This just in…the Edmonton Oilers are already missing Taylor Hall
As you know, the number one overall pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft suffered a shoulder injury against the Colorado Avalanche last Saturday and is out two-to-four weeks.
The Oil have lost the opening two games of an all-important six-game homestand with Hall out of the line-up, dropping a lethargic 2-1 decision to Nashville Monday, and losing 3-2 in a shootout to Minnesota last night.
Of course, earlier this season the Oilers lost 2-1 in Calgary when Hall was absent with the flu.
So the Oilers are 0-2-1 with just four goals scored in the three games Hall has missed, all against teams the Oilers should in theory be able to beat.
Hall, as we know, is an attacking player who puts the opposition on their heels because of his speed and dynamic skillset…and clearly he brings energy to the Oilers as well.
Tom Renney’s decision to split the kids up and placing Hall with Shawn Horcoff
and Ales Hemsky
, gave the Oilers two offensive lines with very different looks.
Despite a strong game last night from Sam Gagner
it is safe to say that Horcoff and Hemsky have been less threatening over the last couple of game without a burner in Hall on the left side.
In 22 games, Hall had scored seven goals and added 11 assists, decent production for a second-year emerging star, but make no mistake Taylor would be the first to tell you that he at no point was totally “locked-in” offensively.
This is a player that when he gets in a groove can be scary, and Hall was yet to be in a groove so far this season.
Hopefully Hall returns quickly because the Oilers need him…in a major way!Push Back
As some of you know I was disappointed with the Oilers “push back” against Avalanche for the Ryan Wilson hit on Taylor Hall
Let’s establish that Ryan Wilson is hard-hitting honest player who is developing into a heck of a defenceman, one that every team in the NHL would love to have.
And Hall bears some of the responsibility for putting himself in a position to get drilled in the fashion that he did by Wilson.
All of that being said the Oilers need to ensure that opposition teams know that you don’t take liberties with Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
or Jordan Eberle
One NHL Manager said to me recently the Oilers have two potential franchise-type players in Hall and RNH, and another player in Eberle who is going to be a great complimentary player to those two.
Hall, RNH and Eberle need to be protected.
I am not saying that all three can’t be touched, but I am saying that opposition teams better not be going out of their way to run any of them.
Hall, by virtue of his all-out attack based style is the most likely of the three to be physically involved in incidents like this, and the Oilers need to serve notice that there will be a “push back” if that occurs.
I am not suggesting a “Bertuzzi-like” response.
But what we saw Saturday night in Denver was not enough.
The Oilers need to be physical with the likes of Matt Duchene and Wilson needs to know that the Oilers won’t be doing any “fly-bys” when he is going back to get the puck when the two teams meet again next week.Belanger Like Peca?
Former Oilers Assistant Coach and current Hockey Night in Canada lead analyst Craig Simpson made a good point recently on “Oilers Now” when talking about the offensive struggles of Eric Belanger
Simpson brought up an analogy to Michael Peca who was acquired in the summer of 2005, but struggled offensively in Edmonton.
The Oilers Head Coach at that time, Craig MacTavish tried to give Peca more offensive responsibilities but he floundered in that role. Ultimately Peca got his game going when he was firmly entrenched as the Oilers third line, checking center.
Belanger has come as advertised in terms of his penalty-killing and face-off abilities, but he is miscast as a point man on the Oilers second power-play unit.
With the on-going development of Jeff Petry
it is my belief that the young defenceman should be paired with Ryan Whitney
on the Oilers 2nd unit instead of Belanger.
The Oilers have often elected to have Horcoff’s line go head-to-head against the opposition’s top line; my guess is that eventually we will see Belanger along with Ryan Jones
and someone else in that role…and that might be when we see Belanger at his best.
Bob Stauffer is the Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” weekdays Noon to 2:00 PM on the Oilers Radio Rights Holder 630 CHED.