Will the Glass Slipper Fall for Edmonton's Hall?
Taylor Hall was dominating the OHL even before draft eligibility. In his draft year he repeated his stunning sophomore campaign, leading the Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup Championship, and being named MVP in back-to-back seasons. We watched the ‘Fall for Hall’ turn in to ‘Taylor Vs. Tyler’ as Hall, once considered the clear-cut first overall selection in the 2010 NHL Draft was now rivaled by an upstart Tyler Seguin, who tied him for top scorer in the OHL last season, while scoring more goals. Despite Seguins attractive combination of two-way hockey and top-end talent, Edmonton did eventually take Taylor Hall with that coveted number one choice. A handful of games in to their NHL careers Seguin, taken by Boston second over all, has a respectable three points in six games, compared to Hall’s one assist in seven games. As NHL clubs approach the nine game mark which allows them to return Junior eligible players to their junior league teams, tough decisions must be made. Seguin seems to be ear-marked to stay with the big club all year, but Hall’s inability to score does make Steve Tambelini’s (Edmonton’s G.M.) decision much tougher.
Oilers coach Tom Renney said he doesn’t feel Hall will be returned to the spitfires for a chance at being named Memorial Cup MVP for a third straight season. But if Hall is returned to Windsor before he plays his ninth game then his entry-level NHL contract doesn’t kick in; tempting for an Oilers club in full rebuild mode. And it isn’t the current cap-hit that would be the issue for this year’s version of the Oil, as they are still 13 million below the salary cap ceiling as it stands, but when Hall does establish himself as one of the league’s premier players (when, not if) that first year in which he struggled would make him a year closer to free agency. Magnus Paajarvi (formerly known as Paajarvi-Svensson) and Real Canadian Hero Jordan Eberle are both in the first year of their entry level deals with Edmonton that would be a difficult trio to retain for any General Manager.
Hall and the Oilers have been a thrill to watch this season, despite their losing record. Hall was double shifted in the third period of a 4-2 loss to Minnesota and it was like watching him dominate the last two Memorial Cup tournaments. He was all over the place, and only credited for two shots but he had five or six scoring chances that just missed the net. He’s getting the chances and creating opportunity, and when he finally gets a bit of puck-luck he will amass point totals, which will also help his team worst -4 rating.
His piers, Eberle and Paajarvi, have posted five and four points respectively, but Eberle is a year older and Paajarvi has been playing against men in the Swedish Elite League for three seasons. Hall’s point totals aren’t there yet, but sending him down to the minors would be strictly a contract negotiation move, one that no G.M. in his right mind would ever make, wasting another year of Hall’s development. Edmonton won’t be forced to stall Hall’s development. They won’t balk in the face of the 9 game cut-off. They know the talent he possesses, and that he needs the challenge of adapting to NHL caliber hockey and for an entire season. It’s unfair that most rookies have to show NHL chops in their first 9 games or toil away another year at a level well below their abilities. This system adds unnecessary pressure to young athletes that are already overwhelmed with the unachievable expectations of their teams, the fans and media. This whole situation shows an immediate need for change to the entry level contract structure. 9 games does not a career make.