NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall played six years with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2016. The promise of those Edmonton teams was never realized, as a slew of young and talented players could never find consistent success, and many of them now play for other NHL teams.
According to Hall, that lack of success was born of a lack of confidence, and negative coverage from the Edmonton media was a significant catalyst for it.
"Yeah, no question. You get booed by fans, the media is all over you, everyone's human. You can't help but take that home with you," he told ESPN on Monday.
One of those players was Jordan Eberle, now a winger for the New York Islanders after seven inconsistent seasons in Edmonton. He admitted recently that his confidence was crushed under the weight of negativity from the Edmonton media.
"When you read articles every day about how much you suck, it's tough," Eberle said, via Sportsnet. "The Edmonton media can be pretty brutal and your confidence goes and this is a game you can't play if you don't have confidence."
It was an honest take in a profession where players constantly claim they don't read or hear criticism or praise emanating from outside the dressing room. But it was also an admission that drew -- and here's a twist -- a negative reaction from the Edmonton media.
Mark Spector, an Edmonton-based columnist for Sportsnet and president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, said a player whose confidence is "ruined because of a few articles, none of which come remotely close to being as critical as what those same writers face here on Twitter" should be traded, because they are "mentally weak."
If I am a GM and I have a player whose game is ruined because of a few articles - none of which come remotely close to being as critical as what those same writers face here on Twitter - I move him.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) November 25, 2017
Can't win with those players. Mentally weak.
Hall said it's not about these players being "mentally weak," but rather that this is about human nature.
"I read that Spector called Jordan 'mentally weak.' ... It's the same as blocking someone on Twitter: No one wants to read crappy stuff about yourself. You want to be blind to it," Hall said.
"I think that if the media in Edmonton think that they don't impact players, just a little bit, then they're crazy. Everyone's human. No one wants to read crappy stuff about them, no matter how good of a player you are."
The Oilers earned their share of scorn during the years when since-departed players like Hall, Eberle, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov were on the team. The team failed to make the postseason during that seven-season span, and there was a sense that these players hadn't met their expectations. As Spector wrote, in response to Eberle:
When production falls to 20 goals for $6M, and 0 goals in 13 playoff games, a hockey writer points that out.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) November 25, 2017
If he scored 35, then 5 more in playoffs, we'd point that out too.
Players create the angle. We just turn them into words.
Hall said the coverage was tough, but not unjust -- just impactful.
"I never felt that the media was unfair in Edmonton, but when you do read constant negative stuff about yourself, you can't help but lose confidence," he said.
Last season, the Oilers had 103 points and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Coming into the season with sky-high expectations, Edmonton currently has the second-fewest points in the Western Conference, turning up the heat once again on players, coaches and the front office.