PRINCIPE: In for the long Hall
Gene Principe talks about Taylor Hall, who played his 200th game on Tuesday
|ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 15: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers stands in front of a shot from Ben Lovejoy #6 of the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at Honda Center on December 15, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)|
Tuesday night might be remembered for Martin Jones recording a third shutout and sixth win to start his LA Kings career. Taylor Hall will remember it because it was the 200th game of his NHL career. It wasn't like Hall didn't do his best to prevent Jones from blanking Edmonton. The Oilers had 24 shots and Hall had seven of them. He also had four more that were blocked. It's been a memorable first 200 games for Tayor Hall.
I started going back in my memory bank to the first time I met him. Like so many, I'd seen him on T.V. with the Windsor Spitfires. A larger than life hockey presence at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. He helped Windsor win it twice in a row and twice he was named MVP. Something that had never been done before or since. It was at the 2010 Stanley Cup Final between Philadelphia and Chicago when I talked to Hall for the first time. He was being paraded through with the other top prospects and it's when the Taylor/Tyler storyline continued to grow. Hall was just back from a Mexican vacation and he sat on one side of me. On the other side sat Tyer Seguin. We chatted for about 5 minutes. First impressions were good from both kids.
A couple weeks later and it was time for the draft. Coincidentally, where Taylor played his 200th is where it all started. The draft in L.A. was Taylor's own personal 'Hall'ywood. That's if this hockey movie had a happy ending for Hall. To try something different I did a little trivia test with both Taylor and Tyler. Questions like what's Edmonton's nickname? How many jersey numbers have been retired? Who was the Oilers first-ever draft pick and who was Edmonton's highest-ever pick? I know not exactly university entrance exam questions but they weren't meant to be hard. They were just meant to see what each of these kids knew about the city that would soon be their hockey home. Seguin did alright. Hall nailed it. He knew what the past was all about for the Oilers.
That next day, Taylor went first overall and Tyler went second. So it began the first first in Oilers history. Hard to believe how time flies when you're having fun and even when you're not. Since the day his name was called out Hall has brought what the Oilers expected. A passion to play, the ability to compete and the want to win. His time has been hampered by injuries. Normal ones like a shoulder or knee to the abnormal when he was sliced by an errant skate in warmup. Like his face has healed, so has Hall with his other various ailments.
Injuries and a suspension have cost Taylor 48 games. Despite missing more than half a season of hockey, it hasn't obscured the fact he has quickly escalated his status. Finishing in the top 10 in scoring last season will do that. This season he's a single point off being a point per game player. It's not just how he plays, but what he says. A young man who isn't shy to heap blame on his shoulders if he feels like he has let down himself and the team.
There are nights where you can see the losing wear on the face of the franchise but youth allows you to climb back up, brush yourself off and move forward. It was the morning of the most recent Battle of Alberta where Hall was asked about Edmonton's continued effort in rebuilding itself into a playoff contender. His answer was a simple one "I'm in this until we turn it around." Easy to say but harder to do. Hall is doing it and showing it through the first 200 games of his career. Taylor is in this for the long Hall.
Gene Principe is the host of Oilers games on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Oilers.