Expectations: Ales Hemsky

Jonathan Willis
October 11 2010 11:38AM

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Edmonton Oilers moves the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on November 11, 2009 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Ales Hemsky isn’t a mystery to Oilers fans. He was a first round pick of the team back in 2001, 13th overall, and was almost certainly the best draft pick of the Kevin Prendergast era. His entire 444 game NHL career has been spent with the Oilers, and for the last few years he’s been the most skilled player on the team.

How does the OilersNation see Hemsky performing this season?

The following chart shows five things, each represented by coloured lines. The thin blue lines represent reader projections, which ranged from 59 points (OilerBill) to 90 points (duuby). The thick black line in the middle represents two points: the reader’s average point prediction for Hemsky (77 points) and Hemsky’s career-best total (also 77 points). The red lines represent the projections of our writers, while the light green line represents Hemsky’s best offensive output over the past three seasons.

A few things stand out:

51 of 93 readers (54.8%) expect Ales Hemsky to either match or exceed the best offensive totals of his career in 2010-11.

None of the writers are as optimistic about Hemsky as even the average reader; at the very top end of the spectrum Jason Gregor predicts Hemsky to record 76 points, a hair below his career-best total (and the average reader prediction).

Leaving aside Hemsky’s injury-shortened 2009-10 season, since the NHL lockout he has averaged 67 points per season. 7 of 93 readers (7.5%) have Hemsky pegged to match or fall slightly below that total, while two of six writers have him pegged at 66 or 67 points.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#1 Wanyes bastard child
October 11 2010, 11:53AM
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Why do graphs always have to be in colour ... im colourblind :(

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#2 Quicksilver ballet
October 11 2010, 11:54AM
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Something appears a little different with Ales this year. He seems a little more focused, mature and anxious to not allow what happened last year to happen again. Maybe it's the Oilers last chance to put a team around him to make him want to stay, he just looks like he's not letting all the extra stuffs involved drag him down. Hope it works out for him here.

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#3 Chris.
October 11 2010, 11:58AM
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I guess fans are really anticipating two things:

a) Hemsky will be relatively healthy.

b) The new players in the top six will not cost Hemsky net offensive opportunity.

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#4 Slick
October 11 2010, 11:58AM
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I don't expect Hemmer to match his career high in points this year, especially if ice time continues to be dished out like it is. However, it sounds like Renney is really encouraging offensive creativity from his top nine, so I think Hemsky should be able to come pretty close and (fingers crossed) score some absolute beauts in the process!

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#5 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 11 2010, 12:02PM
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Points aside, last night was the most physical I've ever seen Hemsky.

He's never shy'd away from contact, but last night he initiated multiple times.

We might finally have that complete, quasi star we've been hoping for.

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#6 Muji 狗
October 11 2010, 12:06PM
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He's on pace for 0 goals this year. Pathetic. Total Bust.

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#7 Antony Ta
October 11 2010, 12:14PM
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Muji 狗 wrote:

He's on pace for 0 goals this year. Pathetic. Total Bust.

Where's the punchline?

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#8 OilFan
October 11 2010, 12:17PM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

I noticed he was hitting more and harder. Sam was playing physical also. I still think he is the back bone to our offense.

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#9 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 11 2010, 12:18PM
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OilFan wrote:

I noticed he was hitting more and harder. Sam was playing physical also. I still think he is the back bone to our offense.

No question he's still the backbone of the offense.

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#10 GSC
October 11 2010, 12:56PM
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The projections are high because (GASP!) the expectations are high for #83, as they should be. He's been in the show for a while now and we've been waiting for Ales to really strut his stuff offensively.

He's capable of being a point-per-game player for the Oilers, no question about it. The fact that he has yet to realize that potential says a lot about him (and his teammates/linemates, for that matter).

If he can stay healthy and put together something resembling the production he had in 22 games last season, projections for him to score at or above his career high of 77 points isn't that far fetched. It's time to expect more of this young man, even Lowetide has done so (last season, IIRC) and he's a well-respected sheriff in these parts.

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#13 Bill up North
October 11 2010, 01:39PM
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Muji 狗 wrote:

He's on pace for 0 goals this year. Pathetic. Total Bust.

Actually, he's on pace for 41 goals this season.....

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#14 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 11 2010, 01:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC:

That's one way to look at it.

The other way to look at it is that the 27 year-old Hemsky is what he is, and we should stop expecting that huge breakthrough.

He's a player who will battle injury all season (in no small part due to his style of play), flirt with the point per game mark, and play quality opponents. I don't know why we keep expecting more than that.

Considering the average expectation is for him to match his career high (right in the peak of his career I might add) I'd hardly call that a huge breakthrough.

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#15 R.A. Slapshotzky
October 11 2010, 02:02PM
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I picked him in the 4th round of my points only hockey pool. I had 6th pick in a 12 team league with 15 picks per team. Hoping for the big year...been waiting years. Willis has a point...pardon the pun.

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#17 GSC
October 11 2010, 02:22PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC:

I suppose it's a fundamental difference in how we look at the game. I look at the results a player has put up and project based on that, while you (and correct me if I'm misrepresenting you) watch him play and project results based on your evaluation of his talent.

No you're right...to an extent, at least.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do look at the stats and the years prior to get an indication of what to expect from a player. IMO, Hemsky is one of those players who might be caught between expectations based on prior results and expectations based on current evaluation of talent. I would say that this is maybe his last season to make good on those lofty expectations. If he doesn't, I would bet that those fans (including me) who think #83 is a potential point-per-game player will curb those expectations.

But we can agree on this: whether Hemsky can stay healthy will be the biggest factor in his output (which is pretty much the case for any given player, but for Ales especially).

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#19 GSC
October 11 2010, 02:52PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC:

I completely agree with you on the health issue. I wonder to some extent how the injuries have affected Hemsky's career; certainly they've dropped his overall totals and probably his points-per-game too (thanks to playing at less than 100%) but it's also possible they've reduced his ceiling.

I think it's possible that his ceiling has been reduced, just look at a player like Ryan Smyth.

Smytty has played 987 games in his 14 NHL seasons, an average of roughly 70-71 games played per season. He averages roughly 59-60 PTS per season in his career. His susceptibility (propensity, even) to injury has been enough to prevent him from surpassing his career best 70-point season with the Oilers in 2000-01. If you ask most hockey fans, I would bet the ceiling on Smyth would be right around his career points average. He's expected to miss games in a given season, which obviously drops his production like you said.

Hemsky has played 443 games over his 7 NHL seasons, an average of about 63 games played per season. That number was obviously affected by his missing 60 games last season. However, prior to last season he played 421 games out of a possible 492, an average of roughly 69-70 games per season. Also, his career point average is roughly 64-65 PTS. So maybe there's something to what you said about injury reducing Hemsky's ceiling, because it has certainly been the case with Smyth. The similarities with injury issues between the two (although Hemsky has only played half as many seasons as Smytty) are scary.

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#20 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 11 2010, 03:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OB1 - Team Hall:

The average expectation is for a career high number from Hemsky, but that's because 48.4% of people expect Hemsky to exceed the best total of his career.

I'd suggest a more reasonable expecation would be around his post-lockout average (ignoring the missed season): 67 points, with some higher and some lower than that.

I think the biggest thing is the expectation that Hemsky will be healthy; based on his post-lockout career we'd expect 76 points over an 82 game season. It just doesn't make much sense to expect 82 games from Hemsky, at least for me.

Health is a very valid concern with Hemsky. You can basically pencil him in for 5 - 10 missed games at a minimum.

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#21 oilersfan2k11
October 11 2010, 03:50PM
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www.oilerscountry.blogspot.com

Am I the only one who thinks that Ales Hemsky is ready to unload a 95 point season? Why does everybody consider him injury prone? He missed one season or most of it, if the team had been much better chances are he would've postponed the surgery on his shoulder till after the season.

I am however a little disappointed with with Sam Gagner's play, he crumbles in the corners when he gets hit, yet he claims he weighs 190 point, Zack Parise does not crumble like that and he's lighter, or does he? He gets alot of points to make up for it though.. Having said that Gagner is only 20 years old..same age as Eberle yet we classify him as a veteran when he is barely a broken in virgin... I do think that Gagner will post 50 points this season, see my blog for my other preditions.. But...I think Gagner will need some time, we are still waiting for our complete first line Center, I dont think it's Gagner, he's a solid second liner...Pitlick looks like a future lock for the third line.. Cogliano need to go to New Jersey or Toronto..his game will take off there...I like him alot but may just never reach his full potential here...

Jones, wow, what an impressive night last night against the Panthers..he keeps playing like that and he's our future Kirt Maltby or Chris Draper..

Paajarvi will figure it out..same with Hall..Eberle already seems a step ahead of the other rookies..

Now i will finish my beer...

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#22 Archaeologuy
October 11 2010, 09:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC:

That's one way to look at it.

The other way to look at it is that the 27 year-old Hemsky is what he is, and we should stop expecting that huge breakthrough.

He's a player who will battle injury all season (in no small part due to his style of play), flirt with the point per game mark, and play quality opponents. I don't know why we keep expecting more than that.

I bet you this is something that rational Canucks fans were saying about the Sedins before last season...

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#23 Jonathan Willis
October 12 2010, 08:20AM
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@ Archaeologuy:

Probably ;)

There are always exceptions, I just don't think it pays to bet on them.

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#24 Henry
October 12 2010, 02:14PM
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I'm not sure that Hemsky's value is really dictated by the number of points he gets. Hemsky's skill and willingness to get in trouble areas forces the opposition to put a mobile and physical #1 against him all the time or risk getting undressed. This sets up a more favourable matchup for the other skill wingers like Eberle and Brule. It's a lot better having Eberle face Giordano than Regehr at this stage of his career.

Hemsky's point totals will be determined by how the Oiler's power play system ends up looking. Hard to predict now.

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#25 D-Man
October 12 2010, 04:01PM
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@oilersfan2k11

Were you drinking beer or shooting JD straight? I agree about Gagner and I think Pitlick could be a number two center with the right development, but Hemsky at 95 points?? Come on... I like the optimism but he hasn't shown anything to indicate more than 77 points/year. We don't have a full fledged sniper to complement his skill, although playing with Gagner/Penner should help.

I don't think Cogliano is going anywhere near NJ (too many cap issues) and I can't see anything Toronto has that we could get in return. I'd love to have Luke Schenn but unless Burke is sniffing all that hairspray he uses, there's no way we'd get him (without giving more than Cogliano that is).

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