Taylor Hall has waited for so many NHL moments such as making the playoffs, advancing his team to the next round, hoisting the Stanley Cup and winning the NHL’s MVP since the day he was the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2010.
He has gone through so many downs such as dealing with losing seasons for the Edmonton Oilers, hearing criticism about his game, enduring the label of loser and experiencing his team trading him.
So for Hall to experience a winning season and a playoff season for the first time in his career this year was rewarding. He capped off his best season of his career by winning his first Hart Memorial Trophy of his career last week that made him the first Devil ever to win the MVP.
When the second-year Devil was presented the award, he admitted to being super nervous about his chances to win the award. After all, the Devils rarely get national recognition, let alone local recognition in the tri-state area. He was going up against recognizable Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and he admitted he was curious to see how close the Hart Trophy race results were.
We will guess that Hall does not read the newspapers or is not on Twitter much to know what people think of him, which is what pro athletes are wired to do the minute they get drafted. It was preordained that he would win the MVP in early April after he came up big in games the Devils needed him for them to make the playoffs. He was scoring goals after goals in the games the Devils had to win in March to get a wild-card spot. 39 goals, 54 assists and 93 points made his case.
He made it a point to credit Devils general manager Ray Shero, Devils head coach John Hynes and Devils owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer for the reason he won the award.
Hall’s point for giving his employers credit is he thanked the Devils for saving his career. If he did not play for a professional organization that is about winning, he may not have won this award or play in the playoffs. The Oilers have been awful for most of his tenure there despite having so many No. 1 picks to build around. The losing clearly affected Hall, and coaching changes played a role for the lack of his development.
It was under Hynes where he took off. It started in the offseason when the Devils star and the Devils coach had a meetings of the minds on a summer trip to Toronto. The conversation was about what Hall had to do to be a complete player, not just being a goal-scorer. That means knowing how to set up players, working on his defensive game and bringing it every game.
Hynes also wanted Hall to take his leadership role seriously by being invested in his game and winning for the Devils despite not being the captain of the team.
Hall has done that and then some. What stands out about him is his ability to choreograph a play for his teammates or him to score. He creates his own shot by knowing where to find his guys or being in a position to score. Think of him as a NBA point guard. It’s what Hynes wanted to see out of him heading to the 2017-2018 season. This is where we see the growth of a young player that is trying to make a name of himself.
Amazing what good coaching can do to a player, isn’t it? This is where Hynes deserves credit as Devils coach for making Hall into more than a star.
Hall has rehabbed his reputation from being a losing player to a player who is a hard-working player who will do whatever it takes to win. He finally has become the no-nonsense leader the Devils envisioned him to be.
If Hall did not adapt or change his approach, the Devils playoff drought would have been six along with his playoff-less streak being extended to eight seasons.
Something had to give for this Devils star. His career was in crossroads. He knew he had to make changes to his game for him to finally get to the playoffs.
He did all that, and that’s why no one can take this award away from him.
Even his critics have to give credit where it’s due.