Matt Henderson: Checking In On An Old Friend: Ales Hemsky

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As a fan I always felt a bond with Ales Hemsky because we are the same age. He was who the Oilers decided to Draft instead of me, which was actually a possibility because Edmonton’s Drafting was THAT bad at the turn of the Century. We grew up together, he a multi millionaire Hockey player, me a struggling University student living in my Aunt’s spare bedroom.

He became a 1st line player in the NHL, I became a struggling University student living in my Aunt’s spare bedroom (I kid, I kid. I moved out…eventually). I cheered for him right up to the time he was traded. Now he’s no longer an Oiler but I’m interested in how he’s being perceived around the league now compared to how he was when he left.

The value of Ales Hemsky was irreparably damaged in Edmonton. When he was traded the GM wasn’t even able to get a 2nd rounder out of a trading partner for a player who would go on to post gaudy numbers with the Senators for the last 1/4 of the season. No, the Oilers were only able to get a 2014 5th Rounder (Coughlin) and a 2015 3rd Rounder.

*Deep Breath In*

*Deep Breath Out*

That’s over and done with and there’s nothing that can be changed now, but as MacT later said there are a lot of NHL GMs who probably wish they coughed up that 2nd Rounder.

Now Ales Hemsky is starting out Camp with his new club, the Dallas Stars, and the verbal that is being said is certainly a lot different than what the MSM was printing here in Edmonton about the same player.

Just a recap, Hemsky’s commitment was constantly questioned by scribes who judged effort by how many extra pucks you shot after practice instead of any in-game actions. Now this method of judgement wasn’t exactly applied all that consistently as Nail Yakupov showed up early, stayed late, and STILL had his commitment questioned. Still, Hemsky was often deemed a player who had more to give but was holding out on himself and the team.

Much the way Bob Stauffer used the word “Smurf” to describe the Oilers forwards and then EVERY OTHER commenter started parroting “Smurf” ad nauseum, every other commenter jumped on the practice band wagon and never got off.

Surely there were other aspects of Hemsky’s play that someone looking to be different could have highlighted but laziness is hard to shake off. For example there could have been a really great discussion about the value of Zone Entries and what Hemsky does REALLY well on the ice, but instead he was ground into pulp by the press because he didn’t practice harder than everyone else.

Frankly, the way Hemsky was covered by Edmonton’s sports journalists is one of the reasons we should be demanding better work from newspapers who think we should be paying a premium for their content.

But he’s in a different place now and his new coach hasn’t spent a summer reading about how his player doesn’t give it his all. This fresh set of eyes by veteran coach Lindy Ruff is seeing things that many Oiler fans have been screaming for years.

First and foremost, he sees a 1st line player. Ruff’s first instinct has been to put him on the Seguin/Benn line because the Czech winger is such a great playmaker. Hemsky is exactly that. A lot of people along the way, and not just Edmonton based voices, short changed Hemsky’s value on other teams. “Yes, on the Oilers he was a 1st line player, but not on team X.”

Secondly, Ruff likes the way Hemsky competes. Yes. The way he competes. And why shouldn’t he? Ales Hemsky has always gone to the hard areas of the ice and found ways to make plays even when it meant putting his body in harm’s way.

Here’s Ruff on Hemsky:

“His passing. I think his compete level is good. I think it is his individual skills. You saw yesterday that he had nothing coming on a play from the outside, and on a curl and drag got inside. He turned what should have been a non-scoring chance into a Grade A scoring chance on his own. I think he’s been criticized sometimes for not shooting enough when he is in those situations. He’s a heady player. He can make plays under pressure and I think those are the things that you’ve got to be able to do at this level.”

That play he described happened in Oiler games from 2002-2014. Now they’ll be happening for the Stars on a very regular basis. The Oilers and the media surrounding the team managed to take a 1st line player who competes hard, drives possession, and can make plays only a handful of others in the world can and turned him into Liam Coughlin and a 2015 3rd Round pick. Enjoy, Dallas.

*Deep Breath In*

*Deep Breath Out* Follow me on Twitter @Archaeologuy

Hey, this is my 1 year anniversary writing for HockeyBuzz. Thanks for reading, commenting, and -uh- whatever else you do with my posts!

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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