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.

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“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?

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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.

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  • ubermiguel

    Hall should be Captain now. Get rid of Ference, that socialist (NDP meetings) and environmentalist (the groups he associates with want our energy industry shut down). Ference doesn’t represent Edmonton valves anyway.

      • Sorensenator

        Are you sure the Ndp are Alberta’s problem or the pc’s and liberals? I have seen or country sold off to corporations by the pc’s and liberals the last thirty years and what do we have to show for it? You sound like your part of the problem. It sounds like Ference is part of the solution.

        • Zarny

          Good grief. Nothing has been “sold off”. What a pile of socialist drivel.

          What do we have to show?

          A diverse economy with many employers in almost all industries versus one or two crown corps run by bungling bureaucrats.

          Which has resulted in considerably more jobs which, in turn results in a more robust tax base and higher tax revenue.

    • "Frank the dog"

      I could care less what he does off-ice. I just hope he does not become such a darling of the MSM that it stops MacT and Eakins moving him off the roster when his due by date swings around in the not too distant future.

      • Zarny

        I’ve lived in Edmonton most of my life. I love the environment. River Valley to Clover Bar Dump with all its technology to recycle waste.The federal NDP and Provincial NDP do have ties. But to say that the NDP are anti-energy is stupid. I am card carrying Conservative. And even I know that the Provincial NDP would not ever slow Oil sands development. Make it cleaner. More environmentally friendly sure. But anti-energy never. I myself would like to see Big Oil do more long term to have less impact on the land. In conjunction though with the Provincial and Federal governments.

        Ference grew up in Alberta. He is as much an Edmontonian as you or I.

        When hacking someone on this site we should stick to their play on the ice. We are better than this statement by Total points.

  • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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?

        • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • pkam

    Captain Hall. I hope the message of being strong on defense to help you have the puck more often and thus score more finds its way to Yak. Coaches can say something, but having that message come from a young player tearing up the league is far more effective.

    And I have to say i’m pumped about Hall noting his problems on the breakaway. I love the guy, but last year it got to the point where he’d have a breakaway (which felt like minimum 1 every 2 games) and I wasn’t even all that excited. He misses so many of them that it was like the ghost of Todd Marchant took over his body when he’s all alone. If he cashed on half of those misses he probably would have potted 10 more goals last year alone.

    Is there anywhere we can dig up a stat on the number of breakaways a players gets? I’d love to see those numbers.

    And please don’t use shootout a comp. In game breakaways and shootouts feel and are completely different.

  • Zarny

    Hall for captain? The players should decide on this among themselves. Ference has done an ok job. I wish he would keep his personal views to himself. Play hockey.

  • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There’s a mean streak in there somewhere that should soon come out. He seems to have the confidence needed to start initiating it/ dishing it out.

    Hoping this is the season we start seeing the mean Pucker side of his game. All the BS he’s had to put up with his first 4 yrs. Payback will be a biotch, maybe even see him missing 3-6 games this season via suspension. Beauty and the beast, he can be both.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Sort of what I meant. He doesn’t have to hang around and participate in the scrum. He can be the reason for the scrum though.

        I was thinking about brutality issued during play. Clutterbuck a few guys and be done with it, choose not to partake in the aftermath. Nothing wrong with a few Messier type moments to buy himself some space on the ice. Even with todays rules. Better to spend a week in Mexico in January this season, than during a possible playoff season like 2015-2016 could be. Set some ground rules during this hockey that doesn’t matter phase they’re in.

        • The Last Big Bear

          This might also become a moot point if a few of the prospects can develop and play top nine roles. As before the team was small and skilled in the top nine with some plugs and enforcers down on the fourth line. But soon the team will have size throughout the line up. Hopefully this results in Edmonton being a much tougher team to play against.

          Watching Nurse and Chase int he Rookie tourney gave me hope. Nurse is just mean. It was never enough to pin a guy along the boards, he also had to rake him with the stick or bury a shoulder.

          Nothing but good things coming up through the ranks.

  • 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.