Even among NHL players facing uncertainty, Taylor Hall faced an especially turbulent season, ultimately ending up with the Coyotes. Credit Hall for his calm demeanor, then — or at least deploying a convincing poker face — while being interviewed by Mike Tirico during “Lunch Talk Live.”
You can watch that interview in the video above.
Hall discusses return to play scenarios, other topics on “Lunch Talk Live”
Really, Hall is a lot like us — aside from being a Hart Trophy winner, and whatnot. Hall admits he’s not really sure what’s ahead if he can return to action with the Arizona Coyotes. (He did praise the NHL for how it’s handling a tough situation, though.)
Actually, speaking of the Coyotes, Hall naturally would be thrilled if the Coyotes squeezed into some sort of 24-team playoff format. That said, Hall said he understands if those plans fall through.
One thing Hall didn’t talk about was free agency. He’s still slated to become a UFA, and it will be fascinating to watch the situation play out. Would this uncertainty increase his chances of returning to the Coyotes, perhaps on a short-term deal? Is the market going to be soft for Hall if he explores free agency?
Such questions might not be on the forefront of Hall’s mind, or something he really wants to talk about. But it should be interesting.
A look at Hall’s abbreviated run with the Coyotes
My guess is that few minds were changed by seeing Hall with the Coyotes vs. his last stretch with the Devils. That isn’t meant as a criticism; the point is that he was largely the same player.
Through 30 games with the Devils in 2019-20, Hall scored 25 points (six goals, 19 assists). His scoring pace was a little slower with Arizona, but similar overall, as Hall generated 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 35 games.
While that wasn’t an awe-inspiring scoring run, Hall has been the highest-scoring Coyote since his first game with the team on Dec. 17. (Conor Garland and Nick Schmaltz tied for second during that span with 22 points.) Hall also produced similar possession stats with the defensive-minded Coyotes.
Unfortunately, Hall could only do so much to help the Coyotes avoid slippage.
Frankly, the Coyotes leaned heavily on goaltending in 2019-20, so when that dried up, so did the wins. Since Dec. 17, the Coyotes went just 14-7-4, which translated to a .457 points percentage. That ranked as the 27th-worst mark in the league during that span, while the Devils played pretty well (18-12-7 in 37 games, 14th-ranked .581 points percentage).
[Looking back at the Coyotes’ 2019-20 season.]
A return to hockey could set the stage for upsets, though
So, there were some disappointments here and there. Still, the Coyotes would make the cut under certain formats, and Hall is right in wondering how far they might be able to go. Hockey is a sport that’s already prone to surprises, so if you add in how much the pandemic pause might throw off rhythms, who knows?
Of course, “Who knows?” is also the response most give regarding whether the NHL can return to action at all for 2019-20. Hall is no different in lacking answers to such questions.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.