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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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

    “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Crosby, Stamkos, Toews – different player grouping altogether. Agreed.

    I am not convinced however that the majority of GMs in the league would not send a 28-year old Ovechkin packing for a 22-year old Taylor Hall. Ovechkin is very talented. An immensely talented flake. No thanks.

    Ovechkin is a coach killer who plays when the spirit moves him. Hall brings it every shift. Two totally different players.

  • Zarny

    @The Last Big Bear

    Given their PT production is near identical, but Stamkos plays C and scores G at a higher rate I doubt any GM would trade Stamkos for Hall straight up.

    That doesn’t mean Stamkos is on another “level” compared to Hall. It’s a very similar debate to Crosby vs Ovechkin.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Love the interview. Now before we go all jump ship and say Hall needs to be the next captain for the Edmonton Oilers. I dont disagree with that claim at all but lets see him walk the walk a bit first. Its easy to say the right thing in an interview on the direction you want to go but lets see it happen first. The oilers love the ole smoke and mirror show. Lets not forget the past 5 years how we heard all the right things in the preseason got very very hyped up and then well… we know how this story ends.

  • "Frank the dog"

    A great young player saying all the right things that is a captain material right there and is never afraid to face the media wolves. Brings me out of my seat every game he is a great watch we are lucky to have him.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Joy S. Lee

    The compete level of this team is whatvim going to be closely watching this year. Its real simple. With the amount of talent this team has if they compete harder theyll win more games.

    Too many times last season they started a game carrying the play oly to give up a deflating goal (cough DUBNYK cough cough) and fold like a cheap tent.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    What I’m sensing from the article is Taylor is reaching the full maturity level as a person. I’m sure most of us can relate to being 18 or 19 acting like 15. And over time with lessons learned (sometimes hard ones) we can become 22 going on 32.

  • A-Mc

    The best part of that article, for me, was the fact he acknowledged going into battles with poor body position.

    It often bothered me that he falls so easily; almost to the same degree as Hartnell Down.

    If he has identified part of the problem and is working towards fixing it, this is music to my ears.

    Also, answers like this aren’t the normal broad or cliche answers, so its nice to hear something different.

    • A-Mc

      Agreed. The last time I heard Eberle talk about his game, it was about how goalies had a hard time tracking his shots because it apparently just ‘comes off the stick different’.

      Hall’s self awareness will hopefully rub off on the other guys. Perhaps Yak is sick of playing 5th fiddle to Hall, Nuge, Ebs, and Schultz.

      I wonder if him and Yakimov don’t have instant chemistry at main camp. I know everyone’s penciled in Draisaitl, but if the Yak’s play well together, that’s a really tough third line combo to break up for the sake of draft pedigree.

  • Serious Gord

    Copies of the interview and the Team Canada gold medal Olympic game should be given out to everyone on the team. Also, the 300. Time to go war by playing excellent defense.

  • Jason Gregor

    So, I posed this question earlier, and still have no answer. Does anyone have any clue, at all, how Chicago, Philly, Boston, and Tampa are going to get under the cap? I can only assume Philly is desperately trying someone, anyone, to take Lecavialier. But what are the others going to do?

    I know the roster looks pretty set right now but are their any players that could shake loose from those teams the Oilers would trade for? And if so, what would be the cost?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Once you figure in the LTIR teams like Philly (Pronger) and Boston (Savard) it won’t be a problem. The may be over the cap the day before the season starts, but day 1 of the season they’ll be under it once those salaries are off the books.

      The other two are just a matter of having someone start the season on the injured list. Their salaries don’t count till they’re added to the roster. Virtually all teams will have injury write offs from day 1 of the season.

      Nobody will magically be cut loose because of this perceived issue. It’s all waiver wire pick ups if the Oilers are hoping to bring in another center or two.

    • Zarny

      Phi and Bos can get under the cap simply by placing Pronger and Savard on LTIR.

      Phi is over the cap by Pronger’s salary almost to the penny so they can put him on LTIR on the last day of pre-season, write off 99% of his contract and get under the cap. I’m sure they are trying to trade Lecavalier, but given they can’t retain any of his salary until the season starts it’s unlikely he goes anywhere beforehand.

      Bos will certainly want to put Savard on LTIR after the season starts to maximize the write off. They are only $800K over so technically they could bury Dougie Hamilton in the minors to start the season, put Savard on LTIR on day 1, recall Hamilton and they are ~ $4M under the cap. They do have some overages from bonuses last year to consider though.

      Tampa can probably get under the cap by burying players; Chi not so much.

      There will be trades but they still have time. Players can get injured in pre-season (ex. Gagner) which could provide additional LTIR relief.

      Edmonton has potential to benefit, but Calgary, Ottawa and a few other teams are in a much better position now with considerably more cap room. I wouldn’t hold my breathe that the Oilers get a gift from one of the teams over the cap.

      • Sorensenator

        Thanks, just read a post about the Pronger stuff. Given they are pretty close to 4.94 mill over, it seems pretty obvious which way Philly is leaning. Boston too looks pretty obvious, and as you say Tampa has options. But, it will be interesting to see what Chi does. Maybe they need the practice to get ready for next season.

    • Jason Gregor

      Philly will put Pronger on LTIR freeing up 4.9 in cap space. Boston will do same with Savard. TB will do the same with Ohlund.

      Issue for Boston is that even if they do that, they still might have to make a move if they want to sign Smith and Krug.

      Chic is talking about moving Leddy…Want to move Versteeg, but so far no takers.

      • J.R.

        It seems like if this was a year ago, Oilers would have been all over Versteeg. I wonder if the upcoming talent has anything to do with Mac T’s approach to less bold moves and more not sacrificing the future.

  • Serious Gord

    …….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.

    Wondering what Hall Expects of Eakins.

    As Hall says hopefully Eakins will be more comfortable.

  • Sorensenator

    For what its worth , Stamkos on his next contract will be the highest paid player in the NHL.

    Just wondering by playing in Tampa [ which is not the largest media market] will it cost him in outside endorsements?, unless its Tropicana orange juice.

  • J.R.

    Great article and I have been waiting to hear from Hall this pre-season. Hall is so exciting every time he touches the puck and I truly wish him all the very best this coming season and to the Oilers!!

  • Lofty

    Awesome! Love this player! Taking responsibility for the teams slow start?! Wow. I like it. And those three areas that he is working on, that would be amazing if those were improved.

  • As much as the oil need a 2C…

    Hall Ebs Nuge Petry Marincin and Scrivens/Fasth will be the ones that really determine their out come. That’s 1/3 of the forward group’s ice time, almost half of the D ice time, and all the goaltending. Should those five players post a 49+ corsi rating and the goalies post a .918 or better sv% the oil could actually be competitive.

    Side question, what was the Oil’s record when the goalie posted a sv% similar to Varlamov’s and the posted a sh% close to Colorado’s?

    • I think you’re forgetting Fayne. He will arguably play the largest part in turning the ship around as he will be pegged as one of the top two D pair. Even in a shut down role, if he can handle the top competition, that is a monster change from last year, as it bumps everyone down a peg.

      To a lesser extent, If Nikitin can not be a defensive liability and add some scoring, that is another huge boost.

      Finally, the PP. If the Oilers can get their PP back to top 3 while keeping an average penalty kill and stay out of the box themselves, that alone could turn the ship around.

      • Zarny

        The Oilers PP was ranked 3rd in 2011-12 and they finished 29th overall. I think it’s unlikely that alone would turn the ship around.

        The Oilers’ goal differential last year was 3rd worst in the league at -67. That is what needs to change.

        Detroit was the only negative goal differential team to make the playoffs last year at -8. Min, Phi, Dal, Mtl and CBJ were +1, +1, +7, +11 and +15 respectively. Every other playoff team was +25 or higher and every single team that missed the playoffs had a negative goal differential.

        The Oilers PP last year scored 46 G in 271 attempts and was ranked 21st. For the PP to be tied for 3rd overall last year they only needed 13 more goals. To match the 2012-13 ranking of 8th overall the PP only needed 8 more goals.

        A better PP would certainly help, but the difference is marginal and the hand-wringing last year was overblown. 8-13 more goals is not going to move the needle in the standings very far.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Nice to hear Hall admitting he was leading with his stick too much previously. That’s been evident in his career so far, poking that super-long stick in especially on the backcheck. A guy with his speed should be able to catch guys and use his body more instead of reaching with one hand on the stick from 8 feet away.