Hall Has Guts, Glory and Glamour

He Shoots! He Scores! — Exciting! Yes!!

Slogan accompanying a Table Hockey Advertisement.

Take that Table Hockey ad and apply it to Taylor Hall and it fits as neatly as a pair of shinguards under the shooter’s stockings.

Having swiftly surfaced as the battery that lights up the Devils, the Calgary native has quickly embraced his role as the new face of the franchise.

“Taylor is a leader,” said coach John Hynes, who compliments only when a compliment is due, “and a culture driver.”

The new New Jersey Devils culture includes the necessary three G’s — guts, goals and glamour, each accompanied by speed and more speed.

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If there’s a Kid Lightning on Hynes’ roster it has to be Hall, who provided a superior example earlier this month in a Metropolitan Division match with the Washington Capitals tied at three after regulation time.

No sooner had overtime begun Hall moved into high gear and, with only 34 seconds gone, he completed a partial breakaway. Then, he beat Braden Holtby in the Caps’ goal.

“Hall has learned when to make the right play,” explained MSG Networks Devils analyst Bryce Salvador.

That’s because the 2018 Hall edition is significantly different from the one who emigrated from Edmonton to Newark in the trade that sent defenseman Adam Larsson to the Oilers.

“He wasn’t expecting to leave Edmonton,” added Salvador. “He was expecting to play with Connor McDavid. Now, he’s playing with two young guys in Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt.”

Working with a pair of rookies certainly hasn’t hurt Hall. As the Devils prepare to host Nashville on Thursday night, Taylor, though recently injured, remains the club’s leading goal-scorer (17), assist-maker (31), as well as points-producer with 48.

Those who know Hall best insist that he’s doubly-motivated. On one hand, he wants to compensate for what was merely an average season in 2016-17, while also becoming one of the team’s leaders.

“Seeing his old team succeed and make the playoffs last year lit a fire underneath him,” insisted Leo Scaglione, who appears on MSG Networks with updates from the Devils’ AHL club in Binghamton.

“He loves playing with the young guys. You can tell he’s embracing his new role as a leader.”

General Manager Ray Shero was the man behind the Hall-Larsson deal. He wanted to understand why Taylor was not living up to the standard set for him.

Shortly after last season had ended, Shero had a heart-to-heart talk over dinner that lasted well into the night. Not one to sugar-coat an analysis, The Boss told his ace what he thought of Hall’s season. According to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, no adjectives were spared.

“Shero asked Hall where he thought his game was, on a percentage basis, compared to where it could be at his best,” Campbell wrote. “Hall told Shero to go first. Shero said 35 percent. Hall remarked that he thought Shero was a tough-grader and offered 50.

“So I said okay, let’s call it 40,” said Hall. Both sides acknowledged there was a lot of room for positive growth and that the player had barely scratched the surface of his potential.

The result of that dinner-meeting helped clear Taylor’s mind and set him on an express track in his second Devils season. It also helped explain why the Garden Staters were the surprise of the Metropolitan Division.

“I’ve never even been in a playoff race,” said Hall, “and that’s what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the season.”

What’s been obvious — though not surprising — is that when Taylor is sidelined with an injury, the Devils are less than the flamboyant fire-wagon speedsters they have been with Hall at the helm.

Ex-Devil and current MSG Networks analyst Ken Daneyko has watched the maturation of Hall since training camp with special attention to Taylor’s leadership role.

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“He’s only 26-years-old,” Daneyko asserted, “but he wants to step up and be a veteran and set an example — especially for the young guys. He’s more into it this year and his demeanor has changed, especially with a chance for the playoffs.”

Part of the leadership role includes taking counsel from Hynes. From the get-go this year, the head coach has stressed the development of a Devils culture.

“That,” noted Hynes, “includes playing to the identity that we want to play with and Taylor’s done a nice job of it.”

Another plus is a comfort zone which Hall has found in New Jersey. Having moved to Hoboken, he’s close to his teammates and finally believes he belongs here and not in Alberta.

“Anything different from New Jersey would feel weird now,” Hall confessed. “And that’s a good thing.”

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Not to be overlooked in terms of Taylor’s overall ability is the genetic factor. His father, Steve, was a Canadian Football League star who then switched to bobsledding.

Steve Hall was a member of the Canadian 1988 Olympic Bobsled Team but an injury just before the games sidelined him from the competition.

The Football-Bobsledding Father helped orchestrate his son’s hockey growth, but without overdoing it. “I was able to lend a hand,” Steve allowed, “but in the end, Taylor was the guy who executed the plan.”

That included stints with Team Ontario in the 2008 World Under-17 Challenge as well as Team Canada’s sextet in the Under-18 World Championship.

In 2010, he won a Silver Medal with Team Canada in the World Junior Games. His Junior career peaked with the Windsor Spitfires Memorial Cup triumphs in 2009 and 2010.

With Team Canada’s entry in the World Championships, Taylor twice wore Gold Medals in 2015 and 2016. These experiences have combined to produce the player that has Prudential Center fans on their feet more than any other.

“Hall’s speed is a joy to watch and a total asset on the ice,” wrote John Fischer in AllAboutTheJersey.com.

Hynes understands that once the All-Star Game is completed this Sunday, the most serious part of the NHL homestretch begins. Where the Devils finish will be determined, in large part, by Taylor’s efforts.

“This is his team now,” said Hynes. “These are his guys.”

Hall knows it and believes implicitly in his ability to produce.

“I’ve never wavered in my self-confidence,” Hall concluded. “You have to have that self-confidence and trust in your abilities.”

It’s self-evident that Taylor has that gift and it helps explain why he’s a candidate for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.”

With three things going for him — guts, goals, and glamour!

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