New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall just wants to be on a team that makes the Stanley Cup playoffs

ByPierre LeBrun ESPN logo
Friday, March 24, 2017

TORONTO -- You can forgive Taylor Hall if he tunes out next month when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

"My first couple of seasons in the league, I probably watched every playoff game I could," the New Jersey Devils star said Thursday at the Air Canada Centre.

"Now that I'm seven seasons in, it's tough to watch, knowing that I haven't experienced a playoff game yet. In saying that, as the playoffs go on and I get more time away from hockey, I indulge more so in the games. You can't help but watch and learn and see what these guys are doing at the highest level."

You're not human if you don't feel for this guy. The 25-year-old winger is seeing his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, looking playoff-bound for the first time in 11 seasons.

He was bitter about the trade to the Devils last summer. He's over it now, but that doesn't mean he's going to be cheering for the Oilers next month.

"No, I won't be rooting for them," he smiled.

Don't get him wrong, he's stayed in touch with a few players in Edmonton.

"You know, it's a weird dynamic. You're happy for your friends and they're going to experience the playoffs, but you can't help but be a bit jealous, there's no two ways about it," Hall said.

He's happy for superstar captain Connor McDavid, that's for sure.

"He's an easy guy to root for," said Hall. "Obviously, his success isn't surprising anyone. But he's put that team on his back. Him and Leon [Draisaitl], the way they've produced this year, night in and night out, playing against the top lines, it's pretty incredible."

I asked Hall who his Hart Trophy winner would be.

"Honestly, I think these last 10 games are going to prove a lot," he responded. "Connor just keeps producing points and Edmonton still has a chance to win their division. So, it's going to be interesting how it lines up. Ten games ago I would have said Brent Burns. Now, I think it's either Connor or Sid [Crosby]. It's between those two."

Down the hall, it was pointed out to Hall, was a Toronto Maple Leafs team with eight rookies and a chance to make the playoffs. You can just imagine how that looks to a guy like Hall who so desperately still awaits his chance at spring hockey.

"I wish it was that easy when it was my first or second year in Edmonton," said Hall. "That goes to show you how incredible it is what they've done. It's awesome. A lot [of credit] goes out to their coaching staff. Just how quickly those young players not only have produced offensively but have tuned in on the other side of the puck. That's probably the hardest thing to get a hold of early in your career."

For Hall, it will have to wait at least another year.

"It's tough. I'd love to be in a playoff race," he said. "I don't even think I've played meaningful games in the last 10 games of the season at any point in my career. To say that it is tough, yeah, for sure. But what am I going to do? I still have to come out and produce, I still have to come out and play well. One thing I learned last year during the stretch, even though we were in 26th-27th place, [is] a lot of people are watching. There are still a lot of eyes on you. Even though our team here isn't going to make the playoffs, there's still a lot of room for individual and team success as we get down the road here.

"Hopefully, next year we can really make a step," he added. "I just want to be on a good team. The area in Jersey is great, and there's great guys in this room, but I just want to be on a great team, a playoff team that has a chance to win a Cup here pretty soon."