Ultimately, most of today will centre around Taylor Hall talk. How dirty is Taylor Hall? How many games suspension will Taylor Hall get? I’m not too sure on the first, since I don’t know Taylor Hall. The only thing I know for sure about Taylor Hall is that he bears a striking resemblance to the stoner that worked electronics the summer I worked in the warehouse of a large Canadian retail chain. I don’t think that on those qualifications that I know enough about Hall to discuss his personality or intentions with regard to his hit on Cal Clutterbuck Thursday night:
From this outsider angle, it looks dirty, but not malicious. The first Youtube video I saw that featured the hit had the Minnesota broadcast guys call the play a “knee-to-knee”. As an aside, I don’t have a job at the Mayo Clinic, but to me it looks like the principle collision point is between Hall’s hip and Clutterbuck’s thigh and that this isn’t a traditional “knee-on-knee” play. Typically in that instance the hitter will stick his leg out into the path of a skater who has changed direction and it’s more of a reflex. The ref called a kneeing major, but Clutterbuck’s thigh, not his knee, was what was bandaged. Better news?
Perception is a funny thing: the same play, player, game, or season can be viewed in thousands of different ways, depending on your frame of reference. If you’re a Blackhawks fan, you’re more likely to have seen Jannik Hansen’s hit on Marian Hossa as intentional and malicious than if you were, say, a Canucks fan. If you thought that Matt Cooke sliced Erik Karlsson’s achilles tendon with his skate on purpose, you’re probably not a Penguins fan. If you find the idea laughable that lovable little Danny Briere could be called dirty, you’re probably a Flyers fan.
To Minnesotans, Taylor Hall is the dirty player who knocked Jonas Brodin out for a couple of months with a pretty convincing collision between Oklahoma City and Houston during the lockout. He does, to some respect have a bit of a history with the franchise. That is just sequencing though: Hall isn’t known for taking major penalties.
Since 2007, Hall has taken five major penalties, across the OHL, AHL and NHL. There was this collision with Clutterbuck, there was a fight during his rookie year with Derek Dorsett where he sprained his ankle. There where the hit on Jonas Brodin in Oklahoma City, and two OHL fights: one was in the middle of a brawl between Windsor and Sault-Ste. Marie, and the second was a game against Plymouth where a teammate tried to step in.
So that’s two offences where a single major was handed out, and they both happened to come against Minnesota Wild property. Whether Taylor Hall is a “dirty player” or not, you can forgive a fan base that has had two of its best young players injured from borderline hits by the same guy, delivered late.
I’m not entirely sure what the perception of Hall was to begin with in Minnesota, but generally you don’t want the first overall picks from division rival franchises to do well. I can’t imagine that there are too many Oilers No. 4 jerseys being sold in the concourses of X-Cel Energy Center, but I think there may exist some mis-remembering of past events between the Wild and Hall, and every action Hall takes in a post-whistle scrum will be carefully scrutinized.
How many games will Hall be suspended?
Fortunately, I think I can comment a bit more objectively on this. I don’t think that Taylor Hall will be suspended for the Oilers’ game next Sunday in Minnesota. Edmonton play a Saturday matinee at home to Phoenix, then go on the road for nine straight, hooking up with the Wild over the trip. Minnesota fans will get their chance to express their displeasure, because it takes something really, really bad to get five or more games in Brendan Shanahan’s book.
There were 57 suspensions last season. Kevin Porter, a first-time offender, got four for kneeing David Booth. The only other close one in this camp is Brad Marchand’s five game suspension for his clip on Sami Salo. “Clipping” is defined by the NHL is “the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent”.
Porter was a first-time offender, and Marchand wasn’t. Shanahan was careful to note in his suspension video that Marchand had expressed frustration at Salo earlier in the shift. Unless Clutterbuck did something to Hall earlier in the shift I’m unaware of, I don’t see how he’d have the grounds to suspend Hall for more than four games. Even that seems a little excessive. Hall’s hit was decidedly higher than Salo’s, and not a traditional kneeing penalty like Porter’s.
So anywhere between zero and three games sounds legitimate. Adam McQuaid was fined for kneeing Nick Foligno last December. Kneeing doesn’t seem to be a penalty that Brendan Shanahan has had to pay too much attention to or cares not to pay attention to. Nobody kept “kneeing” as a penalty statistic that I could find, but I can remember more than two kneeing penalties last season.
Hall has no history, has typically been a guy on the receiving end of hits rather than dishing them out. I could see where Shanahan would have grounds to merely fine Hall. I think as bleak as it looked on the ice, there’s no evidence that the NHL really cares too much about this type of play, preferring instead to suspend boarding and charging calls.
We’ll see, but I doubt Hall will miss too much action on this upcoming road trip.