THE RIGHT TIME TO LEAVE…

Yesterday on the TEAM 1260, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish told Mark Spector, that "in an ideal scenario" Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff would be traded. I believe the timing is right for the Oilers and their two longest serving (consecutively) players to part ways, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bitter divorce.

Horcoff has been vilified by the majority of fans in Edmonton the past four seasons, mainly because the Oilers overpaid him. I’ve never understood why fans were so angry at Horcoff for agreeing to let his employer overpay him. How many of you would say, "I don’t think I’m worth that, I think you should pay me less?"

Horcoff’s on-ice performance and effort never deserved the venom he received. He wasn’t offensive enough to live up to his $5.5 million cap hit, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good player. In 2006, Horcoff had 73 points in the regular season and added 19 more during the Oilers run to the Cup. He was the Oilers #1 centre, and he was good enough to outscore and shutdown Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton.

Horcoff was an integral piece to that magical 2006 season, the only season in the last 21 years that Oilers fans were able to enjoy a long playoff run. That should never be forgotten. It is easy to rip him and say he’s junk, brutal, part of the losing culture etc, but he was also a major part of the most fun hockey season many of you have ever experienced.

Now is the right time for Horcoff to go. He’s mentally drained. You could see it in his play, and hear it in his words. Nine of Horcoff’s 12 seasons in Edmonton were void of playoffs, and outside of the 2006 run, the Oilers were never truly competitive. Combine all the losing with the constant negativity from the majority of the fan base and I can understand why he’d be mentally exhausted.

That’s not to say Horcoff is innocent. He wasn’t a good captain in 2011/2012. He admitted he didn’t accept his role, and that is inexcusable, especially with many young, impressionable teammates. While he tried to rediscover his drive and passion for the Oilers this season, I don’t think he was ever able to get it back.

Horcoff currently has a no-movement clause that becomes a limited no-trade clause on July 1st, but he’s told the Oilers he’d be willing to waive it. He sold his house last month, and when it went on the market I didn’t expect him to return to Edmonton.

Horcoff turns 35 in September and he’s in the twilight of his career. He’d be a solid 3rd line centre on a good team, and I suspect when he’s traded he’ll get a boost of energy. A change of scenery will do him some good, and it will also help the Oilers to have a new, vibrant, young leader in their dressing room.

I’ll remember Horcoff as a guy who was always willing to talk to me. He gave insightful answers and you never questioned his work ethic on the ice. I wish he would have done more in the community, because I believe the captain of the Oilers needs to be a leader in that department. The citizens of Edmonton love the Oilers and support them, almost to a fault, regardless of how bad the on-ice product is. The players should never take that for granted, and it is up to the captain to be involved in local charities. Ethan Moreau, Jason Smith and Doug Weight did a lot of that, and if I had one criticism of Horcoff, it would be that he should been more active in that role.

But overall, I thought he was a solid player and a good guy who called Edmonton home for a decade. I hope he gets a chance to play on a competitive team again.

The time is right for Horcoff and the Oilers to part ways, but he doesn’t need to be railroaded out of town by the fans, media or the Oilers. He should be grateful for the opportunity Edmonton gave him, and fans should be thankful for the wonderful ride in 2006. All parties benefitted from that, and now both sides could benefit from a trade.

HEMSKY

For the past decade Hemsky has been the most exciting player on the Edmonton Oilers. For many, he will be remembered as a guy who didn’t reach his full potential, but I loved watching him play. Up until the arrival of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, the only player who could bring Oiler fans out of their seats on a nightly basis was Hemsky.

He was a joy to watch. He was the only Oiler who could consistently beat defenders one-on-one, and for most of his tenure he had to face the opposition’s best defenders. He was fearless, never shied away from contact and that was the main reason he missed 189 games during his 10 years in Edmonton.

Hemsky is one of the most naturally gifted players in the NHL, and I firmly believe, if he worked on his game like the great players do, he could have been a dominant players. I wish he would have worked on his one-timer and shooting after practice, but he didn’t. While you wish he would have worked harder after practice, it would be incorrect to suggest he didn’t play hard during the games.

Hemsky was a baller. I’ll always remember Ethan Moreau, who stayed in the NHL on pure guts and effort, telling me this about Hemsky. "He goes into areas I never would. He’s not scared of anyone, and that’s why sometimes he gets hit hard, because he doesn’t back down."

Hemsky turns 30 in August, and despite coming off two unproductive seasons, I believe he still has value in the eyes of opposing GMs. Today’s game is all about speed. If you don’t have speed you won’t last, and Hemsky is one of the most underrated skaters in the game. Don’t believe for a second that Hemsky doesn’t have value across the league. Teams have been trying to acquire him for the past few seasons. He’ll bring in a decent return.

Hemsky can fly, and few players can skate as fast while controlling the puck. He hasn’t lost a step, and when he lands in another city don’t be surprised to see him score 55-60 points; if he stays healthy. Hemsky’s shoulders are finally healthy, and his broken foot has healed. I think it grossly premature to suggest Hemsky is done being an effective player.

It would be easy to chastise Hemsky and applaud his upcoming departure out of Edmonton, but I won’t. Hemsky wasn’t perfect, but since he arrived in Edmonton in the fall of 2002 he’s been the most electrifying, and at times frustrating, player Oiler fans had the pleasure of watching.

Hemsky was never comfortable talking on the record. He didn’t like doing interviews, but when we just sat down to shoot the breeze he was much more engaging. Hemsky grew up in Edmonton. He fell in love in Edmonton, and he always spoke highly of the city.

I remember running into Hemsky at a bar one night. We spent an hour talking about the Czech Republic and how I had to go visit Prague, but he also told me how much he liked Edmonton. I never brought it up. He was fired up that the city had a bad reputation. "This is a great place to play. Games are sold out, but off the ice it is a great place to be a young guy. You rarely have to pay for dinner or drinks and everyone loves hockey."

Hemsky went home to the Czech Republic every summer, but he also owned a house in Edmonton and he really liked the city. I liked Hemsky. I never knew him that well off the ice and never tried to push that issue, but I always appreciated his high-end skill.

However, just like Horcoff, I think all the losing has taken a toll on Hemsky. I think he is mentally tired of losing, and the time is right for him to move on. It is also the right time for the Oilers to move him, because they finally have some offensive depth on right wing with Eberle and Yakupov.

Rather than take the easy route and rip on Hemsky, I think many should realize that it is the right time to part ways. Both parties want it, and both parties benefitted from each other during the past decade.

It is time Oiler fans, and some media, stopped being "bad breaker uppers." We all recognize that Horcoff and Hemsky haven’t been great the past two seasons, but they also had many good seasons. It would be a refreshing change that while we wait for their impending trades, people would acknowledge their accomplishments, both good and bad.

My favourite clip from Hemsky never came on the record. It happened in JJ Hebert and Pat Garland’s (Oilers media relations) office. Hebert, Garland and I were talking about men’s league hockey when Hemsky walked in the room. He listened to our conversation and when we were done he said, "When I retire, I can’t wait to play men’s league with my buddies back home; I’m going to dominate," he said with a grin and a laugh. He was serious.

Hemsky undresses NHL D-men, could you imagine him carving up men’s league players. Yikes.

FINAL REMINDER…

We are looking for the best mock/funny video of Prancercise. The best video will now win a total of $1,300 in gift certificates from The Pint, Rona, United Cycle, Palisades DQ, eBus on Red Arrow, Safeway and vivo ristorante.

Use this weekend to make your best mock video. Keep in mind there are 4 types of Prancercise in this video, so you’ll need to show you are well-versed in all of them.

You can submit your entries to gregor@theteam1260.com. The deadline to enter is next Monday, June 10th at 2 p.m.

Be creative, be witty and be funny. Good luck. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • OilClog

    The Oilers valiant captain was so committed to Edmonton he didnt even bother to move his family here and if anyone believes Hemsky played with anything broken other than maybe a fingernail I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would be interested in selling you.

    • Jason Gregor

      Horcoff’s family has lived here every since he’s been an Oiler.

      His children were in school in Detroit, and when the season didn’t start until late January they choose to keep them there rather than move them out of school.

      Rip on people all you like, but at least be accurate about it, otherwise you look less than smart.

        • Jason Gregor

          Due to the lockout they didn’t register them in Edmonton this year. Family stayed in Detroit, that is where he was training. He didn’t expect season to start on time, has close ties to PA, so he kept his family back in Detroit. Pretty simple and straight forward. He lives in Detroit in the off season, is that an issue?

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Why does it matter to you, and why do you care. He’s got a family connection to Michigan. I’d keep my kids outta Edmonton because of nosey people like you too. Guy lives in a glass box with pressures we don’t understand, maybe he’s keeping his kids from having to deal with constant attention they probably have to deal with, not knowing what how the season was going to shake down.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Then that tells me that he had no intention of living in Edmonton. You don’t call a place home, but enroll your kids into a school on the other side of the continent. Even if it is only for 2 months, who the hell puts their kids into a school and then takes them away from their freinds?

            Yes there are situations where this makes sense, but not if Horc planned on living here.

  • OilClog

    I guess.. I’m on an island where Hemsky should stay on as an Oiler. If MacT is true to his words in the other departments of the team.. Then this club should be a competitive team.. Finally! Why get rid of him now?!?! LIKE BLARG!!!!!

    If he was on a 3rd line role.. He would kill! why can’t we have the best RW depth in the league?! Why can’t we ever be the best at anything in Oilerville anymore.

    We Will never win a Hemsky trade.. Maybe he is mentally tired, but so are the rest of us. Trying to pretend we’re not the islanders of the west is very very hard to keep up!

    Blarg.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I don’t think you are on an island. I loved watching Ales play, too. Problem is does he fit as a 3rd line winger on a team with a lot of talent and almost no aggression, physical presence or defensive acumen among the forwards?

      Hemsky could still dangle but was a turnover machine. I fully understand where you are coming from but he does not have the skill sets the Oilers need from a bottom six winger in the eyes of many. I don’t think he was willing to re-invent himself. That is too bad.

  • Rocket

    Bot should have been traded by timid Tambo at the trade deadline.

    Along with Whitney, Pekham etc.

    Glad to see MacT putting it out there at least. Hopefully he makes some good moves this summer.

  • The Soup Fascist

    The Rodeo may change but the Cowboy never does.

    Union boys always have jobs as long as they are under contract.No harm no foul.

    Both men got to shake the Money Tree the Oilers planted for them here and the Fans watered,all is well.

    What say we ask Pittsburg for a player swap?

    Crosby for Hall,J Schultz,Horcoff,our 1st round pick next year.This is the last year I see Malkin and Sid able to stay together.Yes Malkin for the same players less the draft pick.

  • Yes over the span, they both served the team fairly well, [ not counting the last two years], but they also got paid well..so no tears please.

    For god sakes, Gretz got traded in his prime.
    Not to mention some of the other great players that moved on from the Oilers.

    Thats life in sports…

    But MacT, has his work cutout trying to salvage some kind of a return on a deal.

    Time for the kids to take over leadership and ownership of the team. Although they still need supporting cast in many areas.

  • bwar

    My biggest fear is that we trade away Hemsky and get nothing in return plus get stuck with half of his contract. He does have value to this team in my eyes and it would be a shame if we gave him away for late draft picks and other assorted garbage.

    As for Horcoff that cap hit is just too high for a 3/4C. I fully expect Horcoff to be traded or bought out. Its time that the Young Guns take responsibilty for this team and I think that Horcoff needs to go for that to happen.

  • Jay Gray

    Good job Jason on pointing out the faults of Ales and Shawn, but without making them out to be villans. Their human and most of us all have qualities that would make fans/media howl in disgust.

    I wish them both the best of luck and hope that the Oilers can get some useful pieces in return.

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

    I hope Hemsky gets to play with Ovechkin or Stamkos or some other savvy positional shooter with speed.

    He deserves it after all he’s given the Oilers over the years, without much skilled help to complement him. And without much recognition.

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

    Horcoff is a typical 3rd line center and if it wasn’t for his contract could net a similar something coming back. If the Oil agree to pick up some of his contract I see potential to get something of use back, but unlikely to be an upgrade.

    Hemsky is much more problematic. A big contract for a guy for has been injured and unproductive for a number of years. A huge gamble for anyone interested. We’ll see what happens here, but the Oil might have to take back someone else’s problem to get rid of their own.

    As Bob Mckenzie stated this morning, MacT announcing thing before any deals are in hand is really announcing a changing of the culture. The Oil will now be Hall, Eberle, Nuge etc’s team this year.

    With Horcoff on the way out this must increase Gagner’s bargaining position.

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

    I guess I might be jumping the gun a little……any chance, given his popularity with the fans, that Smitty’s number 94 does get raised to the rafters???

    • Do you think a player in return or the Red Wings first overall?

      Would the Oilers be willing to eat 2.0 million of Hemsky contract?

      I’m conflicted about the return but Detroit makes a lot of sense.

      In some ways I can see Horcoff wanting to go back to Michigan.

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

    Hemsky should have been moved at the deadline…..

    Having said that, everything you said about him is true Gregor. And if the Oilers organization had any savvy, they would create a wall of fame in the new arena where they could pay tribute to Oiler Greats like Hemmer and Smitty…guys who gave it all for the Copper and Blue and yet will never have a banner hanging in the rafters.

    It’s going to be great to see what Hemsky can do on another team…..I for one would pay good money to watch him play on a team like the Red Wings or the Habs.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Meh, anyone who complained about Horcoff’s contract is odd. The team was never, ever hamstrung by the cap to bring players in. Horcoff was a good Oiler and should be remembered fondly.

    I think Hemsky was just overhyped. Every year we kept hearing about how elite he was. If Hemsky was billed as just a decent scoring winger, I think fans would have let up on him a bit.

    Having said all of that, I hope they both end up in the East as there is nothing more infuriating than watching old Oilers come back and get goals.

  • The Soup Fascist

    How many of you would say, “I don’t think I’m worth that, I think you should pay me less?”

    Bobby Orr tore up his contract in Chicago when he realized he could not play at his former level. He said it wasn’t fair to expect Chicago to pay when he couldn’t deliver his end of the deal.

    And Hemsky also told his agent to take less, to allow the team more room to sign other players (second last contract). The Oilers then signed Horcoff to his outrageous contract. I can’t imagine how Hemmer has felt about that in the years since…

    So, yes, there are guys who don’t just grab for the huge (undeserved) overpay. And yes, fans do have the right to voice their displeasure when guys do not give full value for their contract.

    • good points. Horcoff/his agent took advantage of KLowe’s difficult situation at the time and milked it for all it was worth. I doubt it was Lowe saying: ‘here, take 32 million’. it was Horcoff’s agent saying: ‘you can’t get anyone to come here. if we walk you will be even worse off.’

      his salary didn’t handcuff the organization, and he was a solid player, but he did not live up to the salary he squeezed from the organization.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Both these guys have their redeeming qualities, to be sure Jason, and overall they were good Oilers. But it is time to move on.

    As much as they were contributors for large parts of their careers as Oilers, they rightly or wrongly are (save 2006) going to be associated with continually crappy Oiler teams. And they bare those scars.

    Let’s thank them, wish them well ….. and turn the page.