February 05 2012 12:37PM
Ales Hemsky's 11-12 season has been poor compared to his own past. The skilled Czech winger is playing a lesser role on a team that finally offers players of his skill level and beyond. Hemsky is in trade rumors daily, but from what we hear NHL teams are more interested in Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagner and others. How far has Ales Hemsky fallen?
Ales Hemsky is still a young player by any reasonable standard and could be part of Edmonton's on ice future. The Oilers management group may have other ideas; there may be pressure to deal him because other contracts will take up so much cap space that even a good Hemsky deal would put the team too close to the 2015, 2016 and 2017 caps.
At 28 years old, Hemsky has played in 500 regular season games and had a strong post-season in his second trip to the playoffs. At almost any other point in his career, news that 83 was on the trade block would be met with a lot of strong offers. It appears as though there is interest but a bidding war is a distant bell.
HOW FAR IS HE OFF THE PACE?
On the powerplay this season, Hemsky is delivering as always but is playing less. This is predictable, since the Oilers have added so many splendid offensive talents via the draft since 2008. Hemsky is a very good PP option, but you'd have a hard time arguing he is the key to the success of the 5x4 this season.
The difficulty for Hemsky comes at even strength. The club is still giving him over 14 minutes a night at evens, but his offensive output is about half what we would come to expect based on past seasons. He has been injured and is facing the tough opposition, but those things have been true in past seasons and 83 delivered miles beyond current rates.
WHAT'S THE TROUBLE, BUB?
Hemsky has played at various times with kids Hall and RNH, but for a lot of this season he (along with Horcoff, Smyth and Jones) has been asked to face tough opposition. Although the offensive results aren't there, his CorsiREL is solid:
CorsiRel gives us the individual player's Corsi number relative to his team when he isn't on the ice. The puck is heading in the right direction very often when Taylor Hall is on the ice, not so much when our friend Lennart Petrell is out there at even strength. This graph is courtesy behind the net, the source for advanced stats.
So, Hemsky's 5x5 scoring rates are way down, but his CorsiRel is fine. What the hell? Making things even more difficult, the opponent save percentage when he's on the ice isn't outside the ordinary.
All systems go, puck in the right direction and an established, skilled veteran a big part of it? That's a very good arrow for an NHL team. Or it should be.
WHAT'S THE CONCLUSION?
I don't have an easy answer for Hemsky's low scoring rates at even strength. He is coming back from injury, but things like CorsiRel suggest the puck is moving in the right direction. We know he is playing tough opponents, and we know that his center forever (Shawn Horcoff) isn't exactly an offensive monster. Still, as mentioned, he's done great things in the same circumstances in the past.
I'm left with recovering from injury, poor luck and perhaps a loss of confidence in the scoring zones as explanations.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
These are the quality of competition numbers through 50 games:
The kids are moving up the list--a note here to mention that Hall is just a beast, an absolute beast--with increasing toughness of opposition and still delivering an out of this world CorsiRel. Crazy. If Hemsky were signed for another couple of seasons, I'd be tempted to suggest they run a Smyth-Hemsky duo against the soft parade for a few games to get the group going. Smyth and Hemsky did post some offense last night so maybe it's a case of hitting line drives for a week before they start finding holes in the defense. Hemsky has been more productive over the last several games and perhaps his even strength number will improve to his established levels.
Bottom line: Ales Hemsky is a very good bet for any NHL team moving forward. The current slump is going to cost him money and probably means less return for the Edmonton Oilers at the deadline, but once in his new town I'd expect plenty of offense from 83.