way into the conversation.
Today I will take Hall, by the slimmest of margins.
Who do you want in game seven?