From an Edmonton Oilers standpoint, the 2016 IIHF World Championship could not have gone much better. While the likes of Leon Draisaitl, Matt Hendricks, Patrick Maroon and Andrej Sekera enjoyed relative degrees of success, it was the trio of Canadians who had the biggest impact at the tournament. Heading into this year’s event all signs pointed towards Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot playing key roles on Bill Peters squad and all three were up to the challenge in helping Canada to their second consecutive Gold Medal.
— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) May 22, 2016
While it took McDavid until the final game of the tournament to find the back of the net, the kid scored when it mattered most and my guess is no one was overly surprised. In fact, it seemed almost fitting that his one goal was the eventual game-winner in Canada’s 2-0 victory over Finland in the championship game. After all, it is moments like these that we tend to see the best players in the game take their game to another level and No. 97 did not disappoint when the spotlight shone brightest.
Losing Can Be Contagious
After enjoying what was a rather successful junior career both from an individual and team standpoint during his three seasons with the Erie Otters, the first overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft had to come to grips with the fact he was joining a team that was going to lose its fair share of games. Just like Hall in 2010, who was coming off back-to-back Memorial Cup titles and MVP performances with the Windsor Spitfires, it was not an easy adjustment to make but one that was likely easier to stomach after taking home gold in Russia.
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Unfortunately, the duo of Hall and Jordan Eberle were not so fortunate during the first part of their careers. While both played key roles skating alongside Sidney Crosby at last year’s event, in which Canada steamrolled all comers in taking home their first title since 2007 and first medal since 2009. Losing on a regular basis is never easy and when young players who are not accustomed to it are suddenly thrown into the middle of such a stretch, it can snowball in a hurry. Lucky for Edmonton, history did not repeat itself and it should benefit them moving forward.
Hall Will Need to Quiet Critics…Again
When it comes to Hall, something tells me motivation will not be an issue with how things have played over the last week. Going from the high of putting together a second consecutive strong showing at the World Championship, that led to him earning another gold medal, to the disappointment of being passed over by Hockey Canada for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey, chances are the 24-year old will be even more focused on getting the Oilers headed in the right direction. Were it not for his team’s annual struggles, Hall would be looked at in a completely different light.
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How else can one explain the constant focus on the shortcomings in his game and an almost dismissive attitude toward his accomplishments? From a production standpoint, there are few players who have been as consistent as No. 4 in recent seasons and even fewer from a positional standpoint. Yet many seem unwilling to give him credit for his growth as a player and instead point to the Oilers lack of success as some sort of strike against him. Sorry but the last time I checked, the role of general manager was not included in his player bio.
Talbot Appears to Be the Real Deal
Which brings us to the guy who likely benefited most from the trip to Russia. After getting off to a rocky start in his first season as a No. 1 goalie, Talbot was among the best netminders in the league over the final four months of the 2015-16 campaign. He looked every bit as good in Red and White as he did in Orange and Blue but did have a hiccup in Canada’s final preliminary round contest against the Finns. To his credit, the 28-year old bounced back with three consecutive solid showings and came up with the big stop when called upon in the tournament finale.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 21, 2016
For those who were still not sold on the former New York Ranger as a guy who is capable of raising his level of play in big games, Talbot’s performance for Team Canada helped remove much of that doubt. With that said, until he proves he can do it from opening night through to Game 82, there will be those who question if he can do the job or not. While he can’t do anything about that until next season begins, one can’t help but feel confident from what we have seen from the Caledonia native since the calendar turned to 2016.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.