The Ales Hemsky contract extension was a good move for the Oilers, and it should finally put an end to the ridiculous comments that Hemsky doesn’t like Edmonton. He could have earned a longer deal on July 1st, but after so many years of not having much skill around him, Hemsky recognized that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will make the game more fun and exciting for him moving forward.
For me, the most important part of this extension is that the Oilers didn’t trade away a proven NHL player for more picks and prospects. They wouldn’t have won any trade involving Hemsky prior to Monday, and rather than take a step backwards in the rebuild they kept moving forward by signing the 13th overall pick in 2001.
If the Oilers are going to be competitive they need more than just the three kids. The kids still aren’t ready to play all the tough minutes, but in two years, maybe sooner, they should be. Hemsky faced the other team’s top defensemen for years and he still produced, so I’m curious to see how he’ll fare if he doesn’t have to face the #1 pairing every night.
The only risk in signing Hemsky is if he gets injured. When he plays he produces. Hemsky wasn’t healthy at the start of the season, and likely should have started the season on the IR. He is finally healthy, and today he will play his 27th consecutive game, the longest streak since the start of the 2008/2009 season. He says this is the best he’s felt in three years.
I understand that some doubt his ability to stay healthy, but those who suggest he doesn’t produce must be narrow-minded and looking only at this season. Now that he’ll be playing with the likes of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins or Sam Gagner every night, I suspect he will be almost as productive as he was before his two injured-plaqued seasons.
For the first time in over 20 years the Oilers didn’t lose a skilled player to free agency or a contract squabble, yet some still think it is a bad signing. They point to Hemsky’s five goals and 26 points and say he’s not worth $5 million. Of course he isn’t, if you are naive enough to think teams sign players based on 47 games rather than the previous 350.
Tell me how a two-year deal for Hemsky hurts the Oilers? His contract won’t impact the extensions of Hall, Eberle or RNH. They were going to get paid regardless of whether Hemsky re-signed or got traded. People are dreaming if they felt Steve Tambellini was going to get a top-four D-man for Hemsky before Monday. That wasn’t going to happen.
This was a great move by the Oilers, because Hemsky will be an excellent "support" player for the kids. They won’t have to win every game by themselves, and Hemsky is still young. He’s only 28, and while that makes him old amongst the top-six forwards in Edmonton, he is far from a fossil around the league. Now was not the time to trade a proven top-six forward for a package of prospects and/or picks.
Hemsky will push the kids for icetime, and if he’s on your 2nd PP unit, then your first should be pretty good. I’ve said it for weeks, the Oilers are a better team today, and for the next two years, with Hemsky than they would be with the prospects and picks Tambellini would have received in a trade for him.
Nugent-Hopkins returns to the lineup this afternoon, but whether he plays with Hall or Eberle remains to be seen. He’s been raring to go for almost a week, but the Oilers wisely elected to give him a few extra days rest. Today’s lineup will be the best one the Oilers have iced all season, and if they can stay healthy for the final 22 games weshould get a better guage on how good this team actually is.
I wonder if Tom Renney, who will coach today, puts Nugent-Hopkins back with Eberle and Ryan Smyth, or if he keeps Gagner and Eberle together and plays Nugent-Hopkins with Hall and Hemsky. I think eventually you’ll see Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins together, just maybe not today.
Smyth – Gagner – Eberle
Hall – RNH – Hemsky
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Eager
My guess on the top three lines, but I’m not sure if Ryan Jones will draw back in. Phoenix isn’t a tough team, so it would make sense to play Jones and his 13 goals v. the Coyotes. Anton Lander will sit out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they send him to OKC very soon. I think he should have been in OKC from the start of the year, and now that the Oilers are healthy getting him lots of playing time in OKC would be beneficial for his development.
Jones/Hordichuk – Belanger – Petrell
The backend and goaltending will stay the same, although last game Tom GIlbert played with Andy Sutton, while Corey Potter was paired with Ryan Whitney.
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Potter
Sutton – Gilbert
- Currently there are only six 30-goal scorers in the league, and Radim Vrbata is the least talked about of the group. He and Ray Whitney are playing great for the Coyotes. Vrbata leads the NHL in road goals with 19 and GWG with 10. He’s been excellent for the Dogs this year.
- I’m not sure why some of you are so down on Jones? Yes he’s struggled for the past six weeks, but he was overachieving early in the season. He has 13 goals and 24 points in 58 games. He had 25 points in 81 games last year. He’s having a career year, yet because he’s struggled lately now he is junk. Sam Gagner has been on fire for three months, but he only has one more goal than Jones. It is amazing how quickly people’s perception of a player will change. Jones has been inconsistent, but if he finishes with 17 goals and 30 points that would be a great season.
- Who has been the biggest surprise on the Oilers this year? Ladislav Smid becoming a solid shut down D-man? Jeff Petry emerging in the last two months? Jordan Eberle on pace for 80 points? It’s likely Eberle because 80 points means he’s a top-15 scorer, but the other two have been pleasant surprises as well. Smid has been rock-solid all year, regardless of who he plays with, and lately he and Petry have looked very good together.
- Petry might turn out to be the most important surprise, because this team desperately needs a top-three D-man. If, and it is a big if at this point, he keeps progressing the Oilers backend woes might be solved from within. We probably won’t know for at least another year if he is ready to be a steady top-four, but right now he’s playing very well.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Phoenix is red-hot, going 9-0-1 in their last ten, but their last three games have been won in OT/SO. They are due for a loss and it comes this afternoon. Oilers win 5-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nugent-Hopkins will pick up two points and with Hemsky signed many Oiler fans will now focus on "The Nuge" winning the first Calder trophy in Oilers history. Nugent-Hopkins’ two points will give him 37 on the season, and he’ll be four back of Adam Henrique.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hemsky signing will the main topic on the panel, and one of the analysts will point to Hemsky’s five goals and state he’s overpaid. He is if you go by that, however, a few minutes later the same guy will talk glowingly about Rick Nash, unaware that Nash is on pace for 26 goals and 56 points, yet he’s not overpaid at $7.8 million. Sometimes it is hard to explain how one’s perception can change from player to player.