by Lisa McRitchie on 01/17/12 at 01:00 AM ET
After perhaps his best game of the season this Sunday, it is time once again to talk Ales Hemsky. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers 13th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Hemsky has become one of the longest standing Oilers. With the Oilers, Hemsky has lost teeth, separated shoulders and played game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. Through those years, Hemsky has also been the focus of a lot of trade talk. Some felt that Hemsky didn’t have the heart, some the finish and some that the Oilers would eventually trade away all players of value.
The Oilers have however, been slowly building up an arsenal of talented players hoping to bring the team back to their winning ways of days gone by. Trading Hemsky because he’s worth something no longer sounds like a good idea.
What should matter the most to the Oilers is whether or not the crafty winger can stay healthy and whether or not he would like to stay in Edmonton. After all, he is not the same “baby face” he once was.
There is little doubt that through the years, and this year especially, Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini has fielded calls asking about the availability of Hemsky and just what it would take to make a deal. The trouble is, that Hemsky would need to be replaced and draft picks alone will not cut it.
With the loss of both up and coming stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, the Edmonton Oilers have been exposed as what they are; a team lacking in secondary scoring. Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins are the future of the Oilers, current stars and scoring leaders. Without them, the team is in serious trouble. And now, management has to know that.
Hemsky’s shoulders are of course a concern to Hemsky himself, the Oilers and every team that is looking to acquire him. His war wounds were acquired when Hemsky alone was the elite talent, and often times was left to defend himself on the ice. Hemsky never feared to venture into the dirty areas of the ice. He never cowered away from Robyn Regehr, and instead took every hit and played every hit and played through the pain.
Now, Hemsky has injury concerns, likely from playing injured too long before undergoing surgery but these concerns will never go away and will haunt Hemsky throughout the rest of his career.
Injuries alone are not enough to make anyone walk away from a player, and talent is still deserving of contacts. A quick glance at the New York Islanders roster and Rick DiPietro might suggest that players with injury concerns are worth it when they are active and playing, but only add a gaping hole when they aren’t.
And so, as I’ve waffled throughout the season, I continue to change my mind into the spring. The current Edmonton Oilers need players like Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky to be healthy and producing. If they are traded they created holes in the roster, but if they stay with the team and have to miss stretches of games weeks long, they create gaping holes. And so while Sam Gagner is looking like more and more of a long term Oiler, Ales Hemsky is looking less so.
Hemsky has incredible talent, skill and drive when he is on his game and there is no reason to question why any GM would want him on their roster. But should Hemsky go down with another injury, or should his shoulder give his issue, Hemsky will need to be on a team with offensive depth. This is something that the Oilers are building; Hemsky could still be a good fit for the Oilers.
So far this season, Hemsky has played 31 games, has four goals, 12 assists and is a -9. These are not exactly career numbers, but that is not hindering trade talk or making it any easier for fans to decide whether or not they would like Hemsky to stay with the team.
Should the Oilers look to move Hemsky, they will need more than a draft pick, they will need a player and just like every other team out there, the Oilers are looking for an elusive top pairing puck moving defenceman. If Tambellini was offered such a player, that might make the decision of what to do with Hesmky a little easier. If not, the Oilers need to ascertain whether or not they will be able to re-sign Hemsky this summer, or if they will watch him walk away.
Making matters more complicated, players talk to one another. If Hemsky feels slighted by the Oilers, that will be just another name added to the growing list and that doesn’t help to make Edmonton a more attractive place to play.
I wish I could say what will happen to Hemsky, but I also wish that I knew what his next year will look like. Without knowing what is happening in meetings between Hemsky, his agent and the Oilers management it’s impossible to know where Hemsky will finish the season. But, as the trade deadline nears, teams will eagerly watch Hemsky. Those teams will also include the Oilers, after all, they already have him. Keeping him should be easier than adding new offence.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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