The Hemsky Quote Everyone Is Talking About

Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009 09:33AM

Hemsky

If you’ve missed it, there’s a story in the Calgary Herald from yesterday where Ales Hemsky publicly complains about the way he has been handled.

Dan Barnes, for my money the best sports columnist in Edmonton, writes the piece and does his best to soften Hemsky’s complaints, but here’s the money quote:

"I'm just trying to do exactly what they want. I'm becoming a checker," he said with obvious displeasure after Monday's practice. "We're just doing what we have to do to win games. I'm not complaining. It's important to win the games. I just don't feel as important as I did before when they were riding me. I don't feel they use me as much as they did before. If they don't give me the confidence or trust me, I will never be playing the way I was before, the way they want. I'm just saying I don't care about points. I know I didn't play my best hockey. I can be better and I know they will need me. But they have got to show me they need me. Ride me. It's 10 games. I will feel important and I will get better every game."

The responses have been about what you would expect. The vast majority of people seem to think that either a) Hemsky’s being a big baby, or b) Craig MacTavish just moved much, much closer to the chopping block.

Personally, I’m not convinced it’s that big of a deal. Do a quick Google search for “unhappy ice time” if you don’t believe me. There are pages and pages of players complaining about their ice-time -- it happens.

At the same time this isn’t a complete non-story either. Hemsky’s a star player, and there’s an obvious disagreement between him and MacTavish over his exact role. Hemsky feels that he deserves more ice-time, and I’m not at all convinced he’s wrong, although he hasn’t really earned a heavy workload this last little while.

The bottom line though is that it isn’t all that uncommon for a hockey player -- even one as notable as Hemsky -- being unhappy with the ice-time that the coach is giving him. So don’t expect this quote to result in much more than a talk between the coach and the star, and perhaps a few extra shifts for Hemsky; that’s about all it warrants. And as for the notion that Hemsky’s being petulant or whiny – isn’t a star player who wants to play more a good thing? While Hemsky may not have handled things ideally, the root motive -- a desire to play a bigger and better role -- is only a positive for this team.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:25PM
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lego wrote:

MacT said it himself earlier this year that “defense wins”. Well the Minnesota Mild are hands down the best defensive team in the league but WTF have they ever won?

Yeah, 'cause those New Jersey Devils never went anywhere with defense. Or Ken Hitchcock's Stars. Or, while we're at it, Mike Babcock's Red Wings.

Defense=clearly irrelevant to winning.

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#52 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 12:27PM
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roughneck wrote:

wow.. i am confused.. am I now obligated to boo the turnovers or still sit quietly patiently awaiting the highlight reel goal that justifies them?

what else is supposed to happen? the breakouts are designed to give Hemsky the puck way up the ice while his linemates are lagging behind. When Hemmer tries to dipsy through 3 guys it's because those defenders dont have to be concerned about the rest of the forwards on the ice.

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#53 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 12:27PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

I think it’s more common for a D-man to do it. I know Pronger does it or at least used to do it.

The highest PP TOI in the league for Dmen (20+ games played) is Dion Phaneuf at 5:29 min/game... I don't know how much time Cal spends on the PP every game, but I'll bet it's more then 5:29 min.

As to the "he should be on the ice 23-25 min/night" commen, their isn't a forward in the league that plays 23+ min (on avg) per night. Of the 27 forwards that play more then 20/night (min 20 games) only 5 of them are playing less then a min of PK.

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#54 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:28PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

Let the pluggers plug and let the players play.

Or, and go ahead and call me crazy for tossing this out there...

Let our stars score more than their stars, and let our pluggers score more than their pluggers.

Hockey, for the record, isn't split into offense and defense. In any given hockey game, offensive players spend time in the defensive zone and defensive players spend time in the offensive zone.

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#55 yo
March 24 2009, 12:28PM
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There are no surprises for me in this article. I believe MacT is at a certain level trying to turn everybody on the team into himself. Enough said.

What is not particularly flattering to Hemsky is the manner in which he coughs up the puck in the worst of circumstances resulting in scoring chances going into the Oiler zone. I really don't like his habit of throwing up his hands when he turns over the puck and coasts to the bench. That is prima dona nonsense to me. He has a rather limited set of tactics and he has been thoroughly scouted on those moves. Such as circling the net on the vast majority of chances and standing still with his backside stapled to the half boards on the power play. He is likely one of the all-times greats one on one. He is often a buzz killer though on the PP because he loses the puck quite often. There are several areas where he could and should shore up his act.

My general response is fire MacT!! He either has no answer for dealing with talent or the team is worn out with his repetitive and boring practices. Other than specific personnel the Oilers power play, is to the best of my recollection unchanged for the last 8 yrs. When the horses the Oilers do have are allowed to run they are capable of winning.

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#56 Slurve
March 24 2009, 12:32PM
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I wondered if Hemsky and the like turned the puck over more often than not (lately) is because they are forced to play a different style than they are used to -more defensively. When I am not busy quarterbacking from my armchair I have always criticized MacT's style of coaching as being too low risk with less offense for the sake of safe and sound defense. From watching MacT slow fall from grace, it seemed he is frustrated and under a lot of pressure and this is reflected in his answers during interviews. He seemed to be a control freak and an unforgiving disciplinarian. I think MacT has to change his philosophy and approach to his style of coaching and take advantage of all the offensively talanted & skilled players they have. What is the use to draft or trade for these players and turn them into defensively minded Mactavishes.

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#57 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:33PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Those teams had league allstars and future hall of famers so to say they won because of their defensive systems is a little far fetched for me.

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#58 lego
March 24 2009, 12:33PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yeah, ’cause those New Jersey Devils never went anywhere with defense. Or Ken Hitchcock’s Stars. Or, while we’re at it, Mike Babcock’s Red Wings. Defense=clearly irrelevant to winning.

All those teams had a good mix of offense and defense, Minnesota tries to do it all with defense and it hasn't worked so far.

Unfortunately MacT has chosen to follow the Minnesota model and it has killed the once great thing known as "Oiler's Hockey". For that crime there is no pardon.

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#59 David S
March 24 2009, 12:35PM
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Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

Oh wait, how about this Hemsky, how about you score some freaking goals in the 18 minutes of ice time you have.

You know, it's not often I agree with Jack, but this time he hits it outta the park.

I have no doubt MacT would turn Hemsky loose if the guy did what he's supposed to do - you know - score. I think the problem is two-fold. Hemsky has NOT played like a guy you can lean on and Whiffcoff is being beat into the ground with too many assignments, making him the Oilers rented mule of 09. I can't remember how many sure things he's missed off of a pass from Hemsky. His primary goal converter is burned out.

Either way. You want to be the star, then how about playing like a star?

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#60 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:36PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Hockey, to me anyway, is about players filling roles. Why isn't Horcoff producing? He is expected to contribute offensively yet he struggles. Why do you, JW, think this is? (sorry to stray off topic)

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#61 Ogden Brother
March 24 2009, 12:36PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Those teams had league allstars and future hall of famers so to say they won because of their defensive systems is a little far fetched for me.

Don't you think a team that doesn't have (alot) of allstars should be more worried about defense then a team that does?

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#62 nutsandgum
March 24 2009, 12:36PM
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I was just listening to the new Depeche Mode song on Sonic - it's called Wrong. I think they wrote it about this year's Oil:

I was marching to the wrong drum With the wrong scum Pissing out the wrong energy Using all the wrong lines And the wrong signs With the wrong intensity I was on the wrong page of the wrong book With the wrong rendition of the wrong hook Made the wrong move, every wrong night With the wrong tune played till it sounded right yah Wrong Wrong Too long Wrong

Hmmm...Wrong lines, wrong signs, wrong intensity. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?

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#63 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:39PM
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@ Ogden Brother: Not if it isn't working no. Why not try to win rather trying not to lose.

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#64 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:40PM
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"rather that trying not to lose"

edit

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#65 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:41PM
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haha THAN.

edit button or die!

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#66 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:41PM
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lego wrote:

All those teams had a good mix of offense and defense, Minnesota tries to do it all with defense and it hasn’t worked so far.

Did you ever watch the Devils during their heyday? Most boring team in hockey, hands down. Minnesota has Gaborik and Koivu; the Devils had Elias and Gomez.

Very similar teams. Not surprising, I suppose, given that those are the two franchises Jacques Lemaire has coached for.

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#67 Bob Cob
March 24 2009, 12:41PM
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I dont take this as Hemsky complaining about ice time at all, this is Hemsky showing his frustration with Mac T. Hemsky is not a checker, Hemsky is a point producer, with high skill who will get you the goals when you need them. This is Hemsky saying in short that he wants the pressure, the responsibility and to be the out right leader on this team. He should be the captain, he is the face of the franchise and I'm just glad he wants to be the leader. Let Hemmer dangle and do what he does, dont turn him into a 3rd line guy because this team has enough of those. Fire Mac T before Hemsky gets pissed off and asks for a trade.

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#68 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:45PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

Why not try to win rather trying not to lose.

Sorry, pet peeve of mine - since the shootout, what's the difference between "winning" and "not losing" Because as far as I can tell, winning=not losing.

Or did you mean "why not try to win 4-3 instead of 2-1"?

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#69 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:46PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

Hemsky is not a checker, Hemsky is a point producer

Out of curiosity, is Henrik Zetterberg a checker or point producer? Mikko Koivu? Ryan Kesler?

Is it fair to say that they're both?

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#70 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:47PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Hockey, to me anyway, is about players filling roles. Why isn’t Horcoff producing? He is expected to contribute offensively yet he struggles. Why do you, JW, think this is? (sorry to stray off topic)

Oh, I like to see players filling roles. In a power-vs.-power alignment (currently the most common at the NHL level), the chief role of your top line players is to score more than their top line players.

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#71 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:49PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Hockey, to me anyway, is about players filling roles. Why isn’t Horcoff producing? He is expected to contribute offensively yet he struggles. Why do you, JW, think this is? (sorry to stray off topic)

My guess would be because it's hard to be the #1 checking centre and #1 offensive centre at the same time. Most teams split their top opposition/defensive zone faceoffs players, but because he's the only veteran centre on the team Horcoff does both.

He's being overused, IMO. Plus of course, he's had nagging injuries all year.

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#72 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:52PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Not every offensive player has to be a defensive dynamo.

And as far as winning vs not losing, I know that you know that there is a difference in playing to win and playing not to lose.

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#73 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 12:55PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

Not every offensive player has to be a defensive dynamo.

And that's fine. But every top-line player in the league has to help his team win, and the only way to do that is to score more goals than you allow. I don't care if it's done via firewagon hockey where you win 5-4 or via defensive hockey where you win 2-1; the point is that you need more goals than the opposition.

To do that, unless you're a guy who cashes in all his chances (Kovalchuk... uhh, Kovalchuk) you need to play well in both ends of the rink.

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#74 topshelf FMNF
March 24 2009, 12:58PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: And he does for the most part does he not? People need to get over the TO's. If the puck is on your stick twice as much simple math says you will have twice as many turnovers. What were we arguing about again??

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#75 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:03PM
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@ topshelf FMNF:

I don't know. I'm a big fan of Hemsky because he does play a two-way game; I'm very happy with how MacTavish has developed him into a responsible player.

In general, I think people don't give attention to playing a responsible game like Hemsky does.

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#76 Colin
March 24 2009, 01:08PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Oh, I like to see players filling roles. In a power-vs.-power alignment (currently the most common at the NHL level), the chief role of your top line players is to score more than their top line players.

Which is a lot easier when you're doing your damndest to keep the puck in the other teams end instead of worrying about the risk of the puck going the otherway. I'm not saying ignore the possibility of the puck going the other way, but to lessen the importance of it for the top 2 lines, that's why you have defensemen after all.

The best defense.......

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#77 Word
March 24 2009, 01:31PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

“I’m just trying to do exactly what they want. I’m becoming a checker,” he said with obvious displeasure after Monday’s practice. “We’re just doing what we have to do to win games. I’m not complaining. It’s important to win the games. I just don’t feel as important as I did before when they were riding me. I don’t feel they use me as much as they did before. If they don’t give me the confidence or trust me, I will never be playing the way I was before, the way they want. I’m just saying I don’t care about points. I know I didn’t play my best hockey. I can be better and I know they will need me. But they have got to show me they need me. Ride me. It’s 10 games. I will feel important and I will get better every game.”

Willis, I'm curious how Jersey, Dallas and Detroit did in the Goals-For category compared to league average in the years they won cups?

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#78 Word
March 24 2009, 01:32PM
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@ Word: And I totally quoted the wrong quote...

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#79 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 01:46PM
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Word wrote:

Willis, I’m curious how Jersey, Dallas and Detroit did in the Goals-For category compared to league average in the years they won cups?

I tossed in Anaheim as well:

98-99: Dallas – 8th in GF, 1st in GA 99-00: New Jersey – 2nd in GF, 7th in GA 01-02: Detroit – 2nd in GF, 4th in GA 02-03: New Jersey – 14th in GF, 1st in GA 06-07: Anaheim – 9th in GF, 7th in GA 07-08: Detroit – 3rd in GF, 1st in GA

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#80 Rich Zeng
March 24 2009, 02:27PM
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It's time to put MacT out of his so called coaching misery.

FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF FMNF

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#81 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 02:35PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

99-00: New Jersey – 2nd in GF, 7th in GA ... 02-03: New Jersey – 14th in GF, 1st in GA

looks like Fans of New Jersey were treated to some exciting hockey. But everyone keeps telling me they were boring to watch, ~just like how everyone in Edmonton hated the run of 2006 when we played the trap~

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#82 Jonathan Willis
March 24 2009, 02:41PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

In 99-00 New Jersey had a high-octane offense, but the 2002-03 team scored fewer goals than any cup winner in the past decade.

My memories are much clearer of the 2002-03 team.

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#83 Archaeologuy
March 24 2009, 02:58PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: The Devils have been my Eastern team for a long time (i needed to develop one because the Oilers have been bad since i was 8), so I was happy to watch them win games. That Devils team in 02/03 only scored .25 less goals a game than the Oilers that season. Conversely, the Oil let in .78 more goals a game.

My memories of that Cup were of me watching the games in Ecuador on an Archy dig. You try finding a hockey game in June in South America.

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#84 Volfman
March 24 2009, 05:59PM
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RY wrote:

MacT wants Hemsky to be more like Datsyuk or Zetterberg. Maybe the problem is MacT needs to be more like Babcock.

WORD!!!

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#85 Volfman
March 24 2009, 06:10PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

" Hemsky is a point producer, with high skill who will get you the goals when you need them".

Based on what?

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#86 Chris
March 24 2009, 06:22PM
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RY wrote: MacT wants Hemsky to be more like Datsyuk or Zetterberg. Maybe the problem is MacT needs to be more like Babcock

Funny. Babcock returned to work at the start of the 06/07 season determined to be more like MacTavish. Babcock had been schooled...and both He and the Red Wings have been better ever since.

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