"Hopefully we can compete a lot harder (than on Sunday). Because (Toronto) is a team that, if we do, it's there for the taking."
Taylor Hall before the game versus the Maple Leafs on 14th December 2010.
What is it that is wrong with this comment? Why have the above words caused a significant uproar among the leafs fans and a few bloggers? Was Hall being too cocky and out of line for saying what he said?
Before answering any of the above questions, let us talk about the team Hall commented on. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a poor team, there is no other way to put it. Even after shelling out millions on free agents, the Leafs remain a bottom dwelling club that is likely to gift Boston another lottery pick. As of today, the Maple Leafs are a point behind the Oilers, despite having played an extra game. Their goal differential sits as -24 duplicating that of the Oilers. Despite having one of the most expensive blue lines and goaltenders in the league, they have given up 3 goals every game and rank 29thon the penalty kill. Their woes do not end at the defensive side of things as they are in no better shape offensively either. They have scored the third fewest goals among all teams in the Eastern Conference. Hence their goal scoring (or lack thereof) is a major worry too.
The Oilers are 26th in the league standings. Their PK is 30th, a dismal 6% worse than the Leafs, however their PP is better. Despite the significant difference in the roster make-up of the two teams, they are very similar. Neither of them is going to make the playoffs despite what the coaches and the players say. They both share the burden of losing more games than winning.
When Hall made the above comments, the Oilers were coming off a 2-1 loss against Vancouver, a top contender in the Western Conference. Furthermore, only recently the Oilers had defeated the Leafs 5-0. When asked about the rematch against the Leafs who have been much inferior to Vancouver, Hall gave an honest and an accurate answer – Toronto is not a very good team and if the Oilers were to play better than they played against the Canucks, a win would be there for the taking. He did not say that the Leafs are easy to play against. Neither did he say that the Oilers were taking it easy nor they would get an easy victory. I do not understand how his statements were either insulting or wrong, or indicative of some superiority on the part of Taylor Hall.
Suddenly, the actions of high profile rookies have become a subject of extensive discussion. First it was P.K. Subban who according to Mike Richardstalks much more than a rookie should. He would like Subban to establish himself in the league and show some respect towards the players who have been around for while. Then it was Linus Omark and his fancy shootout goal against Tampa Bay Lightning. Rather than admitting failure, surprise and leaving an open five hole bigger than a crater, Dan Ellisand friends called out Omark, calling him disrespectful. And now the latest one is Taylor Hall.
Let him be, people. His comments did not merit an outrage from Leaf fans or bloggers such as Ryan Lambert. There is really no right code of conduct or speech for the rookies and why should there be? I would much rather hear an honest opinion from a player about what he thinks their chances are for winning than some clichés, wouldn't you?