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Ales Hemsky Continues To Be One Of The Best

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Ales Hemsky remains underrated, unheralded, and unappreciated around the league because he plays in Edmonton.  If Hemsky were part of the New York Rangers or Toronto Maple Leafs, the team would no doubt be petitioning to have him recognized as a perennial All-Star - and I'm not talking about the mid-season version.  But that lack of recognition doesn't come as a huge surprise; the Oilers, after all, have been as bad as any organization in the league over the last several seasons.  No, what's surprising is that Hemsky remains underrated, unheralded and unappreciated in Edmonton as well.

The criticisms abound: "He's not a scorer, he's a playmaker."  "He's not a dominant forward."  "He dangles too much and only plays on the perimeter."  "He's not tough."   It's my view that all four of these complaints are overblown (or outright false), but I'm most interested in doing a statistical exploration on the second one.

The table below shows the top thirty points per game scoring rates among right wingers who've played more than one season since the lockout.

Right Wing
Jaromir Jagr 1.179
Daniel Alfredsson 1.134
Marian Gaborik 1.113
Jarome Iginla 1.048
Marian Hossa 1.041
Martin St. Louis 1.029
Teemu Selanne 1.007
Patrick Kane 0.943
Ales Hemsky 0.923
Martin Havlat 0.878
Steve Sullivan 0.847
Shane Doan 0.820
Alex Kovalev 0.818
Brian Gionta 0.796
Jason Pominville 0.795
Bobby Ryan 0.780
J.P. Dumont 0.774
Milan Hejduk 0.772
Maxim Afinogenov 0.762
Corey Perry 0.736
Justin Williams 0.735
Jamie Langenbrunner 0.732
Mike Knuble 0.723
Mark Recchi 0.714
Martin Erat 0.710
Glen Murray 0.688
Jonathan Cheechoo 0.684
David Vyborny 0.680
Todd Bertuzzi 0.671
Petr Sykora 0.661


Hemsky ranks ninth by this metric, just short of a point per game.  Ice-time effects, however, aren't accounted for in the table above.  The next table shows the top thirty points per sixty minutes of time on ice among right wingers since the lockout, and as you might have guessed, Hemsky does a little bit better:

Right Wing
Teemu Selanne 3.464
Marian Gaborik 3.373
Jaromir Jagr 3.300
Daniel Alfredsson 3.206
Ales Hemsky 3.110
Marian Hossa 3.067
Patrick Kane 3.018
Jarome Iginla 2.929
Bobby Ryan 2.864
Maxim Afinogenov 2.835
Martin Havlat 2.832
J.P. Dumont 2.787
Alexander Radulov 2.750
Martin St. Louis 2.744
Steve Sullivan 2.721
Michel Ouellet 2.703
Corey Perry 2.664
Jason Pominville 2.613
Alex Kovalev 2.586
Chris Stewart 2.568
Brian Gionta 2.537
Jonathan Cheechoo 2.480
Shane Doan 2.467
Jeff O'Neill 2.459
Milan Hejduk 2.446
Petr Sykora 2.432
Marek Svatos 2.412
Martin Erat 2.405
Ryane Clowe 2.401
Anson Carter 2.395


Using the per sixty metric, Hemsky's rates jump ahead of Hossa, Kane, Iginla and Ryan.  But this is, after all, just right wingers, and as you can see by some of the names on the first two lists, there isn't exactly a tonne of elite players on right wing.  What about comparing him to all wingers in the NHL, rather than just right wingers?  Let's take a look at the top thirty:

All Non-center Forwards
Alex Ovechkin 3.613
Teemu Selanne 3.464
Marian Gaborik 3.373
Daniel Sedin 3.331
Jaromir Jagr 3.300
Alexander Semin 3.289
Dany Heatley 3.206
Daniel Alfredsson 3.206
Henrik Zetterberg 3.127
Ales Hemsky 3.110
Marian Hossa 3.067
Ilya Kovalchuk 3.046
Patrick Kane 3.018
Patrik Elias 2.989
Thomas Vanek 2.936
Jarome Iginla 2.929
Ray Whitney 2.909
Bobby Ryan 2.864
Ladislav Nagy 2.861
Maxim Afinogenov 2.835
Andrew Brunette 2.832
Martin Havlat 2.832
Zach Parise 2.829
Alex Tanguay 2.825
J.P. Dumont 2.787
Alexander Radulov 2.750
Martin St. Louis 2.744
Simon Gagne 2.730
Kristian Huselius 2.725
Paul Kariya 2.723


Tenth spot.  That's right, Ales Hemsky has been the tenth most efficient scoring winger in the league since the lockout, and he's demonstrated the ability to score at an even higher rate when paired with a competent player on left wing.  Since Dustin Penner's arrival, the depth at left wing has been eroding, and by the start of last season, it was easily the worst in the league.  When Penner was in Craig MacTavish's doghouse, MacTavish began the year with an out-of-position Erik Cole, and then later tried Ethan Moreau on Hemsky's wing.  When Pat Quinn arrived, he was enamoured with J-F Jacques and immediately elevated him to Hemsky's line.  It was akin to the awkward top of the lineup push that Brad Isbister received no matter where he went.

Give Hemsky a competent left winger and he'll anchor one of the best lines in the league.  Even without one on a consistent basis, he's hanging on as one of the top ten offensive wingers in the NHL while taking on the best other teams have to offer and getting his fair share of time in the defensive zone.  He consistently draws more penalties than he takes, and he's a difference-maker when his team is up a man.  Fans continue to heap expectations on the new blood, and expect that, in relatively short order, Taylor Hall will be this team's offensive leader.  But there's a long way to go for Hall to produce offense like Ales Hemsky, and surely an even longer road before he can do it as well against the league's best.  And that shouldn't be an insult; after all, to be as good as Ales Hemsky means being in the same class as Alfredsson, Zetterberg, Hossa, and Kovalchuk.  It means being a difference-maker at evens and on the power play.  It means being both a complete player, and one of the very best offensive wingers in the game.  To be as good as Ales Hemsky means being a star.