In the end, it doesn’t matter who is to blame, what went wrong or why it went bad. When a relationship has passed the point of no return, it’s not a matter of if it ends, but when. You can almost hear the tick, tick, tick of time winding down. I suspect the Edmonton Oilers and Ales Hemsky are nearing the start of that countdown.
Is there anybody who hasn’t been there? At some point, the details and reasons why things go bad blend into each other. If you’re spending a lot of time fighting about leaving the cap off the toothpaste and the toilet seat being left up, about spending too much money or not enough of it, chances are you’ve got a problem that is bigger than caps, crap or finance.
When you’re done fighting about the details and trying to fix what’s wrong and you come to that realization, the tick, tick, tick begins. It’s then when you get down to the heart of the matter, "I’m just not happy." Then, the coldest consolation, "It’s not you, it’s me."
You can’t argue that. It’s done.
THE GUESSING GAME
Fans of the Oilers and media covering the team have been offering comment and speculating about Hemsky’s "body language" and demeanor most of this season. He looks unhappy. He seems off. He doesn’t seem engaged in games or with his teammates. Something isn’t right. Mark Lee and Craig Simpson got into it more than once in Calgary Saturday.
Fact is, we don’t have one solid bit of information from which to draw that conclusion. Hemsky, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, hasn’t said anything on the record about being unhappy. All we have is what we see, and it seems unanimous – Hemsky looks miserable.
Could it be Hemsky is frustrated his surgically repaired shoulder isn’t coming along as he hoped? Sure. Could it be his lousy start to the season? Absolutely. Might he be unhappy about being displaced as the go-to guy by Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle? Maybe.
Is Hemsky unhappy about diminishing ice time and looks on the power play, which resulted in him playing less than 16 minutes in Calgary? You think? After five straight years out of the playoffs, is Hemsky disheartened about a tailspin that’s all but wiped out a promising 9-3-2 start to the season? Seems a reasonable possibility.
With Hemsky’s injury problems and inability to stay in the line-up in recent seasons costing him more and more money as time goes by and free agency approaches, is he sour about how things have played out? Would you be? How about all the above? Is that possible?
IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING
Those of us toting notepads have picked away at Hemsky at various times over the past several seasons trying to figure out what he’s thinking and why. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen him look detached and distant.
In the past, he’s talked about being unhappy about losing. Most people with a functioning brain stem get that. Losing beats you down. Yet, after enduring back-to-back 30th-place finishes, Hemsky didn’t seem to get much of a kick out the promising start to this season. Maybe it was the shoulder . . .
In years gone by, Hemsky was frustrated by a lack of teammates who shared his offensive flair and creativity, who could complement his considerable skills. OK. Yet, with the addition of the dynamic Hall, the deft passing skills and vision of Nugent-Hopkins and the ability to finish of Eberle, is Hemsky now displeased about sharing the spotlight and ice time?
While Sam Gagner, who has never seen a playoff game as a member of the Oilers, has battled back from a frustrating start to the season (and injury), one in which he’s played all three forward positions up and down the line-up, to find his game, has Hemsky shown the same willingness to prevail?
Does Hemsky look engaged in what’s happening now and hell-bent on reclaiming, as opposed to being handed, top billing on the marquee as the kids come on and push him? Is he excited about how the future is shaping up for the Oilers or does the name on the back of his jersey mean more than the crest on the front of it?
Is this really about shoulders or slow starts or linemates or having enough talented teammates in the line-up? Or, is all of it starting to blend together, symptoms of a deeper discontent? Is there an underlying desire by Hemsky to be someplace else, to move on? Is it possible the Oilers, after addressing the toothpaste cap and the toilet seat and the rest of it all these years, feel the same way?
Tick, tick, tick . . .
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.