Tyler/Taylor: my two cents. (Actual value: 2¢)

by Colby Cosh

As an Oilers fan with an audience, I feel it’s my duty to publicly take a side in the civil strife tearing my city asunder. The issue is one no Canadian city has faced since 1996: who should the team take with the #1 pick in the June 25 NHL Entry Draft?

Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, the two young forwards at the top of the table, are universally considered to be near-even, and ahead of the peloton by a mile. The debate between them isn’t really all that intense: I was kidding about that part. It is generally accepted that the Oilers can’t go foreseeably wrong with either player, and there are convincing arguments on both sides.

The Oilers front office and scouting staff has, for much of its history, indisputably added massive net negative value to the performance of the team. They have done much worse than someone who collected no independent data and had no theoretical framework would have. But in this case, unless they go off the board, there will be no conceivable grounds for after-the-fact criticism—certainly not on the part of fans like myself who are pretty casually informed. I’m not going out on a limb here, just casting one vote.

Hall has the longer resumé. Though he is older than Seguin by just 79 days, he has been talked about for much, much longer. He went second overall in the 2007 OHL draft; Seguin went 9th the next year. After last year’s NHL draft, Hall was seen as the clear leader among North American skaters, with Seguin another tier further down. Seguin had a fast start to this OHL season, which prompted Central Scouting to move him ahead of Hall in the fall 2010 preliminary prospect rankings. (Hall caught him in the midterms; Seguin is the final #1.) Seguin went on to finish level with Hall in scoring numbers—if you ignore the six extra regular-season games Seguin played. Hall led a terrific OHL team in plus-minus; Seguin didn’t lead his mediocre one.

Generally, in the world of sports, when one prospect has a particularly good year and catches up to someone who has been ahead in the past, we assume that the player who started out behind somehow has “momentum” that will go on carrying him forward. We’re very good at physics metaphors and not so good at intuitively anticipating regression to the mean—at sensing that an unexpected spurt of productivity or progress may be a matter of small-sample good luck. Hall shouldn’t be discounted for having the higher established level of performance.

There is talk that the Oilers are leaning toward Seguin because they “need” a quality centre. As far as I’m concerned, drafting for perceived “need” is plain asinine unless you’re an NFL general manager. The Oilers should take whichever player they are honestly convinced is the best. If they take Hall, we’ll at least know that’s why they took him.

And Seguin got cut from the World Junior Championships team. Yeah, yeah, I know: Hall failed to make the team his first time out too, in 2009. But he had an extra year of eligibility because of his birthdate and was nearly 300 days younger, at that time, than Seguin was for his own first tryout in 2010. Despite the birthdate disadvantage, Hall was one of the last cuts in ’09, and of course was the third-best scorer in the tournament this time out, in his age-18 year.

Seguin, by contrast, was sent home almost immediately in 2010 as an about-to-turn-18-in-roughly-thirty-seconds. His supporters have argued that Hockey Canada probably didn’t want to bump some 19-year-old returning gold medallist to make room for Seguin, but the selectors must have known that 2010 might have been Seguin’s only chance ever to play in the U20. Does anybody else think “He didn’t even make the World Junior team!” is something Edmontonians might find themselves muttering angrily, right after the sentence “What were they thinking?”, in the year 2014?

The knocks on Hall don’t really impress me much. Hall’s “reckless”, say the Seguinists: he’ll go anywhere and will absorb any hit to get to the puck…in other words, he’s a winner, as Oiler head scout Stu MacGregor pointed out; this is just a way of redefining the kid’s best personal qualities and his record of success as weaknesses. Having a Ryan Smyth-esque style of play might cost him some years at the far end of his career, but those are years the team that drafts him won’t control anyway.

Hall’s 6’1″, well-conditioned, and has a first-rate genetic pedigree. Nobody has suggested, as far as I know, that he’s careless in open ice. This kind of half-hearted carping has been heard about every elite prospect since Bobby Orr. There were also murmurs that Hall wasn’t liked by his Windsor teammates, but the Memorial Cup TV broadcasts have silenced those; they are literally unbelievable now.

There exists legitimate concern about Hall possibly being overrated because, unlike Seguin, he’s been part of a team that would still have been excellent without him. Certainly the Oilers have been burned before by the allure of impressive individual statistics assembled on OHL powerhouses. But Hall’s Spitfires have been so good that it’s not unrealistic to believe that the team contains several legitimate future stars. The last back-to-back Memorial Cup winner, the ’94-’95 Kamloops Blazers, had Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Darcy Tucker, and a bunch of other good NHL or NHL-grade players. Getting an Iginla or a Doan, even with the #1 pick in a draft, would have to count as a success.

As it happens, the Oilers had the #6 pick in ’95 and passed on both Iggy and Doan (both Alberta kids, like Hall) to grab the immortal Steve Kelly—in front of a home crowd chanting “Doan! Doan! Doan!” Not knowing how to split up the credit for a stacked junior team, Glen Sather and Barry Fraser backed away from the people’s choice and talked themselves into the kid who was all physical “upside”. It’s not a strictly analogous situation: just for starters, the local media pretty much knew immediately that the Kelly pick stunk, whereas today they’re lining up behind Seguin. Still… consider this a barely audible “gulp” of uncertainty.




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Tyler/Taylor: my two cents. (Actual value: 2¢)

  1. Whatever happened to Jason Bonsignore

  2. Let me suggest it then: He's careless in open ice.

    But I still love Hall's skill.

  3. Colby, just curious: what do you make of the argument, advanced at Lowetide's place, among others, that great teams are almost always very strong down the middle? A glance at recent cup winners seems to support that line of thought.

    I've gone back and forth on them several times – they're very close. If the Oil can somehow wrestle a (decent) pick out of the Bruins for laying off one or the other, it would probably be the smart thing to do.

    In any case, I have a fair amount of faith in MacGregor, so whatever he decides to do (assuming it's his evaluation that carries the day), I'll support.

    • Great teams ARE almost always strong down the middle. But great teams have more than their share of elite personnel generally, don't they? I would think they're disproportionately likely to have excellent top-pairing defencemen, solid goaltending, and at least one elite scorer on the wing. Trade value is fungible to a high degree and that's what you want to maximize.

      • I guess I should rephrase that to "disproportionately very strong down the middle." The Blackhawks and Flyers seem to fit your observation, but the Penguins didn't.

        Note that while I have a significant degree of confidence in Stu MacGregor's abilities to pick the BPA, I have a lot less confidence in Tambellini's ability to pull off a productive trade.

  4. Tyler Seguin is the over-rated player here. If the Oilers management pick Seguin straight up they are retards. If they trade down to #2 for a good return that may be the best play they can make.

  5. When the heck did you start putting "the jump" into your articles? I was so stoked that there was one holdout against the ridiculous concept that there are people out there who want to read the first little bit of an article or who don't want to read any of an article but are too stupid to operate the "page down" button, and now my faith is broken.

    (This has been: Relevant, Solicited Complaints in an Appropriate Forum).

    • You are outnumbered by the people who get mad about long sports pieces appearing in their entirety on the Blog Central page.

  6. Saw Hall at the Memorial Cup in person and the consensus of the long-time junior watchers was, “He’s talented. But something’s missing.”

    Not a vote for Seguin necessarily. Just that might not be a star year.

  7. I think Hall's got more royal jelly than Seguin. He's done more stuff in more big games than Seguin, and, IMO, has generally faced more pressure than Seguin and come through. And he just won a memorial cup. Seguin did not. You never know, but if I had to put money on which of these two would go on to be a superstar, it'd be Hall.

  8. Fear not, Colby.

    When presented with comparable choices, each of which can be easily supported by available evidence, future historians will no doubt conclude that the decision made by the Oilers will have been the wrong one.

  9. Seguinists? Sounds like a religious order.

    The Oilers should try to find out which one the Bruins want. Then they should see if they can get something from the Bruins in exchange for taking the one the Bruins don't want.

    • Bruins want Hall and (according to local rag hockey guy) have already been approached by the Oilers about tossing some bodies their way to take Seguin. Same fella was made a reasonably compelling case a few weeks ago for packaging up most of the current Oiler creme de la creme (Hemsky/Penner/et al) to try to get the second pick out of Boston – now THAT would generate some fan excitement!

  10. I would try to figure out which one has matured the least, and pick him. Someone who is less mature might have more time for additional growth, additional speed, additional strength, additional skill. Someone who matures sooner looks better in comparison to his peers, some of whom are not fully mature, but has a lower ceiling. If one of them can grow a beard and the other cannot, pick the one that cannot, for he has a higher ceiling.

  11. All things being even I would take Seguin cause he is a center.

  12. I think Seguin will be the better of the two in the long run but will end up a Bruin. Can you imagine the numbers Seguin could have produced on a team like the Spitfires with an additional year under his belt? In addition, a center is more valuable in the long run than a wing, period. I am a Bruins fan and I hope that this draft ends up like the NBA draft in which Kevin Durant was taken #2 and Greg Oden went #1 (excuse the basketball analogy).

  13. Nice, reasoned article. The bottom line is that anybody who picks Seguin over Hall is essentially saying they have a crystal ball. While Seguin may show enough to be a worthy #1 pick, he hasn't done anything to show he deserves to be picked ahead of Hall. Not. One. Thing. The only thing he has going for him is a "guess" that he'll be better. Given the body of evidence in Hall's court, the last thing the Oilers (or any team bad enough to pick 1st overall) should be doing is banking their franchise on their management's ability to make that guess.

    Bless the kid, but the support he has is asinine. He might be great, he might turn out to be the best player, but he has done nothing to show he should be picked ahead of Hall.

  14. Wow Colby, this is the first time I've managed to stray to your site (I normally stick to the old faithfuls – Lowetide, Oilersnation, BDHS) and I have to say I'm very impressed with the 3 or 4 articles I've read so far. At least as far as writing is concerned, I'd say your up there with Pat Maclean (pretty sure that's his name). Quality, quality stuff and I have to say I'm regretful I havent been reading long. Kudos.

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