New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall returns to find Edmonton changed

New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall returns to find Edmonton changed
  1. New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall returns to find Edmonton changed
    After trading the once golden boy to the now lagging Devils, the Oilers have been on an upward…

Taylor Hall returned to Edmonton on Wednesday to a rink he never played in as he prepared to face an Oilers team that embraced him in the down years only to dump him to get better.

Hall said the initial frustration, and the bitterness, is fading.

“A lot of guys want to be traded. A lot of guys are anxious to leave their teams. I wasn’t,” Hall said after he and the other New Jersey Devils finished practice at Rogers Place.

“[But] in saying that. I’m really enjoying my time in Jersey. They’ve made me one of their key guys and it’s on me to produce and play well, and I enjoy that pressure.”

Thursday night’s game between the Oilers and Devils will be Hall’s second meeting with his former team since he was swapped for defenceman Adam Larsson in a blockbuster trade last June 29. The Devils lost 2-1 last Saturday to the Oilers in New Jersey.

It will be his first game as a visitor in Edmonton, however, and his first in the Oilers’ new downtown arena.

Hall said the new arena makes it easier to come back, as the old Rexall Place had six years of memories.

“It’s not like we had Stanley Cup parades here in Edmonton. There was a lot of losing, a lot of dark times. But through all those dark times I really enjoyed my time here,” he said.

“I always enjoyed playing in front of fans in a sold-out building every night. That was a great experience to start my career.”

For five of his six seasons, Hall was the linchpin forward and marquee draw for the Oilers.

He was drafted first over all in 2010 and there was much ballyhoo. Fans bought stuffed Taylor Hall dolls. His 1,000-watt smile was on billboards and marketing campaigns. Retired Oiler great Kevin Lowe gave his blessing to un-retire his No. 4 jersey for Hall to wear.

He scored goals in bunches – 132 in six seasons – while racking up a medical chart full of injuries, including a gruesome skate blade to the scalp during pregame warmups in 2012.

But the bottom line was the Oilers have missed the playoffs every year since 2006, due mainly to a minor league blue-line corps.

A big trade was needed. The Devils had defence and no offence and the Oilers had the reverse, so Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger.

It did not go over well.

Fans on sports call-in shows ripped Chiarelli as a rube, fleeced into giving up a franchise player for a strong defenceman but a nonetheless lower-ranked commodity.

The vitriol on Chiarelli has evaporated to some degree now that the Oilers, led by a revamped defensive corps and the strong play of goaltender Cam Talbot, sit 10th in the NHL and are in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Larsson has proven to be as advertised, stabilizing the blue line and getting pu…

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