Where should Hall play?

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?

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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.

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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.

Player Pos  Pts  Shots  Corsi  TOI GF60  GA60  GF%  CF60  CA60  CF% 
Taylor Hall L 7 4 11 22 39 185:40:00  4.2 3.23 56.5 49.4 64 44
Benoit Pouliot L 2 3 4 24 41 173:51:00 2.42 3.11 43.8 49.4 62.5 44.1
Ryan Hamilton L 2 1 3 9 13 75:05:00 2.4 2.4 50 39.2 65.5 37.4
Jordan Eberle R 1 3 4 39 69 341:07:00 1.93 5.45 26.2 51.9 62.1 45.5
Derek Roy C 3 8 11 48 105 379:16:00 1.9 3.16 37.5 49.4 60.6 44.9
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C 0 4 4 45 68 345:31:00 1.56 4.34 26.5 43.6 65.1 40.1
Anton Lander C 1 0 1 12 23 96:15:00 1.25 3.74 25 48.6 69.2 41.3
Teddy Purcell R 0 3 3 38 74 256:47:00 0.93 2.34 28.6 56.1 62.4 47.3
Boyd Gordon C 0 0 0 8 9 71:02:00 0 4.22 0 43.1 62.5 40.8
Matt Hendricks C 0 0 0 4 7 36:32:00 0 3.28 0 37.8 75.6 33.3
Luke Gazdic L 0 0 0 2 7 33:01:00 0 1.82 0 38.2 76.3 33.3
Rob Klinkhammer C 0 0 0 2 3 4:34 0 26:28 0 65.7 65.7 50

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.

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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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  • MGD

    I don’t think it makes much sense playing Hall with Lander unless you’re planning on double-shifting Hall. Hall is the team’s best player and you don’t bury your best player on the 3rd (4th, in ice time) line.

    Putting Hall on a line with Roy & Yak gives Lander a real NHL winger in Purcel – sure Teddy is soft and cuddly, but at least he’s an actual player and may actually pot a goal or two after Lander does the heavy lifting in the corners unlike the current duo.

  • Obviously Hall makes Edmonton a better team. If management is hoping for a high pick in the draft , playing him is a mistake.

    Last couple of years the last few games Edmonton has won, and people said it is good for the team and good for next year. Well this is next year they are worse.

  • S cottV

    You put him right back on the first line.

    He is supposed to be a franchise player, so don’t screw with him,

    If it clicks thru the rest of the season – it tells you something.

    If it doesn’t – it tells you something different.

    • A rugged beard creates 100% more awesomeness. This awesomeness transcends the galaxy, to effect everything.

      14s beard is such a beard.They only come around once every 2 thousand years. Moses had such a beard. Jesus had a kick ass beard. Now one Jordan Eberle has found the power of the beard.

      From ancient scripture

      “One beard to rule them all,
      One beard to find them,
      One beard to bring them all,
      and in the darkness bind them.”

      Chuck Norris is jealous of Ebs epic beard right now.

  • bazmagoo

    Personally I’d like to see Hall line up with Lander. Two reasons. #1 – Lander has been playing well even though he’s saddled with AHL line mates and #2 – Purcell, Yak, and Roy have been playing well together and have chemistry. Hall-Lander and whoever would be a good experiment to try out for the remainder of the season and would give the Oilers 3 potential scoring lines. When was the last time we could say that?!

    Another big factor for me right now is Pouliot’s play. He’s so sound defensively (best +/- on the team) it opens up a lot of space for Nuge and Ebs to go for scoring opportunities which we are seeing the benefit of. When Hall is on that line, Nuge needs to be the defensive forward in the trio. Keep Poo on the 1st line!

  • Kr55

    Hall, just like Nuge and Ebs need to be touching the puck a lot to be effective. That’s why there is very little overall gain if we put Hall back with Nuge/Ebs. Hall wants the puck all the time just like the other 2, so the more guys like that you add to a line the more your gains diminish. Nuge and Ebs need someone with a good shot, a nose for open ice and good defensive awareness on the left and we’ve found the perfect match with Pouliot.

    Hall needs to elevate the 2nd line. Hall/Roy/Yak should be put together and left for the rest of the year to see if chemistry can develop between Hall/Yak.

  • Big red ginger snap

    For starter Hall – Roy – Yak.

    Both Hall and Yak like to shoot. Let Roy distribute the puck to these two shooters.
    Hall and Yak have speed to burn and can carry the puck into the zone, make a shot or a play. Roy is also niffty around the net, to pick up rebounds and back door shots.

    Note on the Bulletin Board to Hall and Yak-

  • SSB1963

    Trading our best player when we don’t have to? I am old enough to remember that this team had no choice but trade our best players because of money and they were never more than a second tier NHL team based on what they could afford. MacT won’t trade these guys and that has been his boldest move.

      • RomZ

        Adding Taylor Hall to the left side of the Roy/Yak should not be a detriment to the line. Sure that line has been producing, but Hall is the best player on the team. I’d say its a good problem to have. I think Hall will create more space for Roy, and Yak with his ability to back up defences.

      • freelancer

        I would argue that Purcell has not been the catalyst for that lines production. Purcell has always been advertised as a decent guy who can keep up to more skilled guys. He himself does not drive the play. Hall does. The third line (Lander line) next season should be Lander-Purcell, and bring in a veteran guy who is a two way 15 goal scorer.

  • nuge2drai

    Huh, I thought this really wouldn’t be much of a question given the success of the PP and how well the top line has been producing lately.

    However, it’s hard to remember but Pouliot also played really well on the Roy Yak line. But then went down to injury, so it was hard to get a real good sample size.

    Hall, Roy, Yak, would almost certainly have to draw the top defensive pair, so I wonder if that doesn’t stifle Yak a little bit, who seems suited to eat up second tier competition. But you are right that Yak plays well with Hall, and it always baffles me that previous coaches have not tried that combo out more often. Furthermore, that would probably have Yak’s Corsi heading in the right direction as Hall generally pushes the play in one direction.

    What I really thought was provoking was the idea of putting him with Lander. My only concern is that didn’t work at the end of last year, as Lander was getting some quality ice time and not doing much with it. Now that was of course under the old Eakins system and the old scared to make a mistake Lander, so maybe now that sorts itself out.

    Personally, I think Lander is making good hay with the third liners he has, and putting Hall with Roy and Yak gets Purcell back on the third line on his correct side, which was working well before the injuries.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing Hall back in the lineup.

  • Draft Dodger

    Don’t get me wrong I love Hall the player and the only reason I would trade him is if I could improve the team,by making a real hockey trade.So I wonder if you could get McDonagh and Talbot from the Rangers might have to add a pick,would that not solve 2 problems

  • Spoils

    My opinion isn’t that Hall makes the Oilers worse. It’s that I doubt his return makes much of a difference.

    Better defense and goaltending would have a much more pronounced effect on the team’s fortunes than Taylor Hall returning to the lineup.

    We’re not uber-talented, but talented enough to compete in terms of forwards. It’s the back end where the team is really suffering.

  • I think Nelson should keep the top 6 as it is. Lander could learn a lot playing with a proven NHL winner and this could give him some experience for going into next year. The lineup should look like this:

    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
    Purcell – Roy – Yakupov
    Hall – Lander – Hamilton/Miller
    Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    Three scoring lines, and of course the beloved Wagon Line.

  • El Pindo

    If Hall isn’t put on the top line i’ll assume he pouts, trips over his bottom lip and is back on the IR.

    We really don’t have anything to lose so I’d say 2nd or 3rd line. See no reason to split up the top line.

  • I think that whatever line you put Hall on becomes at least the 2nd line regardless if it is with Lander or Roy as a center. I personally would like to see Hall and Lander together because I think Lander has more offensive potential yet but Hall probably should play with Roy/Yakupov. Either way it bolsters the team immensely.

  • CaptainLander

    Pouliot Nuge Ebs

    Hall Roy Yak

    Purcell Lander Drai/Eichl/Macdavid

    Hendy Gordan Klink

    This is what I would like to see the 2015/2016 season look like to start.

    Then take What you have left in cap and add a real goalie and legitimate #1 d-man.

    Yes I know Drai/Eichl/Macdavid are centers but almost every other rookie super star center seems to start on the wing and down in the depth chart. See Stamkos, McKinnon etc You hope the following year they replace Roy.

  • Big red ginger snap

    Play Hall with Yakupov and Roy. And if we’re down a goal in the final minutes of the game you put Hall up with RNH/Ebs.

    Problem is…. We needed wins in November.

    Thanks Eakins.

  • For people who are saying Hall is expendable, that Pouliot is demonstrating that we don’t need him, and that line of thinking, let me throw some numbers out.

    He is an elite play-maker and an elite point producer. And by elite, I mean at even-strength (5v5), based on a 4-year average (per 60 minutes), Hall is:

    -4th overall in primary assists (1.02/60),
    -3rd overall in assists (1.65/60), &
    -8th overall in points (2.48/60)

    Moreover, forwards tend to hit their prime in their mid to late 20s (24 to 28). Hall is 23! He’s probably going to get better!

    Who can the Oilers realistically expect in return that would compensate for losing one of the NHL’s best playmakers? Will any team give up their #1 (elite) defenseman for a winger? Will any team give up their #1 center? Their #1 goalie?

    Trading from our “core” could work, in theory, but trading Hall would be a monumental mistake. Not that the Oilers’ management haven’t made terrible mistakes in the past…

    Walter Foddis

    [At BeerLeagueHeroes, I blog about the Oilers using analytics, and about hockey analytics in general.]