Evaluating The Hall/Larsson Trade A Year Later

Yeah, I know. I’m sick of hearing about it too.

Exactly a year ago today, the New Jersey Devils traded defenseman Adam Larsson for Edmonton Oilers’ forward Taylor Hall in one of the biggest blockbuster, one-for-one trades of the entire 2016 offseason. It essentially broke the Internet and helped kickstart a big day that saw Nashville’s Shea Weber traded for Montréal’s P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos signing a big deal to stay with the Lightning. Here’s a good article from Elliotte Friedman if you somehow missed everything that went down on that day.

There was a ton of backlash surrounding the trade. The majority of hockey Twitter seemed to think that GM Peter Chiarelli had completely lost his mind and the deal, and should be fired. Many wanted there to be something else given on the Devils’ side, a pick or a prospect, in addition to Larsson; they claimed he couldn’t be a top-pairing defenseman. New Jersey “won” the trade by a landslide. But the most common theme of these critics is that while they lauded Hall for his offensive capabilities, they underestimated Larsson’s defensive ones.

Here’s one of my favorite articles from June 29, 2016. My favorite quote? “Larsson, decent as he may be and young as he still is, is a second pairing-ish guy. There are very, very few players in the league who are comparably valuable to Hall.”

Okay. But that can’t reflect everyone, right? Here’s another one. My favorite chunk of the article: “And the best that general manager Pete Chiarelli could get for him [Hall] was Adam Larsson? And that’s it? As a former No. 4 overall pick, Larsson’s career so far in New Jersey has been … underwhelming? At best, he’s a second-pairing guy. You don’t trade a franchise player (a former No. 1 overall pick in 2010) in Taylor Hall for a second-pairing guy. Not straight-up.” And then: “How he [Chiarelli] didn’t learn his lesson is beyond me. It’s just confounding and totally dispiriting for Oilers fans hoping for decent asset management from a management group that has run the franchise into the ground for the last decade.”

Here’s another one and another one and another one. It’s quite fun actually, you should do a Google search, and find old articles and tweets. And when you’re done reading those, here are some good articles from July and September. Both were written by David Staples of the Edmonton Journal. Have fun.

Shifting gears a little bit. On the day of the trade, I just tweeted the following:

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 10.30.56 AM

And that basically sums up my feelings. To put it in a more articulate way, I was thrilled (and still am thrilled) that Hall would be joining the Devils. They’ve struggled to score goals and have consistently finished at the bottom of the league in goals for and shots on goal so Hall’s offense was happily welcomed. On the other hand, Larsson meant a lot to the team and to the Devils fans, myself included. We knew just how good Larsson was as a blue liner and how good he was capable of becoming. We knew what we were losing but Oilers fans didn’t know what they were getting.

But here we are, a year later, and I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the trade and evaluate just how it worked out for both teams. Here’s a short article from Deadspin from April 27. Here’s another one from NBC Sports on the same day, praising Larsson.

To start off? I don’t think anyone in Edmonton is crying any longer. They might even be laughing. Larsson helped Edmonton reach the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and yes, he wasn’t the only reason. Connor McDavid (you’ve probably heard of him) played his first healthy season with Edmonton and lit the league on fire. He scored 100 points in 82 games (30 goals, 70 assists) and won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, and the Ted Lindsay Award. He’s set to sign an 8-year, $100 million contract extension with the team. Not bad for a 20 year-old. And then you had Leon Draisaitl, who scored 77 points in 82 games. Not bad either. Offense was never really Edmonton’s problem, their defense was, and Chiarelli took a step forward to improve the blue line. And it worked. The Oilers reached the playoffs and made it to round two, where they fell to the Ducks in seven games. I wouldn’t call that a bad effort.

Here’s an article from December, talking about why the Hall/Larsson trade hasn’t paid off for Edmonton yet. And while it makes good points, it’s hard not to look at the bigger picture instead of stats.

Let’s take a look at Hall, who arguably got the worse end of the stick. He was traded from a team that was coming out of a rebuild to a team still in one. New Jersey hasn’t made the playoffs in five years now, since they made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. They’ve struggled all-around: offensively, defensively, etc. There really isn’t a whole lot going for them (and this is coming from a Devils fan). Hall was supposed to be a bright spot and he was. He picked up 53 points (good for first [tied with line mate Kyle Palmieri]) in 72 games played. The biggest problem was finding a consistent top line for him. When he finally started playing with Palmieri and Travis Zajac, things started to click and they looked really good on the ice together. If, next year, he plays with a top line center, let’s say, Nico Hischier, a fellow #1 overall pick, he’ll probably bring even more much-needed offense to the team. But that’s looking ahead.

You also have to look at their supporting casts. Larsson is on a much better team than Hall is. Hall doesn’t have enough good people around him supporting him. Larsson does. McDavid has a better supporting cast now than Hall did in six years with the Oilers.  It was nice to see Larsson in the playoffs and I hope that Hall gets his chance soon too.

With that said, I love having Hall on the team. I really do. I know Oilers fans (another general statement) have mentioned his attitude problems on and off the ice, and how he was Edmonton’s biggest problem and that they were glad he was traded. But I haven’t seen any of those. I know it’s only been a year but for what he’s had to go through, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any attitude problems or short answers. He’s matured. He tells it like it is in interviews. He’s been so good to the fans in Jersey and we’ve embraced him. You know how many Hall jerseys I’ve seen at The Rock? A lot. And you know how many I’ll see next season? A lot.

And yeah, I miss Larsson. I miss his defense and he was a huge part of this team. A lot of people forget that he was traded too. He had to move to a new place (a new country) too. There were two people in the deal (and yes, you could argue that there should have been more than two), two people who probably imagined spending the rest of their NHL careers with the teams that drafted them. But that’s not how things work. All I can do is hope that Hall is happy in New Jersey and Larsson is happy in Edmonton.

I’d say the trade worked out well for both teams. Edmonton got the defense they needed, New Jersey got offense. I don’t think you can say either team really “won” the trade because I think they both did. Hell, Chiarelli was nominated for GM of the Year after everything he did for the team last summer. I wish I had screenshots of everyone who asked for his head after the trade. But it’s also not easy to evaluate results based on one year alone. Hall could have a phenomenal year this upcoming season. But looking back on the trade, it was one that had to be made for both sides and I’m sure if both teams were given the option to do it again, they would.

And while you may not agree with me on everything (or anything), I think we can agree on one thing: can we please stop asking them both about the trade? It’s over, it happened, it’s been a year. Enough is enough.

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