For almost as long as he's donned the Oilers silks rumours have swirled around Ales Hemsky and they have only escalated throughout the rebuild. Each time they circulate I stand by my favourite Oiler and refuse to believe a single rumour. Time and time again the rumours have failed to come to fruition. This year is no different as analysts and bloggers alike speculate over where Ales Hemsky will call home after the trade deadline. Once again I firmly believe Hemsky will be an Oiler at the end of the season. The problem that worries me is that this is a contract year for Hemsky and I fear the Oilers may not offer him a new contract.
The Oilers currently have two other very talented right wingers in Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov and they can easily play on the top two lines. While I have been a strong supporter of having three offensive lines, there is an issue in that the Oilers do not have a third high flying centre or left winger for that matter. However, in Dallas Eakins' apparent philosophy to create pairs of high flying forwards and adding in offensively able role players to round out the line, I see an opportunity.
If Eakins keeps Taylor Hall at centre once Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins return from injury, he could have that trio down the middle and Yakupov, Eberle and Hemsky down the right side. This leaves David Perron as the lone top-end talent on the left but creates great opportunities within the lines.
Eakings could use the pairing of Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle that we've seen magic from over the past two years, even while both battled injury. It also retains the option for Hall and Hemsky who, in my slightly biased opinion, have the best chemistry on the team, where Hemsky can work his magic with the puck and set up Hall over and over again. This leaves the centre-right wing pairing of of Gagner-Yakupov and I'd seriously consider plugging Perron in with these two to give Yakupov two of the "older" linemates in the deep forward pool.
I understand the popular desire to put Hall and Yakupov on the same line and I'm not saying this could never happen, however I don't think it creates the best chemistry to put two pure goal scorers on the same line. In my mind, Eakins is best served by placing those two on separate lines to create a more continuous threat that can eat up 40 minutes of clock as opposed to one super threat that is out for 20 minutes. This would also force opposing coaches to decide who to send their top pairing defensemen after, freeing up space for the other. Alternatively, many want to keep the duo of Hall and Eberle together, but I believe Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins produce just as well and this would also be a great place for Perron to play, as evident by the chemistry he amd Eberle have shown through the preseason.
As for the remaining slots? Well, he can't skate, he doesn't have much of a shot and all that was 10 years ago when he was in his prime, but I have really liked Ryan Smyth's play with Hall and Hemsky so far. What he does do well is create room and the play does not die on his stick, whether it's with strong board play or around the net. I truly believe that once he catches up to the play we will really notice an improvement with Smyth playing back on the wing. No one can deny that he works harder than anyone on the team, it'll just be a matter of how much longer he can do it for. As for the third winger I think Joensuu could slot in nicely here.
All in all if playing Hall at centre can create a third scoring line then I think Hemsky has a real shot at an extension, but if he's going to be the only scoring member of a third scoring line then there is likely very little reason for him to stay and it breaks my heart to say so.
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