EDMONTON — A week ago, Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff was in the papers chastising Taylor Hall for making his shifts too long. Last night, head coach Tom Renney wouldn’t let him off the ice.
Then again, a few days ago the Edmonton talk shows were buzzing about sending the Oilers prodigy back to junior. By this morning it’ll be, "Should the statue be bronze, or maybe copper…?"
On an evening that marked a small but electric step in the career of the Oilers’ virtuoso, Hall closed the night with zero points, a minus-1 rating, and two shots on goal. And he was all anyone was talking about as they filed out of Rexall Place, miles ahead of this pertinent fact: Minnesota beat Edmonton 4-2.
"Honestly, I think people want to see what they saw tonight," said Horcoff, one of only two Oilers forwards (Jordan Eberle was the other) to log more ice time than Hall’s 20:29. "They just want to see the opportunities, the chances. He gets one lucky bounce, and he’ll score two or three."
It was the first time in his five-game NHL career that Hall took more than 20 minutes of ice time. And he got those minutes from head coach Tom Renney because he deserved it, flying for the first time at this level, the way he did the past two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.
The stats crew noted that he missed the net on six shots, on a night where — months or years from now — Hall will straighten his sights and score four or five.
"It’s all about a comfort level at this stage. I kind of found that tonight, but at the same time, I’ve got nothing to show for it," he said.
This of course, is the making of a superstar.
You’ve got to learn to find the open space before you can use it. Then you must learn to create at this level, before you can collect a few decent scoring chances. And once you’ve accomplished all of the above, you have to bury those chances.
He ticked off Steps 1 and 2 Thursday night. Step 3 can’t be far behind.
"I made some plays out there that I knew I could make. When you get confidence and you make one play, then you make another," he said afterwards. "At the same time, I think I have one point in five games to show for it. Minus three, so…"
"I wish things would start going in. Through my first four games I had seven shots. I wanted to get five shots tonight. That was my goal. If I try to get five shots every night, eventually something’s going to go in."
He fired wrist shots just overtop the open top corner of the net, like a skeet shooter using a borrowed rifle. He jammed pucks from the side of the net that, with a break, could easily pop up under the bar for a goal.
But you don’t get those breaks, until you’ve earned them at this level. This was just another step in that process: showing that he’s ready to do the spade work necessary to finally one day mine the gold.
"It’s five games. He’s 18," Horcoff said. "Relax. He’s going to be fine."
"From what I gather," added head coach Tom Renney, "there are some out there who think that maybe he shouldn’t be here. I’m not suggesting for a second that people shouldn’t have an opinion, but he has proven to me that he belongs in the National Hockey League. He made another case for himself tonight."
This much is certain, you’d have to subpoena the Team 1260 in Edmonton, for their log tapes to hear the refrain, "send him back to Windsor!" Ever again in this town.
The scoresheet will never show it, but this was the night Taylor Hall became an NHLer.