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Hall of a Temper

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Look to Taylor Hall in 2013-14
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As the NHL goes into its final two weeks of the regular season Michael Finewax says grab Taylor Hall …

Before we get too deep into this, I’d like to first state that it’s easy to judge a professional athlete from your ivory perch/high horse/lofty tower. No matter how well (or poorly) you skated backward until it became clear that your profession wouldn’t involve manipulating pieces of vulcanized rubber with a wooden implement, you really don’t know what it’s like to be in their skates. Maybe you actually have a much tougher, high-stress job, but odds are ... there aren’t any cameras in your face.

(If you’re some kind of celebrity reading this for fantasy hockey advice, I’d just like to say “Hi” and maybe ask if you can get me in touch with Jeff Bridges. He seems pretty cool.)

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that I acknowledge the “it’s easy for me to say” retort. As someone who has damaged my own property for the most mundane of frustrations, it seems silly for me to point the finger of blame.

So, maybe, instead, it’s best to approach this situation from a softer/rehabilitative approach.

Hi, Taylor Hall. You’re a fantastic hockey player, arguably the sole Edmonton Oilers star whose star status is the toughest to dispute.

Surely at least some of your brilliance comes from the very aggression that brought you to this imaginary therapy session. They call you “The Wrecking Ball” or some old-timey, ultra-cool alteration for a reason, after all.

But you gotta cool it, kid. Unless you’re perfectly fine developing a sordid reputation that tends to cost you a few game checks here and there.

TAYLOR MADE ANGRY

In case you went to bed at a reasonable hour (particularly in the East Coast), you might have missed much of what happened in the Edmonton Oilers’ eventual loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday. The most important parts for Taylor Hall purposes came when Martin Hanzal absolutely clobbered him in the first period and then Hall (seemingly) stewed for the rest of the game, finally losing it just long enough to deliver a fairly reprehensible slash on Zbynek Michalek. (Click here for the check and the slash.)

It’s sort of like the “kick the dog” transference bit, if the dog was a useful defenseman.

In an ideal world, I’d say that Hall would get a rubber stamp suspension for that. This is the NHL, however, so I’ll be honest with you: I’m not certain. Sure, Hall received a two-game suspension for his ridiculous targeting of Cal Clutterbuck, but that seemed like a slap on the wrist for a rather risky hit.

Now, again, maybe Hall was just doing what anyone would do. Maybe both fairly egregious-looking acts were somehow accidental. Maybe the Daily Dose is a brief and infrequent column that never diverges off the path of straightforward banter.

Still, from my convenient spot in an air conditioned place with HDTVs and other conveniences, it looks like Hall needs to be taught a lesson by the league. He clearly didn’t absorb that two-game suspension, or at least he didn’t retain it for very long.

SELF DESTRUCTION

Really, though, the NHL shouldn’t be the one sending the message. The league hasn’t exactly shown a great track record of being proactive in dealing with its repeat offenders; the fact that Anton Volchenkov isn’t a repeat offender merely because of the fact that his last bad hit came more than 18 months ago just shows how damaged this discipline system really is.

(I imagine some of the bite is taken away by the appeals process, which is just one of those elements of our hyper-litigious reality that I believe most of us wish would keep its dirty nose out of our recreation time ... but still.)

The people who really should take this as a cry for help are the Edmonton Oilers and Taylor Hall. Surely Oilers fans - or probably Oilers haters - can fill in the blanks, but off the top of my head, here are some blow-up moments from the young star that hurt him almost as much (and sometimes more) than it hurt his victims:

  • Wednesday’s altercation.

  • That hit on Clutterbuck.

  • A borderline hit in the AHL during the lockout that nearly brought a suspension.

  • He finished his rookie season prematurely after hurting himself in a fight he later admitted was ill-advised.

Hall’s a young guy at 21 and a wonderful player. His stat line is a dream, with great points (41 in 37 games) and fantastic peripherals (127 SOG and 29 PIM).

Again, I’m sure that ferocity is part of what helps drive him to play at such a high level. You certainly don’t want to drain him of all his verve so he ends up resembling a sad, lost beast (Exhibit A: Todd Bertuzzi).

But it’s clear that Hall’s anger gets the best of him, and if it isn’t at least reined in a little bit, it could cost him a lot more someday. Maybe he gets suspended during a playoff series (if the Oilers ever get their act together, aka fire Steve Tambellini, Kevin Lowe and so on ...). Perhaps he’ll follow in Bertuzzi’s footsteps and go over the line in a way that transcends normal ire.*

SUMMER READING

Many of the great athletes in sports take the offseason as a time to add to their bag of tricks. LeBron James has transformed his repertoire with admirable panache. It’s been noted that John Tavares has worked diligently on his oft-criticized skating as part of his transformation from very good player to possible Great Player. You’ve probably heard a million mentions of Sidney Crosby’s faceoff improvements.

For Hall, let me suggest a summer project: find your happy place. Maybe it’s holding your breath and counting to 10. You fill in the piece of the puzzle.

If nothing else, don’t slash people or cheap shot them anymore. Please?

Jump for mostly lighter reading.

* - When you look at guys like Matt Cooke and Raffi Torres, it seems like they’ve been shamed as much by public bile as they have been by the meatiest suspensions. Though the meatiest suspensions are often the only way to permeate especially thick facades.

THE OTHER HIT

While Hall is a reformation project, Anton Volchenkov is an aging player whose trade basically demands that the occasional hit goes awry. In an odd way, it’s harder to be angry at the fading Russian with a larger rap sheet simply because he’s an old dog running out of tricks. With Hall, you’re talking about a budding star who just needs to tone things down.

Volchenkov’s elbow on Brad Marchand was pretty bad. It’s hard to imagine the league explaining it away with anything less than a suspension, but again, this is the NHL.

The bigger worry, obviously, is Marchand’s condition. His agitating acumen actually tends to obscure the fact that the Boston Bruins forward is a pretty nice player. People have been making comparisons to Claude Lemieux for a while, but Marchand might finally be the right guy ... except it’s quite plausible that he’s much better.

He was building some fantastic chemistry with Jaromir Jagr - and so has Gregory Campbell, shockingly - but that could be placed on hold for a quite a while with a possible head injury. (Sorry, I just can’t recommend Campbell yet, either. I need to see him be a useful passenger for a while longer, but gamble away if you’re feeling that frisky.)

My guess is that Tyler Seguin might gain in the short-term from his usual partner’s bad luck. Seguin scored a goal and seemed to be in the lower line more out of punishment/exasperation than anything else, so his frustrated owners could finally see the light at the end of the struggle tunnel.

It’s ugly for Marchand. Things are also ugly for the hapless New Jersey Devils, who lost their eighth in a row in a game that really wasn’t as close as the 5-4 score indicated.

FINISHED FLASH?

Yesterday’s study of Alex Ovechkin’s red-hot month sort of flipped the light switch on and off for a second, but Teemu Selanne’s goal from Wednesday actually sparked a rather negative realization:

Selanne finally looks 42, at least statistically speaking.

Things started off as brilliant as ever for “The Finnish Flash.” He had a point per game in January and then close to that in February (11 in 13 games), but something must have gone wrong in March. Between March and April, he has just six points in 22 games.

It wouldn't be surprising if he's injured, but if not, it's a bit of a bummer that he might fizzle out a bit toward the end of his awe-inspiring career.

That being said, I'm sure the Anaheim Ducks don't mind having him around, especially if he's merely saving his juice for the playoffs. (In fact, maybe the Ducks should give him a little siesta before the potentially perpetual playoff grind commences.)

GOALIE INTRIGUE

Earlier on Wednesday, the status quo seemed 100 percent safe in Vancouver and Anaheim. Cory Schneider and Jonas Hiller seemed primed to run with the ball with varying degrees of job security.

Schneider needed to miss his game against the Calgary Flames because of the flu, however, opening the door for Roberto Luongo to get back in net after a lengthy (and at times, emotionally overwrought) stay on the bench. Bobby Lou responded by stopping 40 out of 41 shots in a win that has to at least cause the Vancouver Canucks to consider giving him a few more starts.

(They didn’t trade the guy, after all, and it’s nice to have a rested goalie if you can.)

While Schneider is likely to retain the majority - if not all - of Vancouver’s remaining starts, the same cannot be guaranteed for Jonas Hiller. It’s been a seesaw in Anaheim for quite some time, and it looks like things might tilt toward Viktor Fasth again after last night. Hiller was yanked after allowing four goals on 16 shots through two periods, giving way to Fasth who mopped up in the loss.

It would be hard to imagine Fasth not getting the next start (or two-plus), which might just swing a substantial amount of very close fantasy playoff races in the process.

INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS

Ryan Kesler collected two assists on Wednesday ... Ryan Getzlaf returned from a minor leg injury ... T.J. Oshie seems like he’s inching closer to a return, although your playoffs might be over by then ... I’m not sure what was more ridiculous: the “controversy” over Ilya Bryzgalov taking a nap during a team meeting or the fact that April 10 is “National Sibling Day.” We’ve clearly reached the point of no return with these inane holidays ... Devan Dubnyk has been better than his 12-13-6 record would indicate, with a .922 save percentage emboldening that point ... Remember when everyone was worried about Phil Kessel? He’s had two straight two-goal games and a great season overall. Keep that in mind the next time your star (or more lucratively, someone else’s star) has some bad early luck ... Mike Smith has allowed two goals in three games back from his latest injury. He could make himself a handsome amount of cash in this, potentially the last month of his contract year ... Cam Fowler left the Ducks’ game with an upper-body issue ... Let's pump the brakes on all the Jean-Sebastien Giguere praise, shall we? He slammed his teammates and faced 19 shots. He didn't transform the Colorado Avalanche with his "lucid critique" ... Ales Hemsky also came back from his foot issues ... Bryce Salvador appeared to injure himself blocking a Zdeno Chara shot, which sounds like the most obvious way to get hurt ever ... Tobias Enstrom is banged up once again, this time with a “middle-body” injury. Hey, at least that adds some variety to his specific situation and injury reports overall.

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