• Hemsky Joins Elite Company (Unfortunately)

    by  • April 22, 2013 • Hockey • 13 Comments

    News from the Dept. Of Guys Who’ve Called Me An Idiot On The Radio:

    But who on the team takes responsibility for Ales Hemsky, the epitome of poor leadership and professional indifference, who stands as an awful example for an impressionable core.

    When you talk about changing a losing culture, you talk about moving out Hemsky – a player seemingly satisfied with an April exit, season after season.

    Hemsky doesn’t work on his game post-practice; he doesn’t produce during games; he is eternally injured; he is overpaid for his production. If he had signed a five-year deal instead of a two-year contract, and cared a bit more, he’d be Mikhail Grabovski.

    When it’s all over, and the 19th game has passed in which Hemsky has delivered but a single goal for his $5-million salary, he didn’t even have the stones to stand in front of a media microphone Wednesday. Again he refused to talk post-game, leaving his coach Ralph Krueger to trot out the litany of excuses that this organization has collectively proffered for No. 83 for years now.

    A typical Edmonton media knife job. Ryan Whitney has contributed far, far less to the Oilers than a guy like Hemsky has on the ice but Whitney’s a guy with a big voice and a Boston accent who always has time for his pals in the media so you don’t see him getting this sort of treatment.

    On March 7, 2013, Ales Hemsky took a slapshot to the side of the foot against Detroit. He pretty obviously did something to his foot in that game – he left the game, did not return and did not play the following night in Nashville. When you go back and watch how he ended up taking a shot to the foot, it’s infuriating: Jeff Petry made a bad breakout pass that Hemsky couldn’t really make a play on because he would have gotten murdered, the puck ends up at the point and Hemsky ends up in no-man’s land.

    He was obviously playing hurt for a while. His production went in the tank and about a week ago, the Oilers announced he was going to take a rest. Today, the Oilers and Hemsky announced that he’s going to be gone for the rest of the season with a foot problem. It’s hard to see the point in bringing him back now, with the season gone and losses equating to a better position in the draft. As a result, he’ll have played in 176 of the Oilers’ 294 games between his age 26 and age 29 seasons, which works out to 59.9% of the games. Contrary to the ill-informed mewling of the Edmonton press corps, Hemsky’s actually a pretty productive player. He’s 80th amongst NHL F who’ve played at least 150 games over the past four years in pts/gm, with 0.68, despite a) playing hurt and b) playing with guys without a lot of offensive ability for a lot of that time.

    This got me wondering: how many players since the modern era of the NHL began in 1967-68 have been such good offensive players and yet missed so many games in the heart of their career, between the age of 26 and 29? I screened out guys who were back and forth between the minor leagues and played in the 1980′s, when putting up good offensive numbers and being a fringe guy was more possible. It’s a shockingly short list – there are seven names on it, with Hemsky being the eighth and newest addition.

    Those names? Miroslav Frycer, Jim Fox, Peter Forsberg, Cam Neely, Gary Roberts, Mario Lemieux and Joffrey Lupul. Four of those guys basically had their careers ended by the time that they were thirty or had been reduced to shells of themselves (Frycer, Fox, Forsberg and Neely) while Roberts and Lemieux were able to productive well into their thirties and the jury is, of course, still out on Lupul, who is 29 this year, as is Hemsky.

    One thing that jumps out at me when I look at that list is that some of these guys had problems that could be fixed and some of them didn’t. Mario had back surgery and cancer but once those issues were resolved, he was a force again, winning two scoring titles. He presumably could have kept playing in the years between 31 and 35; he was just fine when he did return at 35. Similarly, once Roberts’ neck issues were sorted, he was a highly effective second line player for another six years or so.

    The four guys who were just finished all had chronic injuries of some sort. Frycer had what is described as a “devastating pelvic injury.” Jim Fox’s knee fell apart. Cam Neely suffered all sorts of leg problems as a result of Ulf Samuelsson. Forsberg had chronic foot and leg problems, with a side of spleen issues.

    Hemsky’s problems between the age of 26 and 29 seem to me to be more along the lines of those suffered by Lemieux and Roberts than those suffered by the other guys. He plays a tough game, in the sense of being willing to take a hit, which presumably led to the two shoulder injuries. As far as we know, that’s resolved and is no longer an issue for him. The foot thing this year is just rotten luck and could have happened to anyone. Wrong time, wrong place. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t figure out how you could connect his other injury problems to it.

    I don’t like to use the word “tragic” when I’m talking about guys who will earn at least $35MM playing a game that most of us pay $500 a year or $20 an hour to play or so but Hemsky’s career really is bordering on that. Here’s a guy with all the talent and ability in the world and he’s spent a large part of the heart of his career on the sidelines or playing hurt. I’m in the tank a little bit for Hemsky but as a hockey fan, it’s kind of a shame – there aren’t many players in the league who can do more than the puck. There are better players in the NHL than Hemsky but there aren’t many who can do things carrying the puck that are more amazing to watch.

    Hemsky had scored 8-8-16 in 22 games entering the Detroit game. That sort of offence from a guy playing second line minutes is really good – it works out to 0.73 pts/gm, which is good for top 70 production amongst NHL forwards. He’s got a track record as a scorer. Given the fluky nature of this year’s injury and the fact that he’s probably got little in the way of value in a trade, I hope that the Oilers bring him back next year. I admit that there’s a little bit of sentiment in this for me – he’s a guy who kind of suffered through the bad years in Edmonton and I’d like to see him share some of the rewards for that – but there’s a value argument too.

    You need offence from your second line. He can produce offence. You’re unlikely to find that offence in a trade involving him. So why move him just because the dice have been cold?

    Update: Twitter’s Verviticus asked me why I didn’t include Justin Williams in my sample. As it turns out, Williams was a hair over my cutoff, playing about 62% of his team’s games between the ages of 26 and 29. He’s a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about though. He just suffered through what must have seemed like an unending string of injuries to his employer, the Carolina Hurricanes. In the summer of 2008, he tore his achilles. When he came back from that, he played 32 games before a teammate broke his hand with a slapshot.

    Carolina gave up on him ever getting healthy at the trade deadline that year, moving him to Los Angeles as part of the three team deal that saw Patrick O’Sullivan arrive in Edmonton. After yet another serious injury in his age 28 season, a broken leg, O’Sullivan’s given the Kings three pretty healthy years in which they’ve won a Stanley Cup and he’s been a part of one of the best lines in hockey with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. I rate Hemsky pretty highly as a player and he seems to me like a guy who’s in precisely the same position. Hopefully some other team doesn’t get the benefits that will flow when the hockey gods decide to stop tormenting him.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    13 Responses to Hemsky Joins Elite Company (Unfortunately)

    1. David Staples
      April 22, 2013 at

      Hemsky was not at his best this year, even before he was injured. But he did OK for a guy playing on a broken angle for the last month….

    2. Tyler Dellow
      April 22, 2013 at

      Yeah, I agree with that. I think that there was something else going on and I’m working to prove it. The data is an absolute pig to assemble though, so it’s taking some time.

    3. oilerfan
      April 22, 2013 at

      We talk about lacking strong supporting cast on this team. Although a bit expensive he is still valuable in supporting role. Hemsky is still able to enter the zone with speed and create plays. He plays pretty tough for a skilled guy. I think media has a habbit of turning against players who have been here long enough and then running them out of town. I can only imagine how Hall and RNH and others will be treated 5 yrs from now!!

    4. JonB
      April 22, 2013 at

      Tyler I love your articles but this one is pure whitewashing

      First of all Hemsky rehurt his foot against the LA Kings in early April. Before that there was zero evidence that Hemsky hadn’t recovered from his Detroit foot injury.

      I defy anyone to rewatch the Cbus game in late March and try and sell a significant foot injury, Hemsy was flying that night. Unfortunetly in the last games he played Hemsy didn’t seem capable of bringing the A game he brought that night.

      You’re also skipping over a significant note on Hemsky having poor Corsi from essentially the beginning of the year despite playing lesser competition than he has in past years.

      It’s hard to look at Hemsky right now and not see a player who is A) incapable of a carrying a line B) able to play 82 games. Cherry picking a filter that places Hemsky at the top end of small pool,doesn’t change that.

      Ales has essentially had the same body type since entering the league and has shown no willingness or desire to change that. It’s somewhat hilarious how many broadcasters mistake him on the ice for a 20 yr old RNH. Despite the “go to the tough areas” argument most of Hemsky’s injury, foot block notwithstanding, have come from a combination of him overhandling the puck and his body type not being built to take the hits this often causes.

      It hard to envision him overcoming the “hockey gods” to ever string together consecutive 82 game seasons again. The only question then remains why is he not out chancing teams 2nd and 3rd lines.

      • Tyler Dellow
        April 22, 2013 at

        Jon -

        I’m a bit puzzled with the Hemsky timeline you’re suggesting. He left the first game of the B2B with Calgary early because he was having problems and hadn’t been practicing much. His foot is, by all accounts, broken. It sounds to me like he was playing with a break.

        I promise I’m going to get into the Corsi and it’s going to be good. Trust me on that. It’s coming in the next few days.

        As far as his body type goes…I think you’re missing the reason that the broadcasters mix him and RNH up. Think very carefully…

    5. JonB
      April 23, 2013 at

      Hemsky hurts his foot in the Detroit game and comes back a week later, he has a game where he looks like Guy $£@€ing Lafleur suggesting he is having little or no foot problems. Plays a season high 20 minutes against SJS the same road trip. Then he hurts his foot again In early April

      I’m simply stating that there was a period of time where the injury seemed minor, I certainly concede that a foot injury probably got worse but writing his entire last 15 games off to injury seems excuse ridden

      And yes we all understand the jersey # effect but do you think if #93 was on Hall anyone would ever mistake him for Hemsky?

      • Doogie2K
        April 25, 2013 at

        The miracles of modern medicine provide an excellent alternative explanation.

        Here’s a hint.

    6. FastOil
      April 23, 2013 at

      I think Hemsky is a great player and may have years of good play left. That being said, given his age if the market will pay something worthwhile for him I ‘d take it. There is no point however giving him away as it seems he is flexible negotiating contracts, his next will need to be lower I think if he’s an Oiler.

      The MSM character attacks on certain players are awful and hopefully at some point it is suggested that it says more about them than the player.

    7. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

    8. Lee
      April 23, 2013 at

      I’ll never understand why people defend this player as if he’s the second coming of Jaromir Jagr.

      He could have the strongest corsi on the team and the fact remains, when the games began to matter this season he became the invisible man and his point production disappeared – yet again.

      Check out Hemsky’s salary cap comparables on capgeek. There’s good value players (Neal, Bergeron, Krejci, Kane, Carter, Hossa, Ribiero, Alfredsson) and then there’s players like Hemsky (Havlat, Connolly).

      Point production matters. Value contracts matter. You understand this stuff implicitly Tyler, but you ignore it when it comes to Hemsky because your personal affinity for the player creates bias that clouds your judgement. I’m sure you can skew an argument for him (as any talented litigator could), but the circumstantial evidence you compile can’t change the cold hard facts (durability issues, inconsistent point production, big contract) of this case.

      If Hemsky is one of the great unknown treasures of the league, why can’t the Oil trade him as they’ve been trying to for the last 3 years? I suspect it’s because the rest of the league sees him for what he is, an oft injured puck hog who’s sick dangles every 7th game don’t make up for the fact that he’s one of the most inconsistent and overrated players in the league.

      • Doogie2K
        April 25, 2013 at

        When have the games mattered at all the last seven years?

        His point production, when not playing hurt, has been excellent. It’s not hard to see.

    9. Trenton L.
      April 23, 2013 at

      Hemsky and Gagner have not worked together at all. Together they are at 41.2% of CF% while Hemsky is at 47.7% without and Gagner is at 42.5% without.


      Over their careers they have been at about 49.6% when on together with little change off for Hemsky and a slight drop for Gagner.


      Looking at Gagner only Yakupov/Jones have been worse without him this season of guys he’s played decent amounts of time with. Lots have guys have been much better.


      Maybe Gagner is cheating for offense this season hoping he gets a better contract this time around…….

    10. Mr DeBakey
      April 23, 2013 at

      “I’ll never understand why people defend this player as if he’s the second coming of Jaromir Jagr. ”

      Who did that?
      * * *

      At lunch today, Speck did an anti-Hemsky rant that was Paajarvian in its intensity.

      It seems Hemsky is stealing bread from the mouths of Speck’s children. Or something.

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