HERE’S YOUR HAT, WHAT’S YOUR HURRY?

On the day of his 30th birthday, Ales Hemsky remains a divisive figure in Oilers history–some of us consider him the de facto ‘player of the decade" for the 2000’s team while others consider him soft and an underperformer. Here’s one fan’s view of the situation.

THE STORY, IN PICTURES 

For me, the Ales Hemsky story is summed up in this exchange against the Detroit Red Wings. Hemsky–considered soft by many–once again enters the battle as he chases down the 200,000th "ring it around the boards like Pat Quinn told us to" errant puck–and gets slammed by a Niklas Kronwall elbow (and he left his feet!). Corey Potter–God love him–comes to the aid of his teammate and gets a 4:00 penalty. 

The commentator speaks about liking the way Ales Hemsky "popped right up" and states this is what he’d like to see Hemsky do more often. I screamed at my television (you may have heard me, I’m quite loud)  "he does it ALL THE DAMN TIME" but to no avail. 

Ales Hemsky played for the Oilers in an era when the front office couldn’t get out of its own way. His Oiler career can be broken down into four parts:

  • Early arrival (age 19) and development
  • Pushing towards excellence (05-09) as the front office fiddles
  • Injuries and battle fatigue (10-13) as the front office dithers
  • Early exit and new city (still to come)

I’m convinced Hemsky never had the support, but even at that he delivered at a wonderful level when healthy. In his Oiler career (597 games now), Hemsky’s per 82 boxcars are 18-44-62. And these aren’t just PP numbers, either. At even strength through his career, 83 has delivered:

EVEN STRENGTH/5X5 PER 60 SCORING BY ALES HEMSKY, CAREER

  • 02-03: 2.26*
  • 03-04: 1.73*
  • 05-06: 2.17*
  • 06-07: 2.09*
  • 07-08: 2.36
  • 08-09: 2.08
  • 09-10: 2.85
  • 10-11: 2.88
  • 11-12: 1.57
  • 12-13: 1.40

(*nhl.com using even strength time on ice, all others courtesy Desjardins behindthenet.com)

Hemsky was a very consistent producer of offense through the dark years and of course a key part of the Stanley team where he emerged as an impact player. 

WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?

The Oilers didn’t have the horses, from the moment they dealt Pronger without retaining Spacek and other veteran defensemen to bridge the gap. From that second onward, Hemsky was sentenced to years and years of flying sorties into the ‘Regehr zone’ with little or no hope of a second season or a return to June playoff hockey. 

And yet, he flew those sorties, with many in the fanbase blaming Hemsky for the poor results. The problem was never Hemsky (beyond injury and the wonky results this season on that 2line) the problem was the Oilers didn’t have enough actual NHL players.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We’re never going to agree,  some of us are pro-Hemsky and others are not–and that’s fine, we’re fans and part of it is having disagreements on these things. This fan wants to wish Ales Hemsky a wonderful birthday and a terrific season in 2013-14–wherever he plays. 

The ideal year from my point of view is Craig MacTavish acknowledging that Hemsky’s frustrations over the years were well founded and that the organization is hopeful he’ll consider signing with them next summer. And then devoting real time to Hemsky playing on a skill line–these kids aren’t so established the club can afford to trash a talent like Hemsky.

He is 30 today. Will he be here for his 31st birthday? I’d put the odds just shy of impossible.

"My first pick was Ales Hemsky, and you certainly want him to play and I’m yearning for him to be a success and so far I think Ales is going to be." Kevin Prendergast to Guy Flaming, HF interview, August 15, 2003. 

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I have never had any ill felling towards Hemsky, but I struggle to see what others see in him.

    Yes he goes to all the tough places, and takes hits, and gets back up again, and then does it all over again. The frustration for me is watching him play an individual game, even when he is playing with players that can generate a keep a play alive.

    This guy is an individual player, playing a team game……….he could be a franchise player if he ever learned to play a team game, instead he chooses to be an ” end to end”, player.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As a Flames fan, I was always glad to see Hemsky work hard, display exceptional talent, get killed because he was the only Oiler who could get puck possession in the offensive zone, and then get **** on by Edmonton fans for not being able to win games single-handed.

    There should be a highlight reel of Hemsky’s career, with all the great moves, all the borderline-criminal hits by Regehr, all the goals, and all the plays where he’s holding the puck for like 30 seconds and there’s *still* nobody open for him to pass to.

    And the entire video should have just one big caption for Oilers’ fans:

    THIS IS WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS

  • socaldave

    Hemsky’s the poster child for a risk/reward player. He was stuck (yeah, stuck) on a team/in a system that didn’t know how to (most likely just plain old COULDN’T) make the best use of him.

    How anyone can say the Oilers are a better team without him than with is, at best, simply misinformed or, at worst, a Calgary fan.

    • The Last Big Bear

      depends what you trade him for. the fact that he can’t be traded for an actual roster player says something doesn’t it?

      Hemsky was a victim of a weak team around him, no doubt. Management can be blamed for much of fans disappointment; like Horcoff, they felt the need to overhype him. He was never a franchise player, yet they spent years telling us he was, thus it appears he underachieve, when, in fact, he didn’t. He is a top 6 six forward, ideally on the second line.

      but, Hemmer can shoulder some the blame. his lack of commitment to improving beyond his 3rd season can be pointed to. he never developed a one-timer, he never worked with linemates to develop chemistry. never learned how to check. his game at 29 was the same as at 21.

  • Off topic I know, but has anybody suggested a fancy stats name/term for the composite +/- index of Trashes v. Props?*

    (Dakin is +66 in this thread)

    *You know you could make yourself famous here, right?

    – Wanye Widget score (W2 score)
    – Lowetide Composite Index (LCI)
    – ?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I can’t possibly have enough love for Hemsky.

    His status among the “faithful” has always confused me to the point of being galling.

    Happy birthday Ales. At least when you are winning with the Sens you won’t have to talk to Matty about some crap question.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    The Oilers should honour the players that won’t be getting their jerseys retired to the rafters……guys like Smitty and Hemmer should get statues in the forier of the new building….Smitty’s statue should be standing in front of a net with his butt in some goalies face and the Hemmer statue should have the puck on his stick and his arm in a sling…(just kidding)

    And leave Gretzkys statue at Rexall…give him a new statue in the new barn….Gretzkty standing behind the net with two defenders each with one hand on the goal post..scared to go behind the net for fear Gretz will embarrass them!

    Welcome to your 30s Ales!

  • Bucknuck

    If Hemsky is going to be an Oiler, then I pick him for my star. This is the year he takes off. 30 years old is PRIME age and for a talent like Hemsky, the Oilers can only benefit from having him on the ice.

  • Baresnake

    Hemmer is sittin at 451 points….its a contract year for him aswell…i would bet some $$$ that hes gonna bust his ass off to get those 49 points & also earn a solid contract next free agency!!!

    lets give the Bday boy 1 last shot in Oil silks to reach 500 in Oiler colors!!! 🙂

    ……someone in our top 6 goes down with a serious injury (god forbid) Hemmer is there to replace em!!!!

    Happy Bday #83!!

    Keep your stick & beers… on the ice _ –

  • Baresnake

    I know you are going to disagree dsf as you always do but 24-25 is not proven. 27-28 seems more accurate for most forwards. Which is an important point because 2 yrs past prime is different than 5. Even so there are always late bloomers. Ganger will be a better player for the next 5 years than he was for the past 5 years. Tell Martin St. Louis that you peak at 24 and he’ll tell you to shut the f up. Crosby and malkin and ovechkin would laugh at the idea that they are heading quickly for a steep decline.

    For every example you can give of a peak at 25 I can give countless more to disprove your theory.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I would argue that point production for forwards peaks before their overall effectiveness does. ie a player’s point production may peak at 26, but I’d say most forwards peak in overall effectiveness (including defensive play, consistency, flexibility in usage, etc) peaks at around 28-29 for forwards. I believe the average age for forwards in the NHL is around 28 so that would lend some pretty definitive support for that.

    For defencemen, I believe their point production peak is later (don’t have those numbers handy though) but I would again argue that their overall effectiveness peaks at around 31-32 most of the time. I believe the NHL average age for defencemen is also higher than that of forwards, again lending credit to that notion.

    Also, I hate the Oilers, so before I get an undeseeved reputation for making a positive contribution to an Oilers website, I want any of you who missed it to go over to NHL Numbers and read this article. It has everything I feel about the Oilers, summed up in a single graph:

    http://nhlnumbers.com/2013/8/8/western-conference-1213-rolling-team-corsi

    • The Last Big Bear

      Interesting rolling team corsi analysis on the Oil. I liked the line: “The 1213 Edmonton OIlers were Wall Street Crash of 1929 bad.” Also the references to Krueger and Tamblini.

      If the centre problem isn’t fixed, prospects for improvement are not good. And I’m an Oiler fan.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    You’d think Hemsky was the only player worth watching the last seven years or so . Mr.Excitement , the attention grabber . Well he was till the new NBR . ones came . He never played soft , but continually drew the ire of those players who like to injure star players . It didn’t help him much as linemates seldom protected him from those abuses . Hemsky still dangerous to the opposition and they have to adjust accordingly . He is a difference maker despite playing on a long term team downfall .

  • The Last Big Bear

    Oh boy.. All the Hemsky lovers are out in full force. Give me a break. Sure he played well in the decade of failure but hes got a garbage attitude and it shows most nights. He has overstayed his welcome here. Time to take out the trash!

  • Old School G

    Hemsky is an unbelievable talent, when he winds it up he’s incredible to watch out there! He plays a soloist game that Canadians, myself included, don’t fully understand. He’s been good for our team for a lot of years, I feel that as he evolves into a more secondary source of scoring he could be a very useful weapon for us this season.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Allways gave 100%+ . To bad some of the new kids didn’t arrive 5-6 years ago . Hemsky was the only reason to watch the oil for years . Agree with your comments .

  • I’ve been looking at the comments re: Hemsky. There are two observations that need to be noted, IMO:

    1) in a two year period from 2007-2009, Hemsky played close to every game and was close to 1.00 ppg player. Since that time, he has either not come close to 1.00 ppg, or played close to a full season.

    2) Even though Hemsky was very publicly shopped around this off-season, and even though teams are now able to retain up to 50% of a player’s salary (meaning Hemsky would only cost $2.5 m this season), there were no takers.

    This leads to one conclusion to me; he was a very solid player at one time, but he is no longer that guy. Were he that guy still, someone would have taken a one year flyer on him for a half-price salary. Especially since they were reportedly only asking for a bottom six forward or a draft pick.