EDMONTON - Taylor Hall is hoping to be third time lucky.
After two cursed campaigns in the NHL, marred by a season-ending high ankle sprain, a 30-stitch cut across his forehead, a troublesome concussion and season-ending shoulder surgery, the third-year Oiler is counting on better days ahead.
And not only because things can’t get much worse.
On the ice again, four long months after deep and invasive repairs on his injured shoulder, Hall says he’s feeling better than he has in years.
“It’s encouraging for sure,” said the 20-year-old winger, who is wearing full equipment, but not taking any contact during his training sessions back home in Kingston.
“It’s held up fine so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s time to start being a hockey player again.”
Especially after how last season ended.
“The surgery was tough. They didn’t just do it arthroscopically, they cut me open and moved the bone around. I have a three-inch scar on my shoulder.
“It was a little different for me, being on all the pain killers afterward, not being able to do much. I had to sleep on a La-Z-Boy for the first week. It was a tough stretch. I had to fly my mom in to take care of me and make me food and everything.
“But now it feels like I have a brand new shoulder. It’s exciting for me because I haven’t really had that in the last two years.”
Hall expects to be ready for opening night, if the season goes ahead as scheduled, and believes his repaired shoulder will make him better than he ever was before.
“There were games last year where it would get hurt in the first period and for the rest of the game I wouldn’t really be able to do much because I’d be in pain.
‘‘Not enough pain to take me out of the game, but enough to kind of hamper me a little bit.
“Sometimes when I went into the boards I would have to lose the battle because I knew if I put my shoulder a certain way it would kind of pop out. Now I won’t have that.”
Why not have surgery two months earlier, putting an end to his chronic pain and guaranteeing he’d be at full strength for the start of training camp?
“It was my choice,” he said. “There were times last year when Tamby and the medical staff sat me down and said listen, you should probably have surgery right now. I didn’t want to do that.
‘‘I wanted to play the rest of the season. I felt good enough to, but there were definitely times when it wasn’t really good for me at all.”
It’s done now, and after having played just 126 of 164 games in his first two seasons, Hall is ready for a change of fortune.
“It’s been a couple of tumultuous seasons, but mentally I have to put it behind me and start out fresh,” he said.
“I know that I’m a good enough hockey player to put a full season together, I just need to do it.”
Hall is well aware that some people believe he isn’t as durable as he could be, at least not durable enough to survive his reckless style.
He dismisses those notions, but admits he needs to protect himself a little better out there.
“I’ve run into some bad luck,” he said, pointing out that spraining an ankle in a fight and being cut by a skate blade in a pre-game skate are freak accidents, not the sign of a body breaking down.
“But when something happens two years in a row you start to think about things. I have to put that behind me and maybe change a couple of things up in my game.
“I just need to get a full year under my belt and that will all go away.
‘‘Once I do that, the whispers will go away.”