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.


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?


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.

  • I don’t have the answer to what exactly is troubling Hemmer but sometimes, a change of scenery is best for everyone. Hemsky is somewhat of an enigma. He was our best player for years yet it was rare to see him do an interview. He always seemed so disconnected and it doesn’t seem like he wants to be a leader on this team. I don’t see him in Edmonton beyond this season. I just hope that he can regain his form enough to convince another team to give up a solid return for him.

  • stevezie

    Hossa’s better than Hemsky, but over the last four seasons they’ve scored at an almost identical clip (Hossa is 0.91 ppg). Yes, I would call both these guys a reliable offensive threat.

    • I suspect that’s the outcome that’s looming.

      I’d like to see a healthy and happy Hemsky stay, but there are legitimate questons about both his health and his happiness.

      The Oilers need to ask Hemsky what he wants and throw that in the hopper with what they see unfolding in the next couple of years.

  • That was good stuff Robin. Some excellent reporting. In the meantime if you don’t like my style, why don’t you respond to Romulus who has observed the exact same thing as me?

    Beyond that, do you not believe that there are instances in which the media in some towns in some sports have collectively got together (not through conspiracy but by acting like a mob) to unjustly run players out of town. Regardless of the specifics of this case you must admit that it happens, and happens frequently.

    I mean if you can’t recognize that this kind of thing happens all the time, I just don’t know what to say.

    If you do recognize that it happens all the time, I’d like to hear an argument that it isn’t happening in this case. The bandwagon has started and everyone is jumping on. I’d like to see someone in the media standup and call a spade a spade. The only likely person I can think of is lowetide. But he isn’t really media and he doesn’t say what he really think when he’s writing over here.

    So that leaves you. Time to man up and be fair.

    • Good stuff? Excellent reporting?

      First, don’t patronize me. It was a five-minute scan and finding examples of you being you isn’t difficult. There was no reporting involved.

      Second, I’ll respond to people I choose how I choose. That’s my call. If a guy comes at me like an A-hole virtually every time he posts here, as you do, he’s going to get a different response and tone than somebody who at least makes an attempt to talk hockey once in awhile without implying I’m a spineless, not-too-smart reporter.

      You’ve now compounded what you’ve already said by informing me it’s time to man up, call a spade and spade and be fair — the implication being I’ve fallen short of that so far. And a swipe at Lowetide along the way? Oilersnation isn’t getting his A-game?

      So, it’s your position a lot of the other posters here aren’t very smart, are misguided or high, and Lowetide and I are failing to serve our readers and the people who pay us to write here because we intentionally aren’t delivering the real goods.


    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Romulus who has observed the exact same thing as me

      well… at best I met you half way. The essence of my overlong comment was this:

      I don’t find the press “not very smart” or “bullying”… there are legitimate questions to be asked [i.e., about Hemsky], but the aggregate [of press coverage] itself raises a legitimate question about the proportion of freakout, reasonable expectations and falling prey to group think and narratives.

      Some commenters on here really get my dander up ripping on Hemsky… but I try to respond respectfully and with the best arguments I can muster. You seem to take a scorched earth policy to those you disagree with… it’s just not a pleasant way to argue nor is it very fun because you’ve ruled out the possibility of an outcome otherwise than the one you expect (i.e., that you’re right all the time).

      ps. Brownlee prefers to let kooks like me talk myself to sleep at night.

  • Mitch

    Hemsky is fast becoming the goat here in Edmonton, his on ice play leaves a lot to be desired. Before his injury he was starting some nice chemistry with Hall, before we break out the torches and pitchforks I see management give him a solid ten to fifteen games playing alongside the Kamikaze.

    You would think that after so many years of being numero uno only offensive threat. He would be slobbering pools at playing with such raw skill and talent. Such has not been the case and it is baffling. Hemsky will take these next few Weeks of being Halls set up man and I think the plan is to see where that takes his game. I wouldn’t mind if they also keep him from playing with Horc Stonehands. Hemsky is on the clock now, if he wants an extension he’s gotta stop pouting and start producing.

  • Mitch

    Robin I think Hemsky is a gonner don’t know when, probably for nothing more than a draft pick and not a 1st rounder. I don’t think that he is engaged as much as he would like to be a few times on t.v I have noticed him grabbing his shoulder and wincing, I feel his body is beat up and in bad shape. It’s been mentioned by others and maybe even you I can’t remember, that Hemsky don’t have the best work ethic in practice or work on his game after practice. The Oilers are gonna have cap issuses down the road Hemsky or Gagner not a Gagner fan, but I have to pick Gagner, something tells me something ain’t right with Ales.

    One other thing Robin I think that test on injured players that Renney does is a complete joke. Ryan Whitney is starting to skate a little better in terms of mobility. Hockey is not about skating in straight lines. Whitney wasn’t ready and thats why he injured his knee. So how bad are those shoulders of Hemsky’s in the real world?

  • Zamboni Driver

    My favourite of the blind faithers…

    especially those with bizarre obsessions with 18 year old boys, even in their interweb names…


    The rest of us dullards couldn’t possibly understand the greatness of Ales Hemsky.

    The Assistant Captain of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Who finished last.


    Dear geniuses who love math, in the entire history of Hemsky – list the playoff year appearances – place that in the numerator. Psst. It’s three.

    In your denominator, place number of years he has played for the Oilers. Psst. It’s eight plus this year, and don’t hold your breath.

    Contrast that to the number of times the Oilers finished last under his ‘leadership’. See above for the answer.


    is why some people are starting to get just a tad tired of excuses.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    ~I’m so tired of excuses for Hall and Eberle. The one year they played for the Oil they finished last. Don’t you get it people? Your complicated math won’t save them… all that looking at point totals and all… who can trust numbers? And they use the internet with funny tweet names all the time… lame!~

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    EXCELLENT story, Robin!

    I would just like to share my opinion on your piece. I do believe that Hemsky should be traded – and have felt that way for a long time.

    The question I have is: do you think that through this trade we could get a Zach Bogosian type of defenceman? A potential top-2 d-man and at a minimum, but counted on to be a top-4 at least?

    As well, IF we were to pick up a serious power forward that could play up on the top 2 lines regularly who would you target and who do you believe might be had if offered a fair deal? I would want someone in the right age group to grow with our young guys.

    What say you?

    Edit: I should say that this isn’t just meant for Robin, but for anyone who would like to comment on it, too.

  • Hemsky in final year of contract and we expected him to have a banner year and lead the team and it’s youth . I’m sure Hemmer wanted that as well , but got stuck with Horc and Smyth . Not that that was bad , but i would have thought he thought he was going to lead the youth , rather than Hopkins . I think he is confused right now just where he fits into our club and whether he wants to remain in a secondary roll maybe going into the future .

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I’ll tell you what… if Hemsky is moved, that’s just another hole on this team that needs to be filled.

    He gives them incredible depth.

    If Eberle goes down with a season ending injury, Hemsky can slot in there rather than Ryan Jones. If the kid line gets shut down, Hemsky can carry the offense. For that matter, if you want to line up Horcoff and Hemsky against the Koivus and Datsyuks of league and let the kids play against less opposition, you can do that too (and for those who have watched closely this is exactly what has happen… and this is no doubt contributing to the kids successes as well). And it allows the Oilers to be two-lines deep, something they haven’t had in a long, long time.

    Honestly, when Hall gets frustrated he slams his stick and everyone commends his compete. When Hemsky gets frustrated, he internalizes, and everyone criticizes his “bad body language.” It’s two different reactions to the same emotion and competitiveness.

    My view? The Oilers are better with Hemsky than without him. Period. I think he is struggling with confidence, and he is finding that very frustrating, especially since he definitely knows what’s at stake here. And I believe he wants to be here, to be part of this. In my opinion, it would be foolish to not stick with him, because these things happen, and he’ll come out of it and the team will be better off as a result.