The Taylor Hall trade was no doubt a success for the Boston Bruins even though the ending to their run in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn't what they had expected.
The B's were eliminated by the New York Islanders in a six-game second-round series. Hall scored an empty-net goal with one assist in the series. It wasn't the ideal performance from the former Hart Trophy winner, but if you look at the totality of his brief tenure in Boston so far, it's certainly been productive.
Hall looked like a top-tier player again after the trade deadline. He tallied 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 regular season games with Boston and also played quite well in the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals.
"He played very well for us. Obviously, finishing up against the Islanders (he) didn't have the numbers. That whole line didn't have the numbers they had against Washington or the regular season," B's head coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday during his season-ending press conference.
"Some of that is a learning curve for the player. It was the deepest he's been in the playoffs. Usually the harder it gets as you go along, and those are some things you just have to learn on your own. Hopefully he's better off for it next time he's in that position."
The main things Hall brought the Bruins were much-needed scoring depth on the wings and a reliable goal scorer for veteran center David Krejci on the second line. Boston was a tougher team to play against with two very good lines instead of one. It also wasn't a coincidence that Krejci's 5-on-5 production spiked after the Hall acquisition.
"He really balanced out our attack in terms of having lines 1A and 1B, and that made it real difficult on opponents," Cassidy explained. "I think he re-energized Krejci and his play. (Craig) Smith found his way to that line and played well with everybody. At the end of the day, that's what I saw with Taylor.
Cassidy is hoping Hall, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, returns to the B's. Hall reiterated last week that he sees a fit with the Bruins and hopes to return.
" I think the next playoffs he’s in, he’ll be better prepared for it. I hope it’s with the Boston Bruins," Cassidy said. "He did a good job for us. He's a good player, a good person and works hard. I think he knows what he wants out of his career now. He's been a few different places and made some money. Hopefully both sides can make it work.”
If Hall does return, Cassidy thinks an entire year watching and learning from an elite left winger such as Brad Marchand can help Hall get back to his top form.
"I think the benefit of being here for the full season would be to watch how hard a guy like Brad Marchand practices and plays everyday throughout the season," Cassidy said. "Brad will take his occasional maintenance day, but other than when he's on the ice it's 100 percent -- competing against guys in practice and second effort in games.
"I think that can only help a player like Taylor who's been through some of that and had some seasons like Marchand where he's an elite player. If he's going to get back to that level, I think watching a player like Marchand everyday would be a huge benefit for him."