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.