October 23 2008 12:52PM
Ales Hemsky needs to play better. We can debate all we want about third line combinations, and whether or not MacIntyre or Stortini should be on the fourth line, but if Hemsky doesn’t play better this team won’t be a division winner.
We’ve all heard the line “You need your best players to be your best players,” and you might think it’s over-used, but look at most division winners. At the end of the season their best players HAVE been their best players most nights.
So far the Oilers’ best player hasn’t shown up. We saw some glimpses in the third period last night, when he danced around a few Hawks, but other than that, a Hemsky sighting has been as rare as a hot girl walking up to me in a bar and buying me a drink. Sure it happens once in awhile, but once they realize I’m not Mr Clean they magically disappear.
What’s interesting about Hemsky is that he actually has been shooting again this year. Last season he had 184 shots in 74 games for an average of 2.4/game, so far this year he has eleven shots in five games. But it’s his shot selection that has been the problem. Outside of the third period last night, he hasn’t been attacking the defence, or penetrating the zone. Almost all of his shots have come from the perimeter.
Hemsky can’t be invisible for five-game stretches. It’s true that the chemistry on the first line doesn’t seem there. Hemsky has said many times he wants to play with Horcoff, so the obvious move is shifting out Cole.
But who do you move in?
The Oilers won’t have a real practice today. The morning skate is arguably the biggest waste of time in hockey. Jim Rutherford has cancelled the Hurricanes’ morning skates, and you wonder how long before it becomes optional for most teams. So, without a real practice, does MacT make the change today?
Logic states he will keep the lines together tonight in Colorado. How ironic is it that after years of being accused of the MacBlender, he has kept his lines pretty much intact this year? I say it’s time to put the blender to use.
Toss some raw eggs, a banana, strawberries, orange juice and whey powder in and see what comes out. That sounds gross, but really it’s a great morning shake.
For me there are two options:
Penner or Nilsson. Penner worked well with the two Hs last season so that’s an easy call, but Nilsson is the most intriguing. He has the speed, skill and smarts to play with Hemsky. He is dynamic and has been one of the best forwards so far this season.
Do I think that combination plays together tonight? Not a chance, but I think the potential of Nilsson and Hemsky could be devastating. At some point this season, they should play together, and when they do, it should produce instant results.
Your best player doesn’t have to be on every night to win, but Hemsky needs to start showing up more often if the Oil hope to keep winning.
—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca