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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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'?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 just see no reason to trade him at all. His pay is reasonable so thats not a good reason to trade him. He has 5 points in six games again not a very good reason to trade him. I could go on but the fact remains it would be the dumbest trade in the history of hockey and anybody thinking otherwise needs to give there heads a shake or head over to the alberta hospital to at least get evaluated.

    We need somebody to make Hemsky better who is also better then Hemsky to get a legit first line thats dangerous. Horcoff should not be his partner. He needs someone more creative. He needs a legit first line center Horcoff can earn his 5.5 playing in a second line/third line role. Plus as of right now Penner should be on his LW the way he is playing. So lets focus on filling in the blanks Penner-______-Hemsky instead of making more blanks.

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Please, whoever said we could trade Hemsky for Semin is ridiculous. Semin, if healthy, can put 80-90 points up. The two don't compare, although their salaries are somewhat similar.

    I have long been a proponent of trading Hemsky. When on, he can change the game, but when off, he contributes little. Unfortunately he is more off than anything. One amazing play every 2-3 games does not equal a star player. In fact, he kills the play far more often than he creates a scoring chance, in my opinion. He is willing to go into the corners and take a hit, most of the time, I'll give him that, but he is not a physical guy.

    We have been trying to find players who can play with Hemsky for years, and have been unable to (Horcoff can, I suppose, but most likely because of sheer time served with him). In all instances we have found other players at fault for not connecting with him, never have we questioned whether it might be Hemsky himself. The guy is great, but he does not play well with others. That is not how to create a successful line or team. You need lines fitting together well and playing the system. You don't have a winning team by having one star doing whatever he thinks is best and having two other guys scrambling to keep up and figure out what the hell he's going to do next. Is he going to cut across the offensive blue-line and put us all offside again? Is he going to go straight in, go around the net, come back to the blue line and give the puck away (9X out of 10), or make a highlight reel play? Is he going to be pissed at other players for fumbling a pass, or try and create some chemistry instead of demanding others to adapt to HIS game. These are just many of my reasons for saying we should move on. So before people go nuts, I acknowledge his ability, and the benefit of his salary, and the fact that no-one else has the same skill set on the Oilers, but, I don't think he is the best fit for this team. And I don't see a place for him when the likes of Gagner, O'Sullivan, and Cogliano mature, or when players like Paajarvi-Svensson and Eberle make it to the show.

    Hemsky should be traded now, not because his 'value' might be diminishing with his continued play, that's ridiculous, but because of his contract. He could be a great fit on another team, has great numbers, and a good price. The return could really help this team. I suggest getting a player like Dustin Brown in return. He's slightly cheaper, signed long-term, skilled and physical, and he leaves it all on the ice. We have a small team, and a player like him could seriously open things up for guys like Gagner. His addition would solidify the character of the team Quinn is shooting for and make us much harder to play against. If we could steal another player out of it, like W. Simmonds, with some spare parts, than that would be even better. Brown can slot in on the RW, or the LW, so he can fill Hemsky's spot. I might suggest:

    Penner – Horcoff – Brown
    Jacques – Gagner – O'Sullivan
    Cogliano – Comrie – Stone/Pisani
    Moreau – Brule – Stortini

    And if he goes nowhere, I really hope he comes around because the guy can change the game. I pray he makes me eat my words, for the team.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    No way. Perhaps Tambo might get him someone to play with before we actually run our most skilled player out of town? Yes, I know "Skilled players should elevate the players around them." Sometimes, however, like ya gotta meet dirt with dirt, skill has to go with skill.

    Oh, and, for the love of all that is decent and holy, please stop with the Kovalchuk fantasies. Reality and sobriety aren't as much fun as chemically-induced Christmas wish lists, I know, but they're good places to visit, even if you don't want to establish permanent residency there.

  • theindustry

    thats crazy talk. maybe he doesn't look as magical so far this year and probably should have peaked already, but he's too good to get rid of. he just needs someone to play with that complements him then he wouldn't seem so bored and disinterested.

  • VicOiler

    His goal totals are slowly going up, you can count on him for 20 goals and 70+ points a year. For that cap hit it's great deal. If he never gets any better, who cares. it's not like her shows flashes and gets 40 points, that's when you trade a guy.The Oilers need more high point producing players, not less.

    I also like the idea of keeping draft "successes" around. Develop and breed your players from within.It's how teams win.

  • Jason Gregor

    Trading Hemsky would be a PR disaster for the Oilers!! If you look around Rexall during any game, it seems as though 75% of the jersey wearing fans are sporting the #83. Losing a player with such a fan base would be extremely difficult to recover from.

    I agree with J Willis and all the rest who have been waiting desperately for the Oil to pick up a winger to play with the guy. Someone like Frolov in LA or Eriksson in Dallas would be nice finishers for Hemsky. But, going the other way…?? How many teams want undersized forwards? Maybe Nilsson (poor guy is in every move!) or Potulny and Grebs

      • Watch out JW, if you start using points in your arguments you might get called a fool and an emberrassement for your obvious lack of understanding about hockey. ~Everyone knows that points are meaningless when judging 1st line players~.

        ~and dont start bringing up who a guy plays with because everyone knows that linemates dont have anything to do with effectiveness.~

        ugh. When these topics come up I end up going a little crazy because everyone starts making claims that are completely baseless. My favourite is "he disappeared down the stretch last year" when he clearly was the only consistent Oiler in that time. Or people start complaining about all the turnovers he has, but refuse to acknowledge that every topline player in the league has comparable OR WORSE giveaways.

  • Jason Gregor

    Hemsky is going nowhere…that is if we are relying on Tambellini, the Ditherer, making a creative and timely move. On the other hand when his current contract expires I expect 'the Hemmer' to be long gone. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go back to Europe to play for bigger money, less games and Mom's sauerkraut soup.

    I think the point of who/what he is as an athlete vs our expectations is a valid observation. My personal frustration with him is that the play often ends with him. His moves are becoming old hat and he often hangs on to the puck until he gets boxed in and checked. He doesn't lack the ability to adapt…he lacks the willingness to adapt. Ales is in my view somewhat of a selfish player. He wants to play the game only as and when he sees fit. He is not a great team player in my view. In other words I don't think he has problems getting along with the team. I think he is failing to put the team goals, objectives and style of play ahead of his preferred style of play.

    I think that lack of enthusiasm this year is the Hemmer's version of being passive aggressive. You are right RB the body language is likely an indiation of troubles ahead.

  • Petr's Jofa

    If I had to trade Hemsky, I would look towards Boston to see what they want for Burke's 1st round pick. I know it's not a great hockey trade, but it would be entertaining.

  • Skidplate

    Hemsky – 26yrs 6' 192lb $4.1 till 11/12
    Nilsson- 24yrs 5'-11" 185lb $2 till 10/11

    Horton – C/W -24yrs 6'-2" 229lb $4 till 12/13
    Kulikov – D -18yrs 6'-1" 183 $1.325 till 11/12

    Florida takes on $0.775 mil but have $4.05 mil space. We get a power forward who has 108 goals in the last 4 years compared to Hemmer's 75 goals. We also get a young 1t round d-man with lots of potential. Here is his draft profile from mynhldraft.com:
    "Kulikov is a smooth skating, poised defenseman who will only get better with age. He racked up 62 points (12g+50a) in only 57 games, as he missed time play for team Russia in the WJC. At only 17 he moved from his native Russia to play in the QMJHL for Drumondville and the move has done wonders for his draft ranking. His biggest strengths are his flawless puck moving, his skating and his awareness at both ends of the ice. This kid has very few weaknesses but he could certainly be more physical, but to do that he needs to put on some muscle, as he is listed as 6-1, 190. Scouts love this kid because they know exactly what they will get from him, a smart, slick defenseman that will be a top 4 defenseman for years to come."

  • Chris.

    I love Hemsky's contract and overall skill level… but am not a big fan of his overall game. (It's hard for me to like players who eat up twenty minutes of ice but only really contribute a handful of real quality plays per game) IMO, Due to glaring inconsistancies, a lack of leadership, and a generally one dimensional game: Hemsky should be considered a great complimentary player only; and is not a guy to build your team around.

    Hemsky has the uncanny ability to amass impressive point totals depite turning in many brutal performances (like getting the second assist on Grebeshkov's slap shot in Chicago)… ~Why he's almnost a point per game player… so he MUST be good, right?~ Wrong. "Thinking the game on a whole different level" is a nice way of saying he doesn't think the game well enough to lead the Oiler offence.

    It would also be nice if he worked a little harder.

  • Chris.

    I said: "so he MUST be good, right?~ Wrong"

    Sorry. Hemmer IS good. I ment to say he isn't truly great… at least not yet… or for periods of time longer than three or four games…

  • Lofty

    He is a great player and I dont think he should be traded.

    That being said if the Oil can pick up a first round pick from a bad team and a solid power forward then I would have to think harder than I am comfortable thinking.

    I would be willing to talk Dustin Brown straight up from LA or Simmons and a first rounder. I dont think LA will keep up there pace and the pick should end up in the top 12.

  • Chris.

    BTW: Nine points in seven games. Whoohoo Oil! Let's prorate that for a 105 point season with Penner scoring 59 goals and over a 100 points. ~I don't see how anyone can stop them now!~