Tonight will be Ales Hemsky’s final game as an Edmonton Oiler. He will be traded before tomorrow’s 1.p.m deadline. Hemsky played his first game as an Oilers on October 10th, 2002 against Philadelphia. He didn’t score his first goal until his 26th game, January 4th, 2003 vs. Montreal, but during the past 11 hockey seasons his skill ranged from breathtaking to frustrating to dazzling and gutsy.
Hemsky made the playoffs as a rookie, but I’m sure he never dreamt that he would only play in the playoffs once during the subsequent 10 seasons. I can understand why Hemsky wants a new challenge in a new city, with new teammates and new fans. One post-season appearance in ten years would deflate anyone, and I fully expect Hemsky to play well on his new team.
I’ve always been a fan of Hemsky, but I also felt he could have been an even better player. The best players in the world work diligently to improve their game, and Hemsky rarely spent extra time in practice working on his shot or one-timer. I will always wonder how productive he could have been had he worked as hard as Ryan Smyth, or superstars like Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk and others.
Hemsky’s combination of speed and fearlessness made him extremely exciting to watch. He never shied away from guys like Robyn Regehr, and all that punishment led to some extended stays on the IR. I never understood why people suggested he was soft. Hemsky went to the tough areas all the time, despite his smallish frame. Like most, I would have liked to see him shoot more, but that wasn’t his game and it never will be.
I hope he plays well on his new team, and I’m sure he will get a big boost walking into his new team knowing he has a shot at the playoffs. Getting traded to a contender energizes every player.
Tonight could also be Ryan Smyth’s final game of the season as an Oiler. I don’t say final game ever, because I believe there is a chance the Oilers re-sign him this summer. Like Hemsky, Smyth has been to the Cup finals once in his career, and I know Smyth will sacrifice being away from his wife and four kids during the next few months for a shot at the Cup.
Here are some teams I feel Smyth could help down the stretch.
Smyth and Hemsky had very different styles, but when they played together they had excellent chemistry. I hope they find that on their new teams.
Now that Scrivens has signed, I’d like to see the Oilers start him in 14 of their final 20 games. I see no reason in splitting the net. Ilya Bryzgalov has played well since Scrivens arrived, but Scrivens has a better chance of being a starter in the future, so why not give him more games now and see how he reacts.
Marincin is coming off his worst game of the year. Prior to Saturday’s game vs. the Flames, the 2010 2nd round pick had played very well. Many players have off nights, but how they play the next game is what matters. Hopefully he brushes it off and plays like he had prior to Saturday. Eakins told me he plans to play him the same amount of minutes and in the same situations, but he also stated, “If Marty wants to play 20 minutes a night and in key situations he knows he can’t make a play like he did on Saturday. He will learn from it,” said the coach.
Marincin has been a pleasant surprise and I think he will respond with a solid game.
Due to the Bryzgalov trade the Oilers will dress U of A Golden Bears goalie Kurtis Mucha as the back up.
- I spoke with Nick Schultz yesterday and he believes he will be moved. I feel Hemsky and Schultz are locks to be moved, while Smyth is about 75-25. If all three of them are dealt the Oilers will call up some players from OKC.
Arcobello has 19 points in 9 games, and he’d be the obvious choice to replace Smyth at centre. I also think you will see Anton Lander (44 points in 40 games) and Oscar Klefbom at some point. You might not see all of them right away because the OKC Barons are in a playoff race.
OKC is currently in 9th place, 3 points out of 8th and 5 out of 7th. The organization desperately wants their young players to get a taste of the postseason, so I doubt we will see a mass recall after the trade deadline.
- I’ve said for the past two months that Pittsburgh could use Hemsky. They need a bit more speed in their top-six, and they haven’t found a replacement for Pascal Dupuis. The Penguins don’t have a 2014 2nd round pick, but I still think a deal can be had. Next year’s draft is deeper, so the Oilers might be better off getting a pick from 2015.
- The Detroit Red Wings are playing six left-shot D-men and some in Edmonton have speculated that Corey Potter could go there because he shoots right and has a connection with Tom Renney. Florida has two right shot D-men in Mike Weaver (just traded to Montreal) and Tom Gilbert. I’m sure they’d look at the Islanders’ Matt Carkner before Potter. I’m sorry, but I don’t see why a team would add a D-man who isn’t a regular on the 29th place team. Potter was put on waivers today, so if the Wings are interested they can pick him up for nothing. I don’t see it.
- Anton Belov is out a few weeks with a torn oblique muscle, and Philip Larsen was put on waivers yesterday leaving the Oilers with six defencemen. When Nick Schultz gets moved we could see Taylor Fedun recalled. He shoots right so they could put him on the 3rd pair and put Ference back with J.Schultz.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will be hungry (Leven Rambin reference) for a victory after Saturday’s brutal effort. The Senators, however, are in a fight for the playoffs and they need the points. Ottawa wins 4-3 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nugent-Hopkins picks up two points. He had two goals and as assist in the Oilers 3-1 win over the Senators.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hemsky scores his first career goal vs. the Senators leaving Washington and Edmonton as the only teams he has never scored against.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR