ALES HEMSKY: THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Robin Brownlee
July 05 2011 03:37PM

I first met Ales Hemsky minutes after the Edmonton Oilers drafted him 13th overall in 2001. I can't say I've ever heard him sound more positive than he did in a conversation we had today.

Hemsky, 27, back in town from the Czech Republic just a couple days, took a twirl on the ice at Millennium Place before all the youngsters in town for a prospects camp got busy, then chewed the fat with a handful of reporters as the kids did their thing.

Hemsky's surgically repaired shoulder is fine and should be at or near 100 per cent by the time he reports for training camp. This, obviously, is a good thing for the Oilers.

What really grabbed me, though, wasn't Hemsky's physical health, but his emotional outlook. Anybody who has been paying attention knows that's something that hasn't always been a shining ray of light during some dark days in five straight years out of the playoffs.

As Hemsky enters his prime surrounded by so much promising but largely unproven young talent, he's as genuinely excited about the upcoming season as I've ever seen him.

THE SMYTH FACTOR

While Hemsky is unquestionably stoked about the return of old linemate Ryan Smyth, the collection of kids the Oilers have gathered during these lean five years since the 2006 Stanley Cup final also has him pumped.

"We had lots of young guys coming in last year," Hemsky said. "It's the same here this year.

"The first overall pick and another couple guys, so the depth of the young guys is huge. I don't think we ever had so many guys like that, talented. Now, we have another five guys from free agency, so the depth is pretty good. A lot of players."

Just five weeks from his 28th birthday, Hemsky's not old by any stretch, but he's Father Time compared to the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Anton Lander and Magnus Paajarvi. Then again, he's a pup compared to Smyth.

"He's been around for a long time, so he's got a lot of things to say to the young guys," Hemsky said. "They can learn from him.

"I played with him for five years, six years. He gave me a lot. He was nice to me. He can build your confidence. His work ethic is great. The guys can just learn from that.

"On the ice, he's a leader. Even if he doesn't talk, you can just see it on the ice. He works every shift. He's in every battle. He cares about the team."

WHAT'S NEXT?

There's been plenty of speculation about Hemsky in recent years. Is he happy in Edmonton? Does he want to sign another deal or will he bolt for unrestricted free agency when his contract is up at the conclusion of this season? Should the Oilers trade him?

I've asked those questions and written those storylines more than once since 2006, with good reason. More often than not, Hemsky sounded like a profoundly unhappy young man during past conversations.

That, of course, is to be expected, given the dismal performance of the team since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. That began to change last season with the infusion of Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi. It continues now.

"You look at the team and how the team can look long-term," Hemsky said when asked about his future here.

"The players they've signed are great players who will fit really well. The toughness they got with (Ben) Eager and (Darcy) Hordichuk. The centre (Eric Belanger) for the face-offs. We get a little bigger with (Andy) Sutton. "I think it's a good fit, what we need. It can only make you happy, you know, for

the future."

ANSWERS WILL COME

After back-to-back shoulder surgeries. what Hemsky needs now is to put in a full, healthy season, be it reunited on a line with Smyth or alongside all the fuzzy-cheeked talent.

If he does that, and if the Oilers begin the ascent to playoff contention fans are being sold as the basis of this rebuild, a lot of the questions that surround Hemsky should answer themselves.

Does he want to stay? If this team is on the rise and can have a chance to win something in two or three years, why wouldn't he? Should the Oilers commit to a player who has been "fragile" in recent seasons? If Hemsky stays healthy, why not?

"We didn't really talk about anything," Hemsky said when asked about contract talks between agent Jiri Crha and the Oilers. "I don't worry about it right now. My focus right now is just to get back, get 100 per cent and get ready for the season."

And then . . .?

STAYING PUT?

"It's tough to lose," Hemsky said. "It's been hard for the last five years. Last year was different. It's never easy losing, to not make the playoffs. I never really judge anybody, why we didn't make it before. It's a new generation now.

"I want a chance to win. I think they made a lot of good additions to the team. We can even this year be good, like for playoffs. Of course, I want to go in the playoffs. That's the only goal I have.

"Even this year. Hopefully, we can do it. If we have those young guys who were playing last year. They'll be more confident, they'll be a little bit older. We've got other young guys coming up . . . it'll be fun."

"Fun" enough to stay?

"I never really like to change places," Hemsky said. "I'm really confident here, like I say. I've met a lot of great people here. I've got a lot of good friends here. I have a girlfriend from here.

"I can't complain, you know? I don't mind the city. Everybody is nice to me. I can't complain."

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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#101 D-Man
July 06 2011, 10:35AM
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DSF wrote:

It's nice to get excited about Hemsky but a little perspctive may be in order.

Ales Hemsky: 6'0" 184lbs Tim Connolly: 6'1" 190lbs

In the last 3 seasons:

Hemsky: 141GP 44G 86A 130P .92PPG Connolly: 189GP 48G 106A 154P .85PPG

Connolly was just picked up as a UFA by Toronto who gave up zero assets to acquire him.

Hemsky is 2 years younger than Connolly but I expect their value is about equal in the minds of most GM's.

Given Hemsky's injury history, should he have a decent, injury free, season up to the trade deadline, and given that the Oilers will not likely make the playoffs until Hemsky is in his 30's, it would be foolish to not consider trading him.

Consider trading him? You should always consider trading him - but he's publicly said that he loves Edmonton and wants to stay... Archaeology is currently planning the parade route for Mullet day for one of the top ten Oilers of all-time.. If Hemsky wants to stay - sign him up...

Hemsky won't be 'the man' when we evolve to a legitmate playoff/Cup contender; but name me a person who would be a better complimentary player? I don't think you could...

I'm not saying to not trade Hemsky. Tambo will surely have a good feel throughout the season should Hemmer want to stay... If Hemsky does not want to stay - I agree; try to maximize your asset value and deal him, but every avenue on a contract extension should be exhausted before considering that move...

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#102 Archaeologuy
July 06 2011, 11:40AM
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@D-Man

True story, if we're throwing a parade for Smyth then I will be there. The curse has been lifted.

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#103 D-Man
July 06 2011, 11:55AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

True story, if we're throwing a parade for Smyth then I will be there. The curse has been lifted.

I thought you were the organizer?? Or is that on Wayne's to-do list - after he's figures out how to properly clone Jordan Eberle to ease his obsession??

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#104 Archaeologuy
July 06 2011, 12:07PM
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@D-Man

Is it a paid position?

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#105 D-Man
July 06 2011, 12:11PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Is it a paid position?

Are a couple locks of the mullet fair enough compensation to you??

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#106 Archaeologuy
July 06 2011, 12:25PM
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@D-Man

You, Sir, drive a hard bargain. I'm in.

*starts doodling the "Welcome Home Smytty Parade" route on the wall of his office*

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#107 Oilfaninvic
July 06 2011, 05:23PM
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Rumour:

Nashville and Weber contract difficulties.

Gilbert, Sam Gagner, Martiin Marancin, 1st pick in 2012 for Weber.

Do it. Must be a dream but if true. Go for it.

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#108 Mitch
July 07 2011, 08:50PM
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@Brownlee

I have been to the development camp 2 days now. I like what I see, Marincin looks like a star in the making, I hate to make comparisons but he reminds me of Pronger with out the real nasty side, would be really nice to see him go down to OKC and dominate. Lander looks like a player with a very good skill level that just loves to compete and have fun always a smile on that guys face. Tyler Pitlick looks like a junkyard dog out there. Tuebert is a real leader. Tambellini asked his scouting staff to find a special player with the #1 pick RNH is a special player, great vision a slipperyness, very high compete level, I feeling he can win a job but there will be no pressure on him if he doesn't. Most importantly right from RNH to a undrafted kid at this camp these players care so do the coaches and managers, things are looking up in oil country. The focus is on being a EDMONTON OILER.

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#109 KURD
July 17 2011, 02:08AM
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PLEASE TAMBI'!! PLEASE RESIGHN HEMSKY FOR ANOTHER LONG TERM OF TIME!!!!!!!!!!

He's my Favorite player in the League.

I dont only want you to resighn Hemsky just because hes my favorite player, but because he's a good sighn to rebuild the young rosters of the team along with Smyth back (thank god hes back. Im soo happy!!) and Horcoff. Oilers are a very young team right now and need players (Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth) with more higher level of expereance for the youngsters to get better as they grow older and will hopefully stay with Oilers for a very long-term of time with the Oilers organization.

Hemsky is over 90% healthy right now and should play atleast from 70-80 games this coming season which is a good sighn.

So PLEASE TAMBI'.. I beg you to resighn HEMSKY ASAP!!!!

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