Ten minutes with Hemsky: the shoulder, Jagr and that other Czech player the Oilers like

The best stuff at Rexall Place today wasn’t to be had out on the ice where the Edmonton Oilers were practising. Noooooo. Time was better spent huddling with injured Oilers forward Ales Hemsky.

Hemsky, out for the balance of the season after shoulder surgery, spent 10 minutes shooting the breeze with Rob Tychkowski of The Sun, Joanne Ireland of The Journal and yours truly today.

We touched on Hemsky’s left shoulder, his take on the possibility of Jaromir Jagr joining the Oilers and about interest in unheralded Roman Cervenka, a teammate of Jagr’s on the Czech Olympic team and a player I mentioned here last week.

That wing

Hemsky’s been rehabbing his shoulder since having surgery in December. While he expects to be ready for next season, and hopes to resume skating this spring, it’s a long, slow process.

"The rehab is going all right. My shoulder is getting better and better and better, so I’m on the right track. We’re happy with the bands, the physio  and the normal stuff you should do. We’re working with a conditioning trainer every day, so I’m just right on track."

On sitting out while the team languishes in 30th place, Hemsky admits to not being a great spectator.

"It’s a tough year for everybody. For me, it’s tough because I played just 22 games, I think. I missed the Olympics, too, and the season hasn’t gone right. Everything together, it’s frustrating, but everything bad, it’s good for something. You’ve got to take the positive. I’ve got to get ready for next year. That’s my goal."

Yes, next year. How’s that working for you?

"I don’t really want to talk about it. I don’t know what will happen here. That’s management’s business. I’m not even playing right now. My goal is just to get ready for next season. If I’ll be here, I’ll be here. If not, I will not. I don’t know what the team will do with the players here.

"I have a lot of great friends here. I feel like home here, so I don’t have a problem with anything with the city. I’ve met so many great people here, so I feel good. It’s frustrating for everybody when the hockey and everything doesn’t go well."

On Jaromir

The Oilers have been eye-balling Jagr from afar since he left the NHL to play in the KHL. There’s been talk about the Oilers trying to find a way to land the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer next season.

That talk has heated up somewhat with Jagr’s performance for the Czech team in Vancouver, where the Oilers had more than a few sets of eyes tracking his every move.

On Jagr returning to North America, Hemsky said: "I hope he will because he can still play. He’s still a great hockey player. When I talked to him before he was interested in playing.

"I don’t know how he feels now after the tournament. I think after things settle down a bit he will want to come back for one or two years. He can still play on the small rink. He’s strong."

With the Oilers entering rebuild mode and having salary cap concerns, we asked Hemsky if he sees Jagr as a fit in Edmonton.

"He’s not like he was, but he can still be a difference-maker. He’s a superstar. Just having him on the team is good for everybody. That’s why I think it would be good. He’s a guy who can do 70 points. We don’t have guys who can do 70 points."

Why Edmonton? Hemsky and Jagr are friends and speak frequently. Jagr also played for Oilers associate coach Tom Renney in New York and for assistant coach Wayne Fleming in Omsk. So?

"I think he’ll want to play someplace where he will be happy, where he will know the coach, and maybe where there are a lot of young guys. He doesn’t have to have the role he used to have, but he has to feel comfortable. I think he would (consider playing with the Oilers), but that’s just speculation."

What about Roman?

Heading into the Olympics, I mentioned Cervenka. Here’s what I wrote on Feb. 15.

"While the Oilers will have lots of eyes an ears at the Olympics, some of them on Jaromir Jagr, there’s another player who they’ll be gawking at, as will other NHL teams. Keep an eye on Czech Republic forward Roman Cervenka, an undrafted 24-year-old who might turn out to be a player for somebody.

"Cervenka never got a sniff during his draft year because he was ridiculously small at five-foot-seven and 127 pounds. That’s not a mis-print. He was a-buck-27 as a teenager.

"At five-foot-11 and 187 pounds now, Cervenka’s looking like a late-bloomer. In 48 games with Slavia Praha this season, Cervenka has scored 30-41-71 to lead the team in scoring."

Cervenka played on a line with Jagr in Vancouver, but he wasn’t overly impressive, managing two assists in five games. Still, Hemsky says he’s a player.

"I played with him on the national team. He didn’t have the strongest tournament like he’d probably want, but I still think he’s a good player. He’s a very talented guy. He’s pretty strong kid, too, and pretty smart.

"I don’t think you can judge people over 10 days or nine days. I just think he’s a good player."

Hemsky figures Cervenka is NHL ready. Outside getting one of the top three picks in the Entry Draft this June, which the Oilers will, that’s something teams usually have to wait years for when drafting teenagers.

"He’s already a player," Hemsky said. "That’s what you’ve got. You don’t have to develop. You get a guy who has already played somewhere and has the experience. He’s already mature, you know.

"I think he’s very smart. He’s a really smart, patient guy. He can play both ways. He’s a strong, hard-working guy, actually. He works hard off the ice and on the ice. He’s a really good kid.

"He can score goals. He’s good on face-offs. Who knows? It’s different hockey, too, here. That’s the risk you’re taking. I think sometimes it’s better to take a guy who is ready, who has already played somewhere."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Management has no choice but to move Horcoff.

    Bury him in the minors if need be.

    The guy chipped in with 3 assists last game and still got booed off the ice. When 10,000 fans are booing Horcoff in his own risk you have no choice but to find a new home for him.

    • Make no mistake, I'm pro Minors for Horc, but only when the team actually needs the space. When the fans boo him he can dry his tears with 100 dollar bills.

      But there isnt anyone he's preventing yet from being here. Maybe next October it will actually be an issue.

  • Lofty

    I realize that I’m running the risk of being fitted for a straightjacket, but what the heck.

    In my opinion, Horcoff isn't nearly as unmarketable as trade bait or unsalvageable as a player has been asserted by many.

    First, let’s look at the marketability. What makes a player “marketable,” isn’t just the contract, it’s the reputation. Two years ago, Horcoff was a point-a-game player who ran into injury problems that, quite frankly, he still hasn’t recovered from. I’d suggest to you that, at that time, he was considered one of the better two-way centres in the game – exactly the kind of piece to the puzzle a Stanley Cup contender would trade for.

    Yes, I know. I’m insane. But hey, if you’re still reading to this point, I’ll ask you to keep humouring me.

    The trick is finding a team out there that hasn’t really done its full homework on Horcoff. And, based on the track records of certain teams with other trades, there may be many, especially back east where, quite frankly, no one is keeping close tabs on the Oilers.

    And, even if they can’t trade him, maybe another summer of healing will help him. When I look at Horcoff, I still see a guy who, if he’s healthy, can do all sorts of things that most players can’t. Is he overpaid for doing it? Yeah, sure. But I’m prepared to give him another chance.

    He’s overpaid, but he's not Alexei Yashin. He’s not Vernon Wells or Alex Rios. I really don’t see him mailing it in for the next five years.

    • Chris.

      Scott in GP:

      Nobody cares what Shawn Horcoff did in 2005/2006.

      Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals and 93 points in 2005/2006 and his currently playing in the AHL.

      "The trick is finding a team out there that hasn’t really done its full homework on Horcoff. "

      David Blaine couldn't even pull that trick off.

      "When I look at Horcoff, I still see a guy who, if he’s healthy, can do all sorts of things that most players can’t."

      Marty Reasoner, Manny Malhotra, Dominic Moore, Steven Reinprecht, ect call all do the same things Horcoff does for 2 million or less.

      "He’s not Vernon Wells or Alex Rios"

      Alex Rios was claimed on waivers and he actually had talent. Horcoff is more like a 10 million dollar Johnny Mac with a hole in his glove.

  • Ender

    Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

    Yes, I know. I’m insane. But hey, if you’re still reading to this point, I’ll ask you to keep humouring me.

    I don't know about insane, but very naive or hopelessly optimistic might fit . . .

    Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

    The trick is finding a team out there that hasn’t really done its full homework on Horcoff.

    Look at Horcoff's salary. Note the number of zeros. Note the term remaining and equate that to percentage of team cap. Can you honestly sit there straight-faced and say that you're hoping someone will trade for Horcoff without doing research? Like, weeks of it?

    I'm not saying he's untradeable, but it's pretty close. I think we value Horcoff more than any other GM in the league, and that means any potential deal that would move him would probably mean something even uglier coming back the other way.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    With all due respect, Traktor, if you were a teacher, you'd be a pretty hard marker.

    I really liked Reasoner and didn't like the fact he was let go … twice … but I'd like to think that, when healthy, Horcoff is a much better player than Reasoner and all of those other fellas you'd mentioned.

    How much better? Well, let's say 65 points and 55-60 per cent on the draws.

    I guess I didn't make it very clear before – I wasn't talking about the Horcoff of 2005-06, I was talking about the Horcoff of 2007-08. That's when he was a point-a-game player when he buggered up his shoulder right before the all-star break.

    I may be mistaken, but I believe that's the same shoulder that's been giving him problems ever since. All I'm saying is this – if there are no takers for him on the trade market (and, yes, there might well be a team as dumb as the MLB's Chicago White Sox), then the only other choice is to stick with him. And I'm just the kind of blue-sky, glass-half-full moron who believes there's a chance that Horc might still have some game left in him.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      The other option is to bite the bullet and play him in the AHL, only reason he isn't there now is because this team has no better option.

    • It's been 2 years since he wrecked his shoulder and it still isnt better. He isnt getting any younger either.

      His points, plus/minus, and faceoffs have suffered since the injury. At what point do we start talking about that injury as one that he wont fully recover from? Can he ever be an effective 18-20 minute a night forward over an 82-100 game schedule (playoffs included) again?

      I have my doubts.

        • Ender

          Grant Fuhr had reconstructive surgery in BOTH shoulders (he still sets off airport metal detectors with the pins) and, as memory serves, he set a record for most games played by a goalie in a season with either Buffalo or St. Louis (it was after he left Edmonchuck). And, as I recall, it took him a couple of years to heal. In fact, I think he had the surgeries when he was still and Oiler and … thank goodness … that's when we discovered we had a pretty good backup named Ranford.

          I think one of the reasons why Horc's shoulder(s) aren't healing is that he's taking WAY too many draws. That's another discussion for another day: The lack of another guy who can take all the big draws. I think we can all agree that a lack of another faceoff guy is one of Tambo's big blunders that he has no one but himself to blame.

          I completely see your point – Horc looks awful right now, but I haven't completely made up my mind if it's because he's awful or if it's because he's been caught in the tractor-beam of awfulness that is our beloved Oil.

          Sending Horc down to the minor is pretty much a non-starter. The Oilers won't do that, if only because of the "bad optics." It's other play him or trade him … and I think we should all prepare for the possibility of it being the former, rather than the latter. And, like I say, it need not necessarily be a disaster, if he can just get those shoulder healed.

          Maybe Fuhr could give him the number of his orthopedic surgeon?

    • Horcoff + Cogliano for Redden + Dubinsky

      Visnovsky for Allen + Campbell

      Souray + O'Sullivan for Stafford + Tallinder/Lydman (salary dump)

      Nilsson for Turco

      Penner Gagner Hemsky
      Cervenka Seguin Jagr
      Stafford Brule Eberle
      JFJ Campbell Stortini

      Pouliot, Stone, Potulny

      Grebs Gilbert
      Smid Allen
      xxx Redden

  • VMR

    I'm against signing Jagr and there are several reasons why. The biggest being why would Jagr want to come over and end his career on the worst team in the NHL? Usually because either we're paying more than anyone else or we're giving a longer term contract than anybody else or possibly both.

    The next reason is because he's never had a good work ethic and you dont want that spilling over to the kids you are trying to develop.

  • Chris.

    Every team has some bad contracts (except maybe Nashville)… The Oilers will find the cap relief they need simply by moving one or two of the struggling D-men who still have cache; by having a few contracts expire; or by buying out a guy like Nilsson… Money will also be saved with the next round of youth injection also.

    It's not ideal… but as actual salary and term roll off over the next three seasons; Horcoff may be tradeable/ buy-out-able just when this team (Godwilling) improves and the money is needed for emerging stars…

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Exactly

      Within the next 2 years it's safe to assume Gagner/this years 1st/Eberle/MSP/Smid will be on the roster for roughly 11 million.

      + one of Brule/Cogs and likely one of Pecham/Chorney/Plante/Petry for 2.5ish

      Add in your 4th line and back up at 3ish million and you've got half your roster for 16 – 19 million.

      Thiers also a very strong chance that the cap will begin to rise again as early as 11/12 season, concievable in double digits like it did coming out of the lockout.

      Cap space isn't an issue here.