With ten games to go and sitting somewhat comfortably in 7th place, you would think life is grand yet everything is not rosy in Oilerville.
The Oilers best player is unhappy.
Ales Hemsky told Dan Barnes, “I’m just trying to do exactly what they want. I’m becoming a checker. We’re just doing what we have to do to win games. I’m not complaining. I just don’t feel as important as I did before when they were riding me.”
I spoke with Hemsky today and he reiterated that he is more frustrated than complaining.
“I was a little down. I want to play better and help the team make the playoffs. This is not a time to feel sorry for yourself. I have to focus on the last ten games and be better.
“I don’t feel that everything is right. Every player wants to be used more, that is why you play hockey. I don’t regret saying it. That is how I felt and I said it, but the bottom line is now is not the time for me to feel bad about my game.”
It might not be the best time to feel bad about your game, but I think it was the best time to voice his displeasure in how he is being used. For a long time you got the sense that Hemsky was happy being a good player, but that greatness wasn’t his main focus.
I wrote earlier this year that after a dominating performance v. Columbus that Hemsky was becoming great.
I spoke to him after that game and for the first time I felt he wanted to be great, and realized how much effort and hard work it would take. Hemsky’s skill set is top ten in the world, but his consistency and overall drive wasn’t.
His comments today and yesterday show me he wants to be that go-to-guy now, and rather than worry that he wants out, the organization should embrace his new attitude and channel it onto the ice.
His coach wasn’t that concerned.
“I find that players that are a little more difficult to manage, I’d rather have the difficulty managing players that will go play the game the hard way and go to the tough areas, than a guy who is super easy to manage and sometimes don’t go to those tough areas.
“I respect the way he plays. Character to me is how you react in certain situations on the ice. I’m totally supportive of the way he plays the game, and with the toughness that he plays the game.
“I’m not managing his ice time any differently lately. The last guy I really worry about confidence wise is him, because he is so skilled. He has been playing fine in my estimation. The way he has started the last few games, he has been outstanding. He hasn’t got anything offensively to show for it, but he has been playing fine.
“You look back after you hear the comments about the way he has been used, and I did sit him down in the Colorado game when we were up 7-1, and probably in hindsight maybe that should have been the time to play him, but I didn’t see him lacking confidence because he is still making plays.
“I support the player. I’ve had him for seven years. I understand where the player is coming from. These comments could be malicious at times, but I really don’t view it that way with him. You may think I’m just saying that because he is a good player and I’ve got to have a good relationship with my best player, but I’m not. I like the player and I always have. I owe him a lot, and he will have my support in this situation.”
So where do they go from here?
Hemsky and MacTavish had a conversation early in the year when Hemsky was struggling and he told the young Czech to just relax, and not worry about his stats because they would come. That convo happened before the Philly game, and then Hemsky went out and scored two highlight reel goals.
They spoke yesterday according to MacTavish and he stated it was good chat, and that he expects Hemsky to probably score tonight.
It is obvious that Hemsky is frustrated, and it is obvious the coach respects his game, but is it an easy situation to resolve? Yes. Play him more. Double shift him five-on-five, let him play the full two minutes on the PP if he wants.
I’m not sure how many of you have noticed, but Hemsky has gone down to block shots three times in the past two weeks. I asked him about it, and he said he admitted that for the first time he would be interested in a few PK shifts here and there.
Hemsky finally wants to be the guy. Now it is up to the coach to give him more responsibility.
Marc Pouliot draws in tonight for MacIntyre, and the Colossal Fossil starts again. Former Oiler Ty Conklin gets the nod for the Wings. Conklin came to Detroit to be the back up, but with Osgood’s season-long struggles continuing, Conklin might be their guy come playoff time.
Conklin is 24-9-2 with a 2.44 GAA and .911 SV%, compared to Osgood who is 24-6-7 with an ugly 3.18 GAA and woeful .884 SV%.