Can Taylor Hall avoid the sophomore slump? Recent history says he can

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Taylor Hall’s rookie season in the NHL was, by most accounts, a solid one that ended prematurely. After suffering a season-ending ankle injury in early March while fighting with Derek Dorsett, Hall’s season finished with 22 goals and 20 assists in 65 games. For an 18 year-old kid to jump into the league and instantly produce like that, even on the NHL’s worst team, is outstanding.

The question that always comes up for rookies, however, is whether or not they can do it all over again or better the following season. The dreaded “sophomore slump” always lingers out there for many second-year players, and should that bug end up biting Hall it’d be a stunning blow for a team that needs all of their talented youth to continue improving and becoming elite stars in the league. Hall tells NHL.com that the stats mean only so much when focusing on the big picture of his game.

“Stats, you can only look so much into them, I think. If I start to worry about how many goals I have after ten games or how many points I have, that’s going to take away from other parts of my game,” said Hall. “There are a lot of guys on our team who are team-first and I hope I’m one of them. You just need to think about the team and how you’re helping that.”

That’s all well and good for Hall to have that kind of personal focus, but if he’s not producing well, the questions are going to come and the fretting will start in Edmonton. The one thing going for Hall is that #1 picks since 2000 have done well in their second season. Well, mostly.

  • 2000 – Rick DiPietro (NYI): 2000-2001: 3-15-1, 3.49 GAA, .878 SV%; 2001-2002: Stayed in AHL
  • 2001 – Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL): 2001-2002: 65 GP, 29g, 22a, 51 pts; 2002-2003: 81 GP, 38g, 29a, 67 pts
  • 2002 – Rick Nash (CBJ): 2002-2003: 74 GP, 17g, 22a, 39 pts; 2003-2004: 80 GP, 41g, 16a, 57 pts (tied for Richard Trophy with Iginla, Kovalchuk)
  • 2003 – Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT): 2003-2004: 4-14-2, 3.64 GAA, .896 SV%; 2005-2006: 13-27-6, 3.25 GAA, .898 SV%
  • 2004 – Alexander Ovechkin (WAS): 2005-2006: 81 GP, 52g, 54a, 106 pts; 2006-2007: 82 GP, 46g, 46a, 92 PTS (Calder Trophy winner in 2006)
  • 2005 – Sidney Crosby (PIT): 2005-2006: 81 GP, 39g, 63a, 102 pts; 2006-2007: 79 GP, 36g, 84a, 120 pts (Crosby won Art Ross and Hart Trophy in 2007)
  • 2006 – Erik Johnson (STL): 2007-2008: 69 GP, 5g, 28a, 33 pts; 2008-2009: 79 GP, 10g, 29a, 39 pts
  • 2007 – Patrick Kane (CHI): 2007-2008: 82 GP, 21g, 51a, 72 pts; 2008-2009: 80 GP, 25g, 45a, 70 pts (Won Calder Trophy in 2008)
  • 2008 – Steven Stamkos (TB): 2008-2009: 79 GP, 23g, 23a, 46 pts; 2009-2010: 82 GP, 51g, 44a, 95 pts (Tied for 2010 Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby)
  • 2009 – John Tavares (NYI): 2009-2010: 82 GP, 24g, 30a, 54 pts; 2010-2011: 79 GP, 29g, 38a, 67 pts

I know… “Ha, ha Rick DiPietro!” Settle down. After a rough rookie year he got to play a full season in Bridgeport while Chris Osgood and Garth Snow got the Islanders to the playoffs. Things haven’t gone so hot with injuries since then. Fleury struggled in his second season and didn’t find his way until his third season in the NHL. Erik Johnson’s had his struggles since breaking into the NHL but with a full year ahead of him in Colorado, we’ll see how he adjusts to the new location.

Everyone else though, and more importantly all the other forwards, all improved or stayed great in their follow up season. Crosby won the MVP, Nash won the Richard Trophy, Kovalchuk became Atlanta’s sole, dominating source for goals, and Steve Stamkos became a full-on phenomenon.

A guy like John Tavares who is in a similar position as Hall is in Edmonton improved his play all around in his second season and for Hall, despite playing a different position (wing compared to center) the Oilers will hope he’ll be able to grow the same way.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.