TAYLOR HALL: 200 IN THE BOOKS

Taylor Hall played his 200th NHL game for the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center Wednesday. In many ways, the milepost was a microcosm of his tenure since the Oilers made him the first overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.

Hall, 22, roared up and down the ice like a freight train coming off the rails most shifts, driving the attack on many of them, getting little accomplished on others. Hall pumped seven shots on goal. He busted to the net on a partial breakaway down the left wing, went to the backhand, fumbled the puck and crashed into the corner boards.

Defensively, Hall made a terrible giveaway, throwing a puck to Anze Kopitar, of all people. He missed some assignments. About the only thing that wasn’t par for the course in all the above, as hot as Hall’s been, is he didn’t manage a point as Martin Jones turned aside all 24 shots he faced.

Still raw, often ragged, Hall is a work-in-progress. While he’s knocked off some of the edges, he’s in many ways still very much the same instinctual player he was as two-time Memorial Cup MVP of the Windsor Spitfires. Hall is more like a finicky Ferrari than a reliable Ford pick-up, which is exactly what you expect from a No. 1 overall pick.

He’s far from a finished product. 

Class of his Class 

By the most basic numbers, Hall reaches the 200-game mark with 77-96-173, good for .87 PPG. He’s scored 12-16-28 in 29 games this season (.97) after tearing it up for 16-34-50 in 45 games (1.11) last season. That, on the heels of a 27-26-53 through 61 games in 2011-12 and 22-20-42 in 65 games as a rookie in 2010-11.

When I look at the draft class of 2010, there isn’t a player, be it a forward or a defenseman, I’d rather have than Hall, not one player who stacks up better with draft day not so long ago. Not just by the numbers, but by any measure, at least from where I sit.

Not No. 2 pick Tyler Seguin, who has 154 points in 234 games. Not Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, who has 152 points in 211 games. Defensemen? Nope. Cam Fowler of Anaheim is the best blueliner of the class to this point and I wouldn’t trade Hall straight up for him, which is saying something as badly as the Oilers need actual NHL defensemen.

Flaws and all – and there are a few – Hall’s performance through 200 games on a bottom-feeder like the Oilers is unmatched by his peers. There can’t be any real argument about that, as there was for a time among the fan base in the Taylor-Tyler debate leading into the draft in Los Angeles. 

Trade Hall

Jason Gregor has long made the argument the Oilers are going to have to dip into their talented group of top-six forwards to make the mix right and more important, acquire other players necessary to round out the roster – notably, but not limited to, a proven top pairing defenseman. I agree with him.

If I’m looking at Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov as possible pawns in re-configuring this roster, the two players who don’t go on the table are Hall and RNH. I’m not saying they can’t be traded, but unless Craig MacTavish has a Norris Trophy candidate coming back, they don’t enter the conversation, at least if I’m MacT.

Of course, with the Oilers facing an eighth year out of the playoffs, some fans, rightfully sour, and media types might feel differently. One e-mailer to Gregor’s show today called Hall a prima donna, suggesting he’d trade him in a heartbeat. Really? For who? That’s frustration talking. Crazy talk.

There are a lot of things wrong with the 2013-14 edition of the Oilers. Hall is not one them.

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

  • Word to the Bird

    Anyone who says Seguin over Hall should give their heads a shake. Hall has more points in less games on a worse team. He won 2 memorial cups and won MVP both years. You could say Seguin won a cup but I doubt many people would say he was an “integral” part to their cup win.

    • S cottV

      Had the Oilers made an assessment that Gagner was not going to cut it as a 2C, then maybe they lean more toward Seguin at the draft.

      Centres should get priority over wingers, if close and certainly when you have no projected depth in the middle.

      Now we have a 20 yr old 1C, a guy who cant play 2C, a decent 3C but on a contender would be a 4C and an unproven 4C.

      So – while I support the Hall selection, arguably – we might have been better off right now with Seguin in the middle.

    • Spiel

      On what were supposedly equally skilled teams this year Seguin has more points (and points per game) than Hall while being a plus player and playing center as opposed to wing.

      Taylor vs Tyler is not the closed book that this article makes it out to be.
      Think about the Oilers roster with Seguin instead of Hall.

      Having Seguin and RNH at center means Gagner was traded a long time ago. The team would still have Perron, Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky as top 6 wingers.

      • srbuhr

        And at least two games annually where Tyler and the Nuge would feast on the turnovers at the blue line Hall is famous for. I think Hall could be great but he has a lot of work to do yet.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Personally I think it’s a great idea, if only for the fact that we’ll continue to butcher the spelling of the player’s name should we acquire:

        Gardener

        Gardoner

        Gardonier

      • Spydyr

        Well they are both under performing. The team needs help on defense. IMO what you see with Gagner is what you will get the rest of his career. So I make that trade every day of the week.

        • I personally would, given that the Oilers have room for Gardiner on the immediate roster, however.

          MacTavish is a huge Gagner fan, plus the Oilers would be that much worse down the middle.

          It seems even if the Oilers were given this deal, they almost can’t make it even if they wanted too.

      • Zarny

        The Oilers and Leafs have discussed that very trade likely with some picks and/or prospects involved as well.

        Here is the problem – Gardiner is 23 and has only played 122 NHL games.

        Assuming N.Schultz is gone next season Ference is the only D with more than 200 games experience. Petry will at least cross that threshold shortly.

        J. Schultz has only played 76 NHL games and Klefbom and Marincin are rookies.

        A young group of F shouldn’t be supported by an even younger group of D. I like Gardiner but imo MacT should be looking for top 4 pairing D with 400+ NHL games to help shelter the young and inexperienced D we already have.

        • You won’t get an argument from here, I just mentioned as it stands Gardiner would be a step up from the likes of Belov, Potter, Larsen, Possible N. Schultz.

          I also mentioned that I can’t see MacTavish making that deal.

          The Oilers top four has to drastically change, I agree with the rest of that.

          • Zarny

            No, because Smid isn’t a top 4 pairing D.

            He’s not very mobile, poor puck mover and on several occasions this year guys literally walked out from the corner to the net past him and he didn’t even graze their jersey.

            I like Smid. He worked hard and blocked a lot of shots; but he wasn’t doing much for the Oilers blueline.

  • Rdubb

    Come on Robin, really? Eberle MUST be on that list of non-tradable players with Hall & RNH as Eberle has by far the best touch of all the Oilers around the net. Eberle is a proven clutch player, & has proven time & time again over his young career, from the world juniors to the NHL, scoring big & timely goals.
    Ebe’s is the opposite of Hall, who is a “power forward” in the making, skating up & down the ice with speed, & Ebe’s is that stick handling player, making moves, passing the puck and picking corners, he also has a quick release as the puck is hardly ever on his stick very long…Eberle is Halls yang…
    It is my opinion that Yak is the player who MUST be moved on this team as from every Oiler fans perspective, he is a very hard player to coach since he doesn’t want to work on his defensive game, his upside is his shot, and he is a hard worker on the offensive side of the puck. Yak plays his best (in my opinion) when he decides to hit, skate in all 3 zones & use his line mates, which he rarely ever does…
    Sam is the other, as he doesn’t want to do what is best for the team, and that’s moving to the wing. Sam has never been an offensive threat, and take out that 8 point game, and that season’s total would look nearly as good. Should someone offer some value for him, MacT should jump on it, hand shake or not (and I believe in the handshake very much as it is as important as that piece of paper. A man’s word is very important to his character)…
    And final piece, Petry…a good 3-4 d-man, but not a number 1 or 2. If a package could be worked out for a true #1, than he too can be & should be included…
    Hall, RNH & Eberle as NON-TRADEABLE pieces in the Oilers future…

  • Spydyr

    If there was a Stat called, Driving the Play, Hall would own it.

    This kid is as rare as they come…….I can’t believe that there are fans out there that criticize him??

    Totally agree with you Robin except I would add Perron to that untouchable list and make it three!

    • Zarny

      “This kid is as rare as they come” – I completely agree. Pure power and speed and he is going to be our best overall player hopefully for many many years.

      “I can’t believe that there are fans out there that criticize him” – I completely disagree. Why would he be above criticism? He has all the making of a superstar but he has some MAJOR holes in his game that need improvement. He is a giveaway machine (and no, its not because he always has the puck, its because he does stupid blind saucer passes across the middle), he has to become more responsible defensively and he currently has very weak puck control in close quarters.

      I believe that these holes will be filled as he moves into his mid-20s. I am almost certain. But to say he is above criticism leads to entitlement. I actually thing that him not being held accountable for his mistakes by the coach will actually slow down his progress.

      I had to comment because I agreed and disagreed with the same one sentence ha.

      • and no, its not because he always has the puck, its because he does stupid blind saucer passes across the middle

        Exactly, who cares about a league-wide, unmistakeable, correlation between possessing the puck and turning it over!!!!

        • Zarny

          Wait, so there is no such thing as a bad pass? If you have the puck then you have the right to turn it over without criticism?

          Watch a game or two. Its a league-wide, unmistakeable, fact that Taylor Hall makes bad decisions with the puck and turns it over at a far higher rate than other players who have the puck just as much as he does.

          If you argue that he doesn’t make huge mistakes in this regard then you are blinded by your love for Hall or don’t watch the games.

          Again however, criticizing someone doesn’t mean you think they are bad player. Simply means they have areas to improve. I see him being the Oilers best player for years. His areas of required improvement are just very obvious.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s difficult to tough out another year like this, but as we pass the halfway mark and things start to wind down, the Oilers should be set for a solid draft.

    Hoping they should get a late first and a second for Hemsky and Schultz. The Gagner situation could present a unique opportunity as well. With one of the kids, along with that top 3 pick the Oilers have coming, could be the ticket to landing a legitimate top pairing blueliner. Oilers need to do whatever it takes to start next season with top two pairing blueliners, and a second line center.

    MacTavish needs to narrow his field of vision as far as those blueliners go. Gudbranson instead of Ehrhoff, Yandle over Phanuef, and so on. Don’t be dropping your drawers for nobody.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacT and Co., should be carefull not to be digging one hole to cover another.
    Getting rid of their high draft picks might be a bad idea, when the team cannot attract high[er] end UFA’s or trades.

    Better that you live with the fact that Hemsky and Gagner should have been traded earlier.

    You want to trade Yak and Eberle, because you have useless NHL assets in #83 and 89, both saddled with expensive contracts. Then be prepared to have 83 and 89 as your core players… we know how that would turn out.

  • Rick Stroppel

    PASSION FOR THE GAME

    A few days ago I saw Blake Wheeler interviewed after a Jets loss. He was genuinely upset. He was swearing and they had to bleep out a lot of what he said. This morning the Jets are 10 points out of a playoff spot, the Oilers are 20. The Jets actually have a chance to make the playoffs, the Oilers do not. When you compare the talent on the teams, this is remarkable.

    To my mind, the only Oilers who have a real passion for winning, and hatred of losing, at this time, are Taylor Hall, David Perron and (strangely enough) Devan Dubnyk.

    Where does the complacency in the Oilers DNA come from? Maybe it comes from a Coach who loses game after game and often says something like “we played a good game…we played an excellent game…the breaks went against us”. Maybe it comes from a POHO who, when he is confronted with the fairly obvious mistakes he has made, falls back to bragging about the success of a team he played on thirty years ago. Maybe it comes from an Owner who serves up year after year of uninspired, losing hockey to one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in North American sport. No apology, no rationalization, no explanation of “the plan” (if there is one).

    If the Oilers allow Hall to slip away like Jason Arnott, this team is doomed.

  • Zarny

    Good assessment of Hall. He’s needs to embrace the saying “work smarter, not harder”.

    No one is untradeable but I agree Hall and RNH are off the table unless we start talking about Norris trophy winners or a guy like Malkin coming back.

    Seguin certainly trails Hall on the scoresheet to date; but he’s also played behind better players and out of position. I wouldn’t trade him straight up for Hall because you don’t gain anything; you’re just moving parts around.

    Over the next 5 years though I expect Hall and Seguin to put up similar numbers. They were considered to be head and shoulders above their draft class and thus far have proven so.

  • I like how people who post comments on here think MacT can just magically trade the underacheiving players on Edm’s roster for perennial Norris Trophy candidates. If only someone who posts comments on this page was the GM of the oilers. They’d have this solved by dinner time.

  • I also agree that Hall and Nuge are untouchables. I really like how Mac T overhauled the bottom 6. Unlike the Erick Coles and Belangers of the world, Gordon exceeded expectations and is having a career year on one of the worst teams.

    Gazdic has been the best at that role the Oilers have had since Laroque.

    And it was nice to Arcabello come in and be able to out perform Gagner in the role of centre.

    Also good was the addition of Perron who was the exact type of player the Oilers were missing, and is really a one of a kind in the league when you consider his level of both skill and agitation.

    So really, I think the team comes down to needing at least average goal tending (thank you Bryz), better Defense (see comment in previous article on that) and a mix up in our top 6. Considering Perron, Hall, and Nuge need to stay, that leaves Gagner, Yak, Hemsky and Ebs as possibles to trade for legit D, or a nice big two way second line centre (which doesn’t really exist in terms of availability). The only way to get the latter it seems, is to find a third line guy who can do more. Like an O’Reily type of guy.

  • Spiel

    I think Hall vs Seguin is still a debate.
    Looking at career point totals is a bit of a red herring as Seguin was on a deeper team to start, so he was not given the same offensive responsibilities as Hall.

    The question is more about which player you would rather have going forward. Look at this year, a season when both players are first line on what were supposed to be bubble playoff teams.

    Hall – 29GP 12G 16A 28PTS -10
    Seguin – 31GP 18G 15A 33PTS +4

    Very close in the numbers. The -10 stands out for Hall.
    Seguin is also a center which I think is the more valuable position. Hall was a train wreck at center to start the year.
    There is an argument to be made that the Oilers would be a better team with Seguin at center instead of Hall on a wing.