Prior to yesterday’s announcement of the final roster selections for the 2016 World Cup Hockey, many seemed to believe it was nothing more than a foregone conclusion that Hockey Canada would use one of those spots on Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall. Coming off a second consecutive year in which the former first-overall selection starred for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, and continued to develop into one of the best left-wingers in the game today, it did seem to be a no-brainer of a move for Doug Armstrong and company to make.
Unfortunately for the 24-year-old standout, that is not how things played out on Friday evening. Despite being one of the league’s most productive players since his arrival on the scene back in 2010, it has been almost next to impossible for Hall to secure the sort of recognition his performance deserves. The Oilers continued lack of team success has led many in the national media to focus on his few shortcomings, as opposed to all the good he does on the ice and his actual production. Obviously, there are those within Hockey Canada who seem to be drinking from the same fountain, and my guess is the man who stands behind the bench is the one that is likely driving that bus.
Team Canada and Mike Babcock
It is no secret that Mike Babcock likes a certain type of player when it comes to this sort of event, and guys like Hall and Montreal Canadiens rearguard P.K. Subban do not fit that bill. When it comes to the forward ranks, it has become abundantly clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss prefers to employ players who have a low-risk factor to their game and/or usually play down the middle of the ice on their NHL club. Like it or not, that is how this works and considering the results Canada has enjoyed during Babcock’s tenure as head coach, it is a formula that has produced much success.
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With that said, one would think that players with track records like Hall, Subban and others would have earned more of a sniff at this stage of their careers, especially when we see names like Matt Duchene, Brad Marchand and Jake Muzzin on this roster. And while there is no shame in being left off a team as stacked as this one, you would have to think some of these players are sitting there scratching their heads and wondering what else it is they have to do in order to earn that shot.
In the grand scheme of things, a tournament like the World Cup of Hockey would be a nice feather for a player to have in their cap, but at the end of the day it doesn’t compare to winning the Stanley Cup or an Olympic Gold medal. My guess is those two accomplishments are at the top of Hall’s wish-list, and this most recent snub might just be what the doctor ordered for Todd McLellan’s crew heading into the 2016-17 campaign. Something tells me this organization would be perfectly fine with No. 4 using this as a motivation tool and who could blame him.
Hall Continues To Wait For Opportunity
As previously mentioned, Hall played a key role in Canada’s back-to-back Gold Medal winning sides at the World Championship, after being given the short-end of the stick by Lindy Ruff during his first kick at the can back in 2013. Typically, there is a process young players need to go through before getting their chance to shine on the national stage for Canada. The two-time Memorial Cup MVP has held up his end of the bargain, but has yet to be given that chance.
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Obviously some still seem hesitant to give Taylor Hall the opportunity to show what he can do on the national stage and it really is a shame. His numbers speak for themselves, as do his recent performances for Team Canada, and still nothing. You can bet yesterday’s announcement was tough for the kid to stomach. You can also bet he will do everything in his power to quiet those who questioned his abilities, and the Edmonton Oilers should be the ones who benefit most from it.
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.