There are probably some perfectly legitimate reasons to be fearful of Taylor Hall’s development, and they’ll probably be discussed in certain detail (hey, here we are now).
The thing that particularly worries me about Hall is that he’s already missed 37 games due to various injuries in his young career; his ankle, shoulder and head have all suffered at one point or another. Does that make his contract extension all the more risky?
It probably won’t take much to convince readers that Hall is the superior player on the Edmonton Oilers. Hall scores at a higher rate and generates more pucks towards the net than Jordan Eberle, the other star forward in Edmonton up for contract renegotiation. These are their base statistics pro-rated over 82 games assuming 16:30 of ice time per game:
Hall scores a little bit more, doesn’t need an absurd shooting percentage to do it, (forwards who have shot between 15-16% in their first two years tend to lose a couple of percentage points) and generates nearly a full shot more. The Oilers also do much better at even strength in generating and preventing scoring chances when Hall is on the ice.
Back to Hall’s injuries… missing 37 games is tough, and a lot of players develop stigmas for losing games for one reason or another. Via the Edmonton Journal:
Hall was slowed by injuries last season and may be this year as well, given his recovery from surgery and kamikaze style.
“Injury prone” has entered hockey’s lexicon but I don’t know if the issue has been studied in enough depth to show whether losing some time early in a player’s career predicts whether a player will lose a significant amount of games later.
As a point of reference, though, here are players who, in their first two seasons, saw 160 games or more:
Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby have missed a lot of games over the last two seasons due to injury, while Sergei Samsonov was forced out of the NHL thanks to a recurring string. Vincent Lecavalier fractured his left foot midway through his third season after a near flawless first two seasons. James Sheppard has lost the last two seasons due to recurring knee injuries.
Meanwhile, Matt Duchene missed three games to injury in his first two seasons, and 24 in his third. Tim Connolly ran into concussion issues and other than Jakub Voracek, Patrick Kane, John Tavares and Steven Stamkos are the only pictures of health on this list, although the first three have lost a small handful of games to various ailments throughout their last couple of seasons’.
I guess the point is, it doesn’t matter whether a player is healthy or not. Hockey is a pretty dangerous game and it continues to be dangerous whether you see a lot of time or not.
Hockey Reference doesn’t have a filter for injuries (TSN is great for tracking them player-by-player) so the bottom end of the chart isn’t necessarily a good starting point. Several players who don’t play many NHL games in their first two seasons spent good portions in the minors.
99 players played a full season in 2012. Over the last two seasons, 32 haven’t missed time. Over the last three, just 10. Only Jay Bouwmeester, Andrew Cogliano, Jarome Iginla and Henrik Sedin have played every single game since the start of the 2008 season.
It’s not that past injuries are reflective of future injuries, it’s more that playing hockey is reflective of future injuries. I’m having a tough time pinning down a list of players who missed 30ish games to injury in their first two seasons, but it probably isn’t a particularly long list. Hall was a first overall pick who was going to be in the Edmonton lineup when healthy no matter what, and certain other players would be held out of the lineup for various other reasons, health notwithstanding.
Fair to say that Hall’s health is a concern. But so is the health of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Nail Yakupov, or Gabriel Landeskog or Derek Stepan or any other young player who hasn’t missed significant time due to injury yet in their career.
But then we return to the original question. Is signing Taylor Hall to an 8-year contract worth $42M a risky move? Sure is, but probably no more than signing any player to a contract that long for an amount of money that big.
Fun with Twitter:
I followed Taylor Hall yesterday after a strong collection of tweets:
Almost got in a car accident from checking out a hot girl.. Turns out it was a manikin
— Taylor Hall (@hallsy04) August 26, 2012
Die Hard is such a great movie. I think I would of reacted the same way in every situation as John Wayne did — Taylor Hall (@hallsy04) August 27, 2012
McLean I mean — Taylor Hall (@hallsy04) August 27, 2012
I’m having a tough day spelling stuff I’m sorry guys
— Taylor Hall (@hallsy04) August 27, 2012