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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

  • BarryS

    I would suggest the city start adding a little valium to the water supply along with all the other stuff they add.

    The great supprise of the season will be any major trades before deadline week, unless some team owner(s) gets their loans called.

  • Chris.

    Many people say Hemsky is our "best player". I wonder…

    Hemsky is probably our most skilled player; but does that automatically make him our best? Bob Stauffer (and others) have often suggested that Nilsson may be the second most skilled Oiler. So does that mean that Nilsson is our second best player?

  • Trading Hemsky should not be done, his production/ cap hit is just what any team needs. The problem seems to be building a team around him. He doesn't really make linemates better and apparently he's not the easiest to play with (see revolving LW1 door). The Oilers need to build a team with Hemsky as another weapon, not the center piece.

  • Hemmertime

    Not gonna happen, 99% of people saying he is trade bait were saying hell no on July 1st. The people who think Hemsky straight up for Kovalchuk too are out of their minds. Unless Kovalchuk puts his name on a long term contract I dont deal our best player for a 1 year rental.

    Doesnt Hemsky lead all our FW's in blocked shots? 5 pts in 6 games while adding that aspect to his game and people dont like it? bah. He does need a 1 touch scorer with him, Im thinking more along the lines of Cogliano or Gilbert for Frolov if hes willing to commit to us. Although my pipe dream would be Simon Gagne, even at the end of the year. But right now I would do Gagner for Gagne if we had the $. Gagner + Nilsson perhaps.

  • Hemmertime

    Agreed that the Oilers need to build a team in which Hemsky is not the centerpiece – why continue building a team around him?

    What is easier, and makes more sense: changing a team around one player, or moving one player to better the team?

  • Hemmertime

    All this talk of Trade Hemsky for a Power FW too. Yes, we do have a team need of a power FW. But you dont give up your #1 play maker for it. We would immediately lose our PP quarterback and would be crying to trade our new PFW who had .6 PPG for a playmaker because Gagner isnt ready. There are very few Power FW that are able to play an elite offensive game.

    @ Brownlee What do you think of Shane Doan? Locked in at 4.5 for 3 more years. PHX would love to keep him I am sure but if we offered one of our kids and a D (though they have alot of D already) with all the mess about ownership what do you think the chances are?

  • Hemmertime

    Judging by the source, I think that something is up and that this is just a warm up for when it hits.
    Would I trade Hemsky?, only and only to make the team better. One thing that people have to consider when talking about Hemsky's play is the level of his teammates. Those are not true first lines he's working with and he still has five or six points at this point.

    Imagine what he could do if he had, say, Dany Heatly next to him….. So, be carefull what you wish for and, like I said, ONLY IF IT MAKES THE TEAM BETTER.

  • SofaKing

    I think over the course of the next eight months the Oilers should pursue aquiring Semin from the Caps. Semin and Backsrtom are both RFA's next year who will both be looking to be in the 6-7 mill range (me thinks)and I don't think any team can ice a competitive roster with 23 mill tied up in 3 forwards. I think Washinton would trade Semin for Hemsky straight up purely based on hemsky's cap value for the the following two years. However, I would like to see Semin play on the left side with Hemsky rather than be traded for him. Maybe we could ship one of our top four defensemen and a high end prospect for him or if Penner goes on to have a great year maybe package him with Cogs or Gagner.

    In response to Malc's comment(31) Although I don't want to see it, I don't think trading Semin for Hemsky is rediculous at all even if Semin is the better talent . When you have a 9.5 mill cap hit in Ovechkin I think your second and third best forwards should be no more than a 4-5 mill cap hit. Hemsky is one of the best 4 million dollar forwards in the league and would fit better in Washington's salary structure for the following two years than Semin because Semin is in line for a hefty raise next year.

    I think Semin will be available in a trade because Washington is in a position of weakness in that they cannot keep all three of their top forwards at about 22-23 mill for next year.

  • Hit the Net

    I'm in the keep Hemsky camp. He always starts slow as JW mentioned and he's our most skilled player. He needs to play with someone that can actual finish. Horcoff has been incredibly painful to watch again this year.

    As for getting him someone, I keep trying him with other roster players (Penner, Comrie, Brule)this year and wait until Paajarvi-Svensson comes in next year.

  • Hemmertime

    If we did trade Hemmer it would need to bring in a RW too in the deal, otherwise who is our #1 natural RW? Fernando Pisani – recipe for success! Also, what could we get for Hemmer that we couldnt for Gagner + Eberle + First round pick.

  • I think that it might be early to condemn Hemsky but his past isn't defining either.

    I'm by no means endorsing him either. I struggle to evaluate Hemsky. He is either that next level player or he isn't. If he is that next level player he has not shown it, glimpses but not lengthy periods. If he isn't that player he can be lived without. He has no one to match his style of play, but at the same time does not make players around him better.

    He is too much of an individual player and doesn't use his linemates effectively. He tends to disappear in physical games.

    I know there are players I trade him for in a hearbeat, but that list is growing with Hemsky's failed expectations.

  • 5Cups

    I just don't see how you win a trade if Hemmer goes. Based on what he brings and the price he does it for, you are going to get the shaft.

    I don't think you build a team around him, but he is the only real first liner we have. Horc can be if he plays with two genuine 1st liners.

    Even before the hawks game, I have always wanted to see a guy like Sharpe play on that line… I don't see it happening but he would be a great addition. Problem being they would be shipping him out to free up cap to sign kane et al and we could not take him on without shipping out a few guys for him.

  • Won't Chicago have to make a move between now and the start of next season? They have a ton of quality players and I'm sure they would be taking prospects and/or picks over players. If we could dump our dead weight in the A or elsewhere…

    Ok, now I'm dreaming.

  • SofaKing

    I would appear disinterested if my Centerman was Shawn Horcoff too.

    5 points in 6 games, all while lugging that anchor on his back we call Horc. Give the guy a break people.

    • Scuba Steve

      Yes, totally agree, this is where the real issue lies. Hemsky should be playing with a skilled offensive centre, not a 2-way 2nd/3rd line guy. Horc brings great value, but not in the offensive centreman type role.

      You want to see Hemsky start to produce? Put him on a line with Penner and Gagner. (I'm guessing we see this line put together by game 25)

    • Scuba Steve

      Do we really have to go over this again?



      The team was outscored at better then a 2-1 pace when Hemmer was on the ice without Horc last year, it was almost as bad the year before as well.

    • Hemmertime

      can we give him a break by asking him to chip in some points while playing on the second line with whoever he picks from this team?
      So far this year (and very long parts of last year; oh, yeah, and the stretch run the year before when he was injured) Brule, Cogliano, Gagner and even JFJ (2 points yesterday) were able to create more plays than the Hemmer.
      It looks like slowly-slowly his status as 'the playmaker' becomes just hearsay.
      Trade Hemsky for Evander Kane and a ouple of picks.
      Let rebuilding continue!

      • Ok, so even though Hemsky is almost a point per game this season (and last season down the stretch) while playing with a centerman who cant score you're still going to say he isnt producing? Why? Because he doesnt look like he's working hard enough?

        He isnt a playmaker anymore? Based on the fact that he has 4x as many assists this season as he does goals I think it's safe to say you dont know what "playmaker" means.

        There isnt any reason to trade Hemsky until the final year of his contract unless the returns are clearly beneficial to the Oilers LONGTERM. That does not include rentals like Kovalchuk, Albatrosses like Lecavalier, or some unknown prospect that MIGHT help the team (maybe) in 3 years.

        • Shapeman

          you think kovalchuks a rental?If we managed to make the playoffs and sign him longterm id call that a longterm benefit wouldn't you? I know there are too many what ifs but then again all thses trade propositions are what ifs

          • IF we managed to trade for him, THEN make the playoffs, THEN sign him before he hits free agency for the first time in his career? No, then he wouldnt be a rental.

            Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut, considering the Oilers do not have a history of being a playoff team (let alone a contender) and Kovalchuk will be expecting both $$$ and a winning situation after wasting his talents in Georgia his whole career I think that he is going to be a rental for any team that he is traded to that doesnt win the Cup. Plus, he is the DEFINITION of rental. High priced, High Talent, Last year of contract before hitting Free agency. That's what a rental is. Isnt it?

    • Skidplate

      Your knowledge of the game is an embarrasement.

      Go away point counting fool. Look at the pretty points.

      Can you name the only centermen in the league who had mostly Defensive draws against the other teams best and out scored them the last two seasons. There is only one in the whole league. Only one! Most other outscorers get the easy offensive zone draws.

      Whats better is the ufa contract outscorers all make 5.5M to 8.7M

      The reason hemsky is trade fodder is Quinn watches him do what he has done for years.

      1. Hemsky drives to the zone.

      2A. Turns over the puck
      3A. Horcoff covers hemaky ass defensively.

      2B. Hemsky makes the zone and the player has to hold back to cover just in case of a turn over.
      3B. Hemsky drives to right circle and shoots,
      4B. Scores or
      4B. misses the net and Horcoff has to chase back and cover hemsky's ass.

      2C. Hemsky goes past the net and circles passes back and
      3C. Hits Horcoff or the LW who score at career 12.5% shoting rates or.

      3C.turns over the puck and horcoff chases back to cover Hemsky's ass.

      Horcoff must have been in heaven last night playing with players just as offensively imaginative who are capable of playing Power VS. Power. Allowing Horcoff to be more offensively free.

      • ahhh, there's always one person who doesnt think that the guy who is counted on for his offensive contribution should be judged by his offensive contributions. You guys b!tch that Hemsky isnt doing enough, but only if you discredit the one thing that he is expected to do.

        I dont know what to say to you man, I certaintly wont start by calling you an emberrasment or a fool.

        Did i say that Horcoff cant play defensively? Did I say that Hemsky will win the Selke? Pretty sure I didnt. The guy is here for offense, something he has provided consistently for a long time. He isnt the 3rd line checking LW, or the 2nd line C. The guy is on the top line of this team for his OFFENSE.

        Hemsky isnt Trade fodder, this is 1 article written to spark what-ifs.

      • Since we're now judging offensive players by give-aways and not offensive numbers (~those are so unimportant for offensive players anyway~), I cant believe how terrible Alexander Ovechkin is. I mean, based on the same criteria that lambastes Hemsky, Ovechkin is the worst player in the league! 107 giveaways last year, yikes. I mean that's 33% worse that Hemsky! Who knew? Kovalchuk, Thornton, Richards, Crosby, and Malkin all give the puck away more than Hemsky. If only those guys had a guy like Horcoff to pick up their slack they could be succesful top line players. What a bunch of losers those guys are! I mean, learn to be a little more responsible with puck. Those guys could learn a little bit about how to be 1st liners from old #10.

      • Scuba Steve

        You make the argument for us, Hemsky is a skilled offensive player, playing with a defensive specialist with a limited upside for offense output. Horcoff is a great F/O guy, a good PK and shutdown centre, but a poor puckhandler, and a below average passer and shooter.

        If you want to judge this on defense, of course Hemsky falls short, no one disputes that.

        But if you look at the offensive numbers, Horcoff falls short.

        • Victoria

          If anybody thinks Horc's the issue here, they should try Hemsky with Gags or Brule…But I strongly doubt that PQ is the coach to change his system only to accommodate Hemsky. He might be inclined to do that IF Hemsky would have had the offensive numbers to justify it. Unfortunately he doesn't. No for the kind of privileged position he dreams himself in.
          I would trade him simply because he doesn't meet the expectations: no next offensive level in sight and definitely no defensive level whatsoever…

  • SofaKing

    Why tinker? While we are not undefeated we are only 8 games in. Let's give his team some time to gel and start playing the system. Has anyone not noticed that this team is alot more fun to watch. We win a game and yet we have to trade people who don't score. No one player is going to change the fact that this is a team game and when all are healthy and buying we have a good a chance as any to win on any given night.

  • dumbest trade in hockey?

    how about Gretzky for Carson, Gelinas and a bunch of first round picks that never made the nhl (Nick Stadjuhar, Corey Foster, and ok yes Martin Ruckinsky made the NHL but Sather traded him while he was in the AHL for a backup goalie who they lost in the waiver draft 6 months late…)Gelinas was traded for Scott stone hands Pearson who barely played in the NHL. Yes Slats made some good trades for Carson..Klima, Murphy and Graves. But again, two years later, Klima to Florida for a 5th, Graves lost in Arbitration to the Rangers for Kent freaking minor league Manderville, and Murphy to Chicago for Dean Mcammond. So three years after trading the best player in hockey history the Oil got Dean MCcammond…yes Slats was a genius.

    or how about Messier for Bernie Pickels and Steven Freaking Rice. Ok yes they got Louie Debrusk who was not exactly the Bob Probert Slats thought he was, and Steven Rice barely could play in the NHL. Nicolls was traded for Kevin Todd two seasons later. So two seasons later the Oil had nothing left on their roster for a hall of famer. But Man, that Slats was a genius.

    One would have thought that KLowe would have learned not to trade Star Players for potential, as it is much harder for potential to become star players than the other way around. That is what steamed me so much about the Pronger trade, that Lowe lived the painful years after the Gretzky and Messier trade but followed Slats' mistakes…


    • Jason Gregor

      You trade the best player you lose the trade, almost all of the time. The Oilers fleeced St. Louis when they got the Human Rake, and when they dealt him clearly Anaheim won the deal.

      Do you think Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka for Patrick O'Sullivan, (he is the end result after the Lupul trade) Ladislav Smid and Riley Nash and Jordan Eberle (those are the players the Oilers took with the draft picks) is a good trade?

      • I'm sure you're not comparing an elite level defenseman, call him an elite level player in this arguement, to Ales Hemsky. Hemsky is a good player and not a great player but the inference that the two have the same cache as assets doesn't hold water.

  • Shapeman

    I wouldn't trade him just because of how it would look around the league. The oilers trading away another "star" player doesn't sound good unless we get a bigger "star" back. I think the problem is that our number one centre is not an exciting enough player for Hemsky.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Trade him.
    Move him now while his blah blah blah. I'd like to see Pat make things difficult 94th line) and see how he reacts.
    If there's a deal available that makes the Oilers a better hockey club……see you later Alice, you moody biotch.

  • Why do we have to build around him or trade him?? Why can he not just be a member of the team. He is in my mind a very good player on a team that has not been very good in recent years.

    He makes $4 million, averages around a point per game and is still an evolving player if not an improving player (as shown be his increased willingness to shoot.)

    I hate harping on Horcoff because I think he takes too much abuse, but his is no longer an offensive player. Give him a prolonged chance to play with O Sullivan, Gagner, or anyone not named Horcoff and lets judge him then.

    He makes our pp better, he makes our offense better but I guess if you think that Brule and Comrie will average a point per game, and Penner will crack 100 pts then we don't need him.

  • When an article like this comes up, it reminds me of when Hemsky decided near the end of the season that he wanted to be the "man" but MacT was holding him back, he ended the season doing dick all. I don't think he has that next level.

    • Look back at last year's stretch drive Kuritos, Hemsky was the only Oiler that was doing anything. There is absolutely nothing behind the sentiment that he didnt do anything in the stretch. He did it, and was the only Oiler doing anything consistently.

  • Robin, good question and timely. Interesting posts. There should be a number of questions asked: What is or will be the identify of this hockey club under Tambellini and Quinn? Whatever the identity, would Hemsky really match up with it? Tamblini outlined an identity when he fired MacTavish: strong on the puck, physical, bigger, hard to play against. Don't know if this is Hemsky. Most posts agree there really isn't a first line, other than Hemsky at the present time. What is missing is a big, strong, puck-controlling centre and a LW that can complement the other two players. Kotaluk was the LW that best matched up with Hemsky. What to do? Really difficult to get the ideal centre. There may be a LW on the club now. Imagine what Hemsky could do if he played with Detroit! He would be a natural fit with all their talent. The problem is the Oilers don't have anywhere near the degree of talent Detroit has, could possibly develop, or matches up with the club's identity. Last question: Is Hemsky happy playing with the Oil?

    • Your last question is the big one. To be honest, I don't know. Ales doesn't give us much in terms of a read on him — on or off the record. We try, but . . .

      I know what I see, but that's open to all kinds of interpretation.

  • Victoria

    Trade Hemmer?! Wtf…

    How about we try (honestly try, not go for a butt-face like Heatley) getting some linemates for him before making a move we'll regret.

    • Chamucks Deluxe

      I don't blame Heatley for wanting to abandon a sinking ship. Ever since Muckler was ousted from Ottawa that team has been a joke. Murry is a slime ball and I don't blame anyone for wanting out of there.