Ales Hemsky was a fan favourite in Edmonton for quite some time. Selected in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, the dynamic sniper was developing nicely, peaking in during the year of Edmonton’s exciting 2006 Stanley Cup Run. With 77 points, he signed a hefty contract. And then….THE INJURIES. Ales had a rash of injuries to both of his shoulders, a broken foot and other ailments, which contributed to a reputation for being fragile and prone to hurting himself.
Edmonton Oilers fans knew better, however. We saw his explosive offensive ability on display many a night, either as the sniper or as the set up man, both roles he was proficient at. Hemsky, over the course of his career, still rates a .73/pts per game average. He’s still young, with at least a good four years remaining before age catches up to him in a big way.
Sadly, though, the Oilers had to give Hemsky away at the trade deadline. Many were hoping the player would end up with a contending team so he would have a shot at the cup, something Hemsky only tasted once in 2006 during the Oilers unlikely run to the Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. Had Steve Tambellini, former Oilers GM, traded Hemsky at the 2012 deadline, instead of resigning him to a 2 year/10 million contract, he may have gotten a greater return. As it is, current GM Craig Mactavish was only able to get 3rd and 5th round picks for the fan favourite.
What a bargain. With a fresh change in scenery, Hemsky has scored eight points in seven games, including a goal Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning that some are calling the goal of the year. Now, he is an Ottawa Senator, and his linemates, much better defensively and more experienced, are finding instant chemistry.
Could the Oilers have retained him? Should we have jettisoned another player in favor of him? Maybe, but it was clear he needed a change. As we have been discussing many-a-time on these and other blogs, losing cultures are difficult to dispel. Sometimes, sacrificing great talent to reset the feel in the dressing room is necessary to drive a team forward.
I have no doubt Hemsky will do well as a Senator, or another locale if he signs elsewhere as a UFA. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t keep him, but as the cliche goes, if you love something, set it free. Will we have to do so with Ryan Smyth soon? Maybe so.