Taylor Hall is a man possessed; there’s no other possible explanation as to why he is seemingly determined to single-handedly drag the New Jersey Devils into the postseason. Heading into action tonight, the team sits 4th in a tightly packed Metropolitan Division (with games in hand on the Pennsylvania teams above them) and the in the first Wild Card slot. It’s worth wondering, however, if they would even be competitive this season, let alone in the playoff race, without Hall.
Everyone who knows anything about hockey knew Taylor Hall would be important to the future of the Devils ever since they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers, but did anyone predict that he would be this good? Did anyone think he would possibly be able to break his career best totals for goals and points on a team that has always been known for defense rather than offense? Right now it’s looking like it will happen, and while he has some competent talent around him, no one else on the team is even close to him statistically.
Right now Hall sits at 59 points in 51 games; at the moment, there isn’t another Devil that has even eclipsed 40, let alone 50 or the 60 that Hall will probably hit tonight. If Hall were to continue scoring at the pace he has (and assuming he plays in all of the team’s remaining games), he’d finish the season with 89 points in 77 appearances. However, he has seemingly found another gear over the last 15 games, with 23 of his points in those contests alone. If he somehow keeps that up over the team’s final 26 games (and again appears in them all) he would add 40 points to his already impressive total for an incredible 99 points! New Jersey has never had a 100 point scorer, but if Hall somehow manages to maintain (or even exceed) the ridiculous pace he’s been on since the turn of the year, he could find himself as the first.
Yet even as a prolific of a scorer as he is, Taylor Hall has had a rough career up until this point; in his first six seasons with Edmonton, the team was in the midst of a rebuild, and while Hall was spectacular, the team around him certainly was not. He was shipped out of Edmonton just as the team started to improve, and came to a New Jersey squad that was (surprise, surprise) rebuilding! The Devils would finally get some Hall Luck with his arrival however, winding up not bad enough to finish dead last, but bad enough to get the correct lottery numbers to land the first overall pick.
With Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Will Butcher coming in as rookies, coupled with a Sami Vatanen trade, the Devils have looked way better than any point in the past five seasons. At the same time, it’s not crazy to assume that without Hall, the team would be right back in the doldrums of the Eastern Conference basement that they have lived in for said past five seasons. The improvements are not solely based on incoming talent; a large part of it is Taylor Hall playing like Taylor Hall and already eclipsing the version of himself that played for New Jersey last year.
What if it’s not enough though? A common concern among Devils fans is that Hall will leave once his current contract is up if New Jersey doesn’t reach this postseason in his tenure with the team. While it is certainly legitimate to worry, Hall’s words combined with his leadership on ice and the team’s rapidly improving roster should alleviate fears and make re-signing with the team an easy decision. It’s not like the Devils won’t do everything possible to keep him as well; while Ken Daneyko may call Kyle Palmieri the “heart and soul” of the team on the air, the Devils of this era truly start and end with Taylor Hall.
Again, enough cannot be said about the marvelous season Hall is putting together and the unreal fact that the last time he went pointless in a game was in 2017. The streak of 23 points in 15 games will be on the line tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils may be dealing with injuries to key players. The team may be slumping and receiving sub-par goaltending. The power play might be a big enough mess that the man coaching it should get the axe. The way the trends are going, this team will overcome it all to make the playoffs.
And Taylor Hall will be the one to drag everyone else along for the ride.
What are your thoughts on Hall’s season so far? Do you think this recent hot streak continues as the team heads towards the final full month of the regular season? How many points does Hall finish with this year? Does anyone else on the team heat up and come remotely close to where he is? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!