The Edmonton Oilers have frustrated a lot of fans, since June of 2006. I get that, in fact I’m one of you. But sometimes, that level of frustration boils over into stupidity.
Full disclosure, as a member of the MSM AND as a freelance hockey columnist, I actually have a foot planted in each. As a result, I very rarely comment on Edmonton media. Those who live in glass houses aught not cast stones…
I do, however, regularly catch Bob Stauffer’s broadcasts. He is not everyone’s cup of tea, I suppose. However, I find his information reliable, and his opinions pretty realistic and well-grounded, in terms of pure hockey sense. In short, I have respect for him. I can’t consistently say the same about his audience. But hey, it’s a free country, right?
Today, though, one of his callers crossed the stupid line.
Stauffer has just finished roughing out what he saw as 4 plausible line combination, for the Edmonton Oilers, as they prepare to head into camp, when along came a caller on “Line 4”. I apologize for my paraphrasing, but I chose to commit his comments to memory, rather than risk a Distracted Driving ticket. Forgive me.
The caller, call him “Bill”, jumped all over Taylor Hall, saying he was “not a difference maker”, that the team would be better without him. When the Host commented that when healthy, Hall was the “4th Best Left Winger in the NHL”, the caller snorted “So what does that mean, that he’s the 60th best player in the league?”. “Bill” went on to all but toss Hall on the scrap-heap, and had him, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins traded off for some “useful defencemen”.
While I admire Stauffer’s restraint, I sometimes wish these radio hosts wouldn’t kill with kindness as often as they do. But to some extent, I suppose, giving callers like “Bill” enough rope to hang themselves on the public airwaves is equally effective. There is another way, of course. When confronted with the likes of “Bill”, you can also fight back with the facts. So lets try that?
-Lets start with the fact that Taylor Hall has been the best player on this team since he was 18. That is both a compliment to the player, and a sad indictment of the franchise. The entire weight of this fractured organization was hoisted on the back of a kid, with next to no support added around him. Shameful.
-The inability of an Edmonton Oilers defence to move the puck out of their own zone has crippled the many young Oilers forwards tossed to the wolves of the opposition, night after night. Why was Taylor Hall “floating” in the neutral zone, slamming his stick on the ice? Because no one could get him the damn puck.
-Has Taylor Hall missed nearly 80 games due to injury since his rookie year, because he is “brittle”, or because he quite simply has been asked to do too much, night after night, year after year. Carrying a team on one man’s back is flat-out asking for injury. Yet, Hall has continued to lay it on the line, for the likes of “Bill”.
-Finally, why would Team Canada bother recruiting a “non-difference maker” like Taylor Hall, this past Spring? If indeed he was so ineffectual as a player, then how did he come to play on a line with Sidney Crosby, be named a tournament all-star, and bring home to Edmonton a Gold Medal? Hmmm.
-Finally, by flushing the roster of core, veteran players like Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, “Bill” would bolster the blue line with “useful defencemen”, and leave exposed the likes of Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl…just like Taylor Hall has been, all these years.
Way to go, “Bill”. You have both diagnosed and fixed the problem.
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