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Tencer's Blog: The Superstar Gene

by Dan Tencer / Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall celebrates his goal vs. Columbus; one of the moments that led to his Gordie Howe hat-trick (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC).

Taylor Hall looked me square in the eye after last night's game and laughed. The suggestion that one of his teammates should have intervened in his fight with Derek Dorsett was out of the question for the 19 year old rookie.

In his words, it was getting a little bit old having to be "rescued" and have somebody else fight his battles for him. He was mad as hell, and he wasn't going to take it any more. It was his battle to fight, and fight it he did.

By now you know that it didn't end well for Hall. Pending the results of an MRI today, Hall is expected to miss some time with a left ankle injury after it buckled underneath him on his tumble to the ice after the fight. But, removing the injury consequence from the equation if we can, I'm hard pressed to find anything else wrong with what happened.

In the heat of the moment last night on Sportsnet, I caught myself in the second intermission saying that Hall had made a mistake and that one of his teammates should have recognized this and come to his aid. I was wrong on both counts, and wish I could have that moment back. I can't, so I'll tell you know how I feel after some reflection.

Wayne Gretzky fought once upon a time. Sidney Crosby fights more regularly than Gretzky did and Jarome Iginla more regularly than Crosby. The list could go on, but the point is, the greatest of the great players in the game sometimes feel the need to do what Taylor Hall did last night. Why? The superstar gene.

Great players have a drive and determination that isn't equaled. It's why they spend thousands of hours on the pond growing up honing their skills in the first place, and it's why they don't stop until they're the best at everything. Taylor Hall, though he has a long road ahead to earn the recognition, is a player who I believe belongs in this conversation.

Blessed with tremendous natural ability, Hall flanks it with a will to succeed that has been on showcase all season. Even in games where it's not going his way, or not going well for the team, Hall appears willing to run continuously through a brick wall to try to get the result. The passion for the game, and the character with which he plays it, is a big part of why this number one overall pick has garnered attention for years.

Remember that game in last year's Memorial Cup where Hall just about got run into next week against the end boards by a member of the opposition? He came back a couple shifts later and scored a goal, played the rest of the game, and helped his team to victory. He's a great player, and he's a stubborn son of a gun, too. So, last night, when Derek Dorsett got up in his kitchen, started poking and prodding, Hall decided to send a message that it wasn't cool to take liberties with him...that he was going to stand up for himself.

Great players rise to the occasion and welcome new challenges, and nobody should be surprised that Hall ended up in a fight. I hope it's not a regular trend, but the guy deserves a ton of respect for how he handled his own business last night.

The injury is a difficult consequence for Hall and his run for the Calder Trophy and it's a tough one for the team to sustain as well. Dustin Penner was traded this week, Ales Hemsky was injured on Tuesday and will miss 3 weeks with a rotator cuff ailment, and now Hall. In the span of five days, that's a wipe of the three leading scorers from the lineup.

In the face of that adversity last night, how'd they respond? By keeping the pedal to the metal and outshooting the Blue Jackets in a third period and hanging on to a 4-2 victory, keeping two points from a starved opposition. In lieu of sending a physical message to Derek Dorsett, the team demonstrated their character by fighting through their adversity and winning fair and square against a team that badly needed those two points.

Like scoring on the power play when somebody takes a cheap shot, it was the ultimate form of retribution if they were looking. They'll need that type of jam to continue being present for the remaining 17 games, because they'll be short some very key bodies. It's yet another test during what has been a very difficult year, and the players will pass it just fine if they follow the lead of their star rookie, and rise to the occasion.

Author: Dan Tencer

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