Hemsky turns 26: Primetime

Robin Brownlee
August 13 2009 09:35AM

hemsky-birthday

With just 26 candles on his birthday cake and six NHL seasons on his resume, Ales Hemsky somehow makes whiners of even the most ardent fan of the Edmonton Oilers.

"Sure, he's good, but he should be better," and "When will he take it to the next level?" Thankfully, the once tried-and-true "He should shoot more" has pretty much been put to rest. Still, the passionate-and-seldom-satisfied Oiler fan grumbles, like it's birthright.

Better? Sure, it's possible. The next level? What, exactly, is the "next level," aside from overused jargon? I'm always amused, given that Hemsky is only now entering the prime years of his NHL career, that "very good" somehow isn't good enough when it comes to No. 83.

Outside of a couple of examples -- Ilya Kovalchuk and, arguably, Jason Spezza come to mind -- the Oilers couldn't have done much better at the 2001 Entry Draft than taking a baby-faced kid named Hemsky from the Hull Olympiques 13th overall. Edmonton's scouting staff hasn't been more right in the last 20 years.

Still, the critics bray.

By the numbers

In six seasons since the Oilers called his name, Hemsky has produced 93 goals and 238 assists for 331 points through 421 regular season games and 6-11-17 in 30 playoff games.

In terms of regular season numbers, only Kovalchuk, with 297-260-557 in 545 games, and Spezza, with 148-270-418 in 404 games, have been more prolific.

In his last four seasons, Hemsky has tallied 66, 71, 53 and 77 points. The 53 points, by the way, came in just 64 games in 2006-07. I'm not thinking chopped liver when I see those numbers, especially considering Hemsky has played every minute of his NHL career on the watch of offensive guru Craig MacTavish and without linemates to match his skill.

Numbers aside, there aren't more than a dozen or so players who can lift fans out of their seats the way Hemsky does when he starts dangling with the puck. Of course, that's part of the problem -- more than a "dozen or so" players produce more points than Hemsky, spawning arguments he's style over substance. Look at Hemsky hang fire. There must be more, right?

A bargain

The big bow on all of it is Hemsky still has three years left on a contract that will pay him $4.4 million this season. He's a $4.1 million cap hit on the deal Kevin Lowe inked him to three years ago. By comparison, Kovalchuk will earn $7.5 million this season and Spezza gets $8 million.

From where I sit, all the above makes it utterly ridiculous that some fans talk about trading Hemsky because he'll never get any better, or because a numbers guy can come up with less-than-flattering statistics about how he's propped up defensively by Shawn Horcoff. Or because he complained about wanting to play a bigger role last season. How dare he.

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.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every 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 oilerpride
August 13 2009, 07:08PM
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careful.young fella.. youth does not last..you one day will be...as you say old as balls

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#152 Dave
August 13 2009, 07:11PM
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I would love to see Hemsky hit the century mark.I think the only way he getts there is by having a sniper on the opposite side.Hemsky is a great player however he is not one of those guys that makes everyone that plays with him better.

On a side note I love the Smid signing and still believe he is going to be a top 2 guy with a solid offensive contribution.

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#153 typol99
August 13 2009, 07:11PM
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tru dat....

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#154 typol99
August 13 2009, 07:16PM
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Dave wrote:

Hemsky is a great player however he is not one of those guys that makes everyone that plays with him better.

ewwwwwww.really davy.I gotta disagree.how many goals did horcs pop on the pp from hemmers vision..horcs just sat down bottom circle and shot on net..it was bill guerin teeeed 2 hit inner mesh. that is making horcs better..pading his stats sorta speak..i dunno i could be wrong but thts my veiw

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#155 Archaeologuy
August 13 2009, 07:39PM
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Hemsky is the best forward on the team, and while the likes of Gagner, Cogs, Eberle, and MPS are the future, they dont even come close to Hemsky in the present.

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#156 Reagan
August 13 2009, 07:42PM
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Any truth to the Rumour that Steve Staios is being shopped? Have you guys heard anything?

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#157 Archaeologuy
August 13 2009, 07:47PM
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Reagan wrote:

Any truth to the Rumour that Steve Staios is being shopped? Have you guys heard anything?

Is that sort of like "Please PLEASE take Staios, I'll give YOU a draft pick to get him off our hands!"?

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#158 Reagan
August 13 2009, 07:57PM
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Yeah, that was part of the rumour as well. LOL

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#159 Librarian Mike
August 13 2009, 08:00PM
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Reagan wrote:

Any truth to the Rumour that Steve Staios is being shopped? Have you guys heard anything?

~The Penguins are trying to decide whether to give up Crosby or Malkin for him.~

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#160 oil fan
August 13 2009, 08:05PM
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The Oilers should make a pr event for the other GMs of the league regarding Staios being up for bid.

If they get any. TAKE IT LOL

I like the guys heart but with Pekham coming up, his time is done. Unless Bulin likes having a guy in this crease every chance he gets. ( Seemed like every goal scored against the oilers when Staios was on the ice. He was knocking our tender over or on the ice behind him).

As for HEMSKY come on the guys got talent. If or as soon as the management gets him a sniper. I think 100 point seasons in the future. I just hope that future is with the Oilers. I think thats why the brass has Cogs up for trade. With Cogs coming up on a contract, they need to save to make Hemsky one hell of an offer to keep him. IMO

Thanks for informing me on Ilya.

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#161 99thoilerfan
August 13 2009, 08:12PM
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Happy B day Ales

So here is what I thinking...

So he is 26, eh? I think the weight of being a lead hand, on any hockey club, is a heavy mantle. Produce or else. What have you done lately? I think we have all see him play, and he is good.

With this his 5th year in league, the Olympic Team Selection, His recent taste of Stanley Cup Finals..He is a star. Oiler's Rising Star. We are lucky to have him.

That said..

I wish we could find the right trigger man, as Kurri was to Wayne. Come Play Dany, you ass!

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#162 Jonathan Willis
August 13 2009, 08:17PM
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@ Dallas:

3 years.

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#163 Jonathan Willis
August 13 2009, 08:19PM
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typol99 wrote:

lol um.. i forgot that never happens in todays cap struck nhl…giv ur head a shake@ Jonathan Willis:

I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, si I'll assume you were serious.

Can you give an example - any example at all - of a player being traded a month after being signed as a UFA? Because I can't, and I'd bet serious money you can't either.

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#164 ronaldo
August 13 2009, 08:30PM
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Just read Michael Vick signed in Philly. Which means if means that if someone is willing to to give him a chance, I am willing to give typol99 a chance of posting a literate message. I pulling for you typo. Go get em.

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#165 Dallas
August 13 2009, 09:18PM
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@ typol99: typol99 wrote:

Dallas wrote: @ Jonathan Willis: I’m not a fan of all the numbers lol ur obviously old as balls ….our team is youth and so is our fan base. 75% of oilers fans are 35 yrs old or younger…

And I am 34 ya lil penis what da hell ya talkin bout anyway I was only refering to JW and his topics on all the different stats and numbers he likes to and I might say work his ass off to dig up so before you go saying somthing retarded you should pay attention. By the way it must suck to have been to young to have seen the oilers glory years

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#166 Dallas
August 13 2009, 09:24PM
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Sorry some typos there pun intended

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#167 Archaeologuy
August 13 2009, 09:27PM
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Dallas wrote:

By the way it must suck to have been to young to have seen the oilers glory years

I was 8 the last time the Oilers and Glory were mentioned in the same sentence unless that sentence included the phrase "are going to have to wait at least one more season for". This is why people are tired of hearing about the Glory years; there is a whole generation of fans that are just being reminded that for as long as they can remember the Oilers have been miserable or close to it.

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#168 Dallas
August 13 2009, 09:35PM
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@ Archaeologuy: Agreed

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#169 Chris
August 13 2009, 10:07PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

This is why people are tired of hearing about the Glory years; there is a whole generation of fans that are just being reminded that for as long as they can remember the Oilers have been miserable or close to it.

Not mention you have to endure the superiority complex of fans who are old enough to remember it all...

~Face it Arch: those of us who were fortunate/old enough to remember watching GOOD Oiler teams, probably have a better frame of reference by which to judge the current edition. Where is your benchmark for excellence? Hemsky? PffffTT! Garbage by Gretzky standards!~

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#170 Archaeologuy
August 13 2009, 11:00PM
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Chris wrote:

~Face it Arch: those of us who were fortunate/old enough to remember watching GOOD Oiler teams, probably have a better frame of reference by which to judge the current edition. Where is your benchmark for excellence? Hemsky? PffffTT! Garbage by Gretzky standards!~

Thank God for those Tildes.

~And Horcoff is my benchmark for Excellence~

*throws up a little in his mouth*

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#171 oilFan
August 13 2009, 11:29PM
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The last three years have been hard. I agree. But why all the hate ? That's the past. We have a great d line and younge talent. I'm looking forward to the season. We gave up a lot in 3 years. Four years ago we made it. The change for the team should pay off. How can you bitch about having guys like Souray Bulin Hemsky Gagne Quinn Renney Vish Patty-O. Which team in the NW has better scoring ? Are d is great and tender is equal to the division. Kipper ranked 27th last year Luongo is a god. Bulin 2nd best tender in the divison

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#172 TUG-GUY
August 13 2009, 11:36PM
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@ Robin Brownlee

Is this your way of calling out Hemsky? Are you pulling a MacT? Well lets see how he responds. As for your PDP of Penner, How about PRB? Penner is in excelent shape. You watch him how he will preform under Quinn. This guy is highly motivated and will preform this season! He will prove alot of people wrong. This guy loves Edmonton but under MacT? No one can succeed. You know that yourself. If someone gave you 4.25M ayear, wouldn't you take it? Blame Lowe!! You don't have the balls to say that!

Have a nice day.

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#173 TUG-GUY
August 13 2009, 11:46PM
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@ MacT

You've been guiding us for close to 10yrs. Shouldn't you come out and tell us your side? You want to be remembered as a loser who ran away? or the stanley cup winner from the oilers playing days? Decide soon man your not going to get a job with that atitude!

Have a nice day.

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#174 MattL
August 13 2009, 11:52PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Reagan wrote: Any truth to the Rumour that Steve Staios is being shopped? Have you guys heard anything? ~The Penguins are trying to decide whether to give up Crosby or Malkin for him.~

You mean we're not getting both? I think Pittsburgh wins this deal.

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#175 trying to be a fan
August 14 2009, 12:02AM
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Great article Robin.

I can't take the time to read all the posts but from what I have seen so far you can likely see why someone like me gets frustrated by the negativity of some of the posters.

Hemsky would be welcomed by 29 other teams and the vast majority of their fans. He is a talented and gutsy player that puts a real effort in most nights. We are lucky to have him in Edmonton and if we appreciate him for what he is may even decide to stay and be a big part of an Oiler resurgance over the next few years.

Here's to hoping the negative voices don't sour Ales on continuing to make those great plays, even in the toughest areas of the ice.

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#176 Kingsblade
August 14 2009, 12:08AM
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oilFan wrote:

tender is equal to the division. Kipper ranked 27th last year Luongo is a god. Bulin 2nd best tender in the divison

I would take Backstrom over him as well, and if Anderson pans out it will leave Edmonton and Calgary battling it out for worst goaltender in the division.

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#177 Tayranchula
August 14 2009, 12:40AM
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Its funny someone mentioned Penner is going to be motivated and all that, which Im sure he is going to be but damn he doesnt need to be. He just needs to turn into a prick. If I was as big as him I would be out there trying to rip someone a new A$$ and with the skills he has already he would be great and everyone in EDM would love him. The best game Penner has ever played for the Oilers was last year when they played Dallas and all he did was hit some people, score a one punch knockout of some kid and get an assist. How easy is that for sum garganchuin of a hockey player. I hope Quin lights a flame under his butt or ill just give up all hope on Penner. That being said, I still dont mind him as a third liner (highly overpaid blame Lowe) but still. And someone else also wrote that Bulin was the worst free agent signing this summer. How about Kotalik in NY, 3 MIL EWWWWW!!!!

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#178 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 01:04AM
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Tayranchula wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Your not that smart are you. I never said he could do it alone. Hemsky skating on a team with no one else his skill is a 70 to 80 point player. If he plays with some like Sheatley (eww gross!) or someone that can finish and play with skill he is a 90 to 100 point player. Hemsky isnt the final answer to the Oilers being a graat weatern conference team sadly, but just like past 3 Stanley cup Champs you need a 1 2 punch to be good. Hemsky and a sniper will be that 1 2 punch the Oilers are looking for. And unless Ganger matures his game rapidly over the summer he is still going to a perfect fit as second line first PP player. Im not saying Ganger is going to be that for his whole career, the face of the Oilers is going to be Ganger very soon.

I'm saying he could have AO on one wing and Kovalchuk on the other and he still wouldn't hit 100.

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#179 Arek Gruszowski
August 14 2009, 01:54AM
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@ Ogden Brother: Why would he get criticized? name me a better player for 4 mil.

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#180 Robin Brownlee
August 14 2009, 07:23AM
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TUG-GUY wrote:

Is this your way of calling out Hemsky?

I'm guessing 10,000 people read this item and you're the only one who came up with that possibility. Nice comprehension skills, champ.

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#181 Jonathan Willis
August 14 2009, 07:53AM
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oilFan wrote:

How can you bitch about having guys like Souray Bulin Hemsky Gagne Quinn Renney Vish Patty-O. Which team in the NW has better scoring ? Are d is great and tender is equal to the division.

Vancouver has better scoring.

BTW, last year all of those on-ice guys (except swap Bulin for Roli) were on the team, and they missed the playoffs.

Hence the negativity.

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#182 Archaeologuy
August 14 2009, 08:59AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I’m guessing 10,000 people read this item and you’re the only one who came up with that possibility. Nice comprehension skills, champ.

And at 7:23 AM the post of the day has already occurred.

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#183 Librarian Mike
August 14 2009, 09:15AM
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@ TUG-GUY:

I haven't seen you around before but based on your username, I was wondering if you have any deals where you work. There was talk on here a couple of weeks ago of hooking Wanye up and getting him some 'relief' from his stressful life. ;)

As for MacT, I think it's considered bad form around the league for a fired coach to come back and rip on all that's wrong with the old team. It wouldn't be smart if in fact he wants to coach elsewhere.

Oh, and have a nice day.

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#184 J-Bird
August 14 2009, 10:20AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

I’m saying he could have AO on one wing and Kovalchuk on the other and he still wouldn’t hit 100.

Well, you're an idiot with a statement like that. Plain and simple.

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#185 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 11:07AM
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J-Bird wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: I’m saying he could have AO on one wing and Kovalchuk on the other and he still wouldn’t hit 100. Well, you’re an idiot with a statement like that. Plain and simple.

Ha-ha, I'm really in shock as to how many people think a guys point production shoots up 25 - 35 points simply by adding a top end player.

- In the last 2 years their was all of 5, 100 points season...by 3 different players.

- In the last 4 years (since the lockout) their has been 12, 100 point guys... in 4 years...12. This is not the 80's where every team has a 100 point player, only the very elite in the league score 100. 12 in 4 years.

- League wide scoring has been trending down since the lockout, the first season post lock out their was 6.17 GPG, last year their was 5.83 GPG. If that trend goes (way) up then ya Hemmer probably has a shot at 100... but then it's not near the feat because their will be a dozen guys doing it rather then 2-3

- In the current scoring environment 100 points almost guarantees you a nomination for the Heart... Hemsky is not in AO/Malkin/Crosby's league, plain and simple. If the stars line-up, he rounds out his game (and avoids injury) he MIGHT make it into that 2nd tier of star in the next 2-3 years (guys like Iggy/Vinny/Thorton/Datsyuk/Kovalchuk//Getzlaf and a handfull others) and those guys aren't "100 point guys" their 80 - 95 point guys... even then I wouldn't hold my breath.

- You can usually pencil the guy in for 5 - 15 missed games, that makes it almost impossible to crack the century mark

- At 77 games he'd need to score at a 1.3 PPG clip to hit 100... that would be the equivalent of a 107 point season over 82 (would have put him 3rd in the league for scoring this past year)

- At 72 games he'd need to score at a 1.39 PPG clip to hit 100... that would be equivalent to a 114 point (would have won the scoring tittle this past year)

- Name me the established scorers that seen their point totals increase by 25 - 35 points simply through the addition of another star.

- He simply isn't a top 5-7 forward in the league, that's all their is to it, and unless league wide scoring goes up significantly, those are the only guys that will get a sniff at 100.

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#186 The Menace
August 14 2009, 11:25AM
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@ Ogden Brother: Those are all very good points. The only thing here is all those guys that have put up 100 (the top 5-7 forwards in the league) have done it with regular or maybe slightly above-average guys as linemates. Your comparing that with what you think Hemskey could do with two superstars (Kovalchuk and AO). With two linemates like that, maybe you wouldn't need to be one of the top 5-7 forwards in the league to put up 100.

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#187 Chris.
August 14 2009, 11:29AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

~You sound like an idiot~

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#188 cableguy
August 14 2009, 11:39AM
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Dave wrote:

Hemsky is a great player however he is not one of those guys that makes everyone that plays with him better

ahhh, the sweet smell of BS...

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#189 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 12:04PM
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The Menace wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Those are all very good points. The only thing here is all those guys that have put up 100 (the top 5-7 forwards in the league) have done it with regular or maybe slightly above-average guys as linemates. Your comparing that with what you think Hemskey could do with two superstars (Kovalchuk and AO). With two linemates like that, maybe you wouldn’t need to be one of the top 5-7 forwards in the league to put up 100.

Obvously the AO/Kovalchuk point was tongue in cheak, as it simply will never happen (or any two superstars)

Also, doesn't the fact that most of the top end guys Can barly crack 100 with other stars (or at above average talent) point to the to the conclusion that Hemsky still wouldn't be their witha 40 goal scoring flanking him... I mean if Crosby/Malkin can barely hit 100 playing a fair amount of time together (or AO with Semin/Backstrom) then why should Hemsky?

Interesting side note: As a 19 year old rookie AO put up 106 points when the two top centers were: Zubrus (57 points) Halpren (44 points) and the two best RW were: Willsie (41) and Clark (39)

Yet as a 23 year old with 3 years in the NHL under his belt he puts up 110 playing along with offensive stars like Backstrom/Greene/Semin. Also of note, his points actually went down the first year he played with another offensive talent (92 in his sophmore year)

Crosby has a similar story, he put up 100+ with over the hill guys like Recchi/Lecaire .... and 100+ with Malkin along.

How much affect did their line mates really have on their production?

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#190 Librarian Mike
August 14 2009, 12:09PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

How much affect did their line mates really have on their production?

I don't think it has too much of an effect these days. It only really seemed to be a factor when Gretzky and Lemieux were putting up XBox numbers and guys like Rob Brown and Bernie Nicholls were getting 50-60 goals.

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#191 The Menace
August 14 2009, 02:24PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I think we're both in agreement there - I don't think that Hemmer could put up 100 either. My point was that we can't compare putting him with regular linemates to putting him on a line with 2 superstars. also kind of tongue-in-cheek.

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#192 J-Bird
August 14 2009, 02:46PM
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OB is simply another Hemsky hater, plain and simple.

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#193 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 02:52PM
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J-Bird wrote:

OB is simply another Hemsky hater, plain and simple.

Hilarious. I'm a huge Hemsky fan, got his jersey, got his photo/card set hanging on my wall. I'm a hater of irrational posts/theories.... which Hemsky = 100 points is.

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#194 J-Bird
August 14 2009, 04:27PM
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Personally, I see Hemsky averaging under 20 minutes a game under Mac, while other guys are over 20 all the time.

OV is over 23 minutes a game, Malkin's over 22 a game, Kovalchuk's almost 22, Crosby almost 22, and it goes on and on. In fact, Hemsky ranked 63rd in the entire NHL for forwards last season at 18:38/game.

Get him an extra 4 minutes on average, double shift him more like the rest get. 4 minutes is 22% MORE ice time than currently. 22% more ice time compared to his production puts him at 80 points last year, playing 72 games. He missed 10 games, which would put him at 91 points. Extra time puts him over the PPG mark and on his way.

I don't think it's that much of a stretch to think he has it in him. Especially if he had a guy who could actually one time the puck at a better than 1 in 4 clip like Horcoff does.

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#195 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 05:08PM
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J-Bird wrote:

Personally, I see Hemsky averaging under 20 minutes a game under Mac, while other guys are over 20 all the time. OV is over 23 minutes a game, Malkin’s over 22 a game, Kovalchuk’s almost 22, Crosby almost 22, and it goes on and on. In fact, Hemsky ranked 63rd in the entire NHL for forwards last season at 18:38/game. Get him an extra 4 minutes on average, double shift him more like the rest get. 4 minutes is 22% MORE ice time than currently. 22% more ice time compared to his production puts him at 80 points last year, playing 72 games. He missed 10 games, which would put him at 91 points. Extra time puts him over the PPG mark and on his way. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think he has it in him. Especially if he had a guy who could actually one time the puck at a better than 1 in 4 clip like Horcoff does.

Just so we are clear here. So you are saying that with all else equal (ice-time, quality of line mate etc) Hemsky is on par offensively with Crosby/Malkin/AO?

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#196 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 05:26PM
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Also, a big part of his lack of ice time is due to no PK time, he might be 63rd for ice time amoungst forwards, but he's 53rd 5 on 5 (including 2 guys that played less then 20 games), 30 extra seconds on ice would move him all the way up to 29th, one extra sift (47 seconds) would move him up to 23rd (ie his 5 on 5 ice time might be a little low.... but a very small increase in TOI would move him way up the list).

He's also 18th for TOI on the PP(plus two guys ahead of him played less then 20 games). So it's not like he's missing a tonne of extra time when points are the easiest to come by.

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