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Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Success

I’m probably in the minority, but I never thought that Taylor Hall was guilty of anything other than being the best player on a team so bad and so off the rails that he couldn’t do enough to get it back on track during the 381 games he spent with the Edmonton Oilers before getting his ticket out of town in June 2016.

Just 19 years old when he arrived in the middle of a mess halfway through the Decade of Darkness, Hall was far from a perfect player during his time as an Oiler. That said, I always thought Hall ended up wearing more of the blame than he should have for the failures of a team that had a questionable front office and ran a carousel of coaches behind the bench. Hall wasn’t a team-guy, he was a me-guy. He wasn’t a leader. On and on . . .

It turns out Hall wasn’t the problem, of course, as we’re seeing now. The Oilers are floundering again, out of playoff contention after last season’s 103-point tease. At the same time, Hall, traded to the New Jersey Devils straight up for defenceman Adam Larsson, is dragging the Devils toward the post-season during a campaign that has him in contention for the Hart Trophy.

That juxtaposition, in concert with the trade by GM Peter Chiarelli — one just about everybody agreed he got waxed on from the minute it was made — is just another addition to the pile that has Oiler fans sour these days. For his part, Hall, who certainly took the trade personally when it was made, has moved on. He’s got a 25-game point-streak on the go. He’s on a contending team. Life is pretty good. Hall talked about that on a conference call today.

IN THE SWAMP

“I’ve always wanted to play on a playoff team,” said Hall, asked if felt vindicated by the season he’s having with New Jersey. “I’ve always wanted to be on a winning team, a successful team, and for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen in Edmonton. More than anything, I’m just happy to be in that situation, happy to be in a playoff race spotlight.

“It’s a fun place to be after not really experiencing that throughout my career, so I don’t think ‘vindicated’ is the word I’d choose. I’m happy with the season I’ve had personally. I’m happy with our team’s season and that’s a good feeling to have after the years I’ve been through.”

With 30-42-72 in 61 games going into action tonight, Hall is going to take a run at his best season, 27-53-80 with the Oilers in 2013-14. More important, the Devils are in a playoff spot as of today with Hall leading the way. That’s something the Oilers never managed during his six seasons in Edmonton – a lot of the blame for that was heaped on his shoulders as his time here wound down. Then, the trade. “I think it’s safe to say I’m a very motivated player now,” Hall said when he was traded to New Jersey. Remember that?

“Whenever you go through change, whether it’s a trade or anything in life, really, it forces you step back and reassess things,” Hall said. “If anything, it was an opportunity for a fresh start, with a fresh coaching staff and fresh management. I was able to come in with a clean slate. In my second season here, we have the exact same coaching staff, a lot of the same players back. Over the course of my career in Edmonton I had a lot of different coaches, a lot of changes. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

For all the terrific moments on the ice Hall had here amid the losing and ineptitude, the bull rushes up the wing, reckless charges toward the net, the vivid memory I have of him is the ridiculous scene on the Oiler bench, when coach Dallas Eakins turned in a dramatic performance after being sprayed by a water bottle Hall tossed. It was a sad and sorry microcosm of his tenure in Edmonton. Hall wanted better than that here. Fans deserved better than that – they still do. That’s not Hall’s problem anymore.

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • When it comes to carve jobs on the state of the Oilers, they don’t get much more stinging than this bit of business posted today on Twitter by somebody calling himself James Tinney. It’s over-the-top for sure and NSFW in terms of language, but I’m guessing it echoes the thoughts and frustrations of a big segment of the fan base here.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • OilBlood

    The trade was a wake up call from him.

    Regardless of the current views on them, Chia and McLellan came in and for a full year they assessed the team.

    Hall was not deemed to be part of the solution moving forward. He said himself he didn’t listen to any of his coaches in Edmonton and yes that includes Tmac.

    The team won without him last year while he floundered on a non playoff team once again last year.

    Ray Shero had to have a “be a big boy” talk with him during the offseason telling him to essentially grow up.

    It looks like he’s finally figured it out and good on him, but, kid needed an attitude adjustment and that came in the form of a slap to the face from being traded.

    Sure I wouldn’t mind the current version of Hall on this team but honestly, he would have never become that here. If it takes you 7 years to listen to a coach well your best before fate with the team is week passed.

    Wish him luck and he is a great player but that trade had to happen for him and the oilers.

    • Gerald R. Ford

      It HAD to happen? Only because this organization is completely devoid of anyone with the inclination, intelligence, patience or ability to have had the “big boy” talk with him during the seven years he was here. The only thing more shameful than the return on that trade is the perceived inevitability of it. Part of DEVELOPING players, is helping them to be better professionals and people. “Draft, indulge, tarnish, trade, NEXT!” is a crappy way of running an organization. And the record reflects that.

    • Marshall Law

      He was that guy here, my friend. Check out his stats from the 2013-2014 season. Let’s stop pretending that this is the only year that Hall’s been good. He’s always been one of the league’s best. He’s been one of the most accomplished even strength scorers in the game for years.

      • OilBlood

        I wasn’t speaking point totals when I said I’d want this version of him.

        He’s elevating his team, playing within the system, listening and taking feedback from his coaches and getting strong consideration for the Hart trophy.

        That never happened here, not in 13-14 nor in the other 5 years he was here for.

        • Marshall Law

          Because he played on absolutely terrible hockey teams. I wouldn’t attribute the lack of team success over those years to Hall. The Oilers had guys like Allan Rourke and Alex Plante playing defence for them. Those rosters were just horrendous. The Hart trophy goes to players that have team success.
          Does McDavid being on an awful team this year discredit him in your mind? He might win the scoring title, but there’s no chance they give him the Hart on a bottom-five team in the standings.

          • crabman

            @Marshall Law, and if you are going to cheery pick awful defensman from the Hall era maybe leave Rourke of the list since he played just 13 games 3 years before Hall’s rookie season. And Plante who played a grand total of 6 games during the Hall era. The team had a poor defense but you make yourself look foolish and uncredible.

          • crabman

            McDavid is in line for another 100 point season. no he will not win the Hart but he is playing like a Hart trophy finalist even with an awful team around him.
            I’m not arguing Hall was a bad player but no one can tell me he played this well in Edmonton and every statistic available agrees with me.

          • Marshall Law

            I mean, he’s definitely on pace for a career year, but it’s not far off from some seasons that he’s already had. He’ll wind up between 80 and 90 points this year. But he’s hit 80 before. It’s not like what he’s doing right now is that big of a stretch from what we saw, crab man. To suggest otherwise would be somewhat unreasonable, don’t you think? And I picked Rourke and Plante because I had already rattled off some other names in another post, but you can pick whatever names you want from that era (Potter, Belov, Ference, etc..). None of those groups were any good.

        • HOCKEY83

          So OilBlood What exactly has Nuge done for this team. He is at the age Hall was at when traded and has been less of a player that Hall was for the same amount of money I might add. for a first overall draft pick with 7 years in the league should he have matured into a top scorer in the league yet or will he be traded away for a bag of pucks and a tank of gas for the Zamboni?

      • crabman

        @Marshall Law, Hall has always been a telented offensive player no doubt. But you are kidding yourself if you think he played at this year’s level while being a member of the Oilers.
        He has never hit 30 goals here and his pts/game this year is 1.18
        his career average pts/game with the Oilers was .86 and his career high in goals was 27. baring injury he is going to obliterate his career highs this year and for the 1st time in his career is in the conversation for the Hart.

        • OilersGM

          Have you ever thought that some players take a little time he is still very young and just coming into his prime just because he didn’t get it done before doesn’t mean he wouldn’t going forward.

      • crabman

        I hate being the one down talking Hall I truly am. I was a fan when he was here and I am happy he is having such a great season. I am still a Hall fan. Marshall Law you are absolutely correct that he has put up 2 simular seasons but he is 4 and 5 years removed from those years. His scoring the past 3 seasons has him at .75 pts/game. that is .43pts/game less than this season and prorates to 35 points a season. He is having an amazing resurgence this season. It isn’t out of the question he has the talent to put up a huge season but this isn’t a normal a normal season for him either. Hall wasn’t ALWAYS this player. He has played great some seasons and just good others. This just happens to be the best he has ever played.

    • Gravis82

      He is having great success. Everyone is trying to explain it, even Hall. Everyone who defended the trade is trying to save face by saying he would never have been that here. This I find amusing.

      Here is the only thing that matters. Hall’s PDO is off the charts this year. His underlying metrics say that he is exactly the same player he always was, just getting a bit luckier than usual this year. In fact, this is not even his best season. His best season was with the Oilers.

      Sure, the things may have changed over time in other off- ice things, personality, character etc. But, surprise, people grow up. All people. Even those not named Taylor Hall. That process was not the cause of his success, as plenty of players go through this and still remain pretty good hockey players the entire time, and then only get better in the end.
      Hall was plenty successful here while young, so why trade him when we know he is maturing and only getting better?
      Remind me of the logic here? Also, doesn’t that speak to terrible coaching that he excelled elsewhere? Also, doesn’t that speak to terrible management to not realize that young players eventually age into mature players?

      Taylor Hall now, the hockey player, is the same player we had. The trade, was then, is now, and forever will be completely indefensible from any angle.

      • Marshall Law

        Curious as to why people think that Hall needed to go. Even if maturity was an issue, he was in his early twenties at the time. Who among us has not had our tribulations at that age? To me, if you have a young guy that’s been one of the most productive players in the game on a sweetheart contract, you work with him and surround him with competent people. Alternatively, if you’re going to trade him, trade him for an appropriate return. The solution they came up with was what I would imagine to be the worst possible outcome for the Oilers organization.

      • Oilman99

        Hall couldn’t accept the fact that McDavid was going to be the leader of the team after he had been the top dog for the past five years. He even admits he had change of attitude, and training regime last summer.

    • Jason Gregor

      Need to stop with the “didn’t listen to coach” line. Not close to truth. Here is what he actually said.

      “I really didn’t want to talk to coaches. I didn’t really want to have dialogue with coaches. I just wanted to play. And a lot of guys are like that.”

      Never said he didn’t listen. Many players don’t seek out extra one-on-one conversations with coaches. And the fact is, I’d say it is on the coach to do that. Hall said he didn’t initiate more conversation than the basic. Was that an error, likely to an extent, but as young players or people we learn things. And Hynes reached out after a full season with Hall to get him more comfortable. Outside of Eakins, which coach had that chance in Edmonton? Renney? Nope. Fired after one year. Krueger? Nope, fired after one year (48) games. Todd Nelson? Nope. Was Interim coach for half a season.

      Hall, like every young hockey player and human, learns as he goes. Saying he couldn’t be the player here is also incorrect. He was that player in 2013 and 2014 when he was 9th and 7th in NHL scoring. And over those two seasons he was 6th in total points. The trade did not have to happen. You tell yourself that, rather than admit Chiarelli made a bad trade. Saying Hall couldn’t have had same success in season two with McLellan when he’d produced these types of numbers before makes virtually no sense to me. He’d done it here on worse teams.

      • OilBlood

        Actually he had Renney for 2 years. Also McLellan at the worlds.

        Guy got benched by Lindy Ruff in 3rd period of gold medal World Championship game.

        McLellan had him for a full year. Chia doesn’t trade Hall if McLellans assessment was that they Hall was a pet of the solution.

        The trade absolutely did HAVE to happen. Question the return all you like but the guy needed the wake up call and it wasn’t happening here.

      • crabman

        @ Gregor, not wanting to talk to coaches. not wanting a dialogue. Dialogue is one part talk one part listen. If you don’t want dialogue you don’t want to listen. I agree Hall didn’t NEED to be traded and the return certainly wasn’t enough.
        I’m not saying he wasn’t capable of this season but people that say he was the same person here just aren’t correct. He has always had the talent to put up points but he is playing well above career average and heads and shoulders where he was the 3 years previous. You have to give a certain amount of credit to him playing in a new environment.

    • Rama Lama

      As I recall Hall was young and thrust as the “savior”, almost the moment he got to the team……too much pressure for a young kid away from home. He also had too many one-season coaches that never amounted to much………would you listen to Dallas Eakins. Hall was never the problem.

    • fasteddy

      What bothered me most was he was one of two that drove the play, created offence on his own. Yes he had his shortcomings, but with all of the assets the team had, surely they could have found another way to add a good dman.

      • Gravis82

        Ummmm….exactly who else was creating offense? When Hall was on the ice the oilers scored more goals than when they allowed at a rate equivalent to about a playoff team. When not on the ice, oilers were just the worst.

    • HOCKEY83

      Floundered with .74 points per game in a season where only 8 guys were at a point a game or better. What does it say about the Edmonton organization when this kid was billed in the draft as a player with a great attitude yet when he got to Edmonton he needed an attitude adjustment. Perhaps he wasn’t on board with the losing culture being taught and it frustrated him. I’m sure McDavid will start to get as frustrated and fed up if things don’t turn around.

      • crabman

        @ Hockey83, I would never call .75pts/game floundering. It makes him one of the better players in the league but not even in the ballpark to his play this year. the .75pts/game was his average over his last 3 seasons before this one. In that time he was 165th in scoring 2014-15, albeit an injury plagued season. 2015-16 He was 23rd in scoring. And last year he was 72nd in scoring. I don’t care if only 8 players were point a game players in one of those seasons and 20 pt/g seasons over that 3 year timeframe. He was well behind the league leaders in that timeframe. There is no denying that. and to be averaging more than 1.18pt/g this year is a huge improvement and a huge accomplishment.

    • Hockey for life

      I don’t think the issue is completely he shouldn’t of been traded. It’s the fact that his value wasn’t maximized. I mean they almost traded him straight up for Cody cici before nj stepped in.

    • Dexter Morgan

      You could replace Hall with Seguin in this post and its the same thing. Kid needed a wake up call to become a man. Good on both of these guys for making it big.

      • HOCKEY83

        Agree. who cares who gets traded as long as you get something similar back. It’s the senseless trashing of all players when they go somewhere else that’s ridiculous.

    • Homer

      This is what I logged on to say!! Mark spectres piece on Sportsnet was complete BS just like his “hockey knowledge” Talking head telling us fans he knows better and saying Nuge needs to be traded not put on a wing with Connor? FU Spectre you piece of crap go cheer for the ‘ lames with your equally stupid Hrudey