Hemmertime (to go): what say you?

Trade Ales Hemsky? That’s crazy talk… isn’t it?

I’ve long thought so, bemoaning the inclination of Edmonton Oilers fans to lament what Hemsky isn’t instead of appreciating him for what he is — a ridiculously talented and creative player — but debate whether he should be dealt persists.

That debate has picked up steam through the first seven games this season as Hemsky, despite a decent start, has sometimes appeared disinterested and, for those who believe in body language, sullen and unhappy. We don’t know that to be so, but some people think it.

There was a buzz in the rink Friday when Hemsky didn’t take the morning skate with the Oilers at Rexall Place. Didn’t feel like skating? In the back room asking GM Steve Tambellini for a trade?

It turned out Hemsky wasn’t feeling well and ended up being scratched for a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. A fever, coach Pat Quinn said. Hmm, fever, we all nodded. OK. Sick and tired of Edmonton?

Sorry, that just slipped out.

Better than good?

What seems to frustrate the Trade Hemsky contingent is that he’s a very good player who many think should be great. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen, but some argue that when you add up the numbers, he’s style over substance. Why can’t Hemsky be balls-out all the time instead of only when he feels like it? Where is the "next level" we keep hearing about?

Back on Aug. 13 I wrote:

"All I know, as Hemsky celebrates his 26th birthday in the Czech Republic after a summer of tooling around in his Ferrari, is he’s a magnificent talent and the best player the Oilers have by a fair margin. For my money, even if Hemsky doesn’t "get better," he’s not going anywhere during the term of this contract.

"Instead of bitching about what Hemsky isn’t, fans should be applauding what he is. That, and demanding that GM Steve Tambellini get the birthday boy some help."

I’m not ready to come off that stance just yet, but I’ve got to admit that I haven’t liked what I’ve seen from Hemsky this season. Even taking into account his laid-back and sometimes stand-offish personality, he seems somewhat detached and disconnected. Let me make it clear, again, I don’t know that to be the case. Appearances can be misleading.

As good as it gets?

A big part of the argument for keeping Hemsky is that his $4.1 million cap hit ($4.4 million salary this season) is a bargain. I’m one of the people who has made that argument.

It’s interesting, though, to take a look at Hemsky in comparison to Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano, both of whom were deemed expendable enough to be packaged in the Dany Heatley deal with Ottawa that came undone this summer.

Hemsky’s cap hit has long been lauded as one of the better, if not the best, contract of Kevin Lowe’s tenure as GM. Penner’s deal, on the other hand, has been widely criticized as one of the worst.

Until his hot start this season, PDP had been characterized by many as a lazy, out-of-shape underachiever after he agreed to a five-year offer sheet worth $21.25 million. His cap hit is $4.25 million.

Cogliano, meanwhile, is the low-rent guy of the threesome with a salary of $850,000 in the third and final year of his entry level contract. He’s the youngest of the three.

Fun with numbers

I’ve always argued statistics on their own can be misleading, especially when cherry-picked to support a point. Let me do exactly that with some simple boxcars. It’s food for thought, even taken with a grain of salt.

Statistics listed are from the start of the 2007-08 season through the first seven games this season.

  • Hemsky is the runaway leader in points with 142. Penner is next with 93 and Cogliano is third with 88.
  • Penner has scored 45 goals. Hemsky has 44 and Cogliano 38.
  • Penner and Cogliano have scored nine game-winning goals. Hemsky has scored four game-winning goals.
  • Hemsky’s average ice time in the previous two seasons was 18:34 and 18:38. Penner averaged 17:12 and 15:22. Cogliano attained his numbers averaging 13:39 and 14:24.

That’s far from a comprehensive statistical analysis, but it’s interesting how these particular numbers jibe with the perception Hemsky is a bargain and Penner, until this season, has been a dog. Speaking strictly in terms of bang-for-the-buck using these numbers, Cogliano is the real bargain, no?

You tell me

For those of you who, for whatever reason, think Hemsky should be traded, I’d like to know who you think he should be traded for and why based on team needs and, of course, keeping in mind the salary cap.

Do you move him for another right winger in a straight swap? Do you trade him for a centre? And, if you do, who moves where? A left winger?

And, please, resist the urge to even think of bringing up Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the like for Hemsky and spare parts.

On the flipside, if you’re in the camp that thinks Hemsky remains a player to build around and are of the mind he needs a centre or left winger to take him to that obviously elusive "next level," tell me who can help get the job done. And who from the current roster do you trade to get that player?

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • GSP

    Why do we always have these "so and so needs to be traded" debates? (not directed at you Robin, but the mases who do it daily).

    Unless a guy is a cancer, you don't trade solid NHL'ers just to trade him. That said their should't be one untouchable player on this roster, if I was Tambs I'd let the league know that I'm always open to offers.

    Simply put, if thiers a deal out there that is felt will improve the team, the trigger should be pulled… regardless of who the player is.

  • GSP

    I have always been on the fence with Hemsky. I agree that he is a major talent and when he is on, there arent many that are better. However, I do not know of any other star player like him that gives the puck up as much as he does or the play ends with him. I find it overly frustrating to watch him because for every one amazing play he makes he makes 3-4 boneheaded plays.

    One could argue this is because he is trying to do too much given the quality of his linemates. If you are going to keep him, I would look at going after someone to compliment him on the first line. There are two potential UFA's out there that I think fit the bill. Patrick Marleau – big centre who scores or Ilya Kovulchuk – he just plain scores. Normally I would say neither of them would be available but given their contract status, one never knows. Maybe Atlanta would take Horcoff since they have the cap space.

    If I were to trade Hemsky I would go for either a top centerman, power forward or a top 2 stay at home defenceman. Names that come to mind are Milan Lucic in Boston, Brooks Orpik in Pittsburg (imagine hemsky and sid or hemsky and malkin)or maybe even Jordan Staal in Pittsburg. I am sure there are many more comparables but that is just a few.

    I think the Oilers either need to get him a centre and/or a pure sniper or trade him.

  • Muji 狗

    I think this disinterested stuff is a carry over from last year, and Hemsky almost seems like he's going out of his way to play like a third liner. He has very little offensive creativity this year, maybe he's bought into the system too well?

    IF there is a deal to be made, I would try packaging Gilbert in exchange for an established scorer like Kovalchuk.

  • Muji 狗

    I like Hemsky.
    He's probably my favorite player in the NHL.
    So of course I don't want to trade him. Even if he were really struggling, which he's not, his combination of (1) a great contract, (2) being a nice bridge between the young guys and the vets, (3) his clutch performances, and (4) his high end potential make him one of the untouchables*

    *Of course, nobody is off limits. But Hemsky should be as close to that as anybody on this team.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    With pretty much the entire league capped out, I don't think we would like the returning value in terms of immediate impact. You almost have to go dollar for dollar.

  • Ducey

    I am not down on Hemsky but it seems clear he is never going to dominate when the other team gets physical on him. The Oilers are starting to rebuild a tougher team.

    The Oilers have two choices. Build a more physical team around Hemsky or trade Hemsky to get a more physical player. I like option 2 if possible.

    Hemsky for James Neal?

    Hemsky for Tyler Myers and a 2nd rounder?

    Basically, Hemsky for an up and coming power forward. The Oilers have enough pure skill guys (Cogs, O'Sullivan, Gagner, Nilsson, next two years MPS and Eberle). They need get somone from the Getzlaf tree who can plow through checks, hit, and score.

    • Chamucks Deluxe

      James Neal?
      The 44 points in 83 games with Dallas James Neal? The guy has some tools, as we just saw, but that's going way over the top for a guy who could be nothing more than Flavour of the Month.

  • One thing to consider is that Hemsky had a slow start last year too (9GP – 0G – 7A – 7PTS, -4). His numbers this year are an improvement on that, and his play isn't quite that level of bad.

    I think the team keeps the player at least until he's approaching UFA season, and then they can consider a change if contract negotiation doesn't go well.

    As for reaching the next level, I'm not sure how high he can go, but one thing that would help is giving him a LW who had more than one point in 60 games entering the season.

  • 88MPH

    This suggestion boggles my mind, only based on the fact that people in this town have a short fuse. This trade suggestion got out of hand when the Oilers lost to Chicago. It is purely a product of fans ridiculous expectations after 6 games. I really think he looks disinterested to Oiler fans because the other team everyone else watches has Ovechkin and co. fly around with the youth and vigor that every other team in the league would die for. We seem to expect the same out of Hemsky, which if you step back is ridiculous at this point. A new coach and new system, where these other teams like Chicago and Washington have had at least a year to work on their system with skilled players.
    Don't get me wrong, I am with Brownlee… for the right price anyone is tradeable. That doesn't mean we have to start thinking about it when he has 5 points in 6 games and we are only 7 games into the season. I guess the next time he gets an assist he will have to kiss his right glove, stare at the sky and drop to one knee… would that make him 'interested'?

  • No way you trade Hemsky. He's far and away the best forward on the team and he is a hell of a deal contract wise.

    As far as bringing in a player to take him to that next level I'm not sure that we don't already have that guy in Gagner. He isn't ready for the job yet but should be soon – next season maybe.

    Right now I just don't see how you can bring in that top line player without seriously risking what the team has already built. Slow and steady needs to be the mantra for this team. It will happen don't rush it.

  • The biggest reason we shouldn't trade Hemmer is his contract. He's one of the top RWs in the League, and he's just over a 4 Mil cap hit.

    Every other team would have interest in a player like that with his contract – even if he still hasn't hit his "potential". Maybe even *especially* since he hasn't hit his potential.

    Of course, the flip side pf this is that his value is huge, and he could get some great pieces back for him. With our cap situation right now, they would have to be prospect-types I would think.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Hemsky should not be traded. Best players the Oilers have and is a top line right winger on any team in the league. If the Oilers had to trade him because he demands one or whatever it would have to be in a package to pick up a player like Kovolchuck or Savard, someone who can get 100+ points.

      • Kovalchuck has averaged over 90 points in his last few season
        Savard has averaged around 90 points in the last few season with atlanta and boston minus 07-08
        Spezza has averaged around 90 points the last few seasons with the exception from last year
        Lecavailer has averaged over 90 points on crap teams

        I mentioned these players since they have been subjected to trade rumors.
        also you cant say there is no way these players can be traded because look at Thorton in boston.

        And if you trade hemsky im sure you can find other players in the Oilers system that has salary that could add up with these players salaries
        ei: Penner, Nilson, Cogs new contract, Gilbert?

  • Anyone who wants to trade him should have their head examined. He is a great talent and isn't having that bad of a season. (only 7 games!!)

    He will come around just like Penner. You don't trade that kind of value until at least the last year of a contract and even then you better get something great back.

    He may be on our 'first' line but that means he draws the other teams best line or their toughest checkers. That gives our other lines more opportunity to take advantage and for once in three years they are doing that.

    Cut the kid some slack and chill out. So many Oiler fans are perpetually unhappy no matter what happens on the ice or what the stats are. A couple games of Hemsky goals will shut these morons up. After all, we don't see too many posts demanding a Penner trade these days, do you?

  • Shanye Gretz

    We should totally trade Hemsky and Reddox for Ovechkin!

    Seriously, Hemsky is not going anywhere. How many of you took Penner (Or Cogs) over Hemsky in your draft? Exactly.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    If he DEMANDED a trade, I'd ask for a top tier shooter. We have enough guys that can pass the puck. I would almost ask for Alex Semin from the Cap's. Something else might have to go their way but he's an incredibly skilled guy and can absolutely wire the puck. Hemsky would be the only player on this roster to make a deal like that go through.
    Even said though, I wouldn't trade Hemsky unless he forced my hand. $4.1 is a good price tag for a 70+ point right wing. And in all honesty I wouldn't be surprised if t he reason he was pissed was because of who he is playing with. He's the only legit top line guy we have at this point, and playing with Whiffcoff and Coke-machines must be kind of disappointing. Can't remember which game it was, but remember the look he gave Jaques when JFJ missed him completely with a pass in the neutral zone off the rush? I think thats why he's pissed.

  • I think Horpensky has to be reunited, and if Hemsky still struggles then its time to worry. Robin, I have heard rumors that Hemsky may be dealing with an actual injury, not just the flu, have you heard anything like that? He does seem less willing than usual to go into the corners and along the boards against guys at full speed.

  • Shapeman

    Hemsky isn't going anywhere he was sick with the flu. He always has been a bit streeky. I think penner is going to have an awesome year playing with O'Sullivin.

    • Shapeman

      saved you some editing there bingofuel.. now on topic i think its crazy to trade hemsky.Hemmer is the best player on the team and when hes on one of the best in the league. I'm not sure where we can get a left winger for him but the biggest name this season will be kovalchuk so im betting we make a run at him if he doesnt resign in atlanta