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Greg Wyshynski

As Taylor Hall's season ends, the soapboxes come out

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Edmonton Oilers rookie Taylor Hall(notes) is done for the season, suffering a high ankle sprain in his first NHL fight with Derek Dorsett of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

It's an injury that takes eight weeks to heal; luckily, we'll be able to fill that time debating whether the kid made a titanic mistake.

Oilers GM Kevin Lowe indicated it was a rite of passage:

"It goes without saying the organization doesn't want Taylor fighting," said team president Kevin Lowe. "But very few players go their careers without the odd dust-up, including Wayne (Gretzky), Mario (Lemieux), Sidney (Crosby). Heck, even Jean Beliveau."

As a future (current?) leader of this team, Hall's fight gets him a measure of respect in the room but also serves notice to his opponents; not that a 195-pound (soaking wet in full equipment, perhaps holding a boulder) winger will take them out, but that the League's pests can harass a franchise player into dropping the mitts.

At worst, it's a teachable moment for Hall to be wiser about his choice of opponent or, in the grand scheme, fighting at all.

The reactions to Hall's fight have ranged from justification to vilification.

From Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun, a defense of Hall:

The tea-drinkers will argue that the No.1 draft pick and cornerstone of the future shouldn't be fighting, period, but that's why they're drinking tea and Hall is a No. 1 pick. You hack an alpha dog on the arms for 65 nights and he's going to bite back.

"There comes a time when you have to," said the 19-year-old. "There's nothing wrong with sticking up for yourself. Eventually if you keep getting hit and people keep coming in for you ... it's not a great feeling when you're that guy that keeps getting rescued. I was just trying to help out a little bit."

Mark Spector of Sportsnet also had Hall's back, in sense that he was just acting within the traditions of the game even if he was "stupid":

The sequence of events in Thursday's game in Edmonton was a textbook example of the kind of fighting that causes the least amount of uproar. This was anything but a "staged fight," but more of an over-excited young player running around trying to win en entire hockey game on one shift.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal gave Hall "an A for bravery, but an F for foolishness." Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail offered this take:

Thirty years ago, in the Wayne Gretzky era, the Oilers employed a series of tough guys - Dave Semenko, Don Jackson, eventually Marty McSorley - to do the battling on behalf of their skilled players. Maybe an outright ban on fighting - players who engage get tossed - would have made a difference here, or maybe not. This wasn't a staged encounter; this was done out of Hall's frustration and his desire to show that he wouldn't be pushed around.

It will be forever known as Hall's first Gordie Howe hat trick - goal, assist, fight - and maybe, down the road, it'll also serve as an important lesson as he moves along the NHL development path. Sometimes, discretion can be the better part of valour after all.

Finally, Bruce McCurdy of Cult of Hockey had some advice for the Oilers:

Of course the Oilers could help themselves to some extent. For starters they could stay out of fights. Hall was hardly the first Oiler to go down in a tilt, as Sheldon Souray(notes) twice suffered a similar fate, wrecking a shoulder and a fist. Ethan Moreau(notes) lost virtually an entire season to a shoulder dislocation in an unnecessary scrap. Tough guys Steve MacIntyre(notes) (face), Zack Stortini(notes) (knee), and J-F Jacques (back) all suffered serious injuries in fights. Scapping is a dangerous game, and a very good argument can be made against the practice in general and having star players engage in particular.

Hall is such a star, a willowy teenager who was overpowered by a stronger, more experienced man five years his senior. Just like that, one of the best reasons to continue watching this godforsaken hockey club play out the string has been terminated.

He wasn't going to win the Calder with Logan Couture(notes), Jeff Skinner(notes) and a few goaltenders all challenging for the prize. But 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games is a hell of a debut, especially after a slow start out of the gate.

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