Hemmertime (to go): what say you?

Robin Brownlee
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.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#151 Evan
October 19 2009, 12:33PM
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I don't mind the whole arguement that results in Cogliano being a steal player, but who says we can't have a few of them. Hemsky is a steal for the fact that he is always close to a point per game and he can create offense from anywhere.

"He is NOT comparable to Spezza (Brophy is an idiot)"

Really? Ok maybe he isn't quite up to Spezza but with this cap hit Hemsky has I'd rather have him over the huge spezza contract. Spezza has played most of his career with Heatley and Alffredson and I think if the Heatley contract actually would have gone through you would have seen a special season from hemsky. However, as good as a left winger would have been, it is the centre position where we lack. How come everyone in the lineup for the past 2 years has been jumbled around except Hemsky Horcoff? I mean this really has not proved to be a deadly combo. (well maybe for a flash while horcoff was outplaying his potential for 50 games...) Grabbing a player like Marlaue in a deal that would send Horcoff +... would be one I'd like to see. Especially if San Jose keeps struggling because of the rest of the lines need to be more shutdown.

And since the above will not happen, can we please put Horcoff, Ethan and Cogs together which I think could end up being one of the best shut down lines in the league together? I mean, there are other combinations, but just try it already.

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#152 Archaeologuy
October 19 2009, 12:40PM
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BigE57 wrote:

I don't know if I were Ales Hemsky Iwould be looking at Dustin Penner and the success he has had so far this year not playing with the 1st line center. I know Horcoff had a couple of decent offensive years playing alongside Hemsky but since the shoulder injury Horcoffs offensive seems to have tailed off. You can attribute that to some of the responsibilites as a defensive forward, pk and faceoff guy, but and I'm no expert here by any stretch but all I've seen from Horcoff offensively this year is him stopping on the hash marks to the left of the goalie and waiting for his one timer pass...The Oilers need more out of their first line center. I don't think Hemsky is the problem here.

I kept saying last year that Horc wasnt the same guy as he was prior to the shoulder injury, but everyone pretended that it was too early to make that call. I'm hoping this is the year that people wise up and start to question how effective Horcoff can be in the #1 spot.

I dont care if he's wonderful defensively, he can do that on the 2nd or 3rd line. If the guy is playing as the #1 center he should be able to do more than play defensively.

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#153 rindog
October 19 2009, 02:02PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Hemsky 5 points in 6 games and hasn't started to play yet. Not bad numbers for someone who hasn't shown up yet.

See post #131...

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#154 Hippy
October 19 2009, 02:47PM
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I think the argument should stop after you realize what Hemmer gets paid....If he was making 1.5-2mil more...then by all means let the talk start. But for what we pay him...I'm fine with damn near a point per game. And if he EVER gets an actual first line center and winger to play with...I would be very close to bet a paycheck on him gettin 85+ points.

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#155 Senator Theo
October 19 2009, 03:22PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Of the possible centers on this team, would the closest thing to Horcoff be O'Sullivan? Defensively reliable, good pk guy, kind of a hard-luck shooter.

So... is he defensively responsible enough, yet offensively creative enough to play with Hemsky? Could that free Horcoff up to play a key 2nd line scoring/shut-down role?

Comrie-O'Sullivan-Hemsky

Penner-Horcoff-Cogliano

Jacques-Brule-Stortini

Moreau-Gagner-Stone

I love the idea of trying out Sully on the first line. he loves to shoot, and has ahown chemistry with Comrie.

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#156 Lane
October 19 2009, 06:33PM
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Oil cant be looking for the quick fix anymore propping up a mediocre team with overpaid mediocre players... time to tank and rebuild through the draft. Its the best way to get to the top. Maybe a Taylor Hall is what we need to get started in the right direction. A boring concept compared to a blockbuster trade but it works.

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#157 Andrew
October 19 2009, 08:00PM
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There is talk of Nathan Horton being shopped about in Florida. It makes sense for Florida to try and acquire a playmaker for David Booth as Booth and Horton are the same type of player and haven't looked good on a line this year as both drive the net but have no dangler to put the puck to the net. Horton would give us size and speed down the wing. The line of Gagner, Penner, and Horton looks good to me as Gagner's hands are as soft as Hemsky's, Hemsky just flat out is one of the top five puck danglers in the league. It's just too bad his Hockey IQ doesn't match his talent. Also their salaries are almost exactly the same as each player is about a 4.1M cap hit.

I have no problem with Hemsky's numbers but more often then not he doesn't make the players around him better and he doesn't affect the way his linemates play. Too often he does the whole I'm going to take the puck down myself against five defenders. He leaves all his linemates behind and it results in a dead play. Watch him during the course of a game and 90% of his rushes are like this. It's just because he is so talented that the other 10% results in goals or great chances. So yes he makes enough good plays a year to be a 65-70 point player, which isn't terrible, but hockey is more than numbers and he seems too intent on trying to do everything himself in Edmonton.

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#158 zaitch
October 20 2009, 12:52AM
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i vote getting rid of horcoff. Yes i know he is the only player that can win a draw, one of the few players that can play both ends of the rink, but why pay someone to do that for 7mill or however much it is? not like he is going to get over 55 points. I say waivers at the end of the season, as he's untradeable because of his retarded salary.

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#159 Death Metal Nightmare
October 20 2009, 02:58AM
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trading Hemsky is one of the stupidest goddamn things ive ever heard. fans have such selective, herd type mentalities that it boggles me to no end.

why would you trade away, and lose the trade more than likely, a "1st line" player - the type of player these FANS WHINE about not having every single year...

but oh wait! theres early success for a second line with Penner on it so its TIME to throw Hemsky out and let THAT line take on the REAL TOP PAIRINGS in the league and the shut down forwards. HOORAY FOR MORONS - CAN I SKIP TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE?

sorry, but the JFJ experiment as a top line player has been long done. the dude does NOT have enough skill to help Hemsky and Horcoff. thats the key that people are forgetting... Hemsky and Horcoff as a "duo" isnt a duo at all. theyre only functional when they have a legit third man with some skill and size and grit. the third player in the trinity needs to be legit enough in either size, speed and above all finish - to help "balance" the Horcoff and Hemsky. thinking Hemsky should "stir the drink" of the offense is absurd. he's a nice player but frankly, he is way too rollerhockey based in his approach to ever be elite.

take for example when Smyth was on the Oilers. you didnt focus, or single out, any one player on the line and expect them to carry it. they all worked as a trinity.

not to mention, a lot of this has to do with personnel. the Oilers management is at fault for wasting Hemsky's prime contract - and if they trade him off because of their mismanagement of a Top Line player that everyone whines over non-stop id be willing to just flip this organization off for good and move on.

a lot of the fans perspective has to do with almost a mild form of xenophobia too. "hes foreign and doesnt talk much. hes starting to look mad - TRADE HIM." theres like this expendable sort of atmosphere that lurks in the media and on these internet forums for non-North American players if they dont meet expectations... but if its a Canada Boy - everything is forgiven. "poor Sam... he eats wang for 60 games a season. its OK. he was the hero of the Super Lame Series."

id like to see the MANAGEMENT work their BUTTS OFF to get a real LWer on this team to balance out the top line, that takes on TOP PAIRINGS and usually TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARDS. its hurting HORCOFF just as much but he always gets the pass. "HE LIFTS WEIGHTS AND TAKES A MEAN FACEOFF! HE HAS THE HANDS OF FRANKENSTEIN AND THE SHOT OF A BETWEEN-PERIODS-CENTER-ICE-SHOOTING-CONTEST WOMAN"

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