ALES HEMSKY: WHAT TO DO?

Robin Brownlee
December 02 2011 10:16AM

There was a time when Ales Hemsky was healthy and easily the most dynamic offensive player on the roster of the Edmonton Oilers. Today, with unrestricted free agency looming next summer, he is neither.

Hemsky, many observers will tell you, doesn't look altogether right these days. He doesn't look engaged. Is he simply feeling his way back into form from yet another shoulder surgery? Is the shoulder still not right? Is Hemsky unhappy or distracted?

I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know a few things as I try to get a read on the 28-year-old Czech right winger – his durability is in question, given his injury history the past few seasons, and he's been passed on the Wow-Meter by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the minds of most Oilers fans. He's not the biggest name on the marquee.

So, with Hemsky in the final year of a multi-year contract that pays him $5 million this season, where does he fit moving forward with the Oilers? Does he fit? Should GM Steve Tambellini be looking to re-sign Hemsky or should he be looking at trading him?

What to do?

DECISIONS COMING

Going into tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hemsky has played in 14 of 25 games. He's scored just 2-6-8 and has often looked less than his usual dynamic self when he has played.

Injuries, notably shoulder and concussion problems, limited Hemsky to 47 games in 2010-11 and 22 games in 2009-10. Despite all the time missed in those two campaigns, Hemsky was productive when he did get into the line-up. He had 42 points last season and 22 two years ago, which is about the pace you'd expect from somebody who has scored at a .80 PPG clip during his career – 116-287-403 in 504 regular season games.

This season? Not so much. Numbers aside, a lot of people, myself included, have opined Hemsky just doesn't look "right." We don't like his "body language." Not being an expert in such matters – is there such a thing as an expert in body language? – that's hardly any kind of defining assessment.

On the bench and on the ice, Hemsky often looks listless, devoid of any outward emotion, disinterested. It could be nothing more than that Hemsky is struggling with confidence or worried about his shoulder. Could be.

In the past, specifically in the seasons the Oilers have struggled since they made their Stanley Cup run, Hemsky has been frustrated by a combination of injuries and losing. That's understandable.

That said, Hemsky seemed genuinely excited about this season. He talked about the addition of talented kids like Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. About the Oilers being on the upswing. He talked about being happy, connected and settled in Edmonton, about liking it here.

What he said last fall and what we're seeing now seem at odds, no?

WHAT'S NEXT?

It wasn't that long ago that Hemsky's $4.1 million cap hit was seen as pretty much a bargain for the Oilers. Two or three years ago when he was coming off seasons of 71 and 66 points, it seemed a certainty Hemsky would cash-in on this next contract.

That's anything but certain now. Hemsky and agent Jiri Crha will leave money on the table if the kind of performance we're seeing now continues. If anybody is talking about Hemsky being worth $6 million or so a season over a term of five or six years these days, I'm not hearing it.

If you're of the mind Tambellini should re-sign Hemsky, it's not difficult to argue he's got all the leverage and the time is right. "Ales, we want you stay. We think you can bounce back . . ." At a discounted rate, of course. Is that the way to go? Is there a line-up of teams out there willing to pay top dollar if Hemsky hits unrestricted free agency?

If you're of the mind Hemsky is expendable behind Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins and he should be shopped around, what's Tambellini's asking price now? What's a reasonable return?

The way I see it, Hemsky's value is as low now as it's ever been. If you try to make a move now you don't get much back. If you decide to wait and hope that Hemsky plays his way out of this and he doesn't, you get even less later as the trade deadline gets nearer.

What to do?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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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#1 Crash
December 02 2011, 10:52AM
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What to do? First thing is ask Hemmer if he wants to be here...if yes

Hemmer may not be the most dynamic player on this team anymore but he still is dynamic, he still creates offense and he is easily in the top 4 on this team.

The team is just now starting to round into form and to remain successful will require good secondary scoring. There's not a chance you can obtain a player for Hemsky that is as good as Hemsky is right now...it would be yet again the trading of a player for more hope for the future and a backwards step for the now.

If Hemsky wants to be here then sign him...if he doesn't then get what you can but keep in mind you won't get the same immediate value in return or even close to the same value.

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#2 book¡e
December 02 2011, 11:42AM
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Homie wrote:

Trade him for a second liner with some size, heart and grit, even if you have to give up some points. He has definitely been passed by Eberle on the depth chart.

Why do you bother commenting here if you don't watch hockey?

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#4 Torcida
December 02 2011, 01:44PM
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Since talented free agents love coming here to play, let's trade one of talented players. If the guys wants to be here why get rid of him. As of now not too many players want to come here, I hope that changes. So let's not push Hemsky out of town, also goes with Gagner too. We know they haven't been played great, both coming off injuries and it's only been 10 or so games for both.

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#6 baggedmilk
December 02 2011, 10:53AM
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@The Hall Way

Because Eager was supposed to = Lucic right?

Someone had unreasonable expectations...

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#7 book¡e
December 02 2011, 11:00AM
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I think you nailed it with "Hemsky is struggling with confidence or worried about his shoulder."

He needs a few lucky bounces to get his groove back.

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#8 Oilerbill
December 02 2011, 11:10AM
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To all the yahoos saying Hemsky is overrated or we don't need him:

He is still a 1st line RW! How many teams have 70 point RW's on their second line? 2? How many don't have 70 point RW's on their 1st line? 15 or more? I am just taking wild guesses at those numbers but I am probably not far off. If we can keep Hemsky at a $4M cap hit long term it will only benefit us in the long term.

Secondary scoring is NEVER overrated!!

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#9 book¡e
December 02 2011, 12:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

No chance Hemsky signs a one-year deal with anybody. His shoulder is a question mark and he obviously knows it better than anybody.

He's not going to take a one-year deal, even at an overpay of, say, $5.5 million, knowing he might be done with another injury if he can get the security of, say, four years at $4 million per season. Big difference in the total amount.

I think it depends on how Hemsky and his Drs feel about the shoulder. If they think its solid, then he might take a one year deal to prove what he can do so as to cash in on the next deal.

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#10 Romulus' Apotheosis
December 02 2011, 03:45PM
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Man... there are some brutal arguments on here today. I get it... most fans like two types of players: Gretzky and Semenko. You either put up huge, insane numbers or you throw a big hit... otherwise you are invisible.

Hemsky is not and will never be Gretzky, Crosby, Ovechkin, etc. His pedigree doesn't indicate that (drafted 7th 2001). He's a guy that scores at a .80 PPG clip over his career - ie. not some flash in the pan Cheechoo, Gomez, etc. type one-off situation. He has a career of performance.

403 points in 504 games is effing amazing! Show some damn respect! How can you say this:

@Dave said: "He looks good skill wise but never puts up results."

about does a guy with those numbers?! no results?? what??

Look at my post yesterday, #40:

http://oilersnation.com/2011/12/1/the-nuuuge-finally-a-calder-kid/page/1#comments

he fits in right where you'd not only expect, but HOPE your #7 pick would! he's more than payed off his draft bet. Look at that elite group of players he's with! If he was on any other team and you only saw his highlights and his stat sheet you'd have a totally different impression of him.

To those who think he's tanked it so far this year... a couple of thoughts:

He's come off major surgery, missing a sizeable portion of the last two seasons; missing TC, most of the exhibition games, was reinjured, is playing with new linemates... and ... what? his production is definitely down... but by how much....?

He's played 13 full games this year (he left one game after 5mins). he has 8 points = .62 PPG. That's down for sure... but is it FREAK OUT WORTHY?? Burn the house and hide the diamonds and other irrational behavior worthy?

That kind of dip in PPG % is going happen over the course of every player's year at some time regardless of injury, conditioning etc. Not to mention the small sample size.

~whatever, the guy who is 8th on the team in scoring after playing just over half the games of the rest of the team is probably expendable for bag of dicks... i mean pucks~

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#11 Dubai guy
December 02 2011, 10:19AM
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Hemsky will be missed.

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#12 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
December 02 2011, 10:20AM
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I really like Hemsky as a player, but I think now that he is healthy he could be a valuable piece in a trade to bring a top 3 defenseman back to the Oilers. Make it a deadline deal like Penner ??? Profit.

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#13 Dave
December 02 2011, 10:29AM
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Am I the only one who has always thought Hemsky was over rated? Too many neutral zone turnovers, too many extra moves at the offensive blue line (if there was a stat on offsides, he would lead the league for always making that extra move while gaining the zone), not enough shots, etc. He looks good skill wise but never puts up results.

I have no doubt on a playoff calibre team with more team size and grit he could be a valuable piece but I think he doesn't fit the role the Oilers need up front now.

Rod Brind'Amour was right around a 0.80 PPG player but he brought a lot more leadership and grit then Hemsky ever will.

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#14 baggedmilk
December 02 2011, 10:52AM
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I'm going to steal a nickname from the half retarded baseball player in the movie "Life"

Hemsky = Can't Get Right

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#15 Oilerbill
December 02 2011, 10:57AM
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We have been watching Hemsky for years and this is not the first time his body language has been questioned. Hemsky plays the perimiter and is ineffective on many nights. He has been this way for years. Until he gets punched in the face, cross checked in to the boards or something else happens that bloodies his lip. Then he is a different player. He's involved, plays on the edge and carries the puck with speed in to traffic. If you've watched him over the years you can't deny that fact.

He has come off of 2 injury riddled seasons. His confidence is low. I am sure he is playing a little scared. He knows about his injury issues more than anyone. Do you think you would be any different? He has always bounced back from injury and reurned to his old form quickly. This season seems to be a bit different but i for one think if anyone deserves a pass it's Ales.

We could probably get a 2nd pairing Dman like one poster said. But what is a 2nd pairing Dman? 15-20 points and a stay at home guy that can make a decent pass? For a 70 point RW that can break a game open? You're right about one thing What Tambo does with Hemsky could define his future as GM for the Oil. It might be different if we didn't have a place for him but that's not the case.

Trading Hemsky would be a mistake. Let's add him to the list of ex-Oilers that kill us when we face them.

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#16 RexLibris
December 02 2011, 11:00AM
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If it weren't for our young players like RNH, Eberle and Hall I think we'd be as anxious about Hemsky's future this trade deadling as Flames fans are about Iginla. I think about how much has changed in the last three years where we've gone from Hemsky being "it" for the team to him being considered a 2nd line RW, and needing to play well enough to defend even that.

I wonder if Hemsky could be our version of what Chicago has in Hossa, a deeper scoring threat on the wing who can exploit secondary and tertiary defensive matchups as the kids get more experience. My worry is this, if we trade Hemsky are the first words out of our collective mouths going to be: "we need someone to play RW, like a Hemsky"?

Given what he may or may not be able to bring back through trade I'm not entirely convinced that the team would be made better by his departure. Just as I'm not sold that Omark is prepared to play, or appropriate in, a 2nd line RW role at this point in his development.

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#17 Dave
December 02 2011, 11:20AM
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@Oilerbill

Oilerbill, well I said he is overrated etc, you bring up a valid point about Hemsky's point totals.

My only point is the Oilers have the small skill guys they need in the youngs, a simple eye test by watching this team shows a sever lack of size up front in the top 6. With an upcoming deep D-Man draft and the lack of a bonafide future #1 goalie for at least a couple seasons it may make sense to deal Hemsky for this type of younger player so we can seriously compete in a few years.

Keep in mind Hemsky hasn't been healthy enough to amass 70 points in nearly 3 to 4 season.

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#18 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 02 2011, 11:34AM
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As to what I'd do with him:

1st step would be to shop him, if you get a real nice deal for him, you move him.

If the right deal isn't there I'd try and re-sign him. If he want's bigger $$'s (say 4.5+) it's one year or nothing. If he's willing to take something in the 3-4 range per year, I'd go out to two... maybe three years.

If he wants more for longer then I trade him at the deadline for whatever I can get.

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#19 Oilerbill
December 02 2011, 11:36AM
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@Dave

Hemsky has never played like a small forward. He's 6ft 190+ lbs. A punishing winger? No but he's physical when he's engaged.

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#20 DrDave
December 02 2011, 11:50AM
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Gotta keep Hemsky around. 2-3 year deal until the likes of PRV or Omark hit their stride. As of today it almost seems like the Oilers would get the same return from a 30 year old Hemsky as a 28 year old Hemsky...

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#21 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 02 2011, 02:17PM
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@RexLibris

"One of my fears with this team as it develops is that our line of Hall, RNH, and Eberle will be like Spezza, Alfredsson, and Heatley: a great line with little or no depth to back it up."

Considering how many people are trying to run that depth out of town, it's a pretty resonable fear.

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#22 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 02 2011, 03:56PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who is trying to run "that depth" out of town and who constitutes that depth?

Fans that have been pushing hard for months (years) for Gagners trade and for weeks for Hemsky's trade.

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#23 Dale
December 02 2011, 10:24AM
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I would sign him for 2-3 yrs as I don't know who can replace him on the 2nd line.

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#24 Cmoney
December 02 2011, 10:26AM
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No way they can resign Hemsky. If the Oilers resign Hemsky to a large multi year deal it will be the beginning of the end for Tambo. Hemsky needs to go a sit on some other teams IR.

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#25 TrentonL
December 02 2011, 10:28AM
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I think you have to let him and guys like Gagner and Paajarvi work their way out of the funk(Omark also should have gotten more than 5 games). Hemsky should be resigned for sure, at the pay level his play dictates. Given time to get healthy the d of: Smid-Gilbert Whitney-Petry Sutton-Potter

Doesn't look too bad so no need to rush Hemsky out to fix that.

The third/4th lines need some offensive injection though, Penner for a 4th rounder, when he is healthy?

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#26 A-Mc
December 02 2011, 10:37AM
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My Ultimate Hope, Like i claimed with Gagner, is that Hemsky snaps out of this funk and starts engaging in the season ahead of him. He needs to help his team get into the playoffs this year and it certainly IS an attainable goal!

With all the excitement around the locker room: Renewed vigor in Horc and Smyth, The zest of the new kids, and an absolutely Stellar start to the season (October), I find it very odd that every time Hemsky's on the Jumbo tron Fans get a close up of the big pouty lip.

Why is everyone else so happy but Hemsky so pouty? Is life really that bad?

If Hemsky is doing this by choice: bail him now.
If Hemsky is going through some Personal Issues, The coaches need to get him the help he deserves: Keep him and resign at a reduced rate for 2 years.

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#27 Motel
December 02 2011, 10:41AM
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Anybody have Hemskys' career numbers against Columbus?

Usually a slump-buster for him.

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#28 A-Mc
December 02 2011, 10:41AM
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@Dale

if Magnum PI would get his ass in gear, The 2nd line could look like this: PRv, Horc, Gagner.

I'm not sure if this is part of the problem, but watching Paajarvi makes me think that he is almost taking the Defensive Hockey Mentality TOO seriously and he's forgetting how to play his Game.

If we could get Paajarvi's Scoring back, and then coach him into throwing his weight around a little, i think he could fill Hemsky's spot.

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#29 Motel
December 02 2011, 10:44AM
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Well that was easy:

25GP, 11G, 22A, 33P, +8 career numbers against the Jackets.

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#30 The Hall Way
December 02 2011, 10:45AM
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I think we try and trade Hemmer for a "pillar" like Strudwick was writing about. We need a banger who can play top 6-9 minutes. Ben Eager just isn't fitting the bill. We need a Lucic type player.

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#31 Gazmort
December 02 2011, 10:52AM
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RB, I would love to get your take on Hemsky's personality. The reason I mention it is that while he's been a favourite player of mine for ages, he never seems terribly interested in...well, anything (on or off the ice).

Maybe he's just naturally quiet, in which case it can be easy to misinterpret that for disinterest. But supposing he's always been somewhat removed, now that he's been passed by the kids, would it be fair to say that he may be even more disinterested, now that he's no longer the main offensive weapon? Is he the type of guy that would want to go to an offense-starved Carolina or Nashville in order to be the go-to guy, or do you think he's ok with his secondary role?

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#32 Crash
December 02 2011, 10:53AM
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Oops double post

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#33 Crackenbury
December 02 2011, 10:54AM
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I was dumbfounded last year when it was Penner that was shipped out instead of Hemsky, which had nothing to do with who was the better player. I thought I had some pretty good inside info on Hemsky wanting out of town, but it didn't work out that way. He certainly looks like someone not very interested right now. A healthy happy Hemsky is a bonus for the Oilers, a fragile, uncertain if he wants to be here, Hemsky needs to go.

At this point I think the ball is in Hemsky's hands. If he wants out he needs to be upfront with the Oilers, instead of sulking around on the ice most nights. I think he can still be a pretty useful guy to the Oilers, but he has to want it. I'm not sure he does.

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#34 J-Dogg
December 02 2011, 10:56AM
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Re-sign him, shorter term, less money, and hope his play/value improve.

Moving him now is the greater of 2 evils.

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#35 justDOit
December 02 2011, 11:02AM
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@Motel

Those numbers are good, but they're also history - Hemsky's better years and CBJ's poorer years all rolled into one.

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#36 Homie
December 02 2011, 11:02AM
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Trade him for a second liner with some size, heart and grit, even if you have to give up some points. He has definitely been passed by Eberle on the depth chart.

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#37 Truth
December 02 2011, 11:03AM
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If he wants to stay sign him for an extension at his current contract price. None of the young bucks (minus Gagner if you count him) need to be signed this summer so the cap space is there. This would allow Hemsky to increase his value by playing well for next years free agency, and at the same time would increase his trade value.

If he gets hurt or plays poorly next year the Oilers are in the same situation as right now, but have a few contracts to sign in the offseason and don't worry about the diminished return in trade or even letting him walk.

Edit: 1 year extension.

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#39 BigDawg
December 02 2011, 11:06AM
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83 would be a sweet player to have on our 2nd line. Provided he figures out if really wants to play here and be apart of something pretty effin sweet. Why u would want to go elsewhere is beyond me. sign him to a 1 yrs deal at 4mil. with bonuses. Then maybe he hits his homerun contract after he shows us what he can really do. If 83 was "present" for the last few games, and would have been able to put up some numbers. We Probably win those 1 goal games. We need this guy, but only if he wants to be needed here..

OILERS!!!!!!!!

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#41 Hemmertime
December 02 2011, 11:09AM
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Sign him to a 1 year extension if he will accept it. That way we get another year to evaluate him and project his salary vs Hall + Eberle next season. Sure he has been passed by Hall Eberle RNH but I see no reason to lose our 4th best offensive player (some of you might say Smyth, but I'll still trust Hemsky over Smyth next season). I'd say a 1 year extension in the 4-5 range. If he will take 4 or 5 years at 3 mil cap hit (he won't) I'd jump all over that.

If he wants long term and doesn't want a chance to increase the contract amount by staying healthy next season and putting up more pts, it might be best to deal him at the deadline. We could still have a chance of bringing him back.

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#42 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 02 2011, 11:14AM
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I think he must either be hurt or have it in the back of his mind he's going to get hurt, he looked fantastic the first few games of the season... but hasn't been near that since he came back from the latest injury.

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#43 sizzler
December 02 2011, 11:18AM
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Sign him to a 2-3 yr deal. Based on his career numbers he is currently underperforming and the whole injury ordeal.

Oilers should have an upper hand when it coming to agreeing on a price.

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#44 CurtisS
December 02 2011, 11:18AM
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Well we all know he's not worth 5 million a season. We could use him but if he's asking more than that I'm calling other teams.

Why do I use 5 million? Our rivals have Kesler locked up for that and no way Hemsky more valuable than him. Another comparable is the deal yesterday in Kerjci. Very similar players and Hemsky defiantly isn't worth more than him.

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#45 Ykciris
December 02 2011, 11:22AM
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Not that long ago, Hall-Horcoff-Hemsky is a 2nd punch to the Smyth-Nuge-Eberle 1st punch. That is something that has been missing from the Oilers fr a long long time.

Truth is, Hemsky has not been playing his best games. But there's no one in the system that can step into his shoes at the moment and produce the same results. He need to keep Hemsky for now to yield positive results for this year.

Furthermore, is there more left in the tank for Hemsky? Personally, I think so!

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#46 Dman09
December 02 2011, 11:33AM
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If I'm Tambo I don't really consider any trades until I see what Hemsky is willing to sign on for here and for how long. If he manages to get 3-4 years at 3.5 cap hit. Then I don't see any reason we should get rid of him. However if he is still demanding the 5 million cap hit I say no way, I wouldn't even do it for 4.5, based on his performance and injury history I see no reason to give him a contract that is at or more than his current one.

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#47 French Toast Mafia
December 02 2011, 11:42AM
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Im really not a fan of his game but like other people have said secondary scoring can't be overrated. IF.. the oiler could get him at under 4 mill a season for say 2 years I would go for it. Anything over 4 and its not worth the risk with a guy thats hurt so much.

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#48 Westcoastoil
December 02 2011, 11:48AM
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we can speculate all we want, but only those inside the team know his health / attitude. I'm betting his shoulder is still buggered. If you think he can heal, sign him to a short term reasonable contract if he'll do it. Otherwise you have to trade him.

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#49 Chirp
December 02 2011, 11:59AM
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Hemmer is not the same. He seems tentative. He is not challenging the defencemen on the rush like normal. He is pulling up and turn over the puck at the blue line, navigating to softer areas on the ice. He does not have confidence in his shoulder or is too worried about injury in a contract year, or both. The goal against Chicago was Hemsky of old, lets hope he gets back to that.

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#50 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
December 02 2011, 12:00PM
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This is what happens when you give the players too much of a voice in how you run your hockey club. Sitting, waiting and hoping he'll sign an extension here has put the Oilers in this situation. Don't wait and hope for a decision, the Oilers should've made his mind up for him.

I think Ales is saying and doing everything he needs to (in an effort to not rock the boat) to get through this season and call his own shot this summer. This second asset management achievement award will look awesome on Steves mantle next to the one he got for Sheldon Souray.

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