December 17 2014 12:00PM
Ladislav Smid is painfully slow on his skates. He wasn't always, but he has been the last couple of seasons. Every stride he takes on the ice looks painful. It seems like, every game, there's at least one hit that he barely manages to get up from. When he does get up, he often limps to the bench as though he were a hundred years old. He grimaces. He bleeds. We can only watch, sharing his pain. Ladislav Smid should not be a NHL player, but he is, seemingly by force of will alone. One gets the sense that Smid would gladly trade a kidney (or other vital organ) for a win, and that's even before the playoffs start! Is such primal will, even when accompanied by a total lack of competence, worth $3.5M a season? Craig MacTavish answered that the season before last. His answer was, "No.". Meanwhile, Taylor Hall is making $6M per season and, rumour has it, he's being shopped around for a king's ransom. Should the Flames be interested?
Taylor Hall is a frustrating player to watch. He clearly has the tools to be a dominant player all over the ice, but he frequently chooses not to utilize those tools. Some shifts he will pressure his opponents past the point of breaking in their own end and then ferociously back-check them in his own end. Other shifts he will skate lazy circles in the neutral zone while his opponents are registering five-alarm chance after chance. Hall seems happy to play just hard enough to demonstrate that he's capable of being elite, but no more than that. His scoring stats seem to matter more to him than the number of wins his team has. He makes six million dollars every year. If he scores 80 points in a season, he must be worth at least that much, mustn' he?
I won't lie. The Oilers have looked great in terms of fancy stats this season. Hall is #$%^ing golden. So why is the team losing? A thousand and one rants over on oilersnation have clubbed that question to death, then into pemmican, and finally into the kind of atomized dust that inexplicably gets between your toes in December. Personally, I think MacTavish designed this team to tank by denying them adequate goal-tending. With both of the untested backups he chose to start this season having proven totally inadequate, his continuing refusal to obtain a freakin' NHL calibre starter is utterly inexplicable, except by impure designs on Connor McDavid. Running Eakins out of town on a rail isn't going to fool anyone. However, even if the Oilers had good goaltending they still wouldn't be winning. Their "elite" offensive talent has proven to be anything but elite this season. Taylor Hall is offensively slumming along at a 0.72 ppg pace (and shooting 10.3%) while Johnny "4th rounder" Hockey is scoring at a 0.742 ppg pace (and shooting 9.7%). Hall hasn't been unlucky. He just hasn't been very good. Offensively, at least. To be fair, Gaudreau's fancy stats are inferior, but one expects that from a rookie.
So, now come the rumours that Taylor Hall is being shopped. Here's a quote from Darren Dreger:
"Taylor Hall, at least from a culture standpoint, in the room not on the ice, hasn’t been what they hoped he would be. So when [GM Craig] MacTavish looks into his crystal ball and sees what’s coming his way through trades, he’s gotta be looking at the trade deadline and then beyond that looking at the draft floor.
“Because if you’re moving a piece like Taylor Hall, and I believe Taylor Hall will be in play, then the rate of return is always going to be the best in the summer."
Darren Dreger has been hilariously and awfully wrong many times before. Personally, I don't buy it. If MacTavish is unwilling to spend a couple million on a UFA goalie that would immediately stabilize the Oilers' net, why would he sacrifice the Team's crown jewel? Let's assume Hall really is a prima donna who just couldn't be controlled by Eakins. The obvious choice is to give Eakins orders to ride Hall like a stubborn mule. Put him in the dog house. Sit him. Bag skate him. Show him just how miserable a coach can make his life even if Hall earns ten times as much and drives a freakin' lambo. Then, just when Hall's agent is screaming for a trade, fire Eakins and bring in a new coach like a shining knight on a white horse to deliver Hall from purgatory. If Hall doesn't bust his butt for the new guy, then trade him. This strategy makes too much sense, but it didn't happen, so I'm not buying Dreger's rumours.
However, what if Hall really is on the block? Should the Flames be going after him? Could the cost possibly be worth it?
If Hall wound up on the Flames' roster tomorrow, he'd be the highest paid player by over a megabuck. The Flames do have some other overpaid players who seem content to let the real leaders lead and, more importantly, the real leaders seem to be willing to put up with the iniquity of the situation. In spite of the Flames' leadership and coaching, would Hall be the fly in the ointment? Honestly, I can't answer that. However, with the emergence of Gaudreau the Flames are actually pretty strong at Left wing, with plenty of talent in the Farm poised to make a difference in the coming years too. If the Flames were to "go for it" in the near future, left wing would probably be their lowest priority. As such, a Taylor Hall deal is pretty unlikely.
That's my opinion. What do you think?