As I understand things, one of the reasons that the Oilers need to get rid of Ales Hemsky is that his production has collapsed. He’s been passed in the batting order by Jordan Eberle and the Oilers can’t afford to pay their number two right winger the sort of dough that Hemsky’s looking for. Hemsky’s the past, Eberle’s the future and the future is now.
When you look at the data since January 1 though, that looks a bit crazy. I picked January 1 because there’s a lot of data to assemble, which is sort of a pain in the ass, and because Hemsky was coming off an eight game pointless streak. It also gives him a couple of months to get back in the groove from the start of the year. Hemsky’s played 18 games since then, putting up 13 points, 0.72 pts/gm, not up to his usual 0.9 pts/gm standard. He’s scoring more than 7 PPP/60 since then, so the lack of production must be at ES. Let’s look at him and Eberle.
These are the ES numbers overall since January 1, 2012. What does this tell us? Eberle’s been killing it at PDO and constituent elements. 1133 is off the charts. It’s a hot streak. Look at ZoneStart though – Hemsky starts in the good end of the ice less frequently. The last column, bottom, is percentage of TOI against the other team’s bottom six forwards. Pretty close to equal. The Oilers have a substantial edge in SF/SA and SCF/SCA with Hemsky on the ice compared to having Eberle on the ice.
Let’s look at the numbers at home, which are almost comical. The Oilers have played eight home games since the New Year. Eberle’s dressed for five of them. I’ve broken down the numbers for Hemsky and Eberle in the games that Eberle played and then for Hemsky in the games where Eberle wasn’t dressed (“LoneHemsky”).
Same deal. The Oilers are shooting 25% with Eberle on the ice. They aren’t really putting anything in the net when Hemsky’s been out, although Hemsky’s at least had the pucks stay out during the games when Eberle’s dressed; LoneHemsky hasn’t even had that.
Look at the ZoneStarts for Eberle and LoneHemsky – about equal. Hemsky is well back; he starts in the hard end of the ice. He also gets killer matchups – about 73% of his time against the other team’s top six, compared to just 52% for Eberle. LoneHemsky comes somewhere in between. LoneHemsky, who, like Eberle, gets easier ZoneStarts, had three pretty awesome games in terms of SF/SA and chances.
Let’s look at the road. Hemsky’s played all ten games on the road since the New Year; Eberle missed one and basically a second, against Dallas. I’ve done the same thing here – taken Hemsky’s eight games that he’s played with Eberle and then compiled numbers for two games for LoneHemsky.
Hemsky’s PDO on the road in these games has been terrible. Awful. Luck, etc. It’s funny though – if you look at the difference in the Bottom number, you can see that all of a sudden, Hemsky and Eberle are facing about the same mix of top six and bottom six. Renney tries to make up for it though. The ZoneStart difference between them is amazing – Hemsky starts in the defensive zone about 70% of the time, Eberle about 40% of the time. Even with that, the Oilers do better in SF/SA and better in SCF/SCA with Hemsky on the ice than they do with Eberle.
These numbers are, of course, small sample sizes. Hemsky’s entire period of alleged bad play (just like Eberle’s good one) is a small sample though. I haven’t heard anyone say that Eberle’s been playing badly since the New Year. I’ve heard tons of people say that Hemsky’s been playing poorly, looks disinterested and obviously wants out. I don’t know how you can reconcile these numbers with that. For all the world, it looks to me like Eberle’s been getting a soft ride under a blanket that Hemsky provides. I don’t say this is unfair – someone has to play the soft minutes and someone has to play the tough minutes and it’s probably sensible for Hemsky to do it – but in all the time I’ve looked at this stuff, the percentages always seem to bend towards true talent in the long run. If we have a hockey game tomorrow and our teams are filled with 19 clones and you have Eberle at 1RW and I have Hemsky, I like my odds.
There’s been a lot of complaining coming from certain corners about the ice time of the Golden Generation being so low at ES. Looking at this data, I wonder the extent to which it’s possible to give them more ES TOI without simultaneously making their minutes tougher. The ZoneStart can only be so good and there are only so many at-bats against the other team’s bottom two lines. There’s only so much time that you can get Eberle out against the other team’s bottom sixers.
In Hemsky’s case, I don’t know that anyone would make the argument that he’s a guy who’s going to have an on-ice shooting percentage of 6.67% in the long term. That’s his real problem this year and yet he’s coming off seasons in which the 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage with him at 5v5 was 12.09%, 11.64%, 8.49% and 9.41%. Has he suddenly lost the ability to make plays that see pucks end up in the net, while retaining the ability to be in on scoring chances and generate shots? It’s baffling.
Jordan Eberle’s a pretty good prospect having an outstanding season. He isn’t as good as he’s looked this year. Ales Hemsky isn’t as bad as he’s looked. Getting rid of Hemsky, when he’s putting up better chance numbers despite playing more difficult minutes than Eberle strikes me as insane. Eberle’s due to cool off anyway. When Hemsky goes – and he seems obviously gone – it’s just going to get tougher for him. The Oilers are going to be further away from contending for a playoff berth.