I watched last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues with a particular focus on the play of Taylor Hall. What I saw was a player, particularly at even strength, who was not engaged and appeared to be going through the motions.
Now, playing the Blues is not the easiest thing in the world but a player of Hall’s reputation and draft pedigree should be competitive against any opponent and Hall was far from competitive.
He was credited with 2 shots on goal but both were “Pajaarvis” from the perimeter and while the official stat sheets doesn’t nick Hall for any giveaways, the official scorer must have been asleep as I saw several.
In his post-game player grades, the Journal’s Bruce McCurdy had this to say:
#4 Taylor Hall, 4. A nice shot on goal in an early chance, and a great open-ice hit on T.J. Oshie in the third were the highlights of an otherwise forgettable night. Hall wound up -2, and was one of several Oilers who couldn’t wait to get out of Dodge while Pouliot was battling on his own after the buzzer.
If the highlight of the night for your best player is getting a shot on goal, you’re likely in a lot of trouble…and then there is that final observation about Hall skating away while the Blues took liberties with Benoit Pouliot at the end of the game. David Backes was heard calling Hall a “pussy” and, at least on the surface, his comments appear to have some merit.
And, as Lowetide poster Jimbones points out…Hall’s lack of commitment to his team did not go unnoticed:
There are those who try to claim that Hall’s lacklustre performance this season is due to injury but, in a recent interview, (sorry I can’t find the link) Hall himself says that’s not true so what is going on here?
Hall’s best season as an Oiler came just last year when he scored 27 goals and 80 points in 75GP (1.06PPG).
This season, he is scoring at .736 PPG and is unlikely to hit 25 goals or 60 points.
While much of the Oiler fan base is now focused on the draft, I think it needs to be pointed out that drafting yet another teenager won’t solve a thing if there the core of the apple is as rotten as it appears to be. At least some of the more astute observers can also see this:
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I stand by my point from earlier this year, to fix this, #Oilers will have to trade part of the core, whether it is Eberle or Hall is TBD.
— Alex Thomas (@Alex_Thomas14) January 14, 2015
Back in mid December, TSN Inside Darren Dreger dropped a bombshell on a morning radio show:
If you’re moving a piece like Taylor Hall – and I believe that Taylor Hall will be in play – then the rate of return is always best when teams have flexibility in the summer… If you’re moving out a franchise player, potentially, like Taylor Hall is, you’d better be damn certain that that’s the right move for the organization because he is an elite talent. If you’re moving out Jordan Eberle, someone like that, again from that inner core, a core that you paid dearly, obviously too early, you have to be certain…….
“It’s not one player; it’s the collection of players that make up a sagging work ethic and a lack of culture,” he said. “But if you wanted to put a face on it or a name to it, that would be Taylor Hall. Taylor Hall, at least again from a culture standpoint, more in the room not necessarily on the ice, hasn’t been what they’d hoped he would be.”
I suspect the reason Hall is going through the motions this season is that he has had enough of the constant losing and wants out. Whether or not that has triggered a formal trade request we may never know but I see nothing in Hall’s demeanour or performance that would indicate to me that he remains committed to leading the Oilers out of the morass.
The question then becomes, is moving Hall in the team’s best interest…I think it is.
The current rebuild was doomed from the start since it ignored the dictum that successful teams are built from the back-end out and down the middle.
The only way to climb out of this mess is to hit the re-set button and turn the Oilers most tradeable assets into 1 or 2 top pairing D and/or an established #1C.
Given that the Oilers’ #1 overall picks, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov are all underreporting their draft pedigree by a wide margin, I think there is a pretty strong cautionary tale that hoping the team will be able to draft its way out is fraught with peril.
So not only should the Oilers trade Hall…but they must trade Hall if they hope to get the rebuild re-started.
Unfortunately, the men making that decision having shown very little in the way of acumen in how to build a winning hockey team so, perhaps, we’ll be talking about this again a year from now.
I’m left to wonder…what would Dean Lombardi do?
More on that next time.