The long saga between Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils is finally over. The Devils traded Hall to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon. Was he a perfect match for the Devils originally? No, not by all means, but his acquisition was a necessary one for the organization to take a step in the right direction. And yes Hall did bring the Devils to the playoffs in 2018 as part of his Hart Trophy-winning season.
However, there were still plenty of questions that needed to be answered. One of which was: was Hall becoming bigger than the team itself? Fans could start to see that the answer was slowly becoming ‘yes’ during this past off-season through what he said and how he said. What made the Devils so successful in the past was not having one player be above the team. With Hall out of the picture, the Devils can get back to their identity of playing team-first hockey.
Devils Getting Back to Team-First Hockey After Taylor Hall Trade
Writing Was On The Wall
At the end of the 2018-19 season, Hall called out general manager Ray Shero for not having enough talent on the team. So what does Shero do? He puts his team in a position to be competitive once again. He brought in P.K. Subban, Jack Hughes, Wayne Simmonds, and Nikita Gusev. However, there was still no contract extension for Hall. The one mistake Shero was not having a contract extension in place as the season began. Even if it was a one-year deal similar to what Zach Parise had signed prior to his departure from New Jersey to sign with the Minnesota Wild in 2012.
The Devils made the moves, but it was not enough for Hall to stick around in New Jersey for the long term. And with the Devils getting off to such a poor start, it became quite obvious the Devils needed to move on from Hall. Fans could see in his play on the ice that Hall did not want to be in New Jersey anymore. He was becoming a distraction on and off the ice and it was affecting the team.
Past Two Games
In Friday, December 13th’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, Hall was pulled from the lineup and announced as a healthy scratch. Head coach Alain Nasreddine had to make adjustments to his lineup as a result. And while the Devils did not win, they played a team-first game. They were playing a fast-attacking style. All the players were getting involved. The players were playing more freely, like the weight of the world had been lifted off their shoulders.
The Devils carried that momentum into Saturday night’s game against the Coyotes. Again it was about the team and not one player. It was evident that the players were not trying to force the puck to one player. Instead, they made the smart pass to guys that were wide open. Also, the mistakes that were prevalent early on in the season were cut down as Hall was not on the ice trying to do too much. The Devils played their system to perfection and were able to get the victory. The Devils were a different team.
With Hall out of the picture, players like Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Jesper Boqvist, Subban, Gusev, and Hughes are free to become the players that everyone thought they would be. This allows these players to get out of the shadow of Hall. They will be the ones driving the offence. They do not need to worry about feeding one player. The Devils can play as a team. That is what made them so successful in the past. As great as some of the talents were in New Jersey, they never became bigger than the team. The reason the Devils were successful was that everyone bought into the system. Over the past two games, the players have and it has paid off.
The New Jersey Devils will want to have that same mentality and style of play throughout the rest of the season. While it stinks losing a player like Taylor Hall, in the end, the Devils will be better off in the long run. The Devils are in good hands with Hischier and Hughes as the foundation pieces for this franchise.