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What to do with the Oilers' forwards - The Bonafides

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The Edmonton Oilers have three bonafide NHL players up front and that's it.  A team that ran Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Raffi Torres, Michael Peca, Fernando Pisani, Sergei Samsonov, Jarret Stoll and Radek Dvorak just four years ago now has only three guys that are capable of holding their own in any situation.  These three have all taken heat for Edmonton's ills one time or another and there have been fans calling for trades of each of them for awhile.  Apparently, the "let the kids play" system that's been tried for the last three years hasn't been given enough time to work.  Anyway, will these guys be going anywhere?  Are they worth their cap hits?


Ales Hemsky

#83 / Right Wing / Edmonton Oilers



Aug 13, 1983

2009 - Ales Hemsky 22 7 15 22 7 8 3 0 0 0 57 12.3


Ales Hemsky has somehow caught the ire of certain portions of the fanbase and it's extremely hard to figure out how this happened.  Craig MacTavish took a smooth-skating, slick-passing wunderkund and turned him into a tough minutes outscorer.  Since the lockout, Hemsky has played 313 games and amassed 289 points, a .92 PPG rate.  That rate puts him in the top 20 scorers in the league since the lockout, all scored against the toughest opposition.  Hemsky's cap hit is a paltry $4.1 million and his contract has two more years left.  The nineteen players  with higher scoring rates than Hemsky have an average cap hit of $6.94 million.  He's an exceptional power play talent as well and he's proven his mettle in the playoffs with 17 points in 24 games during Edmonton's trip to the cup finals four years ago. All of this and he's still only 26 years old.

Hemsky is Edmonton's best forward since Doug Weight.  Yes, Ales Hemsky is better than Ryan Smyth.  For the Oilers to go anywhere next year or in 2011-2012, Ales Hemsky will have to have the keys to the kingdom.


Shawn Horcoff

#10 / Center / Edmonton Oilers



Sep 17, 1978

2009 - Shawn Horcoff 35 8 8 16 -21 18 3 0 1 0 65 12.3

Shawn Horcoff has taken a beating from the fanbase since the moment he inked his $5.5 million per year contract extension.  Now he's starting to take beatings from the media as well.  What is Horcoff?  He's a rare bird.  He's a tough minutes, outscoring center, one of only a handful in the league.  He's paid the average going rate for such a player.  He's having an off year this season, but he's struggling with what is believed to be an injury to his labrum.  Even with an injured shoulder, he still leads the team in qualcomp, yet he's 7th out of 12 in qualteam.  He's facing the toughest possible competition with the likes of Patrick O'Sullivan and Jean-Francois Jacques.

There is no one on the team that can come close to fulfilling the role that Horcoff does for the Oilers.  There is no one in the system that can take on his role in the next three to five years.  Players of his ilk don't grow on trees, so finding a replacement via free agency isn't possible.  Shawn Horcoff will be doing the heavy lifting for the Oilers for the foreseeable future unless they can trade him for a younger version of himself.


Dustin Penner

#27 / Left Wing / Edmonton Oilers



Sep 28, 1982

2009 - Dustin Penner 39 19 19 38 11 12 5 0 0 0 119 16.0


Dustin Penner is good.  Regular readers already know that because I've written extensively in his defense.  He's been a microstats poster boy in the past, but this year the puck has started going into the net for him.  His pace slowed a bit recently, but his performance has opened the eyes of those that don't care about underlying stats as to his ability and value.  The expiration of Penner's $4.25 million per year deal coincides with Hemsky's deal, and like Hemsky, the Oilers have no one on the team or in the system that can match Penner's skill set.  Unless the Oilers package him for a whale, like they attempted to do this summer during Heatleygate, the Oilers will need Penner to have any chance at making and advancing in the postseason.

The three of these forwards have combined to be a power-vs-power line before, averaging a goal-a-game.  They combine for an amazingly cap-friendly $13.85 million per year and will be in place for at least until the 2012 trade deadline.  Those fans and writers that blame the OIlers' faults on any of these three are delusional, at best.