Hall: “I’m far from a finished product.”

hall

Taylor Hall enters his 5th NHL season as one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL, but the 22-year-old spent the summer analyzing his game in hopes of becoming even more dominant this season.

How much better can he be? According to the first overall pick in 2010, he can improve significantly.

“I believe that I’m far from a
finished product,” responded Hall when I asked him where he feels his game is at. He spent the summer getting stronger, but also watching video from last season and picking out aspects of his game that he wants to improve.

“When I watch games from myself and when I look at last season overall, I feel that there are still things that I can improve on, not
only defensively, which is obvious and a lot of people can say that, but still
offensively as well. I feel like I haven’t reached my peak as far as production
and as far as being a big part of our Oilers offense,” said Hall.

I asked him to elaborate on what parts of his game he watched on film.

“My shooting percentage the last
couple of years has hovered around ten and for a guy that gets a lot of shots,
and I get a lot of  opportunities,
breakaways and little scoring opportunities I want to get as good as I can at
those and try to raise my shooting percentage a little bit.

“Also, not giving the puck away as much
is a big part of my game that I need to work on. When I have the opportunities
and I’m making the right plays, using my teammates and shooting the puck and
all of that stuff at the right time I feel I can be a difference maker,” Hall said.

He also discussed entering battles smarter and using better body position.

“I’d go into battles off balance or recklessly and I’d end up falling. I was leaning in and leading with my stick too much. I want to enter those frays with better body position. I’m the same weight as last year, but I’m much stronger. I lifted heavier weights this year and that should help me in those battles. I worked a lot on getting better body position. It is a small part of the game that should really help me control the puck better,” said the Oilers leading scorer.

CHANGES STARTED LAST YEAR

In the second half of last season, I noticed Hall was much more focused on back pressure. He used his impressive speed to break up plays at the Oilers blueline, and often transitioned the puck back up ice.

Was this a conscious decision on his part, or did someone point out that weakness in his game?

“That was definitely a conscious
thing”, Hall said quickly.

“I really wasn’t playing well defensively to start the season last year,
and it really did hinder my game offensively. I didn’t have the puck as much,
or our team didn’t have the puck as much when I was on the ice, so I started to
back pressure harder and I started to turn pucks over. I felt that when I did
that our team had the puck more and I was creating more offence and my line was
creating more offence.

“So, that’s an important thing to remember
as I come into the year. I realized that what worked for me last year was playing really good
defence. Obviously there’s going to be times when I turn the puck over, there
are going to be some missed passes, but I want those to be as limited as
possible.

“If I can get my defensive game in order through training camp and the
exhibition season, I think it’s really going to help me with my game to start
the year because I am a slow starter, and I feel like that might be a reason why,” Hall.

A slow starter?

Hall had 3 goals and 8 points in his first 9 games last season, before he was injured. Hall had 2 goals and 10 points in the first 10 games after the lockout, yet he believes he’s a slow starter.

I asked why.

“I feel like
the points and the goals might have been there, but as far as my overall game it
always seems to be the best as the season is finishing. I want to correct that
and I want to get my overall game as good as I can to start the year just so
that I can help out the team more. The slow start of last year, as much as
people want to blame the goalies and stuff, I think I was a big part of that,” he explained.

FEELING COMFORTABLE

Hall spoke like a player who was determined to make more of an impact on the ice. He desperately wants to win, and I sensed he believes he can be a difference maker in both ends of the rink. Because he has the puck so much, he’ll turn it over, most puck carriers do, but this was the most excited I’ve seen Hall talk about his play away from the puck.

He’s coming off a career-year in points, but feels he has so much more to give. He also spoke candidly about feeling much more comfortable heading into camp this season.

“Last year was a little bit different,
people may scoff, but just coming in and having to play centre for the whole
camp and the first couple of games of the regular season…I don’t think it let
me get off on the right foot starting the season

“I’m comfortable now, I feel like I have
the right mindset so I’m excited,” stated Hall.

I never liked the centre experiment. The best time to have tried it would have been during the lockout when Hall was playing in the AHL, but coming off of a shoulder injury he wasn’t keen on the idea, so they didn’t try it.

Last year, Eakins came in and he wanted to see for himself if Hall could work at centre. Luckily it was a short-lived experiment. The Oilers still have major question marks at centre, but they’ve realized that moving their best player to a new position isn’t the best way to solve the centre dilemma.

Hall also brought up the importance of dealing with the same head coach heading into camp.

“Having the same coach and knowing the systems is good, but I think the biggest
thing is knowing personality-wise what he expects and what he is like as a
person. And now that we know each other, if we haven’t chatted for three days,
there’s not that awkwardness when I see him next.

“I think he knows what I expect of him, and
more importantly, what he expects of me and I think that’s good for a player
like myself and for everyone that is returning. They probably feel a lot more
comfortable this year than last,” said Hall.

Throughout our conversation Hall was constantly talking about us, we and the team. Personal stats are nice, but he wants to win, and it is clear he realizes that the better he plays in both ends of the rink, the higher the chances are of the Oilers having success.

I’m not sure his improved overall play will be enough to lead the Oilers to the playoffs, but if his teammates follow his lead and decide to analyze the weaknesses of their games, and focus on improving those areas, the Oilers should be a much more competitive team than we’ve seen over the past five seasons.

At the very least, it should be very exciting for Oilers fans to watch the evolution of Hall.

Hall’s 130 points over the past two seasons are the 6th most the NHL,
trailing only Crosby (160), Ryan Getzlaf (136), Ovechkin (135), Claude
Giroux (134) and Phil Kessel (132).

During those two years Hall is 5th in
points-per-game at 1.08/game, behind Crosby (1.38), Evgeni Malkin
(1.15), Steven Stamkos (1.14) and Getzlaf (1.12).

He is already one of
the elite offensive scorers in the league, so how much better can be be with a more intense focus on being a complete player?

I’m curious to find out.

Recently by Jason Gregor:  

  • judgedrude

    Excellent article Gregor. You really got Hall to talk about his game and what he wants to improve on. I love how focused he sounds on being smarter entering battles and how he wants to score more on his chances.

    He is one of the few players who we know gives a solid effort every night.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Hall IS the Oilers, love this kid. I knew he was fast, but when he smoked Cogs in that drag race last year I still could barely believe what I was watching.

  • Oil Vice

    With a better supporting cast Hall should feel more comfortable passing off rather than trying to force a play and turn the puck over. Not only will this reduce his giveaways, it should also allow him to slip into dangerous areas to recieve passes and improve his shooting percentage. The kid knows what he needs to do to improve and I totally agree with him.

  • judgedrude

    “being a big part of our Oilers offense”

    You know…there’s a big difference between membership and ownership. That’s ownership. Give him the C.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Captain my Captain…
    I really think Andrew Ference should do the honorable thing and pass his Captaincy onto Hall. Not to take anything away from Ference’s leadership but rather acknowledge the true head of the snake. The engine that propels Oilers.
    Ive felt this for sometime but after reading this article its Crystal clear who the leader of Oilers should be.

  • oilbaron

    Even the most determined anti-Oil persons whom frequent this site, must see that Hall is the cornerstone of this team for years to follow. He is deserving of this status, in my opinion.

    Each year he keeps improving, maturing and is becoming, if not already, the face of the Oil. He is growing into the leader that this team needs.

    Thus far, he has carried himself well both on and off the ice. How can any hockey fan of the game itself not see that Hall is as stated by another poster, a STUD!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    From the tone of his comments it is apparent that Hall, at 22, has taken a major step toward maturity. He has a magnificant tool kit and, with this new and mature mindset, he looks to be ready to take his game up a further notch. This bodes well for the Oilers.

    If he is able to make these subtle changes to his game and influence the other young players on the roster to make similar improvements, he will have made a huge statement regarding who the next Captain of the Oilers should be.

    I look forward to watching him play this year. If RNH and Eberle can further develop as well, the Oilers will have a bonafide first line that can contend on a nightly basis. Furthermore, our patience will have been rewarded.

  • oilbaron

    oh boy oh boy oh boy! golly gees, this guy is gonna be an absoulte beast! The attitude is absolutely what i think we all wanted and NEEDED to hear. I just hope the rest of the squad sees and hears what our “captain” is doind on and off the ice and follows his lead. BEAUTY!

  • RomZ

    Hall is an absolute beauty.
    I’m glad we get to see him grow, and mature into one of the leagues premier players.

    I only hope the rest of the wunderkids also take the initiative, and follow Hall’s example.

  • 2004Z06

    What you do and how you behave off the ice is just as important as on the ice when representing the team as captain. Still a little maturation required in that area for Hall. I am guessing next year will be when he receives the C.

  • oilbaron

    Does anyone else remember how five years ago the general consensus was that Tyler Seguin was more mature than Taylor Hall? It’s funny to see how things turn out later on :p

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      My thoughts exactly. As much as I complain that you don’t build from the wings in, looking back there’s no way I take Seguin over Hall.

    • Serious Gord

      Apparently Seguin has matured by leaps and bounds the past two seasons. The head to head games of this – arguably the biggest player rivalry of this era – should be fascinating to watch.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I don’t think Ference is keeping the C away from Hall. I think Ference is holding it in trust.

    Ference is also showing these young guys that good media relations, good community involvement are all part of the job as well. They’re learning that from him and will be ready to wear the letters on the chest in the future.

    If it’s Hall, putting on the C, I’m excited to see it. The guy already puts a ton of pressure on himself, he doesn’t need to wear the C to take the rest of the media and community pressure. As the franchise player, he’s going to take that pressure anyway, but Ference can share that load.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ference step back to an A next summer.

    • ubermiguel

      Well said. Let Hall develop his game more this year before passing the torch of leadership. I might even give him a couple of years to really solidify his game before distracting him the the official ‘C’.

    • pkam

      Being a home town boy, Ference really gets into community efforts and events. I remember Horcoff kind of being invisible in the community, not Ference. Now obviously an active community leader does not a good Captain make. But Ference has the maturity I think to lead the team.

      I love Hall’s drive and ethic, and I firmly believe he will be Captain one day, but I think Ference is doing a great job currently.

      • A-Mc

        I agree a good community leader is not the primary trait a captain needs. Here are a few traits that I think a captain should have (somewhat in order):

        Respect of the players.
        Respect of the coaches/management.
        Vocal leader (doesn’t have to be the loudest guy in the room, but can’t be a shrinking violet either).
        Not a replacement level player.
        Experience at winning.
        Good media relations.
        Good community relations.

        Ference’s only weak point is that he may be approaching replacement level. He needs to continue to show that he’s at least one of the best 5 defensemen on this team.

  • Leef O'Golin

    Hall is going to be a beast this year. I’ve always loved his attitude, but one small red flag popped up. To have him mention that he figured out on his own that back pressure would result in more turnovers doesn’t reflect very well on the coaching staff.

    • Zarny

      No, I don’t think that is a red flag.

      Coaches can talk and preach all they want and they do. I guarantee you every player in the NHL with defensive liabilities has been encouraged, cajoled and scolded to play better defensively.

      It won’t happen until the player figures it out and buys in. It might sound cliche, but it’s true. Players make decisions on the ice, not coaches.

  • Serious Gord

    Hall is the main reason I keep my season tix. One of the greatest players to play the game today, and I foresee a big step forward. Of the guys who were above him in the last couple years, all are older and more mature, and therefore passable by Hall. I’ll predict a finish in the top 5 of league scoring.

    Sad thing is that last year Hall took a small step forward, and the team regressed. Let’s see what a big step forward can do.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    To me i don’t really care if Hall wears the C or not in the next couple years. Let him dominate on the ice, based on what we’ve seen he’s obviously vocal in the locker room. Obvuously the C is an honor but i hope no one is suggesting that the C is going to improve his game.

    • Dan 1919

      Not only that, as Oiler fans we’re all hoping the wing and D offseason improvements will be enough for this team to gel and finally be competitive… But years of experience and no NHL C depth has us all knowing in the back of our heads that this season could fall apart in a few short weeks with some key injuries.

      May’s well give it another year and wait until we know for certain the team is competitive; giving Hall the C and having him captain a 27th place team won’t accomplish anything of value.

  • Jayz

    Nothing like hearing someone who was least to blame for a bad outcome take the most responsibility. I echo the Captain sentiment as soon as Ferance gets out played in TC, switch.

    At parts of the year I was calling himTaylor Fall.
    To hear that he watched the tape and came to the same conclusion about his off balance battling ? Just wow . He’s got all of my respect now. Ggwp Hallsy.

  • Dan 1919

    “The slow start of last year, as much as people want to blame the goalies and stuff, I think I was a big part of that,” (Hall) explained.

    Lol thanks for the good laugh and being a nice guy, and those silver balls off the Whitemud look good too.

    Someone like Hall will always expect more of himself, that still doesn’t associate him anywhere in the same universe as many recent Oiler disappointments like the starter goalie last year.

  • Zarny

    If you want to get excited about the Oilers, it starts with Taylor Hall. He is a special talent if you only look at players drafted 1st overall let everyone else.

    I agreed with the decision not to give Hall the ‘C’ last year. His game wasn’t ready but neither was his demeanor and attitude. He was still too young and trying to establish himself in the league.

    Actions speak louder than words but it sounds like he’s turned the corner. He’s the tip of the spear and the man to lead the charge. Scary and exciting to think he’s still a couple years away from his most productive years.

  • J.R.

    Great interview! [ as usual ] Lets hope the entire team adopts the improve defense first.!
    Hello Eberle. Not even sure Eberle is able to keep up with Hall on a rush.

    Eberle’s defensive work is not that far off
    from Gagner. Lets hope Eb’s did some thinking and work during the off season.

    Maybe a big body like Purcell on RW, might be worth a try, giving Hall and Nuge more space.?
    He did play on the top line at one point in Tampa.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      When Hall turns on the jets, NO ONE is able to keep up with him on the rush. A lot of defensemen seem to not realize just how fast he is at a gallop. There were a few times last year where Hall blew the doors off a defender, and the guy was still trying to pivot by the time Hall was in a shooting position. That being said, I also noticed a lot more defenders have started playing him to the outside, angling him off. I think that’s helped his passing and playmaking skills. His speed draws bodies to him, opening up space for linemates.

      • Joy S. Lee

        Here’s the beauty of that: if Hall learns to add better lateral movement (shiftyness/unpredictability) to his style, he will be able to turn defenders inside out due to his blazing speed already having them on their heels. Book it… if Hall adds that offensive element, he will join the very elite of the elite among scorers (and if he’s already there, that means he’ll rise above most of them).

        Great attitude. Taking personal responsibility. Determined to make a difference. Not to put more pressure on the young man, but Taylor Hall’s progression will be the lead ‘individual’ story of the upcoming NHL season, I believe.

        • Joy S. Lee

          What I meant by the lateral movement comment is that defenders commit to keeping Hall to the outside due to his unmatched speed off the wing. The middle of the ice often opens up due to that. If Hall can get the defender to TURN to the outside and then go inside, he will have room to work with that he’s never had before, and since he wants to improve his shooting percentage and finish… that would bode extremely well.

          Plumber (he wants to battle and stay on his feet more), Mechanic (he will fix opponents, alright), Surgeon (slice and dice/dissection)… more tools in the toolbox for a guy like this can only make him better able to handle whatever job is required at the time. And the team will follow it’s leader…

  • The Last Big Bear

    4 years later, Jeff Skinner still has more NHL goals than Hall.

    Its fair to argue that Hall is a more valuable player. But Skinner scored 31 goals as a rookie, and posted 33 goals last season, he’s not exactly an inanimate carbon rod.

    • pkam

      So what happens in the 2 years in between?

      Hall has 92 goals in 246 games, work out to be 0.374 gpg. Skinner has 97 goals in 259 games, work out to be 0.375 gpg. So their goal per game is basically the same over the 4 years. And that includes Hall had to play center, a position he is not good at, for about 10 games last year.

      If we include assist, Hall has 225 pts in 246 games, works out to be 0.915 ppg. Skinner has 185 pts in 259 games, work out to be 0.714 ppt. The difference is 0.2 pt per game, and that is a big difference. Not saying Skinner is bad, but he is not in the same level as Hall.

      • The Last Big Bear

        And Hall isn’t at the same level as Crosby, Getzlaf, Stamkos, or Ovechkin, the guys trotted out as comparisons in this article.

        Hall is very good, but he’s a lot closer to the Jeff Skinners of the world, than he is to Crosby or Ovechkin.

        • pkam

          Quoted from the article:

          Hall’s 130 points over the past two seasons are the 6th most the NHL, trailing only Crosby (160), Ryan Getzlaf (136), Ovechkin (135), Claude Giroux (134) and Phil Kessel (132).

          During those two years Hall is 5th in points-per-game at 1.08/game, behind Crosby (1.38), Evgeni Malkin (1.15), Steven Stamkos (1.14) and Getzlaf (1.12).

          What is Skinner’s points and ppg over the last 2 seasons? 78 pts in 113 games works out to be 0.69 ppg.

          So Hall’s 130 pts and 1.08 ppg is closer to 78 pts and 0.69 ppg of Skinner than the 136 pts and 1.12 ppg of Getzlaf? What kind of math do you study?

          • Serious Gord

            If it was all about points this would be a very simple game. But its not.

            Skinner has always played in halls shadow – exceeding him only in the first year in the nhl. And the last few years he has played hurt for extended periods (back?)

            But then he was very good value as a seventh pick whereas hall was the fully priced number one.

          • pkam

            Tell me other than goals, in what area is Skinner better than Hall or even close? So only Skinner got hurt? Didn’t you remember Hall’s shoulder problem in the first 2 years?

            What does draft position has anything to do with how good a player is? Wasn’t Getzlaf draft around 20th? Is he the best in that draft class.

            My point is whether Hall is draft 1st overall or in the 7th round, he is a better player than Skinner. And he is closer to the players in front of him than Skinner.

          • Lofty

            It’s ammusing how you pick and choose stats and spend hours upon days defending yourself.

            Everyone here knows you enjoy playing the antagonist, but you’ve run in circles long enough that your arguments don’t hold any sincere weight. It’s comical.

            If Hall was paid for at full draft price, what was paid for Eberle?

            There is no true apple to apples comparison in the nhl, nfl, nba… anything. Everyone’s situation is different. You don’t have all the answers.

            Exactly what makes you an expert on player development, retention and sports management that makes your posts fact? Pragmatic posters preface posts with “in my opinion” but yet you have all the facts? How much are you paid to be an nhl expert? How much time have you spent in an nhl dressing room?

        • BlazingSaitls

          I couldn’t disagree more. Hall is just behind Ovechkin in pts/game the last 2 years…Ovechkin/Crosby/Getzlaf are at thier peak, Hall still has a couple years until he gets there. Hall is top LW in the NHL. Period.

        • Zarny

          That’s just silly.

          Taylor Hall has 225 PT in 246 games including 130 PT in his last 120 games. Jeff Skinner has 185 PT in 259 games including 78 PT in his last 113 games.

          From a G scoring perspective they are virtually tied. Hall has 0.373 G/game and Skinner has 0.375 G/game. That is where any similarities end. Skinner certainly isn’t an inanimate carbon rod, but he is not even close to being the player Hall is.

          Crosby and Ovechkin had 327 PT and 310 PT in their first 246 games respectively. In terms of statistical comparisons, no young player compares to either right now.

          You can certainly argue it’s because they were simply better; but I think a contributing factor is they were the leading edge of the influx of extremely skilled young players since the 2004 lockout. Every young player that followed Crosby and Ovechkin entered a league with more and more skilled players already in it.

          But let’s see how Hall compares to Stamkos, Tavares and Getzlaf shall we?

          Stamkos had 234 PT in his first 246 games. Getzlaf only had 215 PT in his first 246 games and Tavares only had 206 PT in his first 246 games. Hall’s 225 PT actually compares quite favorably.

          So while you can certainly argue Taylor Hall is not on the same level as Crosby, Ovechkin or even Evgeni Malkin who had 308 PT in his first 246 games; Hall is most certainly on the same level or doing better than Stamkos, Tavares and Getzlaf.

  • ThinkingOutLoud

    Great interview Gregor! One of Hall’s best qualities is his ability to honestly critique his own game and take the necessary steps to improve. Only the very best in this game have this trait and this makes Hall one of the NHL’s true superstars. Hall will likely break the 90 point barrier this year.