HERE'S YOUR HAT, WHAT'S YOUR HURRY?

Lowetide
August 13 2013 11:20AM

On the day of his 30th birthday, Ales Hemsky remains a divisive figure in Oilers history--some of us consider him the de facto 'player of the decade" for the 2000's team while others consider him soft and an underperformer. Here's one fan's view of the situation.

THE STORY, IN PICTURES 

For me, the Ales Hemsky story is summed up in this exchange against the Detroit Red Wings. Hemsky--considered soft by many--once again enters the battle as he chases down the 200,000th "ring it around the boards like Pat Quinn told us to" errant puck--and gets slammed by a Niklas Kronwall elbow (and he left his feet!). Corey Potter--God love him--comes to the aid of his teammate and gets a 4:00 penalty. 

The commentator speaks about liking the way Ales Hemsky "popped right up" and states this is what he'd like to see Hemsky do more often. I screamed at my television (you may have heard me, I'm quite loud)  "he does it ALL THE DAMN TIME" but to no avail. 

Ales Hemsky played for the Oilers in an era when the front office couldn't get out of its own way. His Oiler career can be broken down into four parts:

  • Early arrival (age 19) and development
  • Pushing towards excellence (05-09) as the front office fiddles
  • Injuries and battle fatigue (10-13) as the front office dithers
  • Early exit and new city (still to come)

I'm convinced Hemsky never had the support, but even at that he delivered at a wonderful level when healthy. In his Oiler career (597 games now), Hemsky's per 82 boxcars are 18-44-62. And these aren't just PP numbers, either. At even strength through his career, 83 has delivered:

EVEN STRENGTH/5X5 PER 60 SCORING BY ALES HEMSKY, CAREER

  • 02-03: 2.26*
  • 03-04: 1.73*
  • 05-06: 2.17*
  • 06-07: 2.09*
  • 07-08: 2.36
  • 08-09: 2.08
  • 09-10: 2.85
  • 10-11: 2.88
  • 11-12: 1.57
  • 12-13: 1.40

(*nhl.com using even strength time on ice, all others courtesy Desjardins behindthenet.com)

Hemsky was a very consistent producer of offense through the dark years and of course a key part of the Stanley team where he emerged as an impact player. 

WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?

The Oilers didn't have the horses, from the moment they dealt Pronger without retaining Spacek and other veteran defensemen to bridge the gap. From that second onward, Hemsky was sentenced to years and years of flying sorties into the 'Regehr zone' with little or no hope of a second season or a return to June playoff hockey. 

And yet, he flew those sorties, with many in the fanbase blaming Hemsky for the poor results. The problem was never Hemsky (beyond injury and the wonky results this season on that 2line) the problem was the Oilers didn't have enough actual NHL players.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We're never going to agree,  some of us are pro-Hemsky and others are not--and that's fine, we're fans and part of it is having disagreements on these things. This fan wants to wish Ales Hemsky a wonderful birthday and a terrific season in 2013-14--wherever he plays. 

The ideal year from my point of view is Craig MacTavish acknowledging that Hemsky's frustrations over the years were well founded and that the organization is hopeful he'll consider signing with them next summer. And then devoting real time to Hemsky playing on a skill line--these kids aren't so established the club can afford to trash a talent like Hemsky.

He is 30 today. Will he be here for his 31st birthday? I'd put the odds just shy of impossible.

"My first pick was Ales Hemsky, and you certainly want him to play and I'm yearning for him to be a success and so far I think Ales is going to be." Kevin Prendergast to Guy Flaming, HF interview, August 15, 2003. 

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 Baresnake
August 13 2013, 11:28AM
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I've never thought of Jennifer Garner as attractive until just now.

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#2 Mojo
August 13 2013, 11:28AM
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Going to miss this guy. Thanks for the read.

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#3 Marshall Law
August 13 2013, 11:47AM
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Perhaps the most under-appreciated individual to ever pull on the sweater. It's hard to understand the constant, irrational hatred that has been spewed in his direction. Outside of the glory days, this guy is only below Doug Weight in terms of his contributions to the franchise.

It still makes me sad when people refer to him as soft. It's his willingness to go to the dangerous areas over the course of his career that has resulted in his inevitable physical breakdown.

He remains one of my top reasons to watch this team play.

PS. Let us not forget that he was once stabbed in the neck with a beer bottle and lived to tell the tale!

Happy birthday, Ales!

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#4 Will
August 13 2013, 11:51AM
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Three problems left out of this article.

One: he is so injury prone. So as we drone on about elite level talent, the guy can't stay healthy enough to actually show us this always talked abut talent. And don't give me that, well he had no one protecting him as he went into the corners crap. Two words on that one: Patrice Bergeron.

Two: He had absolutely no excuses this year. He was lighting it up in his league to get a nice start before the start of the season. He was on a line with the team's second best point producer and a rookie who just kept getting better. There was no argument to be made that Hemsky didn't get the skill players to play with this year, so why the abysmal point production?

Three: How badly does the team get outshot when Hemsky is on the ice? This is what is meant by soft. He doesn't back check and can't retrieve the puck. Not to mention how often he gives it away with an errant pass, or fancy play that sees hi get hammered.

Having skill is one thing. Hell a quick look at Struds in warm up shows even he has skill. But converting that skill into points is something Hemsky year in and year out struggles with. I for one will be happy when he leaves as I won't ever have to hear about his elite level talent. Riddle me this, if he's so good, why were teams not falling over themselves to pick him up in a trade? We have tons of skill, I can't imagine Mac T was really asking for all that much. And there are a lot of teams out there in big need of high offensive scoring as Hemsky is reported to have. So why not? The 5 mill contract? Teams could easily take that on for one year to see how he preforms. Almost nothing is risked at that term. So why no trade?

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#5 Will
August 13 2013, 11:55AM
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@Will

Having said all that I do agree he has been a warrior for the franchise during a very dark period. I don't hate the guy, or the player, I just don't think the Oilers are a better team with him than they could be with someone else.

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#6 John Chambers
August 13 2013, 12:00PM
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I like this player's 1-on-1 moves, but never found him to be able to augment the play of his teammates. I would accuse Hemsky of not playing much of a team-oriented game.

That and he just can't stop himself from going offside.

I don't think he's a bad or particularly unproductive or unlikeable player, but I'd like to see the Oilers move on if for no other reason than to shed vestiges of this miserable 7-year playoff drought (while still replacing him, of course).

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#7 Supernova
August 13 2013, 12:07PM
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I will miss him when he is gone.

Always felt Hemsky was never provided with the appropriate players to play with.

also felt he was misunderstood by the fans, people constantly yelling "shoot" in the arena, as well as saying he is soft.

Best skill guy on a team that was absent with skill for much of his time with the team.

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#8 Bud
August 13 2013, 12:12PM
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Well said Will , i'm with ya.

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#9 Pucker - B class
August 13 2013, 12:14PM
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Hemsky is a frustration.

I love his skill but I find I'M yelling at my tv many times. Particularly when he's on the Power Play. It looks at times that he doesn't want to pass the puck off because he has no confidence in his options.

The optimist in me says his injury problems are over. The Oilers ARE going to be more skilled this year. Can he become a bigger asset? Or perhaps he's just not very coachable. I do figure that if he does get moved, he has the ability make Oiler fans rue that day.

I'm really on the fence with him.I'm a fan but based on the last few seasons,(shoulder, shoulder, defensive play) I don't mind seeing him traded for assets. On the other side, I'd like to see what he's going to do this year. The downside of that is - that's what I've been thinking the past few years.

Props to Ales whatever happens.

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#10 Rob...
August 13 2013, 12:17PM
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For me question will always remain: Just how good could Hemsky have been if he had Jagr's work ethic?

In contrast, I absolutely love hearing about Yakupov and how hard he works on his game, always trying to improve.

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#11 Mark-LW
August 13 2013, 12:18PM
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@Will

The three seasons before this past abbreviated season hemsky was one of the only players who actually did out shoot his opponents.

What the hell are you talking about?

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#12 Travis Dakin
August 13 2013, 12:25PM
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Some of us are pro-Hemsky...

and the rest you can go to hell!

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#13 Death Metal Nightmare
August 13 2013, 12:28PM
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i can understand tendencies in his game that some fans might not like - that's fair. but i think the general point of "this team gave him no equal complimentary players for a high majority of his career" is the real issue.

his attitude being floppy over those years doesnt seem out of the question. some people can play the "duty bordering on idiot" role their entire career (mostly because they dont have a lick of NHL talent to put them into a responsible offensive role)- some players can't. Randy Moss on Oakland comes to mind. people said he was trash, done, gives up, etc... then breaks an NFL WR record as soon as he gets out of there. most fans expect the duty of players to be unconditional. sorry, we live in a reality of manifold attitudes, personalities and politics. as much as Hemsky should "suck it up", the management team might need to swallow their own piece of humble pie soon when they turn this "rebuild" into the early 2000s Ottawa Senators - stockpiling tons of amazing players and getting nothing done with it outside of some playoff appearances.

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#14 Klima's Mullet
August 13 2013, 12:41PM
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One of my favorite players ever. I wish him well wherever he ends up. I think he has a lot of hockey left in him. I feel he would fit well in Detroit but I'm sure they can't fit him into their payroll. Phoenix? Nashville? Ottawa? Islanders?

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#15 Rogue
August 13 2013, 12:41PM
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Hemsky-Talented, exciting, fearless, best player for the last decade.

Injuries a major factor. Yes, a lack of talent around him but I never really felt he helped the players around him. More like a lone wolf than anything else. A dangerous wolf. And I feel he could of been an elite winger, but he never put in the extra effort. Never was impressed with his body language going off of the ice, either. Looked like a kid pouting.

In conclusion, a player who never reached his true potential. Not all his fault, but wonder if he will look back one day and say, "what if" Still, one of the few Oil that could bring you out of your seat.

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#16 LinkfromHyrule
August 13 2013, 12:42PM
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@Will

How can you say he had no excuses last year? Hemsky had a BROKEN FOOT last season and still played.

as for other teams not wanting to pick him up, it's the contract and the injuries combination. Teams are likely scared of taking someone on at a 5mil cap hit that could be injured in the first 5 games.

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#17 OilClog
August 13 2013, 12:52PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Some of us are pro-Hemsky...

and the rest you can go to hell!

WHAT HE SAID!

and take your little dog with you!

Pro Hemmer!

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#18 ed in edmonton
August 13 2013, 12:56PM
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I have often stated that many Oiler fans have mistaken that there is a difference between great talent and a great player when considering Hemsky.

I find it insulting to many players who have attempted to play with Hemsky over the years that they have cost him a chance at greatness. A great player makes those who play with him better, Hemsky is obviously not in this category.

Bottom line this year is that 29 teams have said no thanks.

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#19 tileguy
August 13 2013, 12:58PM
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He was never afraid to be the first one in the corner to retreive the puck, like a good little soldier, which of course was the major factor in bad shoulders. The real blame for his performance over the last 5 years or so belongs to the coaches and manangement who did not pull back the reigns and tell him to hold back, your too valuable to be doing that kind of heavy lifting. He would of been a consistent ppg player with proper handlers. I hope he gets traded to a cup contender and gets his shining moment in the sun, he EARNED it. good luck hemmer.

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#20 tileguy
August 13 2013, 12:59PM
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L.T. Great title for this article.

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#21 Quicksilver ballet
August 13 2013, 01:03PM
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Happy Birthday Ales.

Feel a little bad your time here coincided with one of the worst ever run NHL organizations. I can't speak for the Entitlement types who run this organization, but as a hockey fan, i wish you nothing but the best in the remainder of your hockey career.

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#22 Romanus
August 13 2013, 01:07PM
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ed in edmonton wrote:

I have often stated that many Oiler fans have mistaken that there is a difference between great talent and a great player when considering Hemsky.

I find it insulting to many players who have attempted to play with Hemsky over the years that they have cost him a chance at greatness. A great player makes those who play with him better, Hemsky is obviously not in this category.

Bottom line this year is that 29 teams have said no thanks.

So you don't think Horcoff was a PPG player and got his contract because of playing with Hemsky?

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#23 Reg Dunlop
August 13 2013, 01:07PM
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Hemsky never seemed to have suitable linemates because there are no suitable linemates for him. Make no mistake, he is in no way soft. He was never intimidated. He could always wheel, and unlike many he could wheel with the puck. And he could always dangle. So why does it seem like he doesn't produce at a rate in line with all this talent? It's because he is Ron Flockhart. Wheels, skill, balls... it just never seemed to work. The sum of the parts was worth much more than the assembled unit.

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#24 Tha Legion
August 13 2013, 01:16PM
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Jennifer Garner as Electic Nachos, nice pull

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#25 ed in edmonton
August 13 2013, 01:17PM
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Romanus wrote:

So you don't think Horcoff was a PPG player and got his contract because of playing with Hemsky?

I don't recall Horcoff maintaining a PPG rate over a year.

However, I think you will find that Horcoff's point production didn't change much in the period prior to his windfall if Hemsky was in or out of the lineup.

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#26 Woogie63
August 13 2013, 01:31PM
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I love this guy... He stayed and played hard when other choose to leave.

Oiler fans seem to love or hate players which Is confusing. Edmonton is a nice town, but...

These 25-30 year old millionaires would do much better playing hockey in about 28 cities that have hockey teams.

I recently shaw Sheldon Souray on Bravo selling his Malibu home for $3.5 m which he owned outright. He did not like the 60 minute drive to the rink, so he was renting a condo right on Newport beach. I bet he is wishing the Oilers kept him.

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#27 RexLibris
August 13 2013, 01:33PM
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Hiya LT,

So what you are saying is that Hemsky is kind of like our own Marcel Dionne - a beautiful player who just never had the chance. Perhaps a musical dedication is in order, something sad, a little melancholy, but tender towards the missed opportunities.

My vote: Used to have so many plans Something always seemed to turn out wrong Never could catch up to you Moving on and doing all you've done I don't know why The harder I try The harder it comes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEYJbyH1Cns

Great album, great song, great band.

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#29 dt
August 13 2013, 01:42PM
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It frustrates me, the criticism he endures. When Mike Comrie retired, he talked with Stauffer about the toll his injuries took (he had hip replacement surgery). He said he recovered physically quickly and easily enough, but it was the mental recovery that he found the most challenging. He said he started taking different routes to the corners, or the front of the net. Hemsky has had both shoulders rebuilt, concussions, etc. I can see what Mike Comrie was talking about when I watch Hemsky play. He battles through injuries, goes to the corners, takes abuse, but, apparently, he has no heart. What is heart then? I hate to say it, but there is a bias against Europeans. If Ryan Smyth had battled through two season ending injuries, it would be blasphemous to criticise him. People would be defending him at every opportunity. No one hesitates to criticise Europeans and question their commitment. Maybe their quiet nature is due to the language barrier, and their body language due to cultural differences. I thought society was done making judgements based on someone's ethical background or country of origin.

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#30 Geoilersgist
August 13 2013, 01:45PM
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ed in edmonton wrote:

I don't recall Horcoff maintaining a PPG rate over a year.

However, I think you will find that Horcoff's point production didn't change much in the period prior to his windfall if Hemsky was in or out of the lineup.

Remember that time Horcoff at 73pts in 79 games.... ya me too.

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#31 Baresnake
August 13 2013, 01:45PM
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@Mark-LW

I gave you props for your comment, and trashed your profile pic.

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#32 RexLibris
August 13 2013, 01:49PM
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Lowetide wrote:

Rex: That's one of my all-time favorite songs. Love it, listened to it yesterday. Great, great choice.

Shook Jim Cuddy's hand once and talked Canadian poetry with him. Nice man, heck of a voice.

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#33 Spoils
August 13 2013, 01:59PM
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spontaneous offence like that on our 3rd line! I'll be sad to see Ales "Wayne" Hemksy go...

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#34 jdrevenge
August 13 2013, 02:18PM
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Huge Garner fan and a huge Hemsky fan. Here's to hoping he's our Hossa.

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#35 Mark-LW
August 13 2013, 02:30PM
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Baresnake wrote:

I gave you props for your comment, and trashed your profile pic.

You don't like my radio show?

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#36 DieHard
August 13 2013, 02:37PM
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Happy Birthday Mr. Hemsky. Please retire an Oiler in like 5-6 years.

Sincerely. Bruce

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#37 Taylor Gang
August 13 2013, 02:45PM
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Jagr once said that Hemsky had the skill to score 100 points in a season. It just makes you think of what could've been...

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#38 moldham
August 13 2013, 02:50PM
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He has some of the most memorable highlight reel goals and set-ups in an Oilers uniform since he laced em up. Even if he doesn't remain an Oiler I look forward to seeing some sick dangles on TSN in the mornings. Good luck Hemsky.

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#39 David S
August 13 2013, 02:53PM
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Maybe it was the system. Maybe it was Gagner and Hemsky fighting. Certainly it was the injury. But Hemsky looked like a shell of his former self last year. Cruise across the blue line, random dangle, get stripped of the puck, head 'er south. Again and again and again. I swear I could see his linemates staring at him in disgust as they did their third consecutive recovery rush per shift back to the Oilers' D-zone.

If I had one of those old tube TV's it'd be totally wrecked from thrown beers after last season.

Here's hoping he can get his dangles back.

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#40 Rocket
August 13 2013, 02:57PM
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If he gets moved, I hope Hemsky goes east. I don't want him to turn into an Oiler killer in the west; but also so the national media will start to really appreciate his talent like we Oilers fans do.

I wonder what kind of offers MacT has gotten for Hemsky. Is he asking too much? I find it interesting that we don't even hear rumours about trade proposals.

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#41 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
August 13 2013, 02:59PM
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@Death Metal Nightmare

I've got 5 million reasons why Hemsky should 'suck it up'...

EDIT: that being said, his last second goal after Stefan fumbled the empty netter years ago is legend

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#42 Rama Lama
August 13 2013, 03:11PM
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I have never had any ill felling towards Hemsky, but I struggle to see what others see in him.

Yes he goes to all the tough places, and takes hits, and gets back up again, and then does it all over again. The frustration for me is watching him play an individual game, even when he is playing with players that can generate a keep a play alive.

This guy is an individual player, playing a team game..........he could be a franchise player if he ever learned to play a team game, instead he chooses to be an " end to end", player.

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#43 The Last Big Bear
August 13 2013, 03:27PM
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As a Flames fan, I was always glad to see Hemsky work hard, display exceptional talent, get killed because he was the only Oiler who could get puck possession in the offensive zone, and then get **** on by Edmonton fans for not being able to win games single-handed.

There should be a highlight reel of Hemsky's career, with all the great moves, all the borderline-criminal hits by Regehr, all the goals, and all the plays where he's holding the puck for like 30 seconds and there's *still* nobody open for him to pass to.

And the entire video should have just one big caption for Oilers' fans:

THIS IS WHY YOU CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS

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#44 socaldave
August 13 2013, 03:46PM
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Hemsky's the poster child for a risk/reward player. He was stuck (yeah, stuck) on a team/in a system that didn't know how to (most likely just plain old COULDN'T) make the best use of him.

How anyone can say the Oilers are a better team without him than with is, at best, simply misinformed or, at worst, a Calgary fan.

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#45 Ryan2
August 13 2013, 04:07PM
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Geoilersgist wrote:

Remember that time Horcoff at 73pts in 79 games.... ya me too.

He is right about Horcoff's production being consistent pre-Hemsky, though. His career best was 40 prior to having Hemmer on his wing......

Anyone that suggests Hemsky does not make his linemates better clearly only saw/remembers the last two or three injury riddled/recovery seasons. Too many bandwagon jumpers-on the last two seasons, I guess.

It is funny to see how fickle fans are now. In the past, the rule of thumb was that any player coming off of at least a half season ending injury would need at least that much time after they returned, if not a full season, to get back to their level of play. Hemsky is one Oiler who has never been given that benefit of the doubt - even Whitney got better treatment from the fans despite the fact it was obvious two seasons ago that he could no longer play NHL level D after his big ankle injury here.

FWIW, I expect him to sign with Boston to play on a line wih Kreicji after this season regardless of whether he is traded or not. As a long time Oilers fan I will wish him nothing but the best when he leaves.

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#46 Will
August 13 2013, 04:33PM
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Mark-LW wrote:

The three seasons before this past abbreviated season hemsky was one of the only players who actually did out shoot his opponents.

What the hell are you talking about?

Do you mean the three seasons where he played a combined 138 games out of a possible 328 games and was a combined minus 3, with his only significant season of 69 games, he got 36 points and was a minus 16 while getting paid 5 million dollars a year? Oh, ya he was solid.

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#47 Will
August 13 2013, 04:40PM
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LinkfromHyrule wrote:

How can you say he had no excuses last year? Hemsky had a BROKEN FOOT last season and still played.

as for other teams not wanting to pick him up, it's the contract and the injuries combination. Teams are likely scared of taking someone on at a 5mil cap hit that could be injured in the first 5 games.

But that's what I'm saying. There always seems to be a reason or defense, or excuse as to why he's not playing up to the elite talent everyone knows he can be. We've seen one full season where he hit 77 points. Since then he has underachieved every year. There are only so many excuses that can be made until it's just clear the player is being viewed through rose coloured glasses.

Bergeron played with a lot more injuries than that, you no what he didn't have any of? Excuses. You know what he had a lot of? Points.

Hell, Eberle played with a broken finger and he played the entire season and had a respectable 37 points.

I'm just so sick of hearing the reasons why he's truly better than the score sheet suggests and finally willing to accept that maybe he's just not that good. I'm not knocking him for his effort, or sticking with it, or what he's meant to the team, I'm just saying maybe we're all a little too soft on Hemsky. No one has ever been this kind to Horcoff. It's always suck it up and play better. No one is this forgiving to Smyth. People see he's lost a step and everyone wants him to retire. If you want to sit there and say that Hemsky has meant more to this club than Smyth, then you can sit there alone.

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#48 David S
August 13 2013, 04:46PM
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Off topic I know, but has anybody suggested a fancy stats name/term for the composite +/- index of Trashes v. Props?*

(Dakin is +66 in this thread)

*You know you could make yourself famous here, right?

- Wanye Widget score (W2 score) - Lowetide Composite Index (LCI) - ?

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#49 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
August 13 2013, 05:27PM
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@The Last Big Bear

Yeah but, you're a Flames fan.

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#50 Travis Dakin
August 13 2013, 05:31PM
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David S wrote:

Off topic I know, but has anybody suggested a fancy stats name/term for the composite +/- index of Trashes v. Props?*

(Dakin is +66 in this thread)

*You know you could make yourself famous here, right?

- Wanye Widget score (W2 score) - Lowetide Composite Index (LCI) - ?

Oilersnation is restoring my faith in humanity today!! Wow... perhaps there are a lot more fans with brains than I thought

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