What Tambellini Said (And Didn’t Say) About Ales Hemsky

Jonathan Willis
April 17 2010 08:45AM

Edmonton Oilers v Buffalo Sabres

The Oilers’ relationship with their star players the last few years has not been without a few bumps along the way, and perhaps that’s the reason I find myself worrying about how things are between the team and Ales Hemsky.

There have been whispers that Hemsky isn’t going to stay in Edmonton when his current contract expires, with some even suggesting that he might welcome a trade. Certainly it’s fair to wonder which players do want out, given that the Oilers and Souray both denied he’d requested a trade more than a year ago, and especially given Tambellini’s near-rant about players who don’t want to play in Edmonton at his season ending press conference.

Hemsky’s name came up once and Tambellini’s post-season press conference, and the way Tambellini mentioned it wasn’t entirely complimentary.

“You can debate whether or not [Hemsky]’s our best player, but he’s our most skilled player for sure.”

Perhaps I’m reading too much into that statement, but given the comments that have floated in the media over the last year about Hemsky’s practice habits, I wonder if perhaps Steve Tambellini is dissatisfied with his star forward’s attitude. Certainly that would reflect a sensitive area for the G.M., who in both this season’s mad-as-hell press conference and the one he held last season repeatedly emphasized the importance of character and a winning mentality.

This is largely conjecture on my part, but it was a hunch I felt a little stronger about after Tambellini sang the praises of Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk:

“Tougher means in a lot of different areas. Is Pavel Datsyuk a tough player? He’s a tough player. He’s a tough player because he puts his body in positions where he’s vulnerable physically at times. He’s not a strong man, to punish people, but he’s not afraid to go into areas to get pucks to score goals, to make things happen.”

That’s a description that fits Hemsky to a tee. The biggest reason Hemsky keeps getting hurt is because he keeps going into corners with people like Michal Handzus and Robyn Regehr. But Tambellini didn’t cite Hemsky; he didn’t cite anyone on his own team as an example of this sort of toughness (he mentioned J-F Jacques as an example of grit a little later on) but instead picked a Red Wings forward as an example.

Why wouldn’t he take that opportunity to say nice things about a player who fits the description and happens to play for his team? I don’t know the answer, but if I were to guess I’d say it is because Tambellini doesn’t see Hemsky as a similarly courageous player.

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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 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2010, 01:19PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Hemsky, Cogliano + for Nathan Horton & #3 overall

??

Get that tube of airplane model glue out of your nostril and think about what you just proposed.

Hemsky straight up for Horton isn't that far from a saw-off in terms of production and salary. Hemsky's a tick better in PPG -- .80 to .70. Horton is younger, bigger and under contract for an extra year. Florida wins that half of the trade by a little bit.

That leaves Cogliano for the third overall pick. Unless Tambellini has photos of Randy Sexton in a bathhouse with livestock, that isn't close.

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#2 RossCreekNation
April 17 2010, 01:21PM
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Crust wrote:

Someone has to be off the ice first. Who would you rather see getting off first?

I'm a fan of getting off first, but sometimes I let my... nevermind, I always get off first...

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#3 Andrew
April 17 2010, 10:04AM
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Hemsky wouldn't be the first high skilled player with an attitude problem. Also Datsyuk is a much better player than Hemsky. And I know what everyone's going to argue, that he has a better supporting cast. But taking out the surrounding rosters that play with these two guys just look at their individual game. Datsyuk backchecks and forechecks consistently, always keeps a busy stick, and is always reading and analyzing the play in front of him. Hemsky rarely backchecks or forechecks, at times he takes shifts off and sometimes seems disinterested. In an earlier blog on this site everyone kept saying you cannot deal Hemsky but I'd argue against that because the team has to determine whether Hemsky is truly a franchise player and not just a very high skilled complimentary player. At this time he's more the latter than the former and shelling out big money for support players is a mistake. ie. see Calgary I know Oilers fans are kind of scared because the loss of that skill would be hard to replace but looking at the young guys coming up in Svensson, (Hall/Seguin), Eberle, etc. I think that they have the prospects to take Hemsky's spot once the team has become relevant again because let's face it by the time Hemsky's contract ends we are not going to be a cup contender, we will still be rebuilding.

PS Tambellini and Lowe should be fired but not because of Hemsky. They have not properly developed their prospects and their AHL club. Teams like Washington and Detroit have their farm clubs adher to a philosophy(in terms of playing style and team structure) similar to their NHL clubs and that is what has led to a fairly seamless transition for their prospects when they get the call up. Also from Souray's comments you have to think there's some kind of truth there as Souray was genuinely excited to come here and the players that do play here like the city and the fans. But why do players keep wanting to leave? I mean cities like Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota and Buffalo to name a few aren't exactly gorgeous cities either, a city is a city. The fact that so many players seem unhappy has got to have something to do with the way the organization is run as the most common complaint of any employee is about their bosses and how their company is run.

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#4 Jasmine
April 17 2010, 03:10PM
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Where is there proof that Hemsky wants out? Nowhere. But I want Sour-ay out ASAP.

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#5 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2010, 07:45PM
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Jmask5 wrote:

Wow talk about overanalyzing. It seems to me that Edmontonians have a infriority complex. If someone doesn't kiss the city's butt every single interview than they want out for sure. Get over it people.

Whew! Thanks for that insight.

Here I've been going off on a tangent about being doubtful Hemsky will re-sign here after this deal is up based on what I've observed first-hand over the past several years, but an inferiority complex is twisting my judgment.

There is over-analyzing and then there is, well, what you just said.

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#6 Senator Theo
April 17 2010, 08:49AM
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I would really like to see Hemsky as part of the long term plans for the Oilers.

If I was GM, I would make sure to tell him that.

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#7 HBomb
April 17 2010, 09:24AM
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If Tambellini can't see Hemsky is courageous (not to mention a hell of a hockey player), then Steve Milquetoast is NOT fit to be GM of this hockey team and should be immediately dismissed from his position.

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#9 Mark
April 17 2010, 09:36AM
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Hemsky is one of my favorite players, but when you look at some of the baggage he brings with him, ask yourself if you want that rubbing off of Hall/Svenson/Eberle on so on. First one off the ice after practice, never stays after to work on personal things, avoids the media. Now compare this to say a presence in the room like Messier who actually raises the bar on the others in the dressing room, and makes everyone accountable. Some of Hemmers personal traits are very 'me first' instead of team first, I believe this is the attitude the Oilers are looking to purge. If we could make a good deal for Hemsky that also brings back skill, plus leadership and accountability to boot I don't see how we can't make that trade.

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#10 Lord Bob
April 17 2010, 09:37AM
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If I didn't already think Steve Tambellini deserved to be fired, I'd say that "if he's alienating Hemsky and doesn't realize what a good player he is, he deserves to be fired."

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#11 Gerald R. Ford
April 17 2010, 10:01AM
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Hemsky may never be the player that the Oilers (and The Nation) want him to be, but to imply, even subtly that there's *any* doubt as to whether he's the best player on Team Suck is pretty ludicrous. And not especially encouraging for those of us desperately trying to give Tambo the benefit of the doubt.

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#12 Chris.
April 17 2010, 10:02AM
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Hemsky is a really skilled player... but shift to shift, game to game, competative consistancy is not his strong point.

That said, if Tambnellini wants to purge this team of some inconsistant, smaller, softer players... Hemsky should be the last of about 10 others to go.

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#13 madjam
April 17 2010, 10:04AM
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Most of us have been burnt in the past on advertising and the image they so called project . Very seldom if ever does the product live up to sales pitch,image or hype . Most expect sales pitch not to add up , and we do "due dilligence "and research to critique rather than get burned by misleading claims and advertising . Tambo is not much different - more hype than substance . The entire organization has a revolving door of players exiting our club for reasons that are evident . This trend is epidemic ,and no end in sight, until management learns how to effectively develop and manage more than one type of player! I find the Oilers past and present have a nasty habit of running valuable assets out of town with players having a "sour taste in their mouths " from their experience here . Enough of player bashing (running them all down ) to explain managements action .

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#14 Milli
April 17 2010, 10:05AM
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I don't know that Hemsky is in the long term plan. It could be that Tambo does not think that he will re-sign, it could also be that they (mgmt) are not that happy with him. For a few years we've all talked about him taking the next step, becoming a star, and he really has never done it. That said, there is no doubt that he makes anyone he plays with better. I think it will come down to weather he is prepared to re-sign and for how much.

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#15 Ender
April 17 2010, 10:06AM
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In the end I don't know if it matters. Hemsky is a trasitional teammate. I'd love him to be around for the next season or two but I can't see him here by the time we're competitive again. Once his current contract expires, even if we we're on good terms with him we'd never get the same affordable contract out of him. Someone is going to give him $7-8M on the open market and I doubt we'll be the highest bidder at that point.

Enjoy him while he's here, Citizens. He'll signify the changing of the guard for sure once he's gone.

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#16 Jon K
April 17 2010, 10:18AM
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Datsyuk and Hemsky play thoroughly different games. Datsyuk plays more like Horcoff. He engages quickly along the boards when there is a scrum and he's very good at coming away with the puck.

Hemsky will almost always go in deep to retrieve the pick, or risk a hit to make a play or pass, but he usually leaves mucking and board battles to his linemates. When he does engage it's not a particular strength of his.

That might have brought on the comparison to Datsyuk. Although I'm not sure why Tambellini says Datsyuk isn't physically strong. He's quite strong and is reportedly a gym rat.

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#17 Chris.
April 17 2010, 10:32AM
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Interesting Dan Barnes article:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/edmonton-oilers/Bottom+rebuild+overdue+bottom+dwelling+Oilers/2919666/story.html

Few highlights: (according to Barnes) a) DD over JDD. b) If they can't trade Moreau he'll be bought out. c) Big fish strategy driven by ownership.

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#18 Senator Theo
April 17 2010, 10:36AM
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@Ender

7-8M? per year? That would be nuts!

I love Hemsky, but I can't imagine any team in this NHL forking over that kind of salary to a player that's never been a PPG guy in the league.

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#19 misfit
April 17 2010, 10:53AM
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Come on Willis. Haven't we been through enough with players lately? Maybe Hemsky isn't in the Oilers' plans, or maybe the Oilers aren't in Ales' plans, but I really don't want to think about this team sans Hemsky.

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#20 Ender
April 17 2010, 11:25AM
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@Senator Theo

OK, $8M is a stretch. Have a look at players like Gomez and Drury though; their cap hit is $7M or better and they're putting up numbers that aren't any better than Hemmer's. On the UFA market, someone will be dumb enough to roll the dice on a big signing. I hope it's not the Oilers.

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#21 Muji 狗
April 17 2010, 12:01PM
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Hemsky would probably command about $5M on the open market. That's how much Havlat makes; I think he compares similarly to Hemsky.

Anyway, I agree with Willis.

Tambellini doesn't seem to have a good grasp on this team AT ALL. He's shooting down Hemsky, not acknowledging his "toughness", praising Khabi (his DUI is great leadership I guess), and praising a player that's not even NHL caliber (Jacques).

He's either lying to us or is WAY OFF on his assessment of this team. And, considering the fact that he's been assessing this team since 1934, that's a scary though.

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#22 MyBestGuess
April 17 2010, 12:24PM
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Chris. wrote:

Hemsky is a really skilled player... but shift to shift, game to game, competative consistancy is not his strong point.

That said, if Tambnellini wants to purge this team of some inconsistant, smaller, softer players... Hemsky should be the last of about 10 others to go.

I was upset when I read this article and am concerned about the perception I have about how poor management seems to be with its own players.

That said, if Tamby's comments imply he doesn't see Hemmer in the Oilers' long-term plans, Hemsky may have the most trade cache and therefore might make the most sense in moving in a rebuild where Hemsky may not want to be once his contract is up.

In the end though, devaluing your assets (albeit perhaps unintentional) doesn't seem smart. Wise up, Tamby!

PS - has anyone yet heard Tamby say HE needs to be better also?

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#23 MyBestGuess
April 17 2010, 12:30PM
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@Ender

Not a chance Hemsky gets $7-8 million on the open market IMO unless he has at least a 90+ point season before his contract is done. If he's worth that much, I say trade him in this paltry UFA market for a top 8 draft pick.

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#24 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 17 2010, 12:44PM
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Chris. wrote:

Interesting Dan Barnes article:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/edmonton-oilers/Bottom+rebuild+overdue+bottom+dwelling+Oilers/2919666/story.html

Few highlights: (according to Barnes) a) DD over JDD. b) If they can't trade Moreau he'll be bought out. c) Big fish strategy driven by ownership.

I always figured the big game hunting was ownership rather then management.

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#25 Jasmine
April 17 2010, 12:44PM
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Players have wanted out of Ottawa. Two players in the last 2 years have wanted out of Montreal. It's not just Edmonton. Way to go overboard with that comment. Tambi meant the team struggled when Hemsky went down.

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#26 Chickenplucker
April 17 2010, 12:46PM
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@Muji 狗

I don't think he shot down Hemsky, he just didn't praise him. He is skilled but his attitude is what he is questioning which I think is fair considering he is always the first one of the ice at practice.

I do agree with you about the praise for Khabbi though.

JFJ is NHL calibre but in a fourth line role and not anywhere else. He skates well, is a big body and plays physical. The big concern is that he seems to be injured all of the time.

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#27 RossCreekNation
April 17 2010, 01:01PM
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Hemsky, Cogliano + for Nathan Horton & #3 overall

??

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#28 Crust
April 17 2010, 01:10PM
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Someone has to be off the ice first. Who would you rather see getting off first?

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#29 Chickenplucker
April 17 2010, 01:22PM
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Players that have the drive to succeed put in the extra time in order to elevate their games. Players that don't put in the effort could be satisfied with their game and not see a need for improvement. Not necessarily an attitude that is conducive to success.

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#30 misfit
April 17 2010, 01:22PM
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I also just want to say that the comment about the debate about him being the best player on the team was probably said that way because of the great season Penner just had, and how one could make a case that Dustin is our best player.

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#31 Crust
April 17 2010, 01:23PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

I'm a fan of getting off first, but sometimes I let my... nevermind, I always get off first...

Guess I walked right into the one. lol

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#32 RossCreekNation
April 17 2010, 01:31PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Which is why I said Hemsky, Cogliano +.

So you think there's no chance at some groundwork there? I just came back to throw the 31st in there as the + before anyone saw it... I take it that's still not gonna get it done. I like Horton (and am not an Oil fan), but I figured Hemsky for Horton was a bit further apart then you have them. I agree it would be a no-brainer for Tambo, but I was hoping for some reaction from some peeps saying "no way Oilers would make that trade"... kinda like picking a fight, y'know.

~Thanks for taking all the fun out before the "morons" showed their faces~

I think dangling Hemsky at the draft is the smart thing to do... especially if you can move into the top 5.

Back to the glue for me, though, lol.

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#33 Tha Legion
April 17 2010, 01:51PM
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Not that I'd ever want/expect this but how does a line of hall gags and kovalchuk look?

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#34 Pajamah
April 17 2010, 01:55PM
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Hemsky, Brule and 31 for Horton, 3 and a 4th or 5th rounder??

Does that make it doable?

Wonder if Tambo has any groundwork with a top 5 drafting team at all, this long before the draft

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#35 Pajamah
April 17 2010, 01:58PM
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Tha Legion wrote:

Not that I'd ever want/expect this but how does a line of hall gags and kovalchuk look?

Firing a GM for lying probably doesn't happen

but if Tambellini flaps his gums about building a team, and not chasing that big ticket guy, and then signs a guy like Kovalchuk long term, he's setting himself up to be fired

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#36 jake
April 17 2010, 02:12PM
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Hemsky = enigma

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#37 OilFan
April 17 2010, 02:44PM
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@RossCreekNation

log back into hockeybuzz

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#38 The Real Scuba Steve
April 17 2010, 02:57PM
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Do you guys really want to trade a healthy Hemsky? He could a good leader to these young guns that are coming up.

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#39 Timmah
April 17 2010, 03:10PM
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Hemsky is indeed an enigma. At times it seems he don't want to be an Oiler, yet this year he seemed to listen to the coach (not holding on to the puch as much) and was a PPG player (yes, small sample size, but that could be offset by having JFJ on his line too), so there was some sort of "change", wasn't there? He's a tough one. Regarding trading Cogs as mentioned by a few people lately, I'd be against that: there's a guy who was "playing big" at the end of the season. IMO he should be kept, his speed with Hall (if they so choose) would be unreal. Having Cogs on a line with Hall, and say Brule? Small yes, but fast as hell!

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#40 Deep Oil
April 17 2010, 03:28PM
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Jasmine wrote:

Where is there proof that Hemsky wants out? Nowhere. But I want Sour-ay out ASAP.

So does Souray and Quinn, but Tambellini sucked wind all last summer, rolled the dice and instead of accepting less - he got more than bargained for at the end the year.

Those who drag feet, have dirty toes. More proverbs later.

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#41 Heavyd
April 17 2010, 03:36PM
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@Timmah

Speed is good. But speed doesn't always relate to offence, or coming back on defense, so just cause that line would be fast doesn't mean anything.

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#42 RossCreekNation
April 17 2010, 03:36PM
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@OilFan

Ya okay there pal. Tryna get back on Brownlee's good side, I see. Trust me, it'll take more than that. As you can see, there's already peeps questioning why you'd wanna trade Hemsky or Cogliano, yet the only trade scenario involving them was the FLA one I tossed out... which was the point -people don't want to trade these guys, even in trade proposals that favor the Oil.

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#43 Robin Brownlee
April 17 2010, 03:38PM
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Jasmine wrote:

Where is there proof that Hemsky wants out? Nowhere. But I want Sour-ay out ASAP.

NARNIA, are you an agent for HA101?

If you've been following along, I'm strongly, ahem, suggesting Hemsky won't re-sign here after this contract. If the Oilers come to the same conclusion, they'd be wise to get something for him before he walks away, no?

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#44 Rob
April 17 2010, 03:56PM
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I don't know if Tambo has the necessary orbs for trading out the old mentality (Moreau, Pisani and Hemsky) from the dressing room or not. After he hasn't addressed the obvious needs of the team since noting those needs in his '09 end o' season rant I remain unconvinced he will ever get off the dime. Some have described him as cautious, patient and conservative. I see him as dithering, fidgeting and stalling in the making of key decisions that will bring the change everyone is calling for.

I find his phony emotion is mainly for the benefit of fans and media patiently waiting for signs that the Oil management have a clue. I see his theatrics as crocodile tears and nothing more. In my view we will be told that they are building from within this time next year.

If Katz is going to cut loose this nimrod sooner or later anyway I hope it comes sooner rather than later. Not one sportswriter or blogger has called Oiler management out over the high school style drama that has been the Oilers ever since Kevin Lowe started his reign as one of the biggest jokes in the history of GMSmanship. No one in this town should be looking down their noses at other teams in chaos. We are cheering for the most disfunctional organization in hockey. Don't it make me proud.

On the subject of Hemsky, trade him to try and improve the draft position while he has two years left at a reasonable rate. He's not coming back folks.

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#45 Harlie
April 17 2010, 04:12PM
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buh-bye Hemsky

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#46 Ender
April 17 2010, 04:44PM
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Hemsky is signed for this coming season and the next. If they trade him in his last season, he's probably a playoff rental and the return to the Oilers will be next to nothing. The only way you get anything decent for Hemsky is if you trade him with term still left on his contract. That said, coming off an injury his value may be low so we'd want him to put up some good numbers and maximize value before unloading him. Maybe Christmas this coming season?

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#47 OilFan
April 17 2010, 05:06PM
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@RossCreekNation

Why I'm on his bad side ? Oh yeah lol he still thinks I'm someone else. Either way I think we need to trade Cogs but not sure for who.As for Hemsky ? I haven't looked at next seasons draft prospects but i think they should keep him one more season to help with the rookies.

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#48 OilFan
April 17 2010, 05:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

NARNIA, are you an agent for HA101?

If you've been following along, I'm strongly, ahem, suggesting Hemsky won't re-sign here after this contract. If the Oilers come to the same conclusion, they'd be wise to get something for him before he walks away, no?

I have to agree. Do you think it would be best for the Oilers to move him this off season or next ? Same with Penner ?

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#49 OilFan
April 17 2010, 05:17PM
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Would it cost Hemsky plus one of our picks to catch another early first round pick ? I'd like them to get SEGUIN and Nino Nuederreiter plus Jack Campbell. Pipedreams...............

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#50 Jmask5
April 17 2010, 05:47PM
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Wow talk about overanalyzing. It seems to me that Edmontonians have a infriority complex. If someone doesn't kiss the city's butt every single interview than they want out for sure. Get over it people.

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