Hemsky turns 26: Primetime

hemsky-birthday

With just 26 candles on his birthday cake and six NHL seasons on his resume, Ales Hemsky somehow makes whiners of even the most ardent fan of the Edmonton Oilers.

“Sure, he’s good, but he should be better,” and “When will he take it to the next level?” Thankfully, the once tried-and-true “He should shoot more” has pretty much been put to rest. Still, the passionate-and-seldom-satisfied Oiler fan grumbles, like it’s birthright.

Better? Sure, it’s possible. The next level? What, exactly, is the “next level,” aside from overused jargon? I’m always amused, given that Hemsky is only now entering the prime years of his NHL career, that “very good” somehow isn’t good enough when it comes to No. 83.

Outside of a couple of examples — Ilya Kovalchuk and, arguably, Jason Spezza come to mind — the Oilers couldn’t have done much better at the 2001 Entry Draft than taking a baby-faced kid named Hemsky from the Hull Olympiques 13th overall. Edmonton’s scouting staff hasn’t been more right in the last 20 years.

Still, the critics bray.

By the numbers

In six seasons since the Oilers called his name, Hemsky has produced 93 goals and 238 assists for 331 points through 421 regular season games and 6-11-17 in 30 playoff games.

In terms of regular season numbers, only Kovalchuk, with 297-260-557 in 545 games, and Spezza, with 148-270-418 in 404 games, have been more prolific.

In his last four seasons, Hemsky has tallied 66, 71, 53 and 77 points. The 53 points, by the way, came in just 64 games in 2006-07. I’m not thinking chopped liver when I see those numbers, especially considering Hemsky has played every minute of his NHL career on the watch of offensive guru Craig MacTavish and without linemates to match his skill.

Numbers aside, there aren’t more than a dozen or so players who can lift fans out of their seats the way Hemsky does when he starts dangling with the puck. Of course, that’s part of the problem — more than a “dozen or so” players produce more points than Hemsky, spawning arguments he’s style over substance. Look at Hemsky hang fire. There must be more, right?

A bargain

The big bow on all of it is Hemsky still has three years left on a contract that will pay him $4.4 million this season. He’s a $4.1 million cap hit on the deal Kevin Lowe inked him to three years ago. By comparison, Kovalchuk will earn $7.5 million this season and Spezza gets $8 million.

From where I sit, all the above makes it utterly ridiculous that some fans talk about trading Hemsky because he’ll never get any better, or because a numbers guy can come up with less-than-flattering statistics about how he’s propped up defensively by Shawn Horcoff. Or because he complained about wanting to play a bigger role last season. How dare he.

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.

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

  • oilFan wrote:

    How can you bitch about having guys like Souray Bulin Hemsky Gagne Quinn Renney Vish Patty-O. Which team in the NW has better scoring ? Are d is great and tender is equal to the division.

    Vancouver has better scoring.

    BTW, last year all of those on-ice guys (except swap Bulin for Roli) were on the team, and they missed the playoffs.

    Hence the negativity.

  • Archaeologuy

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    I’m guessing 10,000 people read this item and you’re the only one who came up with that possibility. Nice comprehension skills, champ.

    And at 7:23 AM the post of the day has already occurred.

  • Librarian Mike

    @ TUG-GUY:

    I haven't seen you around before but based on your username, I was wondering if you have any deals where you work. There was talk on here a couple of weeks ago of hooking Wanye up and getting him some 'relief' from his stressful life. 😉

    As for MacT, I think it's considered bad form around the league for a fired coach to come back and rip on all that's wrong with the old team. It wouldn't be smart if in fact he wants to coach elsewhere.

    Oh, and have a nice day.

  • J-Bird

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    I’m saying he could have AO on one wing and Kovalchuk on the other and he still wouldn’t hit 100.

    Well, you're an idiot with a statement like that. Plain and simple.

  • Ogden Brother

    J-Bird wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    I’m saying he could have AO on one wing and Kovalchuk on the other and he still wouldn’t hit 100.
    Well, you’re an idiot with a statement like that. Plain and simple.

    Ha-ha, I'm really in shock as to how many people think a guys point production shoots up 25 – 35 points simply by adding a top end player.

    – In the last 2 years their was all of 5, 100 points season…by 3 different players.

    – In the last 4 years (since the lockout) their has been 12, 100 point guys… in 4 years…12. This is not the 80's where every team has a 100 point player, only the very elite in the league score 100. 12 in 4 years.

    – League wide scoring has been trending down since the lockout, the first season post lock out their was 6.17 GPG, last year their was 5.83 GPG. If that trend goes (way) up then ya Hemmer probably has a shot at 100… but then it's not near the feat because their will be a dozen guys doing it rather then 2-3

    – In the current scoring environment 100 points almost guarantees you a nomination for the Heart… Hemsky is not in AO/Malkin/Crosby's league, plain and simple. If the stars line-up, he rounds out his game (and avoids injury) he MIGHT make it into that 2nd tier of star in the next 2-3 years (guys like Iggy/Vinny/Thorton/Datsyuk/Kovalchuk//Getzlaf and a handfull others) and those guys aren't "100 point guys" their 80 – 95 point guys… even then I wouldn't hold my breath.

    – You can usually pencil the guy in for 5 – 15 missed games, that makes it almost impossible to crack the century mark

    – At 77 games he'd need to score at a 1.3 PPG clip to hit 100… that would be the equivalent of a 107 point season over 82 (would have put him 3rd in the league for scoring this past year)

    – At 72 games he'd need to score at a 1.39 PPG clip to hit 100… that would be equivalent to a 114 point (would have won the scoring tittle this past year)

    – Name me the established scorers that seen their point totals increase by 25 – 35 points simply through the addition of another star.

    – He simply isn't a top 5-7 forward in the league, that's all their is to it, and unless league wide scoring goes up significantly, those are the only guys that will get a sniff at 100.

  • The Menace

    @ Ogden Brother:
    Those are all very good points. The only thing here is all those guys that have put up 100 (the top 5-7 forwards in the league) have done it with regular or maybe slightly above-average guys as linemates. Your comparing that with what you think Hemskey could do with two superstars (Kovalchuk and AO). With two linemates like that, maybe you wouldn't need to be one of the top 5-7 forwards in the league to put up 100.

  • Ogden Brother

    The Menace wrote:

    @ Ogden Brother:
    Those are all very good points. The only thing here is all those guys that have put up 100 (the top 5-7 forwards in the league) have done it with regular or maybe slightly above-average guys as linemates. Your comparing that with what you think Hemskey could do with two superstars (Kovalchuk and AO). With two linemates like that, maybe you wouldn’t need to be one of the top 5-7 forwards in the league to put up 100.

    Obvously the AO/Kovalchuk point was tongue in cheak, as it simply will never happen (or any two superstars)

    Also, doesn't the fact that most of the top end guys Can barly crack 100 with other stars (or at above average talent) point to the to the conclusion that Hemsky still wouldn't be their witha 40 goal scoring flanking him… I mean if Crosby/Malkin can barely hit 100 playing a fair amount of time together (or AO with Semin/Backstrom) then why should Hemsky?

    Interesting side note: As a 19 year old rookie AO put up 106 points when the two top centers were: Zubrus (57 points) Halpren (44 points) and the two best RW were: Willsie (41) and Clark (39)

    Yet as a 23 year old with 3 years in the NHL under his belt he puts up 110 playing along with offensive stars like Backstrom/Greene/Semin. Also of note, his points actually went down the first year he played with another offensive talent (92 in his sophmore year)

    Crosby has a similar story, he put up 100+ with over the hill guys like Recchi/Lecaire …. and 100+ with Malkin along.

    How much affect did their line mates really have on their production?

  • Librarian Mike

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    How much affect did their line mates really have on their production?

    I don't think it has too much of an effect these days. It only really seemed to be a factor when Gretzky and Lemieux were putting up XBox numbers and guys like Rob Brown and Bernie Nicholls were getting 50-60 goals.

  • The Menace

    @ Ogden Brother:
    I think we're both in agreement there – I don't think that Hemmer could put up 100 either. My point was that we can't compare putting him with regular linemates to putting him on a line with 2 superstars. also kind of tongue-in-cheek.

  • Ogden Brother

    J-Bird wrote:

    OB is simply another Hemsky hater, plain and simple.

    Hilarious. I'm a huge Hemsky fan, got his jersey, got his photo/card set hanging on my wall. I'm a hater of irrational posts/theories…. which Hemsky = 100 points is.

  • J-Bird

    Personally, I see Hemsky averaging under 20 minutes a game under Mac, while other guys are over 20 all the time.

    OV is over 23 minutes a game, Malkin's over 22 a game, Kovalchuk's almost 22, Crosby almost 22, and it goes on and on. In fact, Hemsky ranked 63rd in the entire NHL for forwards last season at 18:38/game.

    Get him an extra 4 minutes on average, double shift him more like the rest get. 4 minutes is 22% MORE ice time than currently. 22% more ice time compared to his production puts him at 80 points last year, playing 72 games. He missed 10 games, which would put him at 91 points. Extra time puts him over the PPG mark and on his way.

    I don't think it's that much of a stretch to think he has it in him. Especially if he had a guy who could actually one time the puck at a better than 1 in 4 clip like Horcoff does.

  • Ogden Brother

    J-Bird wrote:

    Personally, I see Hemsky averaging under 20 minutes a game under Mac, while other guys are over 20 all the time.
    OV is over 23 minutes a game, Malkin’s over 22 a game, Kovalchuk’s almost 22, Crosby almost 22, and it goes on and on. In fact, Hemsky ranked 63rd in the entire NHL for forwards last season at 18:38/game.
    Get him an extra 4 minutes on average, double shift him more like the rest get. 4 minutes is 22% MORE ice time than currently. 22% more ice time compared to his production puts him at 80 points last year, playing 72 games. He missed 10 games, which would put him at 91 points. Extra time puts him over the PPG mark and on his way.
    I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think he has it in him. Especially if he had a guy who could actually one time the puck at a better than 1 in 4 clip like Horcoff does.

    Just so we are clear here. So you are saying that with all else equal (ice-time, quality of line mate etc) Hemsky is on par offensively with Crosby/Malkin/AO?

  • Ogden Brother

    Also, a big part of his lack of ice time is due to no PK time, he might be 63rd for ice time amoungst forwards, but he's 53rd 5 on 5 (including 2 guys that played less then 20 games), 30 extra seconds on ice would move him all the way up to 29th, one extra sift (47 seconds) would move him up to 23rd (ie his 5 on 5 ice time might be a little low…. but a very small increase in TOI would move him way up the list).

    He's also 18th for TOI on the PP(plus two guys ahead of him played less then 20 games). So it's not like he's missing a tonne of extra time when points are the easiest to come by.