The weight of expectations is coming. By: Jeff Gross Getty Images Sport via Getty Images
When it comes to message boards and internet commenters, Taylor Hall is like Rob Schremp on bull steroids. The hype surrounding the kid is almost unfair, but it comes with the territory for number one overall picks.
I've looked at reasonable rookie year projections for Hall, assuming he gets power play time, and Lowetide has done the same. Lowetide's got Hall at .541 PPG and I've slotted him between .609 and .695 PPG - again, assuming power play time. The difference between the two is about eight points for a nearly-full season, it's not insignificant, but I don't believe it's a big deal. That I'm more optimisitic that any Oilers writer is a big deal. But it's not Hall's rookie year projections that have me confused. In discussing Taylor Hall's future here, at Lowetide and at Oilers Nation, commenters are taking us through the Hockeysfuture looking glass.
Expectations are always fun to discuss, and lately, the career expectations for Hall have become out-of-control. He's now regularly discussed as a "consistent ninety point winger" and some of the crazies have him as a "one-hundred point guy".
I've talked about Robin Hanson's excellent Overcoming Bias previously (if this site isn't in your daily reading list, it should be) and for this topic I go back to the well. Hanson talks about an article in Psych magazine about Future/Distant Bias, and I think that is what's happening here. Fans are excited about the number one overall pick and they are projecting that excitement into unrealistic expectations.
To get a sense of what it would mean for Hall to become a consistent ninety point per season player, let's look at the number of players that have accomplished this since the lockout. Since 2005-2006, there have been fifty player seasons in which a player has scored ninety points or greater, or an average of ten per year. Only twenty-eight players have accomplished the task, or five per season:
Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Danny Briere, Jonathan Cheechoo, Sidney Crosby (x4), Pavel Datsyuk (x2), Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley (x2), Marian Hossa (x2), Jarome Iginla (x2), Jaromir Jagr (x2), Olli Jokinen, Ilya Kovalchuk (x2), Vincent Lecavalier (x2), Evgeni Malkin (x2), Alex Ovechkin (x5), Zach Parise, Brad Richards (x2), Joe Sakic, Marc Savard (x2), Henrik Sedin, Teemu Selanne (x2), Jason Spezza (x2), Eric Staal, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis (x2), Joe Thornton (x3), Henrik Zetterberg
Note that only thirteen of the twenty-eight players have been wingers, the rest are all centers.
Ninety points averages out to 1.097 points per game, something that only ten players have averaged since the lockout. For Hall to become a "consistent" ninety point producer, he will have to become one of the ten best scorers in the game.
Again, only five of these ten are wingers, putting Hall at a further disadvantage in scoring a consistent ninety points.
What about the notion that he should be a "forty goal, fifty assist" player? Since the lockout, there have been fifteen seasons of forty goals and fifty assists, or three per season. Eleven players have accomplished this.
Daniel Alfredsson, Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley (x2), Marian Hossa, Jaromir Jagr, Vincent Lecavalier (x2), Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin (x3), Teemu Selanne, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis
Setting more restrictive goals makes it less likely that Hall will ever meet these numbers.
What I find hilarious about the people that are already set to judge Hall strictly by his boxcar numbers is that Jonathan Toews, a player that every single team in the league would love to have, and every single fan in Edmonton would love to see Hall emulate has never come close to this magical ninety point plateau. Toews' point totals over the last three years: 54-69-68, yet he's a Stanley Cup champion, an Olympic hero and is widely considered to be one of the best forwards in the game.
So listen to me all of you crazy people out there: your silly boxcar-only projections and lofty expectations are short-sighted and incredibly difficult to reach, even for the best players in the NHL. Taylor Hall can become an outstanding, even great, NHL player without hitting your preconceived superstar points totals.