Should The Colorado Avalanche Trade For Taylor Hall?


Yesterday, a major shakedown went down within the Edmonton Oilers organization. Head coach Dallas Eakins was relieved of his duties, and GM Craig MacTavish announced he would be stepping in as head coach, at least for a while. Long story short, it’s a mess in Edmonton, and many more steps are needed to clean things up.

Darren Dreger of TSN offered up speculation, that one of those steps, could be trading Taylor Hall. He offered up a few juicy bits in his take on TSN Radio yesterday:

"“It’s not one player. It’s the collection of players that make up the sagging work ethic and lack of culture. But if you had to put a face on it, or a name to it, that name would be Taylor Hall.”"

These are harsh words, and while they aren’t coming directly from the organization, I trust Dreger’s take. He elaborated to say that Hall is essentially un-coachable:

"“I think it speaks from a willingness to adapt. I’m choosing my words carefully in saying that. I’m not in the room, so we gather information from the sources that we have, and my sense is that Taylor Hall has a pretty specific vision on how he sees he needs to play and maybe how he thinks the team should play, and he really isn’t open to change, and that’s a problem.”"

Wow! If this is truly how Edmonton currently feels about their franchise winger, the hockey world could be in for some fireworks. Basically, I see three possible truths to this situation.

The first, is that Hall really is a coach-killer, and has an attitude probably that has contributed significantly to the lack of success and poor culture in Edmonton.

The second, is that Dreger’s team sources, are former coaches that are ticked off and trying to stir the pot. There are certainly plenty of former head coaches to choose from, and it is possible that Hall had a poor relationship with one or two of them.

Matt Duchene and Joe Sacco were never exactly peas and carrots in Colorado, and if push came to shove, Sacco might highlight a few things he didn’t like about Duchene as excuses for the team’s struggles during his reign. Coaches don’t want to sabotage their own reputation, which is a good enough reason to throw a player under the bus.

The third, and likeliest scenario, is that there is a little bit of truth to both of the first two scenarios. Ultimately, this is an indictment on the management of the Oilers, and shows how dysfunctional the organization is. It is their job to put coaches and players in a position to succeed, and make sure those relationships are stable enough to foster that success.

Who knows what the absolute truth is, and I’m sure there is plenty of grey area. What Edmonton has to decide, is do they trade away the most talented player on their roster? Does Hall truly have shortcomings, that make trading him the most necessary step toward righting the ship in Edmonton?

It is a risky move, but in history, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Look no further than the Quebec Nordiques, who traded first-overall pick, Eric Lindros, to the Philadelphia Flyers. The return completely reshaped the Nordiques future, and brought Peter Forsberg to the organization. Avalanche fans know all about this trade, as it was the catalyst for a huge chunk of the roster that won the cup in ’96.

It also highlights the fact that Edmonton doesn’t want to just give Hall away. Despite the fact that they may not see eye-to-eye with him, he is still one of the most talented young players in the game today. Hall is a former first-overall selection himself, and has amassed 243 points in 271 games thus far in his career.

Edmonton would want to utilize Hall to bring in pieces that could really re-shape their roster, and for their sake, re-define their future. They are looking to change their trajectory. Which is where the Avalanche come in!

Should the Avs make a run at Hall?

Short answer, is no. Long answer, is also no… but on second thought… maybe.

If Hall really is a bad locker room guy, who does what he wants, and isn’t all that responsive to coaching, why would the Avalanche want him on their team? Why would the Avalanche want to go out and acquire what Edmonton is calling the catalyst to their culture issues and lack of winning identity?

Well, because he’s a freaking good hockey player is why. At 23 years old, Hall would fit right in with the rest of the young core of the Avalanche, and gives them an elite scoring winger who could compliment Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon for the next decade. Gabriel Landeskog is a fantastic player on the wing, but even he doesn’t have the elite level talent that Hall has. Same goes for Ryan O’Reilly.

The Avs also are currently relying on Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla to play significant roles in their top-six. Those guys aren’t long term solutions, and don’t fit in with the young core of the Avs.

On paper, adding Taylor Hall to the Avs line-up is a tantalizing thought. Perhaps he just needs a change of scenery, and getting out of Edmonton will allow his career to blossom. Perhaps playing with the likes of Duchene and/or MacKinnon will be mutually beneficial, and create one a dynamic duo that will go down in history. Perhaps Patrick Roy will be able to relate with Hall, and help him take his game to the next level of super-stardom.

Hall is also under contract for a reasonable $6M cap hit and salary per year through the 2019-20 season.

What would it take to land Hall?

Considering I’m not an NHL GM, this is all speculation. I’m sure the Oilers would ask for a lot. From the Avs’ perspective, you’d have to think the package would probably start with Ryan O’Reilly. Of the young guns, he always seems to be the odd-man out, and also doesn’t have the same contract security that Duchene and Landeskog have. The Avs also aren’t going to trade the supremely talented Nathan MacKinnon. Not happening.

Alright, so Ryan O’Reilly heads to Edmonton. While he isn’t enough to swing the deal alone, he gives the Oilers a bit more of a defensive minded forward. Certainly not as talented, especially on the offensive end as Hall, but he is going to be a great ‘culture guy’ for their locker room. O’Reilly works as hard away from gameday as any player on the Avalanche, and could easily convert back to center to give the Oilers a different vibe up the middle for one of their top lines.

Dec 12, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall (4) gets ready for play to start against the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on where the Avalanche end up picking in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, they could possibly throw in their first-round pick. If the Avs don’t have a shot at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, I am actually okay with giving up that pick, to acquire a player of Hall’s caliber.

The Avs core is ready to win now, and adding a player like Hall who is just entering his prime, further cements that core. Waiting a couple of years for another top draft choice to develop doesn’t exactly do much for the Avalanche today.

The Avalanche don’t have the most depth in their farm system, but could probably scrape together a package if they wanted to. The Oilers need goaltending. As fun as Calvin Pickard‘s story has been, the Avalanche are committed long-term to Semyon Varlamov, who just signed a 5-year $29M dollar contract to keep him in Colorado through the 2018-19 season.

Pickard’s play has turned himself into a potentially juicy piece of trade bait, should the Avs decide to go that route. He is a nice luxury to have, if Varly goes down with an injury. If Varly is healthy though, Pickard’s value to the team might be better utilized in a trade, rather than sitting on the bench for all but 20 or so games a season.

The Oilers may also eye Duncan Siemens or Chris Bigras. I would be wary of trading either of these players, as the Avalanche need young promising defensive depth. Much like the Oilers, the Avs blue-line needs an infusion of talent. Giving up young defensive talent is a risky proposition, even if it means acquiring Taylor Hall.

If I’m Joe Sakic or Patrick Roy, I would inquire about Hall this summer, and see what the Oilers are looking for. If a package of O’Reilly and the first-rounder, or O’Reilly and Pickard tickles Edmonton’s fancy, then maybe you pull the trigger. If it takes anything more than that, or if the Oilers are insistent on the Avs including a defensive prospect, I’m a little less enthusiastic.

Final Take

I think you could make a very convincing argument that the Avalanche should trade for Taylor Hall. The Oilers are no longer in the same division as Colorado, which means it may actually be a reality. Oddly enough, the further along I got writing this article, the more I warmed up to the idea of it.

Taylor Hall has the potential to do some magical things with the likes of Duchene and MacKinnon.

I am still wary about acquiring a guy with a documented attitude problem, from a team with a losing culture. The Avalanche are still having their own issues really establishing a winning identity in Denver with this core.

Adding a piece like Hall, might up the overall talent level, but I worry about his chemistry in the locker room. Will he really be an impact player to take the Avs to the next level, or just another talented piece on a roster that can’t make that jump? There is also the fact that Hall’s natural left wing position is the same side as Landeksog, meaning you really can’t utilize them together, unless one goes to his off wing.

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The Avalanche also have other more pressing issues. They need stability on their blue-line. Erik Johnson needs a top-pairing caliber defenseman to play with. The Avalanche could also use a really solid defensive center. Jesse Winchester or John Mitchell may fill this role when healthy. The Avs really need a guy who is sound in his zone, can take a lot of d-zone starts against quality competition, win a lot of face-offs, and drive the play to the other end of the ice.

The Avalanche may be better suited to hang on to their assets, and use them to acquire a true need, rather than a flashy new toy that just hit the market.

I think Taylor Hall would be a nice luxury to have, but isn’t a necessity. Giving up assets for luxuries might not be the best formula at this point. Especially when that luxury comes with unwanted baggage. I’d say, unless the Oilers get desperate enough to sell Hall at a discount rate, the Avalanche should steer clear. Then again, it would be fun to see what he could do in burgundy! What do you think? Vote in the poll, and comment below what you think the Avs would have to give up to land Taylor Hall.