Hey look, Taylor Hall is talking about his time with the Oilers. Let’s dig in!
For the first time in his NHL career, the 2010 first overall pick — the face of Oil Change 2.0 and H.O.P.E, the supremely talented winger who shouldered the enormous burden of turning the Oilers around — has a playoff appearance within reach. It isn’t with Edmonton, though. It’s with the New Jersey Devils.
Taylor Hall: Haven't had this much fun at this time of year since juniors. Said he's played on some bad hockey teams.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 20, 2018
Column upcoming...— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 20, 2018
Taylor Hall: "I think I’ve played on some pretty bad hockey teams, if you want to put it bluntly. You get drafted No. 1 overall and it comes with the territory the first couple of seasons. Then, after that, it’s kind of like, ‘OK, what are we doing here?’”
This is true. Hall played on a wealth of horrible teams with the Oilers. In his rookie season in 2010-11, the team won 25 games. It was the fewest wins ever in a season in Oilers history. 2011-12 and 2012-13 were both improvements, but the team was still well out of playoff contention. The team took a step back during the Dallas Eakins days in 2013-14 and 2014-15. But that season netted the Oilers a golden ticket — Connor McDavid.
With McDavid in the fold, Hall was no longer the face of the future. He was the grizzled old veteran who was going to show the way to the next one. McDavid, sooner rather than later, was going to steal Hall’s identity as the guy on the Oilers. This was inevitable given how spectacular a talent McDavid was coming into the league.
Hall took McDavid under his wing and showed him the way, but after one year, the relationship was over. Hall was dealt to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. McDavid was named captain. Hall’s legacy in Edmonton was over. He was the franchise player that never was. He put up a bunch of very good seasons but never made the team anything better than a bottom dweller. Obviously, that isn’t his fault because the teams around him were dreadful, but the legacy of Taylor Hall in Edmonton is nowhere near what anyone expected back in June 2010 when hundreds showed up to Rexall Place to watch him get drafted on the jumbotron.
There’s no doubt that he was upset. Last year, he mentioned how he was jealous to see the Oilers in the playoffs. But now? Things are going very well for Hall in New Jersey. He’s currently riding an 18-game point streak and has 62 points in 54 games. His 1.15 point-per-game has him in line to shatter his career-high of 80 points set back in 2013-14. If he keeps this up, he’s going to get Hart Trophy votes. If the Devils make the playoffs, he might win the award.
Taylor Hall praises his relationship with John Hynes. Says often in Edmonton he was looking not to talk to coaches. Just wanted to go out and play.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 20, 2018
I know everyone hates talking about Taylor Hall. The trade is over and there’s no way to go back and reverse it. Get over it and stop being negative! I know, I know. But there’s something interesting here that’s difficult to ignore. Players seem to move on and do well elsewhere. Hall is killing it in New Jersey and is finally fulfilling his back-to-back Memorial Cup MVP potential. Jordan Eberle is having a great time with the Islanders. Even Justin Schultz quickly figured out how to be an NHL defenceman in Pittsburgh. It’s a little worrying to wonder who’s next. Is Oscar Klefbom going to be jettisoned because of his poor season only to evolve into a top defenceman elsewhere? What about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
I don’t think this is just dwelling nonsense. After the way things have gone this season, where just about everyone other than Connor McDavid has had a rough time, seeing former Oilers really excel on new teams certainly raises some questions.