Ales Hemsky Turns Things Around

Where have you been Jake Taylor?

A favorite movie character of mine is Jake Taylor from the Major League movies. He is a backcatcher in the twilight of his career and he gets a call to play for the Cleveland Indians. He becomes a mentor for many of the players on the team throughout the movies.

In Major League II Jake becomes a coach. He starts working with a back catcher, Rube Baker,  who is good at everything except throwing the ball back to the pitcher, the easiest skill to perform. Rube has done it a million times since he was young but something gets into his head and he can’t do it. 

Jake suggests that he think of anything but throwing the ball. When he goes to throw the ball it works for Rube. 

The mind is a very strong tool. I have seen it be a player’s best and worst friend.

Over the last week Ales Hemsky has shown flashes of the player he and the Oilers want him to be. The week was capped off by his first hat trick last night. What has changed?

He didn’t suddenly get his legs back after the shoulders surgeries. I haven’t noticed a spike in his ice time or the quality of the defensemen he is facing. I would suggest that like our friend Rube Baker, Ales Hemsky stopped thinking about something that was on his mind, a new contract.

With last year’s injury problems and lack of point production so far this season he may have been wondering what next year could hold for him. It would not have been the ideal summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

Reaching unrestricted status can be unsettling for a player who has not experienced it. It can be a big decision when picking a team. It can be more stressful when going into it with question marks surrounding your playing ability or durability. 

With all of this in his head Hemsky may have been playing tight. With the security of a two year deal in his pocket he can now just play with a clear head. Trust me, it makes a difference.

It would have been better for Hemsky if Jake Taylor would have showed up earlier.

  • Jason: No question in my mind Hemsky has been playing better of late, but I’m not convinced two very productive games signals a turnaround.

    Hemsky is two games removed from a stretch in which he scored one goal in 29 games, so while it’s fine to be hopeful, there’s more to see. Not long ago, some people had Sam Gagner turning a corner after two ridiculously good games.

    Is it really a distraction for a player to wonder which team is going to pay him millions on a new contract? I’m not begrudging players the money they make because getting to the NHL level is a feat reserved for a select few, but I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the “it’s a tough situation” approach. It takes an Ordinary Joe making a nice wage, say $100,000 a year, 50 years to earn what Ales will make next season.

    • 24% body fat

      has gagner not turned a corner? minus injury and playing in the belanger triangle, he may have his best year and is one of the oilers best defensive forwards.

      So as for hemsky with the contract and team situation and whether or not he belongs finally behind him maybe he can think positive and get back to what he use to be.

      When these two have confidence they are right up there with the rest.

        • 24% body fat

          on the 2nd worst team in the league and pulled from number 1 powerplay time as is hemsky. yes he played 1st pp time since hall was out. But why did we go from 8th to first on pp when RNH went out and than back to third with RNH back on the top unit.

          Also it seems to me that gagner started seeing a lot tougher minutes when hall is in the lineup and on his line, and hemsky wasnt producing. So with Hall out of the line up how much has eberle and RNH produced when seeing tough minutes. Not very much.

          All players have down time, and unfortunately with hemmer and sam it is hot or cold, no luke warm.

          Oh and team leading plus 7. Take these 2 out of the equation this year or next with out a veteran upgrade and we are 30th. And that includes a so called upgrade in Grigorenko.

          EDIT: and still 2nd highest 5 on 5 per 60. and this is important if the NHL is going to continue to put the whistles away. His career would be very different if LA didnt take hickey and Gagner ended up on washington.

          • Reach as deeply into the stats bag as you’d like. Four points in the last 14 games isn’t good enough for Sam. Period.

            And back to the original point (as inconvenient as that might be): Sam’s hot streak did not result in a prolonged turnaround and it’s too early to say Hemsky’s recent results mean he’s back to his old self.

          • 24% body fat

            and thats what I said, he his hot and cold. but considering ups and downs of his season and minus his injuries he would have had his best season in basically all aspects of his game. And regardless of when it happened, people would look back and say 8 point night was that night.

            Is plus 10, 60pts, 20 goals and 50percent on the dot a turning point for him. I would think so. And he can still achieve 3 of these, and would have had all of them less the injury and if he enjoyed the choice minutes of 14 and 93.

            Back to hemsky though. He has done it before and is at his prime age. Maybe something sparked him and something didnt. But i give him the benefit of the doubt that his mind being clear may have triggered this. He does look like a new payer since than, point wise or not.

            And I did want to trade him and was calling for his head all season.

          • Rich guys worrry about what color of porche to buy,Ordinary guys worry about paying for weddings and colledge funds.Its all relitive I agree with struds 100 per cent.Sam is not considered a vet yet he will become more consistent with a more defined role. Ales has a proven track record so to suggest we wont turn the corner is just being a negitive nelly.

          • Douche Nietzsche

            Ya in reality Gags in on pace to maybe tie his rookie season on a team that has a lot more talent this year. If you take out the 8 point night, if really shows no improvement at all except maybe in the faceoff circle. I think with the season Sam has had and if the Oil pick second he just gave them more reason to go with the big Russian center.

          • A-Mc

            (on Gagner’s 2-2-4 in 14 stats, he Replied: “On the 2nd worst team in the league”)

            The Oilers have no problems scoring goals. The stat that puts them into 29th place is the GF/GA ratio.

            The Oilers have 196 goals on the season which is good enough for Middle ground.

            The Oilers have 216 Goals against (26th Overall) for a combined -20 on the season.

            More goals is always nice but to say that Sam Gagner is 2-2-4 because he is on a team that does not score is simply not true.

    • Douche Nietzsche

      Maybe that wasn’t his distraction. Maybe his distraction was the possibility of leaving the only hockey place he has known in his career without being offered a chance to stay. Maybe he wanted to stay in Edmonton and didn’t care for other teams money. Did you have a chance to ask Hemsky about this distraction that assumingly existed?
      Who cares about the average joes? What do they have to do with Hemsky? It will take them over 70 years to get that Horcoff money.

      Oh and what turnaround?

    • Clarence Oveur

      spot freakin on.

      Hemsky, I wish him the success, has not turned it around. yet. could it happen sure but let’s apply some longevity to the situation and then make a more realistic call on his worth.

    • Douche Nietzsche

      Robin, just two games? Hemsky has been playing better for several weeks now, but the puck was not going in. How many times were the MSM noting him hitting posts and crossbars? It has taken longer than everyone involved wanted for the goals to start going in, but Hemsky has been slowly rounding into form all season. The old rule of thumb used to be players would need a full year to recover from a knee or shoulder surgery, so why are you and the rest of the MSM not giving him this as well?

      If he is fully healthy next year then I expect him to get back to his historical production. This would hopefully allow the Oilers to finally have two scoring lines to roll with.

      WRT Gagner, I totally agree. Once the team has a better option at #2 he is gone. The 8 point game was nice, but just like the past few seasons Sam rakes against softer teams but is too small and slow to put up the numbers against bigger teams. Right now the team can’t afford to trade him since there is not much depth on the farm other than Lander (likely a #3C in the end), but if they can draft/trade for a larger #2C then Sam is trade bait.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The game is always easier to play when they have little/no meaning whatsoever. Where was this Hemsky when the games mattered? When faced with adversity (coming back from an injury and last yr of his contract) he brought all his issues with him into the dressing room. He showed on a couple occasions that he put himself before the team.

    Hemsky looks to be a me first type of player with a less than ideal attitude. I hope for the Oilers sake there’s still time to trade him before the upcoming summer entry draft. The one constant through the most difficult of Oiler seasons in recent memory has been Horcoff,Hemsky and Kevin Lowe. I don’t mind if Lowe stays (if Katz has the balls to keep him in line) but the other two have to go, now.

    • Douche Nietzsche

      What he did bring to the dressing room?

      How did he put him self before the team?

      You don’t know the Moon, you only know the eyes that see the Moon, but even then it would appear those play a lot of tricks on you.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    You have nailed it Struds. It’s amazing how a little bit of space in the mind can translate into amazing things physically.

    The same way an athlete with a problem at home or elsewhere off the ice doesn’t necessarily perform an unresolved contract can only weigh on a player.

    Oilnation ask yourself this, how many times have things been going on in your personal life, and they’ve affected your professional life?

    As a mental and development coach of high-end athletes we work with them all the time on these very distractions.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I dunno Oily.

      The Oilers sure rid themselves of Kurtis Foster and his issues last summer at first opportunity. Why should Hemsky be treated any different? Has Foster scored more goals than Hemsky has this season?

      • C’mon, really?
        You can’t think of a reason why the Oilers may be more patient & understanding with Hemsky as opposed to Foster?

        – Drafted & developed by the Oilers
        – 10 year history
        – Signed at a large hometown discount on his last contract
        – 429 points in 550 games
        – 17 points in 24 playoff games in the Oiler’s most successful season in recent history
        – Arguably signed at a team friendly contract now
        – Has never demanded a trade or communicated a desire to play anywhere else

        …and you compare him to Foster? Get real man!

        • Douche Nietzsche


          Ales Hemsky deserves to be treated fairly and with patience.

          This guy loves the organization and not to mention that he is a talented (accept it) player who wants to stay in the city.

          Quicksilver ballet must have only started watching hockey 05 lock out.

  • db7db7db7

    I find it really funny how most guys play way better in contract years, but not Hemsky. Some guys rise up under pressure,and some cave. Does not spell performance if the Oilers do ever get back to the playoffs with Hemsky still on the team.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I really do think Jason is right even if it is only a few games. Hemmer looked really out of sorts all season until the deal was done. Some people really do not handle instability well. I also think Hemmer was wondering if he was still wanted in Oiler-land as all the buzz has been the kids. He could be the Key that is a very important part of a big run in the playoffs. I would not be surprised if some players get physically sick at the deadline.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    To my eye, Ales looks more relaxed on the ice-and I mean that in a good way. I think having a new contract seems to have put his mind at ease and now he can just worry about playing hockey. My two cents.

  • 24% body fat

    ” It would have been better for Hemsky if Jake Taylor would have showed up earlier.”

    I thought that’s what Horcoff, umm I mean Smyth, no no Sutton was here for.

    • Mason Storm

      Don’t worry. Hall Gill is a UFA this off-season. He can mentor the kids. Look how it turned out in Montreal……okay bad example. Ummm pretty sure Komisarek is available, maybe he can…..oh man, being a GM is hard.

      • it’s pretty easy when you have a room full of guys telling you what to do.

        3 guys on a cell phone, 1 guy on a laptop, 1 guy hulking over a chair, two guys looking like they don’t want to make a peep, 3 guys head nodding, two saying “let’s do it”, and 1 head scout calling the other team to find out what the guy is like…

  • geeker99

    @ Robin,
    The major flaw in your argument is the comparison. Gagner is trying to established a new level of play which he hasn’t been able to maintain for more than 30 or so games. Hemsky is trying to round back into his previously near point per game self not to a higher level of play than what he is known for.

  • 24% body fat

    It seems to me that just before Hemmer signed the deal, is around the time that he started to come around. The game in Ottawa was where it started. I almost forgot that he played for us for a period of time before that. Since then, while he hasn’t been nearly as productive as he is capable of being, Hemmer has been very dangerous on many nights. His career numbers prove that he is a legitimate point getter in this league. While it is only a small sample size, he has done it before. Gagner, on the other hand, is notoriously hot and cold.

  • Mason Storm

    @ Dog Train:

    I agree.

    That’s about the time I noticed a difference in Hemmer’s play. He’s been productive the last couple of games, however he was playing pretty darn good for the last little while now.

    As an Oiler fan, this makes me happy and hopeful, so I’m sure as heck not going to carve the guy up for the time before that.

    Enjoy your articles Jason. Thanks.

  • justDOit

    I dunno… If I’m Hemsky’s agent, I’m telling him that UFA season MEANS over-paying, and after Parise, there’s little else available this year.

    Of course, I’m also saying “Ten percent of $5M is… Ok, sign it!”

  • geeker99

    hemsky needed lastnight for sure! it was nice to seem him getting confident by the shift. i like him but to think you deserve a raise after the three years he had is cocky. but lastnight show glimpses of what we might have.i believe that it is up to him to make this a quality contract. he is wearing an “A” for a reason and needs to be apart of and the end of a painful rebuild. lead the team ALES, you know you want to!


    Thanks for the article Strudwick.

    Hemsky is playing with more of the creativity I love in his game. While being happy with the contract and having the worry of free agency removed may have led partly to the recent good play from Hemsky, I have noticed that the guy is just faster over the past couple months. My biggest worry with Hemsky this year was that his skating was coming off just a bit earlier this year. No worries now.

    The Nashville game and Chicago games really show that going forward teams playing the Oilers better have a good second pair of defensemen or they might get torched.

  • I hope he can crank it up so ST can trade him before July 01 NTC kicks in.

    Otherwise, I predict another 65 gp, 14 goal, 50 point season. And ON readers still calling it a good contract.

    By the way, based on the precedent the Oilers set with this extension, can we expect:

    a big money multi-year offer for Penner…

    an extension and raise for Horcoff….

    an extension, raise, and promotion in title for Steve Tambellini ?

    Based on the Oilers warped culture of unaccountability, I’d say anything is possible.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I’m happy to grant that the contract situation affected Hemsky’s play… but the two reasons Hemsky actually cites for his improved play over the last several weeks

    (not just two games… he’s been outchancing the opposition for weeks, taking more shots and looking dangerous)

    First: Hemsky says he’s beginning to feel stronger and better after the surgeries and the nagging nerve pain in his shoulder:

    Not sure why we should discount this obvious factor in a player’s flourishing or diminishing returns

    Second: After the hat trick, Hemsky didn’t get all “me, me, me, I’m awesome!!” like some around here seem to think would fit his character (QB??) he cited “luck”

    and the same night in an interview with Principe same story:

    Principe: “What do you attribute the puck going into the net to?”
    Hemsky: “Luck.”

    If you look at his shooting % this year it is way out of whack with his entire career. and a 60 game season and numerous years do not make for small sample sizes. The guy’s luck ran out this year so far… there is no reason to suspect his % won’t bounce back to normal at some point, like now and going forward (it jumped dramatically after the hat trick).

    I’d put injury and recovery mixed with luck ahead of contract situation in the pecking order.

  • 24% body fat

    @Robin Brownlee

    why are u coming into struds’ blog and shootin down his article??? at least struds can say he can relate and has been through a real NHL players struggles. i think its a positive thing for an ex NHL player to give a little credit for a guy that stood alone here in oil country for a decade and as soon as we get sone young bloods you just want to discard him.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Yes. Heaven forbid an Edmonton writer actually fulfill his journalistic responsibility to scrutinize the establishment. We need more corporate shills to sell us the propaganda instead.

      Everyone knows Brownlee should devote more energy to selling season tickets and discrediting taxpayer advocates who question the ethics of publicly funding a private for-profit business concern.

      The Edmonton sports press has (rightfully) been getting flak for being a little too chummy with the local team. When a couple of writers decide to turn up the heat and start asking some hard questions, the local “superfans” jump all over them. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t….

      Jason Strudwick brings invaluable first hand knowledge and experience to this blog. But it is still one man’s perspective. Civilly and respectfully expanding the discussion is not “shootin down his article”

      I for one wish we had a high profile sports media guy who angered the team management. Not by being a jerk, but by persistent unwavering reasoned criticism like back in the Pocklington days.

      • Douche Nietzsche

        What exactly do you know about propaganda?

        Take your politics to city hall or the government. This is a sports website, and even then that horse is long beat and buried.

        When it comes to Media and Money, chummy is a safe bet and it would appear the only approach.

        Asking hard questions? To who? You? Robin didn’t present hard questions to Hemsky, he presented them to you as a form of suggestive thinking.

        Never put a period at the end of a sentence, a question mark leaves possibilities and opportunities.

        Gathering from the article and the comments; there would appear to be only one “superfan” here, and that is you to Robin.

  • Jason Strudwick

    A losing team is the fault of the collective group but it affects the individual players. It is hard to look good on a bad team. It is also easy to look good on a good team. How would detroits Franzens stats look on the oilers this year and how would hemskys look if he were playing for the wings? When and if the Oilers improve stats will be affected according.

    Let’s see how the rest of the season goes for Ales and the first 40 games of next season. Then we can say if he truly found his game again.