It turns out that I’m not the only person who hasn’t managed to get over the Taylor Hall trade yet, Taylor Hall hasn’t gotten over it either. As he explained yesterday, he still feels a bit of resentment towards the Oilers, because of course he does. If I was in his place, I would be resentful too. I think most people would feel the same. It is completely understandable.
When the Oilers imploded during the 2009/10 season it was decided that the only way to build a winner was to start over from scratch. And that started with Hall. It should be clear to everyone now that the Oilers never cut deep enough in those early years of the rebuild and had unbelievably terrible management steering the ship, two reasons that the rebuild has failed to produce anything more than top five draft picks, but despite all the many failures of the rebuild it was always supposed to be Hall that led the Oilers out of the desert and to the promised land.
And, for my money at least, Hall always played like a guy who was determined to do just that, drag the Oilers, kicking and screaming if need be, out of the basement and back into contention. What he really should have done was stormed the Oilers’ offices and made a couple trades for NHL calibre defencemen and goaltending help since nobody seemed interested in addressing the team’s biggest weaknesses, but he chose to focus his attention elsewhere instead. Maybe the team’s next saviour will learn from Hall’s mistake.
Falling ass backwards into Connor McDavid changed things in Edmonton overnight. It no longer meant that Hall had to be “the guy,” that was clearly going to be McDavid, but he was still going to be a part of the solution. Likely a big part of the solution. And then suddenly, after six years of doing everything that he could to make the Oilers into a winner, he’s traded away from the only team he’s ever played for. A team that he might well have thought that he was on it’s way to something good.
Making a trade like the Oilers did doesn’t mean that they necessarily saw Hall as part of the problem – remember, “this is the price you have to pay” – but they certainly didn’t seem his as a must have piece of the solution. After six seasons with the team, and five spent as the solution, that’s not an easy thing to hear if you’ve been going out night after night doing everything you can to turn the team you play for into a winner. Yeah, I’d be a little upset about it too.
It’s not impossible that Hall was a jerk in the dressing room. Having spent no time around in the team’s dressing room over the last six seasons I can’t say for sure. It’s also possible that he wasn’t a jerk to everyone, just he teammates he felt weren’t dong enough to help the team win. Which during his tenure with the team that would be about three-quarters of his teammates. That wouldn’t be a good thing, it would point to a player that still has some growing up to do, but it would also tell us that at least he cared about the team losing hockey games. He wasn’t just there going through the motions and cashing a paycheque.
Hall isn’t a perfect player or a perfect person. Nobody is. Whatever his faults though, it’s clear to me that he cared about the logo on the front of the jersey and wanted to turn this team into a winner, I can’t ask for more than that from a player. I do hope that he comes up with a better answer to questions about the Oilers though, because until he does he will keep getting asked, and as long as he’s being asked about it I’ll never be able to get over it.