Boston Herald

Hall steered his way to the Bruins

Former Hart Trophy winner open to signing an extension

- By Steve Conroy

Taylor Hall got what he wanted. Now it’s up to the one-time Hart Trophy winner to make sure the Bruins get what they want out of the deal.

If that is to happen, Hall will have to resurrect his game that went straight south when he moved north to Buffalo at the start of this season.

Speaking on a Zoom call Monday morning, Hall would not delve into the machinatio­ns that went on among Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams, other teams in the league and himself, but he did say that he used his no-movement clause to guide his trade to his ultimate landing spot in Boston, a place he first fell in love with when he visited as a draft prospect in 2010.

It was the Edmonton Oilers that chose left wing Hall with the first overall pick that year while the B’s took Tyler Seguin with the second pick. There has been a lot of water under the bridge for both those can’t-miss-kids — Seguin was traded to Dallas in 2013, the same man (Peter Chiarelli) traded Hall in 2016 — and now for Hall he gets a chance to play with some proven winners for the first time.

But as thrilled as Hall was to be coming to Boston — he was planning on driving Monday to avoid quarantine and thus be available for Tuesday’s game against the Sabres — he readily admitted that he’ll arrive here with his confidence bruised. His season mirrored that of the cellar-dwelling Sabres, scoring just two goals with 17 assists in 37 games.

So what happened?

“I can’t really give you that answer right now because it was such a whirlwind of a year. It went pretty badly obviously,” said Hall, obtained with Curtis Lazar for Anders Bjork and a 2021 secondroun­d pick. “We started off our first 10 games we were above .500 and then we had the COVID outbreak and we just couldn’t get our footing after that. And then for myself, obviously it wasn’t the season I would have liked to have had. Not even close. These last few days, you do some soul-searching and you look back on what you could do better and look forward to the future. And obviously I’m so happy to be a part of the Bruins. I can’t wait to play and I can’t wait to be a part of a group like that.”

Since he was drafted by the Oilers, Hall has always been The Man wherever he’s gone — or at least he’s been expected to be. He thought by signing with Buffalo, with Jack Eichel as the lead dog, he could weave his way more into the fabric of a team. That didn’t happen, especially after Eichel got hurt. He expects he’ll get that opportunit­y with the Bruins.

“That was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to play in Boston. That’s why I’m so happy that I’m traded here,” said Hall. “I’ve been the focal point on a lot of teams in my career. I never made myself the focal point, that’s just the situations I was in and the first chance that I got in free agency, I went to Buffalo, a team that had Jack Eichel, a player that I think is better than myself. I wanted to be one of the guys. I wanted to be on a successful team. Ultimately, it didn’t work out here in Buffalo. But going to Boston there’s so many great players on that team, Hall of Famers, guys that have had just amazing careers, careers that, if I had anything like that at the end of my career, I’d be super happy with. I’m 29 years old, but I still feel you can learn stuff about the game at this age. You can better yourself as a player and as a leader. Seeing these guys, I’m really excited to be a part of that group and to be just one of the guys. I don’t expect to come in and light the league on fire or anything. I just want to come in and win games and be a part of a team that has something that I haven’t had before. And that’s what makes me most excited.”

His high water mark for goals — something the B’s could use right now — was 39 in New Jersey in 2017-18. He’s not expecting to flip a switch and be that player again, and it sounds like he’s intent on not putting any pressure on himself to do that.

“Unfortunat­ely right now, I’m not the most confident hockey player. There’s been a lot of struggles and obviously goal-scoring is probably the biggest one. I’ve got to find a little bit of that part of my game back,” said Hall, who’ll most likely start with David Krejci. “I don’t think that it’s completely lost or anything like that. But I’m not expecting to come in and score 93 points in Boston again (like he did in his Hart season with the Devils). I want to be a part of a winning team and whatever I have to do to do that, that’s what I’m here to do. I still believe in myself a lot as a hockey player in saying that. I still believe I have a lot of athleticis­m and a lot of speed and I hope I can add to the team with those traits.”

While he didn’t talk about what kept him from signing with B’s in last offseason, but said he was close.

“Really close,” said Hall, adding he’s open to re-signing in Boston. “I was ready to come to Boston. It didn’t work out and then I had to choose between some other options. I’ve always had a ton of respect for the Bruins organizati­on and the city of Boston. I came to Boston with Seguin in 2010 just before our draft and I love the city, I love the fan base and the way they care about hockey. And every time I’ve come to Boston since then I’ve always really enjoyed my time there. It’s a city I have a lot of respect for as a sports city and I can’t wait to get there.”

If Hall can reach his potential, which is clearly a long way from where he was in Buffalo, Bruins fans will have no problem loving him back.

 ?? ap File pHOTOs ?? FINALLY COMING TO BOSTON: After scoring just two goals in 37 games this season with the Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins are hoping a change of scenery is just what the former top overall pick needs.
ap File pHOTOs FINALLY COMING TO BOSTON: After scoring just two goals in 37 games this season with the Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins are hoping a change of scenery is just what the former top overall pick needs.
 ??  ?? ‘I’M NOT THE MOST CONFIDENT HOCKEY PLAYER’: Taylor Hall admitted he has a ways to go before regaining the form that saw him win the Hart Trophy in 2018 with the New Jersey Devils.
‘I’M NOT THE MOST CONFIDENT HOCKEY PLAYER’: Taylor Hall admitted he has a ways to go before regaining the form that saw him win the Hart Trophy in 2018 with the New Jersey Devils.

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