Taylor Hall is close to returning to the lineup. He has been skating with the team this week, and I won’t be surprised to see him in the lineup on Saturday vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.
Which line should he play on?
I’ve chuckled reading and hearing comments from people suggesting the Oilers are better off without Hall. They have won five of the 20 games since Hall broke a bone in his leg vs. San Jose. It is ridiculously inaccurate to say the Oilers are better off without him.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have produced sans Hall, which is a great sign, because good teams need at least two productive lines if they want to win. You also need to stop allowing 3+ goals a game, but that’s an article for another day.
Today, I want to focus on the options Todd Nelson will look at regarding Hall.
Let’s start with the easy one. He will take Matt Hendricks spot on the 2nd unit PP. There is no reason to split up the first unit, and having two productive units is a great thing. Also, don’t suggest Hall will hurt the PP. In 2013, when the Oilers PP was successful, Hall was 2nd on the team with 14 PP points. He has a hard shot and is a good passer. He will be an excellent addition to the Roy/Yakupov PP unit.
Where he plays five-on-five is open for debate.
Nelson could reunite him with RNH and Eberle, but I don’t see why he would do that. Benoit Pouliot has fit in well on that line, and if Hall is on a different line that means either his line or Eberle’s line won’t have to face the opposition’s top defence pairing.
Sliding Hall on the left side of Derek Roy and Yakupov seems very likely. The suggestion Hall and Yakupov play a different style and won’t produce is also not true.
You will notice how much more productive Yakupov has been when playing with Hall. They’ve only played 185 ES minutes together, but Yakupov has tallied seven goals and 11 points. He has produced 11 points ES points playing with Roy as well, but in 379 minutes.
Most players are more productive playing with Hall, but Yakupov has had so much more success with Hall than any other player on the roster, and it seems obvious to put Hall on that line. Playing Hall with Roy and Yakupov at ES, could help them on the PP as well.
Eberle mentioned to me on Monday that the reason he believes their PP is so successful is because Nelson has kept him and RNH together every game, and the PP unit has only seen players changed out due to injuries. Eberle feels the continuity factor has helped his game, and if that is the case then playing Hall/Roy/Yakupov at ES and on the PP makes sense.
The other option is playing Hall with Anton Lander. Lander has played very well.
He’s producing on the PP, and he looks so much more confident with the puck. I’d play Hall with him just to see what Lander could do at ES playing with a proven NHL scoring winger. I really like Lander’s competitiveness. He isn’t afraid to yap at guys, or give them a little jab here and there. He is very responsible defensively, and he is making plays offensively.
It would also give the Oilers three lines with a scoring threat.
For the first time in a long time, an Oilers head coach has some realistic options on how to deploy his top lines, and the return of Hall should make Nelson’s job a bit easier.
Who would you play Hall with? Why?
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