October 17 2009 11:07AM
Trade Ales Hemsky? That's crazy talk... isn't it?
I've long thought so, bemoaning the inclination of Edmonton Oilers fans to lament what Hemsky isn't instead of appreciating him for what he is -- a ridiculously talented and creative player -- but debate whether he should be dealt persists.
That debate has picked up steam through the first seven games this season as Hemsky, despite a decent start, has sometimes appeared disinterested and, for those who believe in body language, sullen and unhappy. We don't know that to be so, but some people think it.
There was a buzz in the rink Friday when Hemsky didn't take the morning skate with the Oilers at Rexall Place. Didn't feel like skating? In the back room asking GM Steve Tambellini for a trade?
It turned out Hemsky wasn't feeling well and ended up being scratched for a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. A fever, coach Pat Quinn said. Hmm, fever, we all nodded. OK. Sick and tired of Edmonton?
Sorry, that just slipped out.
Better than good?
What seems to frustrate the Trade Hemsky contingent is that he's a very good player who many think should be great. He's a highlight reel waiting to happen, but some argue that when you add up the numbers, he's style over substance. Why can't Hemsky be balls-out all the time instead of only when he feels like it? Where is the "next level" we keep hearing about?
Back on Aug. 13 I wrote:
"All I know, as Hemsky celebrates his 26th birthday in the Czech Republic after a summer of tooling around in his Ferrari, is he's a magnificent talent and the best player the Oilers have by a fair margin. For my money, even if Hemsky doesn't "get better," he's not going anywhere during the term of this contract.
"Instead of bitching about what Hemsky isn't, fans should be applauding what he is. That, and demanding that GM Steve Tambellini get the birthday boy some help."
I'm not ready to come off that stance just yet, but I've got to admit that I haven't liked what I've seen from Hemsky this season. Even taking into account his laid-back and sometimes stand-offish personality, he seems somewhat detached and disconnected. Let me make it clear, again, I don't know that to be the case. Appearances can be misleading.
As good as it gets?
A big part of the argument for keeping Hemsky is that his $4.1 million cap hit ($4.4 million salary this season) is a bargain. I'm one of the people who has made that argument.
It's interesting, though, to take a look at Hemsky in comparison to Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano, both of whom were deemed expendable enough to be packaged in the Dany Heatley deal with Ottawa that came undone this summer.
Hemsky's cap hit has long been lauded as one of the better, if not the best, contract of Kevin Lowe's tenure as GM. Penner's deal, on the other hand, has been widely criticized as one of the worst.
Until his hot start this season, PDP had been characterized by many as a lazy, out-of-shape underachiever after he agreed to a five-year offer sheet worth $21.25 million. His cap hit is $4.25 million.
Cogliano, meanwhile, is the low-rent guy of the threesome with a salary of $850,000 in the third and final year of his entry level contract. He's the youngest of the three.
Fun with numbers
I've always argued statistics on their own can be misleading, especially when cherry-picked to support a point. Let me do exactly that with some simple boxcars. It's food for thought, even taken with a grain of salt.
Statistics listed are from the start of the 2007-08 season through the first seven games this season.
- Hemsky is the runaway leader in points with 142. Penner is next with 93 and Cogliano is third with 88.
- Penner has scored 45 goals. Hemsky has 44 and Cogliano 38.
- Penner and Cogliano have scored nine game-winning goals. Hemsky has scored four game-winning goals.
- Hemsky's average ice time in the previous two seasons was 18:34 and 18:38. Penner averaged 17:12 and 15:22. Cogliano attained his numbers averaging 13:39 and 14:24.
That's far from a comprehensive statistical analysis, but it's interesting how these particular numbers jibe with the perception Hemsky is a bargain and Penner, until this season, has been a dog. Speaking strictly in terms of bang-for-the-buck using these numbers, Cogliano is the real bargain, no?
You tell me
For those of you who, for whatever reason, think Hemsky should be traded, I'd like to know who you think he should be traded for and why based on team needs and, of course, keeping in mind the salary cap.
Do you move him for another right winger in a straight swap? Do you trade him for a centre? And, if you do, who moves where? A left winger?
And, please, resist the urge to even think of bringing up Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the like for Hemsky and spare parts.
On the flipside, if you're in the camp that thinks Hemsky remains a player to build around and are of the mind he needs a centre or left winger to take him to that obviously elusive "next level," tell me who can help get the job done. And who from the current roster do you trade to get that player?
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.