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.

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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.

  • 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.

  • smiliegirl15

    I don't think we should trade Hemsky at all. I would rather see goatcoff go but no one in their right minds would take his cap hit. We should have hit Montreal up when they were taking on all those insane salaries.

    Hemsky does play well with Penner on his opposite wing; I say use Comrie as the centre and hopefully Hemsky will be more inspired.

    I think Horcoff is the biggest problem on that first line, not Hemsky.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Hey, Brownlee:

    Why don't you stop this B-S and write about something news worthy. I am sorry but not once have I heard anything from Hemskey or anyone else that he MAY be un-happy. I think the likes of you should keep your yap shut about rumors like that. These kind of things start to affect a team and not in a positive way. Not just you yapping about Hemskey being unhappy (which nothing indicates he is except your astute judgment on body language. Where did you get your PHD from?) but then you decide to bring up the past potential trade between Edmonton and Ottawa. Only a scuzz ball Like Murray would leak something like that to a low life reporter who worries more about getting a news scoop more than what the effects of the information may have or even if the story is true. Stick to the facts Brownlee. Keep yourself credible. BTW it is a
    2$ pistol


  • Chamucks Deluxe

    With the Oilers being so close to the cap this trade would really limit their so call trading partners. It really wouldn't be worth their time unless they were just un-loading Hemsky, which is not going to happen. However that doesn't prevent me from thinking about a nice wish list of players. But then again the cap space isn't there, so why bother. Hemsky just needs a good kick in the pants and a confidence booster. He'll be fine in a few games. He seems to play better when EVERYONE isn't pointing him out. Ride the pine, and stop this lunacy, until he actually requests a trade. Can't a guy be sick for crying out loud?

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Hemsky is Overvalued and overrated. He has never been consistent in his career. He has never made any players around him better. He is NOT comparable to Spezza (Brophy is an idiot). Look at his numbers. Everyone knows that the Oilers DO NOT have a superstar. They have not had a superstar since the departure of Doug Weight.

    Hemsky does some things well, He plays fearless in corners and is a good setup man. When he chooses to shoot, he does have an excellent shot. But he is way too streaky, and at times disinterested (whether you naive dolts want to accept it or not, its true). I believe he has peeked in his development as an Oiler.

    His contract is a good one, on a team that has a few too many bad contracts. He is one of the few players on this team that would yield a good return. I read some people suggest Neal and Jeff Carter… I don't think Philly would trade Carter.

    Id trade him plus a third rounder to Atlanta and bring in Bogosian and Little. It would make the Oilers an all-around better team and it would help appease Kovalchuk to stay in ATL.

    • I agree with some of your points about Hemsky, he has a shot that is still under used even though he's been better about shooting the last 2 years, but I wouldnt call him streaky or inconsistent at all. In fact I would argue the complete opposite.

      And as far as Spezza comparisons go, it's pretty hard to be accurate about anything like that considering the quality of linemates Spezza has had his whole career. Alfredsson and Hossa, then Alfredsson and Heatley. Hemsky on the other hand has had Horc and Smyth, then Horc and Horc and Penner. You cant argue that hasnt impacted Hemmer and Spezza at all.

  • Hey Bill you are the idiot. When you get a press pass and access to the Oilers dressing room daily at practice, pre game, and post game then your word might mean something. Brownlees pubes have more insight and info about this team then you ever will. So you shut your mouth and listen.

    If an Oilers beat guy is sharing his observation (regardless of whether you agree with it or choose to not want to accept it) it is still a better hypothesis than something you could ever come up with when it comes to this team. I say this based solely on the fact that the avg fan does not have the exposure to the team that a reporter/journalist has.

  • The question is simply trade him or not. Without speculating on the for who part the question boils down to Hemsky's value. He is probably one of the best players in his cap range, no question he's a good hockey player.

    My problem as I've posted before is simply can Ales Hemsky be our best player, with first line minutes, a leader and someone who will win games. the hemsky fans say appreciate him for what he is. he can be whatever we want but he isn't good enough (for whatever reason, we can debate but I don't care) to be any teams #1 player on a team that wants to be more than just a borderline playoff team. Hemsky rarely makes things happen (dipsy doodling through center ice, down the half boards, swing behind the net, come around looking for a pass everyone in the Arena can see, just to loose it – repeat this 8 times a night) and I would challenge the stats to show many times the play dies with him without so much as a shot on net. We debate the rookies doing this but Hemsky is not a rookie. Hemsky's points are secondary to his contributions and that's what warrants trade consideration. A trade may not increase points significantly but a better player would help in ways Hemsky is not.

    • You make good points.
      Being a one-trick pony is fine as long as you are great at that one trick. In Hemsky's case, that trick is creating offence.

      There's no question Hemsky is a very gifted player and his offensive totals certainly are fine for a player at his pay scale, but when he isn't producing on the scoresheet he doesn't bring much else to the table.

      To be honest, I think some of the frustration aimed at Hemsky comes from fans who are frustrated in gerneral at the team's shortcomings these past three seasons.

  • Jon: Your point about infatuation with guys who bring Lucic's dimension is fair comment, but does 336 points in 427 games, with a one-time high of 77 points and just two seasons of 70-plus, constitute nearly a point-per-game player?

    • 2005-2006 : 0.95 points per game
      2006-2007 : 0.83 points per game
      2007-2008 : 0.96 points per game
      2008-2009 : 0.92 points per game
      2009-2010 : 0.83 points per game (only 6 games so far)

      5 seasons from age 21-26 of near point per game.

  • Slapshot

    Hemsky is not as important to the team as Visnovsky and Souray.We have well balanced forward lines that the forwards can be moved around with not much change in the style of play,Hemsky does look disinterested from when he spoke up last season to this years season, he has not played to his capabilities,maybe he is injured. If we received a couple of first rounders and a young forward I say trade him.

  • Slapshot

    I think alot of us are/were expecting a game breaker type player which he is not IMO (can he be? who knows) because he doesn't snipe. It's really hard to peg this guy when you think about it.

      • Hemmertime

        If he has one of most accurate shots on Oilers (defined by shooting percentage or ??) and he is shooting more THIS year, then should he not have more than 1 goal THIS year? I love Hemsky but I am not sure he makes the Oilers offensive attack optimal (not saying he makes it bad, just not optimal). It's hard for players to get "in position" to score because he is so erratic when he has the puck. Does he fit with the players around him is the question. Also, who did he play with when he had 77points?

    • I dont see how they figure into what to expect from Hemsky at this stage of his career, the last 5 years have been pretty consistent and i think when we're talking about what we can expect from Hemsky in 2009-2010 the last 5 consecutive years are a good baseline. They do hurt the average, but it's not like i excluded his 2006-2007 season because he was injured a lot and his average dropped 0.10 points per game. The last 5 years in a row should be good enough for the claim that he's near a point per game guy.

    • rindog

      C'mon Robin that's low…

      You don't think using the last 5 years is a decent way of determining what type of a player Hemsky is now?

      I think it is very fair to "leave out" the first couple (learning) season's for any player – don't you?

      • Low? No, it's not.
        If you want to call Hemsky "a guy who'll get you 70-75 points a season," right now, I won't quibble with it.
        For me, using PPG says you're plugging in the numbers — all the numbers from all the games — and coming up with .975, .950 or whatever. Not just some of the numbers and some of the years.
        It's not a huge deal to me because I know what Willis meant in the Hemsky-Lucic comment, and I have no problem calling Hemsky a 70-point guy NOW, but he's not near a PPG player for his career. That's what I personally associate the PPG number with.

        • rindog

          Just debating (not arguing)…

          So.. you think the first couple seasons from players such Thornton, Marleau, Hossa, Iginla, etc, should be included in determining what type of players they turned out to be?

          Is there no room to allow these players a season or two to "find their game" at the NHL level?

          I would think there are many factors (not the least of which would be coach's trust) early in a player's career that may not let them play their true game??

  • Hemmertime

    I'm still anti-Trade Hemsky and likely always will be unless something pretty special comes along. I have to admit too that Hemsky is off to a horrible start. But this is kind of proof of how fickle fans can be. It's 7 games in, we've got a winning record (and unlike last year's 4-0 start, I'd say this winning record isn't all smoke and mirrors) and things aren't really in a state of bad and we're already talking trade Hemsky. I guess fans here just are never satisfied.

    Yes, his start has been very slow. But I'm sure we'll see the real Hemsky in time. When that player comes out, perhaps Quinn will feel confident giving him even more ice time.

    I will say that the criticism in the past on the top line was that the puck died on Horcoff's stick.. now moreoften than not it dies on Hemsky's. But he'll pick it up. Not everyone is going to adjust to the new systems at the same rate. Hemsky's a smart player though and a very cheap asset, all things considered. I see no reason to give up on him at all.

  • Hemmertime

    Jesus people, The names of the players that outscored Hemsky by the age of 25 is short. In the last decade (Without including Ovechkin and other under 25) Zetterberg, Getzlaf, Datsyuk. Done. There might be 1 or 2 more. I think and they both big fkin names.

    And if Hemsky isnt happy under Quinn give it 1 season and we arent a top 5 team say goodbye to Quinn.

  • rindog

    For a guy that gets paid to produce – 5 points in 6 games seems to be tolerable, doesn't it?

    If .83 ppg is a bad stretch – why are we even talking about this? Players go through slumps…

    Is there anyone here that doesn't think Hemsky will lead our team in points this year (barring injury)?

    Is there anyone that doesn't think Hemsky will have between 70-80 points this year (barring injury)?

    There is no need to worry about Ales Hemsky.

    Next topic???

    • Your second-to-last-sentence is profoundly naive.
      If you're talking about Hemsky's points totals, 70-80 sounds about right. If you're talking nothing to worry about about overall, that might be another matter. Where are you getting your information?
      I'm not the only person who is around the rink a lot who has noticed something seems to be bothering Hemsky. That wasn't the point of the item I wrote, but like I said, he seems a little more detached than usual. Might be nothing. Might be something. I don't claim to know for sure. Neither should you.

      • rindog

        Granted, I am not at any of the practice's or anything like that.

        To me, Hemsky looks like a player that realizes his coach is an "expert" and he knows what he is doing?

        I am sure you can appreciate that a gifted player like Hemsky might have a harder time "connecting" with the new ideas that are being put forward.

        That being said, when I watch Hemsky at TV time-outs, etc – I see him listening carefully to anything Quinn might have to say and he looks like he geniunely cares about getting better in this system??

        When I put that together with the fact that Hemsky has chronically been a slow starter and frequently looks disinterested/frustrated on the ice – I have no reason to worry right now.

        Afterall, it is only 6 games (for him) and he is still producing.

        I also have no doubt that Hemsky craves a bigger role and would love to be the "go to" guy. Is it naive to think that over time the relationship between the coach and player will grow and Hemsky's responsibilty will increase?

        If you have additional information that the rest of don't have; that's fine. I however, have not heard (or observed) anything that would point to there not be a good working relationship between the player and his coach?

        Quinn seems to appreciate what Hemsky brings (or has brought) so far and if he's not concerned….neither am I.

  • Bucknuck

    Hemsky is poetry in motion on the ice when he is on his game.

    I believe that the thing that makes this whole discussion so interesting is that Hemsky is a great player with a great contract, and that can get you a GREAT return on a trade.

    It can also allow you to package up some terrible contracts with him in a multi-player trade. Maybe you can dish Hemsky and Horcoff together, though I would be afraid to see our GA if Horc left.

    I like the idea of Brown from LA as a return. I would HATE seeing some wanna be soft player come the other way. It has to be someone big so that we can keep O'Sullivan, Cogs, Eberle, and Gagner long term

  • RCN


    Could the change you perceive in Ales be related to the coaching staff? Was MacT more deferential and publicly supportive of Hemsky – and does Hemsky resent the direction and statements of the new staff?

    In my mind, you don't trade Hemsky unless he forces himself out of town. And if I owned, the team I'd do what I could to keep him happy. Would playing Hemsky with Gagner and O'Sullivan ignite his creativity? I would love to see Penner with Horcoff and Cogliano or Pisani (if healthy), and let them play a style more suitable to Horcoff, who is wildly underrated in these parts.

  • RCN

    Of the possible centers on this team, would the closest thing to Horcoff be O'Sullivan? Defensively reliable, good pk guy, kind of a hard-luck shooter.

    So… is he defensively responsible enough, yet offensively creative enough to play with Hemsky? Could that free Horcoff up to play a key 2nd line scoring/shut-down role?





  • RCN

    I agree with bill… The trade Hemsky talk is complete bs fabricated by the fans while the media runs with it for no reason other than it generates fan opinions, aka traffic for this site

    That said I'd deal Hemsky for no less than someone like Mike Richards.

    • RCN

      I don't know if talk about trading Hemsky by some fans is a fabrication as much as it is simple opinion driven by frustration over lack of success the past three seasons.
      As for running with it, I'm not sure that commenting on that debate constitutes anything sensational. I'd think writing "Hemsky must be traded" would be more along that line, no?

  • RCN

    If Hemmer seems unhappy (which is not unusually – Man that kid needs a personality) It's because he's never been mentored properly since he's got here… by anyone qualified anyway, and once again the Oilers brain trust let him down, by saying: "We gonna get better!"
    They had Ales Kotilik, who got 7 goals in 19 games playing with Hemmer and was a countryman of his…….no we can't have that. Then they recycled Comrie (the jury is still out on that one for me) and also brought in other high scoring noteables as Jacques and Stone, both of which have been plesant suprises but are hardly first line talent. They say Great players make player around them better……I not seeing a lot of that from Hemmer……Trade him.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Hesmky seems to have slow starts every year, btu unless he asks for a trade why would you move him? He has a bargain contract and when he is motivated he is one of the most dominate forwards the Oilers have had in years.

  • Milli

    I have never been a huge Hemmer fan, he's got tons of skill, but so does Robert Nilson. That said, I do not think he is a player we trade, I also think he becomes less of a center piece. The last few seasons, it seemed unless Hemmer was going, we had very little chance of winning, but that seems to be changing. Quinn seems to be looking for and so far finding balanced scoring. Hemmer is slow out of the gate, but who wants to bet he lights it up on quite a few nights this year?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I don't know if I were Ales Hemsky Iwould be looking at Dustin Penner and the success he has had so far this year not playing with the 1st line center. I know Horcoff had a couple of decent offensive years playing alongside Hemsky but since the shoulder injury Horcoffs offensive seems to have tailed off. You can attribute that to some of the responsibilites as a defensive forward, pk and faceoff guy, but and I'm no expert here by any stretch but all I've seen from Horcoff offensively this year is him stopping on the hash marks to the left of the goalie and waiting for his one timer pass…The Oilers need more out of their first line center. I don't think Hemsky is the problem here.

    • I kept saying last year that Horc wasnt the same guy as he was prior to the shoulder injury, but everyone pretended that it was too early to make that call. I'm hoping this is the year that people wise up and start to question how effective Horcoff can be in the #1 spot.

      I dont care if he's wonderful defensively, he can do that on the 2nd or 3rd line. If the guy is playing as the #1 center he should be able to do more than play defensively.

  • I don't mind the whole arguement that results in Cogliano being a steal player, but who says we can't have a few of them. Hemsky is a steal for the fact that he is always close to a point per game and he can create offense from anywhere.

    "He is NOT comparable to Spezza (Brophy is an idiot)"

    Really? Ok maybe he isn't quite up to Spezza but with this cap hit Hemsky has I'd rather have him over the huge spezza contract. Spezza has played most of his career with Heatley and Alffredson and I think if the Heatley contract actually would have gone through you would have seen a special season from hemsky. However, as good as a left winger would have been, it is the centre position where we lack. How come everyone in the lineup for the past 2 years has been jumbled around except Hemsky Horcoff? I mean this really has not proved to be a deadly combo. (well maybe for a flash while horcoff was outplaying his potential for 50 games…) Grabbing a player like Marlaue in a deal that would send Horcoff +… would be one I'd like to see. Especially if San Jose keeps struggling because of the rest of the lines need to be more shutdown.

    And since the above will not happen, can we please put Horcoff, Ethan and Cogs together which I think could end up being one of the best shut down lines in the league together? I mean, there are other combinations, but just try it already.