• Two more years of pestilence

    by  • February 25, 2012 • Hockey • 30 Comments

    What a day. What a great day for the Oilers. I have a lot of sort of short thoughts bouncing around my head, so I’m going to cop out and avoid doing some sort of narrative that builds towards something and just do it in bullet points.

    *I think Hemsky saved the Oilers from themselves here. This entire rebuild has been a passive rebuild – Tambo just sort of lies there and lets it happen to him, occasionally rousing himself to sign Cam Barker or trade a defenceman with two functioning legs for a defenceman with one. This worked under the old CBA but I’m not entirely sure that it does anymore, absent drafting a Crosby and a Malkin in consecutive years. I kind of think now you get your young pieces but you better find some actual players to put around them and waiting for prospects to develop won’t do it.

    I’ve got some data, that I’ll post at some point, breaking down the forwards by performance against the opposition top six and bottom six in terms of chances. It’s pretty cool – Hemsky, the second line right winger according to the media and about 80% of fans, has had about 75% of the scoring chances he’s been on the ice for (for and against) against the other team’s top six. Jordan Eberle is running at around 60%. The Oilers have been out-chanced 48-52 or so against the other team’s top six with Hemsky on the ice; 42-58 with Eberle. Basically, Eberle has been getting put to the sword. Renney seems to know this, which is why he shelters Eberle.

    I’m not at all convinced that the Oilers particularly wanted Hemsky back – it looks to me like the plan is to not have anything that might require some nifty managerial work other than backing dump trucks full of money up to Hall, Eberle and RNH when the time comes. That was their prime objective. If it required blowing a hole at the front of the lineup, so be it. Hemsky, by agreeing to their terms, saved them from doing that.

    *I’ll go out on a limb: I think the Oilers will ultimately regret not locking him up for four or five years. Like anything else, you want to buy when a player’s stock is low and Hemsky’s is certainly low, as evidenced by all the media yammering – more on that below. I would assume that you don’t even give him two years at $5MM per if you don’t believe that he’s past his shoulder problems. If the expectation is that he’s back to being 70-80 game Hemsky; well, that’s something I’d like to get in on at $5MM per year. This will be fun to look back at in 2013-14.

    The foregoing is all the more true if there’s a rollback in salaries next year. That seems awfully likely to me if, as expected, the salary cap gets cut.

    *The deal really is shocking. I’ve looked – there’s nobody with his pedigree earning less than $5MM outside of older guys playing out cheap deals. The closest I could come up with are Simon Gagne and Justin Williams in Los Angeles; Williams doesn’t really have Hemsky’s offence. Gagne certainly did at one point but the offence seems to have dried up in the past few years and, in any event, he’s basically a risk to get concussed and miss a stack of games at any point. Outside of that, there’s nobody like Hemsky pulling down less than $5MM. It is an incredibly good deal.

    *The media reaction to this deal really has been amusing. It’s been fascinating watching the Edmonton media – these guys have known the drill for a while with free agents that the Oilers seemed likely to move. The same script was playing out when, suddenly, Hemsky signs and guys like Terry Jones and Mark Spector are left standing their, knives in their hands and sheepish looks on their face. Jones DMd RiversQ on Twitter the other night and said “Hemsky doesn’t win hockey games.”

    Now, this is an asinine thing to say.

    Everyone remembers that. This was March 3, 2006.

    I can’t find the goal he scored against Anaheim that helped the Oilers clinch a playoff spot but it was basically the same goal. The franchise has been a smoking disaster zone since then. The guy doesn’t win hockey games? Jesus couldn’t have won enough hockey games to get the Oilers to the playoffs in the past six years. You’d think Jones would take some shots at management.

    Hah. Just kidding. Jones knows who puts the ice cream sandwiches in the press box and it ain’t Hemsky. If I was a young Edmonton reporter with a chip on my shoulder though, the next time Hemsky scores a big goal in an Oilers win and Jones was in the scrum after the game, I might ask Hemsky whether it felt good to score that when guys like Terry Jones think he doesn’t win hockey games.

    Jones wasn’t alone in taking shots at Hemsky. A long list of MSM guys marked out their terrain on this signing by pissing all over it. Scott Burnside at ESPN, David Shoalts at the Globe and Mail, Mike Zeisberger at the Sun, Cam Cole at the Vancouver Sun, Kevin Allen at USA Today and James Duthie at TSN, they all made it pretty clear that they aren’t impressed with it. Lots of comments about Hemsky having five goals, as if that’s the case for paying him. You wonder how many times a year guys like Shoalts, Zeisberger, Allen and Duthie, all in the Eastern time zone, actually watch Hemsky play. You wonder if they have any idea how the coaches use him. You wonder if they know a damned thing about randomness and how it affects a player’s boxcar stats. It’s astonishing that they’re so comfortable dumping on a guy when the totality of their knowledge seemed pretty clearly to be his stat line for this year along with the fact that he’s had a few years of injury. I’d be embarrassed to comment on something with so little knowledge.

    *Pat McLean suggests that Taylor Hall made this signing happen. While we’ll never know, I’ve got more than a little suspicion that he’s completely correct. I’ve been trying to think of a rebuilding team that got rid of a player Hemsky’s age who’s as good as Hemsky; I haven’t been able to come up with one. I genuinely believe that the hole it would have created at the top of the order would have been a real step back. It’s noteworthy, I think, that guys like Shawn Horcoff, Hall, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert went out of their way to say that they wanted Hemsky back; I wonder if it pushed this over the line.

    *There aren’t a lot of UFA signings in which you can say that the team signing the player has some upside to the deal. This is pretty damned close. If Hemsky is healthy…the Oilers are paying a guy who probably puts up 70 points just $5MM. The odds of them finding someone else with that kind of potential, for so little money are awfully low.

    *One final point. Vic Ferrari and I had an exchange about Hemsky way back when the season started:

    Vic F.: ‘Genius’ is a word that they bandy about a bit too freely in Euro soccer, as you know. It fits Hemsky though. It will break my heart if they trade him.

    mc79: I secretly agree with this but feel sheepish saying so, as an Oilers fan.

    Vic F.: I know what you mean re the genius thing. And nobody in their right mind would argue that Hemsky adds more value than Ovechkin, Zetterburg, Lidstrom, Sedin, etc. I would, however, argue that he is more brilliant.

    That has value.

    Amen. Thrilled to have him for another two years.


    30 Responses to Two more years of pestilence

    1. Mike
      February 25, 2012 at

      I’m truly stunned at the money he left on the table, given his injury history. I truly hope that he never comes to regret it.

      And good for the players for pushing back a little bit. I’d expect it from Horcoff or Gilbert, but if it’s true that Hall took a stand then we have one remarkable 20 year old.

    2. Milt the Stilt
      February 25, 2012 at

      I don’t care how it happened, whether management dragged their feet or just sussed out the quality of potential offers. And I’m totally ok with the term considering his injury history. I am so pleased that this deal got done. Actually, “pleased” doesn’t cut it really, I’m proud that the organization finally took advantage of an obvious opportunity. I have to admit though, I was kind of getting used to the idea of Hemsky playing for a contender and possibly hoisting the cup. Would love to see it happen for him and it’s less likely now that he remains an Oiler. I love his loyalty /naivety– whatever you wanna call it. :D

    3. Colm
      February 25, 2012 at

      If Tambo somehow gets someone to take Khabi at the deadline do we call him “Forest Tambo” or “Stevie Gump”? And Tyler, “Jones knows who puts the ice cream sandwiches in the press box and it ain’t Hemsky,” is going to have be chuckling all Saturday.

    4. Marsha
      February 25, 2012 at

      A lot of credit goes to Hemsky as well. He started talking to the media more in the last few weeks than I’ve seen him do over a combined three years. That put pressure on the team to actually start negotiating. But wow the media bashed the deal….it was like Hemsky had boiled their puppy and made them eat it. They don’t watch any Oilers games, that is for sure.

    5. Jesse R
      February 25, 2012 at

      If Terry Jones can backtrack from all the things he wrote about that “drug lord” who tried to bully the EIG into selling the Oilers, I don’t think he’ll have any trouble doing a 180 on Hemsky. Sure, it’s a bit harder when pesky twitterers keep incriminating you by repeating things you said, but worst case scenario, he can always eat Hemmer’s stat sheet at centre ice next year. You don’t become a halloffamewriter by having well-reasoned opiniond and sticking to them, after all.

    6. godot10
      February 25, 2012 at

      I’m not amazed at the term. I always thought it would be two years, if it was going to get done. I am amazed at the dollar amount. I always thought that it would have to be $6 million per season to get the concession on term.

    7. GospelofJon
      February 25, 2012 at

      How about Hemsky’s goal versus the Stars after Stefan’s miss on the empty net? That’s one of my favorites.

    8. Derek
      February 25, 2012 at

      Really wish Vic was still active on the internets.

    9. Dave Schwartz
      February 25, 2012 at

      I wonder what the correlation between media members who hate the Hemsky signing and media members who thought the Kings got ripped off in the Carter trade is.

      • chartleys
        February 25, 2012 at

        Yeah the Johnson love and Hemsky hate correlation would be a pretty hilarious thing. Call it the Doug Mclean or Damien Cox test. Be hilarious to rate these guys based on how closely they side with one of those ‘experts’.

        “On a scale of Doug Mclean to 10…Duffie is a 5 on this issue.”

        Dellow, I’m with you. I honestly don’t think this was part of their PLAN. I think a combination of lower return than desired(ironically likely partly due to their self initiated defamation) and desire of team and player to remain are responsible for this. The tamblowe appologists are out pointing to this as a huge day for ST. I just don’t see it. The writing was on the wall. No matter how hard they go about scrubbing this, it was there.

    10. hammers
      February 25, 2012 at

      Great take Also think it was a great move. now we need Renney to continue the splitting of Hall & Ebbs plus leaving Gags at center giving us 2 lines . Finnish the year with Smyth on the wing and next year its Magnus . Our 3rd line will also be stronger . Thank god Tambellini and Lowe came to there senses.

    11. DD
      February 25, 2012 at

      Tim Connolly’s last 2 deals have both been for 2 years at 4.5 and 4.75 million. I certainly think Hemsky’s the better player if you look at everything, but their boxcar numbers are almost identical going into his first deal back in 2009.

      Connolly (Age 22 – 27)
      GPG: 0.26 APG: 0.63 PPG: 0.89

      Hemsky (Age 22 – 28)
      GPG: 0.25 APG: 0.63 PPG: 0.88

      And stylistically they’re incredibly similar players and both were coming into free agency with significant injury histories. I’d have to imagine that was used as a comparable by the Oilers when negotiating.

      • The Other John
        February 25, 2012 at

        Isn’t Connolly’s injury a long line of concussions?? That does not usually get better. Shoulder surgery can effect a long term improvement

        • DD
          February 25, 2012 at

          His last concussion was in 2007. He’s had various other issues keeping him out since then.

      • Stephen
        February 25, 2012 at

        I’m not convinced the Oilers do enough due diligence to use comparables in negotiations. I think every decision is it’s own solitary event.

    12. P-Ow
      February 25, 2012 at

      Total aside: Why doesn’t Samsonov ever get more love from Oil fans for the pass to set up that Hemsky goal vs. Detroit. It was amazing.

    13. David Staples
      February 25, 2012 at

      Good signing. Right term. Right amount.

      Good work, Tyler, on beating the drum about Hemsky having bad luck this year. It was a good point to make — repeatedly.

      At the same time, the Oilers are protected in case Hemsky’s new role means he scores a lot less, and in case he can’t ever fully surmount the injury issues that have dogged him.

      In the end, I was hoping he’d sign for $14 million over three, or $18 million over 4, as that would have been an even better deal for Oilers. But not to be. Oh well.

      Damn good deal as it stands.

      • February 25, 2012 at

        I’m assuming that Hemsky’s sudden change of heart on the length of the offer either means that he and his agent are pretty sure that he’ll be putting up those 70-75 points per season again and that they want this contract to end at the expected spike of his career output (ie. a 7 year deal for $8.75M in 2014), or else that this is expected to “ride out” the current CBA which is probably going to get a 1 or 2 year extension this summer and then the PA wants renegotiation and Hemsky’s agent is pretty sure they want to be one of the Tier 1 UFAs to kick off the new (richer?) agreement.

        • David S
          February 25, 2012 at

          Hemsky’s media avail suggested he knew his health concerns and substandard play this year (for him) were bigger factors than we might have thought. It’s quite likely he figured the offers Tambo was getting weren’t amounting to much so it’d be better if he locked up a short term deal for reasonable money, play back up to his potential and hit the home run ball a couple of years from now.

          But really, who cares. At least he’s playing for us and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

    14. Hondo
      February 25, 2012 at

      Its weird that Cam Cole used to report for Edmonton Journal is bashing this deal. He’s seen alot of FA’s come and mostly go. Doesn’t the National Post pay him for his experience in these matters?

    15. Dennis
      February 25, 2012 at

      Vic has been posting at LT’s site more and more lately. I’m an old hand so I guess I can pick out his style of writing – we have all been doing this so long now that our personalities will eventually sell us out no matter what name we use – but he’s there if you look for him/

      And, yes, this was a great day. What I hope is that it sets the stage for other guys taking less or at least doing deals that help keep everyone in the same cluster for enough years to win two playoff rounds in the same spring.

      • Coach Pb
        February 25, 2012 at

        HA! The other day I said “This sound a helluva lot like Vic…”

      • Pete.
        February 26, 2012 at

        Noticed that too, but thought I might just be projecting Vicishness onto a vaguely Vic-like poster. Still not too sure, but what does it matter – as long as someone’s providing some entertainment and interest amongst the Groundhog Day sameness, who cares if it’s one guy or another, really?

        Speaking of Groundhog Day or in this case the opposite thereof, it was nice to wake up this morning and remember that the Oilers actually did something smart for a change. Crazy. I’ve become so conditioned to stupid bullshit that I was absolutely positive that we’d see more of the same, but no, two more years of Hemsky. Praise be. That signing might even be a positive sign about the future in general, rather than just an isolated incident; regardless, it certainly made yesterday’s deadly-dull game forgivable, as well as forgettable.

    16. HJ
      February 25, 2012 at

      Re: Hall et al –> “… and I know our players will be very happy and maybe that’s the most important thing.” Tambellini’s interview on the site.

    17. Bruce McCurdy
      February 26, 2012 at

      I’m not at all convinced that the Oilers particularly wanted Hemsky back – it looks to me like the plan is to not have anything that might require some nifty managerial work other than backing dump trucks full of money up to Hall, Eberle and RNH when the time comes. That was their prime objective. If it required blowing a hole at the front of the lineup, so be it. Hemsky, by agreeing to their terms, saved them from doing that.

      Didn’t getting Hemsky to agree to their terms (by backing up dump trucks of money, but still) involve some nifty managerial work?

      I too am pleased by this signing, but I’m confused. When assigning credit, is it Hemsky 100%, Tambellini 0%? Or is it Hemsky 200%, Tambellini -100%?

      I note you’re reserving the right to blast Tambellini in two years if things work out and Hemsky produces. If he doesn’t, presumably you can start, er continue blasting him earlier?

      • Tyler Dellow
        February 26, 2012 at

        Didn’t getting Hemsky to agree to their terms (by backing up dump trucks of money, but still) involve some nifty managerial work?

        Do you think this was their plan all along?

        I think they undervalued him, weren’t going to sign him unless he gave them an outrageous deal and then got lucky when he did. Am I reading it wrong? What do you see that amkes you think otherwise?

        I note you’re reserving the right to blast Tambellini in two years if things work out and Hemsky produces. If he doesn’t, presumably you can start, er continue blasting him earlier?

        Do I have a track record of ripping the GM for stuff I thought made sense at the time? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

    18. PunjabiOil
      February 26, 2012 at

      I suggested the Oilers should offer a 4 year 16M deal – wonder if that was even an option considered. This was a hometown discount on Hemsky’s part. No question. Not uncommon at all (Sedin twins, Kesler, Tanguay, Glencross, etc.). Refreshing still, given the rep Edmonotn gets.

      It is difficult to say exactly what Tambellini’s true intentions were.

      Hemsky was having a great year last season (3rd in the NHL at EV/60). If Tambellini really wanted him gone, he would have been moved at last year’s trade deadline. Then of course the subsequent injury occurred, and the extension talks took a backseat. Fair enough. It took a while for Hemsky to discover his game, and obviously his recent play helped. Coupled with teammates expressing desire for him to re-sign, and the trade market likely not yielding as much as hoped, and Hemsky’s desire to stay here (comfortable in the city, girlfriend from Edmonton), the pieces of the puzzle started falling in place.

      This comment by Tambellini sort of confirms the teammate aspect:


      “…and I know our players will be very happy. Maybe that’s the most important thing.”

    19. PunjabiOil
      February 26, 2012 at

      Well said Bruce.

      I’m no Tambellini fan, but credit has to be given where it’s due.

    20. Vic Ferrari
      February 28, 2012 at

      I’m flattered by the mentions here. I don’t post as anyone but Vic, though. Who is the poster at Lowetide that sounds like me?

      The Hemsky signing was like the best kind of Christmas … one where you were expecting to be disappointed.

      Ugly trade today. Schultz is a huge injury risk, just hasn’t been the same guy since the concussion December before last. He played through it before packing things in with post concussion syndrome late in the season. I imagine that’s why Minny were shopping him last summer. And probably why they were reportedly shopping him again after he had his bell rung against San Jose a month or so ago. Huge risk with marginal reward with this one … the Oilers will probably regret it.

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