(Editor's Note: The Copper & Blue's most frequent commenter, SumOil, has been doing yeoman's work in tracking CHL prospect statistics. When he asked if we would mind if he wrote a FanPost on Ales Hemsky's status with the Oilers, we asked him if he would mind writing a authoring an article on the subject for us. So, without further delay, here is SumOil, starring as a guest writer for The Copper & Blue)
My favorite Ales Hemsky moment was the last second goal he scored against Dallas after Patrik Stefan missed an empty net. Others talk about the 5 point night he had against Columbus. Some friends of mine talk about him circling the Ottawa's net twice in OT before letting off a weak shot. Ales Hemsky has been one of the most talked about and adored players for the Oilers since the lock-out.
Ales Hemsky was the parting gift to the Oilers organisation by Bill Guerin. In a semi-complicated deal with Boston, Oilers received their 13th overall pick in 2001 and drafted Ales Hemsky. Since then he has been a part of the Oilers for almost a decade. He has wooed us with his skill and puck wizardry and left us in his awe since he first played for us at the tender age of 19. All that skill and potential meant that a breakout season was inevitable and it could not have come at a better time. The Flames had been to the Stanley cup finals just before the lockout and so when hockey resumed in 05-06, Edmonton fans were eager for a show and Hemsky along with rest of the Oilers did not disappoint. In that 05-06 season, Hemsky led the oilers with a career high 77 points in 81 games and added a further 17 points in 24 games of the playoffs. Today he is only one of the two players from the 05-06 team who are still in the Oilers organisation.
Since his 05-06 season, we have all been waiting for Hemsky to take the next step in his career; to elevate him from the star that he is to the superstars of the league. He is a top notch RW and has been one of the best players at his position in the league since the lockout. After the dismal 06-07 season, Lowetide had him penciled for two straight 90 points seasons. Given Hemsky's skill, age and potential, it wasn't unreasonable to have such lofty expectations from the winger at that time. In Lowetide's own words:
Hemsky is a top notch puck carrier who can reach top speed in a few quick strides. He handles the puck with poise and confidence and is such a good stick handler he's often double teamed. He has been extremely consistent over the last several years despite playing for a middling team. Coach MacT (early on) decided to develop Hemsky as a tough minutes player and Oilers fans have been rewarded with a quality player who should be an outscorer for years to come. Ales Hemsky is a man.
All that said, I believe it is time to trade the beloved Ales Hemsky.
One of the many issues that has surrounded the Oilers is man games lost to injury. Every season we seem to create a new high for that very stat. Even after the roster turnover, we have many injury prone players at pivotal positions - Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, and Nikolai Khabibulin among others. A team riddled with injury prone players can never rise to being above average especially when those players are our best players. They can never be trusted to be in the line-up for extended periods of time to provide stability and continual leadership. If by any chance, the injuries coincide, all you get is the repeat of 2009-10 season.
Unfortunately for Hemsky, he achieved another career high in the 05-06 season - GP, or games played in a single season. Hemsky has not played a full 82 games in a season in his career and played more than 74 games just once which was the 05-06 season. He then averaged 70 games in his next three season. Furthermore, Hemsky played the latter part of 07-08 season hurt and once we were out of the playoff race, he excused himself from playing. Last season he played only 22 games before suffering a season ending injury. Even this season, he missed 3 games due to a groin injury, came back to play a game and then is again out for a month. Hemsky is now an 'oft injured' winger joining the ranks of such players as Marian Gaborik and Martin Havlat.
Hemsky has a lot of things going for him which makes him an extremely valuable asset. He is extremely skilled and is in his prime years as a forward. He is a tough minutes player and often plays against the opposition's top lines. He scores nearly at a point per game with lesser skilled players. He is not a soft player by any means and goes to the corners and dirty areas to retrieve the puck. The best part is his extremely cap friendly contract. He does this all at a cap hit of only 4.1 million! There are many teams with scoring and cap problems and can really use a guy like Hemsky.
There are many issues with the current edition of the Oilers. However lack of skilled wingers in the organisation is not one of them. We can agree that other than Dustin Penner, no other winger is capable of playing tough minutes, but the future is promising. Hall and Eberle are at a developmental step ahead of expectations. There are rookie moments, but they are few and are in between stretches of excellent hockey. Of course they are not ready to handle tough minutes the way Hemsky does. So a Hemsky trade should only be done if we get assets back that help us shelter our young wingers or really help us in terms of the rebuilding process. Lets examine some potential scenarios:
- Islanders: If there is an organization which is worse off than the Oilers, its these people. The highest cap hit forward on the roster plays in Russia. Their top draft pick from last season is not doing well and they have won just 1 in the last 19 games. Maybe a trade package with Frans Nielsen a focal point will be acceptable.
- Panthers: No Oiler fan knows the plight of the Panthers better than Derek. The Panther's PP is so bad that I don't know what is worse Oilers PK or Panthers PP. For some reason or the other, Stephen Weiss seems to be on the trading block since Dale Tallon took over and if a swap 1-1 swap is made, it should be win win situation.
- Boston: This is purely based on the rebuilding mantra. Michael Ryder,Blake Wheeler and Toronto's 1st for Hemsky? Oilers have a lot of cap space and another top 5 pick will fall right into the mantra of rebuild.
Those were just three examples. There are many other potential trade partners like the Pittsburgh Penguins (Jordan Staal?) the Blue Jackets, Blues, and Rangers among others. I am not saying that we should trade Hemsky for anything that comes our way. However, it is time to start aggressively shopping Hemsky to try and acquire players that will help us now and in the future. When Horcoff got injured, Derek talked about players such as Marty Reasoner and Steven Reinprecht, but if we put Hemsky on the block, we are in a position to make a trade of a larger impact. Steve Tambellini has time and again asserted that we have only now started rebuilding. It doesn't seem like he is interested in making this team competitive any time soon. Hemsky will be UFA at the end of 2011-12 season. There are rumors that Hemsky is looking for a new contract value of around 5.5 million/ year. We should think long and hard whether we are better off with Hemsky at that kind of a contract (playing around 60 games) or with the assets that can be acquired by trading him?