ALES HEMSKY: WHAT TO DO?

There was a time when Ales Hemsky was healthy and easily the most dynamic offensive player on the roster of the Edmonton Oilers. Today, with unrestricted free agency looming next summer, he is neither.

Hemsky, many observers will tell you, doesn’t look altogether right these days. He doesn’t look engaged. Is he simply feeling his way back into form from yet another shoulder surgery? Is the shoulder still not right? Is Hemsky unhappy or distracted?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know a few things as I try to get a read on the 28-year-old Czech right winger – his durability is in question, given his injury history the past few seasons, and he’s been passed on the Wow-Meter by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the minds of most Oilers fans. He’s not the biggest name on the marquee.

So, with Hemsky in the final year of a multi-year contract that pays him $5 million this season, where does he fit moving forward with the Oilers? Does he fit? Should GM Steve Tambellini be looking to re-sign Hemsky or should he be looking at trading him?

What to do?

DECISIONS COMING

Going into tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hemsky has played in 14 of 25 games. He’s scored just 2-6-8 and has often looked less than his usual dynamic self when he has played.

Injuries, notably shoulder and concussion problems, limited Hemsky to 47 games in 2010-11 and 22 games in 2009-10. Despite all the time missed in those two campaigns, Hemsky was productive when he did get into the line-up. He had 42 points last season and 22 two years ago, which is about the pace you’d expect from somebody who has scored at a .80 PPG clip during his career – 116-287-403 in 504 regular season games.

This season? Not so much. Numbers aside, a lot of people, myself included, have opined Hemsky just doesn’t look "right." We don’t like his "body language." Not being an expert in such matters – is there such a thing as an expert in body language? – that’s hardly any kind of defining assessment.

On the bench and on the ice, Hemsky often looks listless, devoid of any outward emotion, disinterested. It could be nothing more than that Hemsky is struggling with confidence or worried about his shoulder. Could be.

In the past, specifically in the seasons the Oilers have struggled since they made their Stanley Cup run, Hemsky has been frustrated by a combination of injuries and losing. That’s understandable.

That said, Hemsky seemed genuinely excited about this season. He talked about the addition of talented kids like Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. About the Oilers being on the upswing. He talked about being happy, connected and settled in Edmonton, about liking it here.

What he said last fall and what we’re seeing now seem at odds, no?

WHAT’S NEXT?

It wasn’t that long ago that Hemsky’s $4.1 million cap hit was seen as pretty much a bargain for the Oilers. Two or three years ago when he was coming off seasons of 71 and 66 points, it seemed a certainty Hemsky would cash-in on this next contract.

That’s anything but certain now. Hemsky and agent Jiri Crha will leave money on the table if the kind of performance we’re seeing now continues. If anybody is talking about Hemsky being worth $6 million or so a season over a term of five or six years these days, I’m not hearing it.

If you’re of the mind Tambellini should re-sign Hemsky, it’s not difficult to argue he’s got all the leverage and the time is right. "Ales, we want you stay. We think you can bounce back . . ." At a discounted rate, of course. Is that the way to go? Is there a line-up of teams out there willing to pay top dollar if Hemsky hits unrestricted free agency?

If you’re of the mind Hemsky is expendable behind Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins and he should be shopped around, what’s Tambellini’s asking price now? What’s a reasonable return?

The way I see it, Hemsky’s value is as low now as it’s ever been. If you try to make a move now you don’t get much back. If you decide to wait and hope that Hemsky plays his way out of this and he doesn’t, you get even less later as the trade deadline gets nearer.

What to do?

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  • Crackenbury

    I was dumbfounded last year when it was Penner that was shipped out instead of Hemsky, which had nothing to do with who was the better player. I thought I had some pretty good inside info on Hemsky wanting out of town, but it didn’t work out that way. He certainly looks like someone not very interested right now. A healthy happy Hemsky is a bonus for the Oilers, a fragile, uncertain if he wants to be here, Hemsky needs to go.

    At this point I think the ball is in Hemsky’s hands. If he wants out he needs to be upfront with the Oilers, instead of sulking around on the ice most nights. I think he can still be a pretty useful guy to the Oilers, but he has to want it. I’m not sure he does.

  • Crash

    What to do? First thing is ask Hemmer if he wants to be here…if yes

    Hemmer may not be the most dynamic player on this team anymore but he still is dynamic, he still creates offense and he is easily in the top 4 on this team.

    The team is just now starting to round into form and to remain successful will require good secondary scoring. There’s not a chance you can obtain a player for Hemsky that is as good as Hemsky is right now…it would be yet again the trading of a player for more hope for the future and a backwards step for the now.

    If Hemsky wants to be here then sign him…if he doesn’t then get what you can but keep in mind you won’t get the same immediate value in return or even close to the same value.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    RB, I would love to get your take on Hemsky’s personality. The reason I mention it is that while he’s been a favourite player of mine for ages, he never seems terribly interested in…well, anything (on or off the ice).

    Maybe he’s just naturally quiet, in which case it can be easy to misinterpret that for disinterest. But supposing he’s always been somewhat removed, now that he’s been passed by the kids, would it be fair to say that he may be even more disinterested, now that he’s no longer the main offensive weapon? Is he the type of guy that would want to go to an offense-starved Carolina or Nashville in order to be the go-to guy, or do you think he’s ok with his secondary role?

    • I’ve never sensed that Hemsky is a guy who seeks the spotlight — at least not the part of it that includes media and interviews etc. He tolerates that part. He’s subdued, at least around reporters, by nature. Being less-than-gregarious around us is fine — he doesn’t owe us a song and dance every time he speaks.

      You’d think he might be comfortable not being centre stage with RNH, Hall and Eberle around, but maybe not. I honestly don’t know. Does he feel like yesterday’s news? Does it bother him? We will be seeking those answers as we go along.

  • The Hall Way

    I think we try and trade Hemmer for a “pillar” like Strudwick was writing about. We need a banger who can play top 6-9 minutes. Ben Eager just isn’t fitting the bill. We need a Lucic type player.

  • A-Mc

    My Ultimate Hope, Like i claimed with Gagner, is that Hemsky snaps out of this funk and starts engaging in the season ahead of him. He needs to help his team get into the playoffs this year and it certainly IS an attainable goal!

    With all the excitement around the locker room: Renewed vigor in Horc and Smyth, The zest of the new kids, and an absolutely Stellar start to the season (October), I find it very odd that every time Hemsky’s on the Jumbo tron Fans get a close up of the big pouty lip.

    Why is everyone else so happy but Hemsky so pouty? Is life really that bad?

    If Hemsky is doing this by choice: bail him now.
    If Hemsky is going through some Personal Issues, The coaches need to get him the help he deserves: Keep him and resign at a reduced rate for 2 years.

  • Am I the only one who has always thought Hemsky was over rated? Too many neutral zone turnovers, too many extra moves at the offensive blue line (if there was a stat on offsides, he would lead the league for always making that extra move while gaining the zone), not enough shots, etc. He looks good skill wise but never puts up results.

    I have no doubt on a playoff calibre team with more team size and grit he could be a valuable piece but I think he doesn’t fit the role the Oilers need up front now.

    Rod Brind’Amour was right around a 0.80 PPG player but he brought a lot more leadership and grit then Hemsky ever will.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I think you have to let him and guys like Gagner and Paajarvi work their way out of the funk(Omark also should have gotten more than 5 games). Hemsky should be resigned for sure, at the pay level his play dictates.
    Given time to get healthy the d of:
    Smid-Gilbert
    Whitney-Petry
    Sutton-Potter

    Doesn’t look too bad so no need to rush Hemsky out to fix that.

    The third/4th lines need some offensive injection though, Penner for a 4th rounder, when he is healthy?

  • Cmoney

    No way they can resign Hemsky. If the Oilers resign Hemsky to a large multi year deal it will be the beginning of the end for Tambo. Hemsky needs to go a sit on some other teams IR.

    • A-Mc

      if Magnum PI would get his ass in gear, The 2nd line could look like this: PRv, Horc, Gagner.

      I’m not sure if this is part of the problem, but watching Paajarvi makes me think that he is almost taking the Defensive Hockey Mentality TOO seriously and he’s forgetting how to play his Game.

      If we could get Paajarvi’s Scoring back, and then coach him into throwing his weight around a little, i think he could fill Hemsky’s spot.