GDB 73: Hemsky's 'outburst' nothing to worry about

Jason Gregor
March 24 2009 02:20PM

hemskylockerroom

With ten games to go and sitting somewhat comfortably in 7th place, you would think life is grand yet everything is not rosy in Oilerville.

The Oilers best player is unhappy.

Ales Hemsky told Dan Barnes, “I’m just trying to do exactly what they want. I’m becoming a checker. We’re just doing what we have to do to win games. I’m not complaining. I just don’t feel as important as I did before when they were riding me.”

I spoke with Hemsky today and he reiterated that he is more frustrated than complaining.

“I was a little down. I want to play better and help the team make the playoffs. This is not a time to feel sorry for yourself. I have to focus on the last ten games and be better.

“I don’t feel that everything is right. Every player wants to be used more, that is why you play hockey. I don’t regret saying it. That is how I felt and I said it, but the bottom line is now is not the time for me to feel bad about my game.”

It might not be the best time to feel bad about your game, but I think it was the best time to voice his displeasure in how he is being used. For a long time you got the sense that Hemsky was happy being a good player, but that greatness wasn’t his main focus.

I wrote earlier this year that after a dominating performance v. Columbus that Hemsky was becoming great.

I spoke to him after that game and for the first time I felt he wanted to be great, and realized how much effort and hard work it would take. Hemsky’s skill set is top ten in the world, but his consistency and overall drive wasn’t.

His comments today and yesterday show me he wants to be that go-to-guy now, and rather than worry that he wants out, the organization should embrace his new attitude and channel it onto the ice.

His coach wasn’t that concerned.

“I find that players that are a little more difficult to manage, I’d rather have the difficulty managing players that will go play the game the hard way and go to the tough areas, than a guy who is super easy to manage and sometimes don’t go to those tough areas.

“I respect the way he plays. Character to me is how you react in certain situations on the ice. I’m totally supportive of the way he plays the game, and with the toughness that he plays the game.

“I’m not managing his ice time any differently lately. The last guy I really worry about confidence wise is him, because he is so skilled. He has been playing fine in my estimation. The way he has started the last few games, he has been outstanding. He hasn’t got anything offensively to show for it, but he has been playing fine.

“You look back after you hear the comments about the way he has been used, and I did sit him down in the Colorado game when we were up 7-1, and probably in hindsight maybe that should have been the time to play him, but I didn’t see him lacking confidence because he is still making plays.

“I support the player. I’ve had him for seven years. I understand where the player is coming from. These comments could be malicious at times, but I really don’t view it that way with him. You may think I’m just saying that because he is a good player and I’ve got to have a good relationship with my best player, but I’m not. I like the player and I always have. I owe him a lot, and he will have my support in this situation.”

So where do they go from here?

Hemsky and MacTavish had a conversation early in the year when Hemsky was struggling and he told the young Czech to just relax, and not worry about his stats because they would come. That convo happened before the Philly game, and then Hemsky went out and scored two highlight reel goals.

They spoke yesterday according to MacTavish and he stated it was good chat, and that he expects Hemsky to probably score tonight.

It is obvious that Hemsky is frustrated, and it is obvious the coach respects his game, but is it an easy situation to resolve? Yes. Play him more. Double shift him five-on-five, let him play the full two minutes on the PP if he wants.

I’m not sure how many of you have noticed, but Hemsky has gone down to block shots three times in the past two weeks. I asked him about it, and he said he admitted that for the first time he would be interested in a few PK shifts here and there.

Hemsky finally wants to be the guy. Now it is up to the coach to give him more responsibility.

Fourth line

Marc Pouliot draws in tonight for MacIntyre, and the Colossal Fossil starts again. Former Oiler Ty Conklin gets the nod for the Wings. Conklin came to Detroit to be the back up, but with Osgood’s season-long struggles continuing, Conklin might be their guy come playoff time.

Conklin is 24-9-2 with a 2.44 GAA and .911 SV%, compared to Osgood who is 24-6-7 with an ugly 3.18 GAA and woeful .884 SV%.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Rival
March 24 2009, 12:46PM
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I can't wait till this team has a new friggin coach. When is enough is enough with this guy?

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#2 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 12:47PM
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Nice to get a little perspective.

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#3 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:48PM
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"Double shift him five-on-five, let him play the full two minutes on the PP if he wants."

So I'm not the only dumb one...

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#4 shakey
March 24 2009, 12:48PM
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“I support the player. I’ve had him for seven years. I understand where the player is coming from. You may think I’m just saying that because he is a good player and I’ve got to have a good relationship with my best player, but I’m not. I like the player and I always have."

Would it kill MacT to refer to him by name? I know I'm nit-picking but this just reeks of arrogance.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:51PM
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Jason, thanks for reiterating that this isn't that big of a deal. <a href="http://www.oilersnation.com/2009/03/the-hemsky-quote-everyone-is-talking-about/">People seem nervous.

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#6 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 12:52PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

“Double shift him five-on-five, let him play the full two minutes on the PP if he wants.” So I’m not the only dumb one…

It's one thing to say things like that, but it's just not reality.

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#7 sittingatmydesk
March 24 2009, 12:53PM
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this is where MacT has to ride hemskey, he wants it, he wants to be the guy, he wants to put the team on his shoulder....give it to him, let him loose.... "LET THE HEMMER LOOSE"

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#8 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:56PM
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Ales has set the bar now and it's up to him to take what's given to him and run with it.

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#9 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 12:58PM
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@ shakey:

I was thinking the same way. He cant even say Ales or Hemmer. What do you suppose that means?

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#10 Tombo
March 24 2009, 01:00PM
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Need an offensive minded coach for offensive minded players.

FMNF

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#11 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:04PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ shakey: I was thinking the same way. He cant even say Ales or Hemmer. What do you suppose that means?

~He's probably lost the room. Isn't that the logical conclusion.~

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#12 Chaz
March 24 2009, 01:05PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I don't see this as people being nervous. Really, what is there to be nervous about? Stretch drives like this with the playoffs hanging in the balance is old hat to Oiler fans.

I think if anything, this has garnered a lot of attention because now the best player on the team is moaning about the coach just like we in the blogoshere have been for a long time. Mac T does not promote offense and offensively gifted players have a difficult time playing for him. If this wasn't indisputible before, I think it is now. Especially when it comes from someone as soft-spoken as Hemmer.

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#13 shakey
March 24 2009, 01:07PM
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@ Archaeologuy: Arch...I'm not a MacT fan so my answer will always be slanted when it comes to him but I just see him thinking he is so much smarter than everyone else and when asked to back it up he gets snotty and defensive. He justs rubs me the wrong way. He's not as sarcastic as Ron Wilson but he always seems like he's 'doing us a favor' by talking at all.

I did mention I'm not a fan of him right?

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#14 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:08PM
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Tombo wrote:

Need an offensive minded coach for offensive minded players. FMNF

~As the Sutter brothers have proven time and time again.~

Do you know who was a heck of an offensive player? Jacques Lemaire. Seriously.

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#15 jdrevenge
March 24 2009, 01:09PM
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Good to see from the Hemmer.

Look at Ozzies stats!!! Man it would be nice to be able to skate a sht goalie and still come away with a sweet winning percentage...

When was the last time Conks played a playoff game??? ;)

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#16 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:11PM
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Chaz wrote:

Mac T does not promote offense and offensively gifted players have a difficult time playing for him. If this wasn’t indisputible before, I think it is now. Especially when it comes from someone as soft-spoken as Hemmer.

~Yeah, Hemsky's really struggled under MacTavish.~

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#17 Colin-FMNF
March 24 2009, 01:11PM
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Oh, It's excellent that he wants to be the guy, will MacT let him be the guy is the question.

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#18 lego
March 24 2009, 01:14PM
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shakey wrote:

“I support the player. I’ve had him for seven years. I understand where the player is coming from. You may think I’m just saying that because he is a good player and I’ve got to have a good relationship with my best player, but I’m not. I like the player and I always have.” Would it kill MacT to refer to him by name? I know I’m nit-picking but this just reeks of arrogance.

The end of the quote is probably missing:

"Oh you meant Hemsky... I thought we were talking about Reddox."

They both have red hair so MacT tends to get them confused, as evidenced by Liam's first line stint.

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#19 Colin-FMNF
March 24 2009, 01:17PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

~Yeah, Hemsky’s really struggled under MacTavish.~

He hasn't struggled, but despite the skill he's never quite taken the next step, that may be MacTs fault, it may be Hemsky's, only one way to find out and I think the potential rewards are worth the "risk".

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#20 Chaz
March 24 2009, 01:19PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: He hasn't struggled, but I also don't think he's reached his potential.

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#21 swany
March 24 2009, 01:20PM
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Play him on the first line and every second shift put him in for MAP on the fourth line with Penner, and Brods 22-25 min a night he wants the responsiblity let him have it, it's nice to hear Hemmer wants the ball now give it to him.

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#22 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 01:23PM
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@ shakey: I'm not a fan either. I thought he was getting fired 5 years ago and then somehow he weaseled a paycheck out of the fan's pockets.

@ Jonathan Willis: Why the sarcasm? He lost that room long ago, it's clear as day. A monkey could have got the same effort from a group of professional athletes.

And do you really think Hemsky has reached his full potential under MacStifle?

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#23 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 01:25PM
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@ lego: Hilarious!

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#24 baggedmilk
March 24 2009, 01:25PM
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Willis is just very much pro-MacTavish, so I don't blame him for defending MacT.

One of Hemsky's problems this year is that he's the only one producing on that line. Rotating left winger, Horcoff playing too many minutes, Hemsky potentially not getting enough minutes...

We all want him to be the star player that he is and now he's speaking his mind. Good for him. Hemsky hasn't said a word since he's been an Oiler and when he finally does everyone is on him.

Life in the fish bowl my friends. It's still the winters in Edmonton that is the reason players don't want to play here right?

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#25 Phearless Phred
March 24 2009, 01:28PM
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I do not like the comment "sitting somewhat comfortably", not one bit. I do not feel comfortable in the 7th spot right now with 5 teams gunning for us.

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#26 OilW30
March 24 2009, 01:29PM
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I noticed the shot blocks too. I couldn't believe it! I say let him have at it. Give him whatever ice tme he wants.

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#27 Ender the Dragon
March 24 2009, 01:36PM
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@ shakey: @ Archaeologuy:

I think MacT phrased it just about right. While he could have thrown out a 'Hemsky' once for effect, he still has to be careful for a couple of reasons.

1) He doesn't want to blur the lines between his role as coach and Hemsky's role as player. Salaries aside, it's still not a democracy; the coach calls the shots, as it should be.

2) MacT doesn't want the other players to think Ales is getting special treatment. If MacT uses Hemsky's name in too-familiar a fashion (especially referring to a player's first name after an outburst like this), it could promote the idea that favoritism is at play.

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#28 Peter Pan
March 24 2009, 01:43PM
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Hemsky plays with Horcoff. End of discussion.

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#29 Greg MC
March 24 2009, 01:46PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Archaeologuy wrote: @ shakey: I was thinking the same way. He cant even say Ales or Hemmer. What do you suppose that means? ~He’s probably lost the room. Isn’t that the logical conclusion.~

I can't remember Ales ever speaking out this way. ~I think we should give MacT a lifetime contract~

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#30 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:50PM
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I use the sarcasm for ~MacT has lost the room~ because there are plenty of reasons to pick on MacTavish's performance this season without resorting to something for which there is no tangible evidence.

Springfield sucks far worse than Edmonton this season. Yet, when Truitt was fired the players to a man praised him.

In other words performance doesn't automatically reflect how a team is getting along with it's coach.

Or to put it logically: - Some coaches are disliked by their teams - Some teams who dislike their coaches do badly - It does not follow that doing badly=team disliking their coach

Wanna pick on MacTavish for playing Smid at LW? Me too. But I'm not going to attack him with something that a) I can't prove and b) may or may not be the reason for the team's performance.

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#31 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 01:52PM
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Tombo wrote:

Need an offensive minded coach for offensive minded players. FMNF

Like Gretz?

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#32 BURKEtheTURD
March 24 2009, 01:55PM
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I hope this is a turning point, one we can look back and say this is where Ales stepped up, he decided to put the team on his back and carry them into the playoffs. Maybe it will even spark some vets to step it up as they so need to do

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#33 I'm a Scientist!
March 24 2009, 01:55PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Like Gretz?

PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC

*puts a hermetically seal picture of Britney Spears in the mail for Wayne - That is the new price right?*

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#34 Joey Moss
March 24 2009, 01:55PM
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Evidently the Oil would rather keep a lame duck coach and piss of their best player instead of cutting bait with the mouth-breathing idiot MacT. What kind of message does this send to other players around the league? When the top line forward is complaining that he is being used as a checker do you really think Marion Hossa will want to come here for that same treatment?

This reminds me very much of Kariya's last year in Anahiem. He became a checker rather than a scorer. Sure they got to the finals that year (on a hot goalie) but it cost them their franchise player in the process.

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#35 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 01:56PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I use the sarcasm for ~MacT has lost the room~ because there are plenty of reasons to pick on MacTavish’s performance this season without resorting to something for which there is no tangible evidence. Springfield sucks far worse than Edmonton this season. Yet, when Truitt was fired the players to a man praised him. In other words performance doesn’t automatically reflect how a team is getting along with it’s coach. Or to put it logically: - Some coaches are disliked by their teams - Some teams who dislike their coaches do badly - It does not follow that doing badly=team disliking their coach Wanna pick on MacTavish for playing Smid at LW? Me too. But I’m not going to attack him with something that a) I can’t prove and b) may or may not be the reason for the team’s performance.

Pardy played the wing a few games ago as well ;)

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#36 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 01:58PM
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Joey Moss wrote:

Evidently the Oil would rather keep a lame duck coach and piss of their best player instead of cutting bait with the mouth-breathing idiot MacT. What kind of message does this send to other players around the league? When the top line forward is complaining that he is being used as a checker do you really think Marion Hossa will want to come here for that same treatment? This reminds me very much of Kariya’s last year in Anahiem. He became a checker rather than a scorer. Sure they got to the finals that year (on a hot goalie) but it cost them their franchise player in the process.

Theirs a huge difference between asking a guy to play responsible and turning him into a "checker"

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#37 Wanye Gretz
March 24 2009, 02:03PM
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@ I'm a Scientist!:

Am I being awarded the copyright on blind panic??

Sweet.

That will be one quarter please.

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#38 nutsandgum
March 24 2009, 02:07PM
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This is the GDB now? w00t.

It's Game Day! *quarter to Smokin' Ray*

And I'm going!!

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#39 I'm a Scientist!
March 24 2009, 02:08PM
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@ Wanye Gretz: 25 cents vs a picture of Britney? I am not sure which is worth more but OK.

*Snags the hermetically sealed picture of Britney out of the inbox and replaces it with an shiney 1978 quarter*

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#40 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 02:08PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I respect the desire not to attack the things you cant prove, although i disagree. Darwin couldnt prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was right about Evolution, but he stood by it. He was proven right later.

I dont think the issue of losing a room is one of being liked or disliked. It's about getting the players to do what you want. Obviously Hemsky is upset about his role. I think that's proof of a disconnect between player and coach. Ergo, a loss of the room. MacT's message is being lost on Hemsky, he isnt buying in. How many others feel the same way but arent as secure as Hemsky? Do you think Nilsson or Penner could say the same thing?

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#41 Word
March 24 2009, 02:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Tombo wrote: Need an offensive minded coach for offensive minded players. FMNF ~As the Sutter brothers have proven time and time again.~ Do you know who was a heck of an offensive player? Jacques Lemaire. Seriously.

Being an offensive minded coach doesn't have to mean he was an offensive superstar when he played. It means his style of coaching needs to be offensive.

The square peg round hole philosophy won't work anymore. Craggy-Mac is a great guy at coaching talentless teams. He did nice work when the Oilers skated around like a low-budget Teddy Ruxpin ice-capades starring Todd Marchant as Newton Gimmick and Chad Kilger as the Whooly-Mother-F@#&in-Whatsit. But this is the era of the pharma grade Oilers.

I think Coach should move to a struggling market and bring them up to being a 9th-place contender. He could increase the hockey profile by being quotable and wearing custom cut Sam Abouhassan suits.

The old style of coach is important where hockey currently isn't. As for Edmonton? They owe us a winner.

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#42 Quain
March 24 2009, 02:10PM
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Last I checked Willis wanted MacT fired so I'm going to say calling him Pro-MacT is somewhere between wrong and odd.

On Hemsky reaching his full potential: I would say he hasn't, only because he's 25. The road split awhile ago for Hemsky and he chose (or MacT chose for him) to become a Datsyuk type rather than a Briere type (in terms of defensive commitment, rather than relative skill). So, if you're going to measure his potential in terms of what number of points he could score if he completely forgot where the defensive zone is, then yeah, he'll never reach his potential... but I sure prefer the version of him that is a plus player against all stars.

Now we just need a powerplay for him to feast on and that's where MacT (or whichever assistant) is failing hard.

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#43 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 02:12PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: I respect the desire not to attack the things you cant prove, although i disagree. Darwin couldnt prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was right about Evolution, but he stood by it. He was proven right later. I dont think the issue of losing a room is one of being liked or disliked. It’s about getting the players to do what you want. Obviously Hemsky is upset about his role. I think that’s proof of a disconnect between player and coach. Ergo, a loss of the room. MacT’s message is being lost on Hemsky, he isnt buying in. How many others feel the same way but arent as secure as Hemsky? Do you think Nilsson or Penner could say the same thing?

Don't you think Tambs would know long before we would if he really has lost the room? Don't you think something would have been done?

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#44 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 02:13PM
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#45 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 02:13PM
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@ Ogden Brother: When you have a question for a ventriliquist do you ask the dummy or the man with his hand in the puppet?

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#46 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 02:14PM
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Quain wrote:

Last I checked Willis wanted MacT fired so I’m going to say calling him Pro-MacT is somewhere between wrong and odd.

Although in fairness I still like MacTavish; I just think his performance has been so off that it's time for him to go.

I'm pro-Mact in the sense that I don't think he's the useless embarrassment that others do.

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#47 Slurve
March 24 2009, 02:17PM
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Good work on the interviews. Well put together from MacT's perspective. I like how MacT came out and was honest and respectful in his assessment of Hemsky's character and play. I guess it goes to show that these issues do come up and here is a fine example of how mutually respectful coach and player should resolve these kinds of situation. That is through respectful and professional dialogues. I have more respect for MacT in handling contentious issues in such a fashion than verbally assaulting players (ex. Schremp and Penner).

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#48 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 02:24PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I get that article, it is well written. I dont contend that the players dont like MacT or even that theyve lost respect for him as a coach. But i suggest that neither liking nor disliking have anything to do with losing the room. I just dont think his message speaks to the room. However, If the club is following the coach's desires to a T and they are still this bad then it's even more reason to fire the guy. But this doesnt have to turn into a trench war of opinions. So like a French general, I will surrender.

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#49 george
March 24 2009, 02:31PM
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Yeah, that's great news. Mac-T is trying to make a grinder out of one the most gifted offensive players in the league. Sure, that's gonna really help us land other free agent players who - if they're smart - won't come within 100 miles of Edmonton. So long Hossa. Jagr. Give me a break. Mr.Katz, please do the honarable thing and fire his a**. When your star player is complaining about being a checker you know it's time for a change. Just so tired about hearing about player after player underperforming because of Mac-T's warped logic. The coach is a cancer in the room. Get rid of him! Enough already!

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#50 swany
March 24 2009, 02:58PM
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Is Hemmer really calling for Mact's head OR is he telling his coach that HE wants to be the guy? To me Hemmer signed a long term contract while playing for this coach, he has said he loves it here. He also said at the start of the year that he wants to be a superstar, well he is doing what other superstars do telling everyone he wants to be the main guy, now it's up to Mact play the shit out of him 22-25 min a night. Hemmer said they are turning me into a checker, then states he would like sometime on the PK what checkers do, I feel Hemmer is frustrated with the lack of help on his line, how many times can you set up Wiffcough and see a swing and a miss before it gets to you. I have stated it on RB's blogs before Hemmer took less money so the team could get a star LW to help him and they let him down (I do believe PattyO could work given time). Hemmers comments make me feel he is going on a run Mact will turn him loose to a point watch tonight Hemmer with his first hattie.

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