Hemsky’s Linemates for 09-10

For some time now (years) I’ve felt the most natural comparable for Ales Hemsky is Rick Middleton. You’ll hear “Hossa” or “Havlat” but I think Middleton is a better comp by style, development and performance.

Don Cherry once said about Rick Middleton “he’s no mamby-pamby player” which I take to mean that Middleton could get into the middle of things despite not being a powerforward. You could say something similar about Hemsky.

Middleton was a puck wizard, he was a slick playmaker and could impact a powerplay. You could say the same thing about Hemsky.

Middleton’s career took some time to explode but once he’d arrived (1979) he went on a 6-year romp through the National Hockey League where he was one of the best wingers in the game. We’re just at the beginning of that run (79-84) in the career of Middleton and might expect a similar jump in Hemsky’s performance.

By boxcar, Hemsky has been tracking ahead of Middleton until this season:

Rick Middleton
  • 75-76 (22) 77gp, 24-26-50 .649
  • 76-77 (23) 72gp, 20-22-42 .583
  • 77-78 (24) 79gp, 25-35-60 .759
  • 78-79 (25) 71gp, 38-48-86 1.211

Ales Hemsky

  • 05-06 (22) 81gp, 19-58-77 .951
  • 06-07 (23) 64gp, 13-40-53 .828
  • 07-08 (24) 74gp, 20-51-71 .959
  • 08-09 (25) 72gp, 23-43-66 .917

In terms of percentage of team offense, Hemsky has been ahead of the game by quite a bit, but we need to remember Middleton wasn’t among the top wingers on his team (in terms of scoring) until 1978-79. Here are the % of offense numbers by age:

  • Age 22: Hemsky (31.3), Middleton (19.8)
  • Age 23: Hemsky (35.3), Middleton (14.9)
  • Age 24: Hemsky (35.7), Middleton (18.2)
  • Age 25: Hemsky (33.0), Middleton (30.7)

As you can see Middleton closed the gap quickly and beginning the following season was in on over 30% of team offense for a long time. The Bruins had some good centermen during that period (Jean Ratelle, Gregg Sheppard) but Peter McNab was most often matched with Middleton. He had very quick hands and was 6.03, making it hard to remove him from scoring areas. The LW on their line was most often a player who could win battles along the wall and feed the skilled men (Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, Don Marcotte, Stan Jonathan and later Charlie Simmer).

As we know the most often used center for Hemsky over the years has been Shawn Horcoff. He is a more complete player than McNab was, but lacks the quick hands and pure offensive skill. The Oilers don’t currently have on their roster a player with enough skill to play on the top line who is as fierce as Cashman or O’Reilly in their prime.

Should Dany Heatley choose a town not named Edmonton this summer, I think the Oilers should stay the course with Dustin Penner or give the LW job to Patrick O’Sullivan to see how many sublime passes he can cash. Outside of those men, names they should be shopping for include David Booth (3.4 shots per game), Joe Pavelski (3.3 shots per game), Phil Kessel (3.3 shots per game) and Patrick Sharp (3.0 shots per game).

The only Oiler forward in the range is Patrick O’Sullivan (3.2) who would certainly be a strong candidate based on the team’s expressed need for a shooter.

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53 Responses to "Hemsky’s Linemates for 09-10"

  1. NBOilerFan says:

    Funny you ues this photo,b ecause I just ordered my 40th B-day gift (from my wife) and I selected a #83 Hemsky jersey.

    Now I'll read the post. :D

  2. scoregasm says:

    I say we a sign 3C (Malhotra…) to a 1yr deal and deal 2 big contracts (Penner, Souray, Lubo …) with little or no salary coming back, as next year with the cap coming down it's gonna be impossible. Worst case scenario we get a lottery pick in next years draft.

    Then next summer, go after Kovalchuk with a 12-14 year contact in $80-90 million range. Hemsky and Kovalchuk, sick.

  3. Art Vandelay says:

    That was nifty. Thank you.

  4. Lowetide says:

    scoregasm: And if you don't get Kovalchuk next season you've wasted a season. When they hired Pat Quinn the Oilers abandoned any hope of building in the traditional sense. They've moved on and are now looking at getting a veteran scorer under contract in exchange for quality youth.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Art: I loved watching Nifty. :-)Bruins were my team before the Oilers came along.

  6. scoregasm says:

    LT: Well then throw the same trade package at ATL that was sent to OTT. I dunno all I want is Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk comes to town, Hemsky has his first 100 point season. Book it!

    Get er' done Tambo.

  7. gogliano says:

    If playing with Hemsky, at least for a while, was the carrot that allowed Cogs to be happy turning into a LW, would you do it? The premise being that it the mystical beast "right handed 3C with faceoff prowess" is also obtained.

    Jason "YOU ARE WRONG" Gregor floated Cogs as LW idea. Not sure if it anyway reflects the desires of management, but just wondering where he'd rank next to Penner and POS.

  8. DanMan says:

    Before you guys jump all over what I'm about to say, please understand that I am a FAN of Ales Hemsky.

    Ok, here I go:

    There is a fundamental problem with the way our first line is structured. Our playmaker, the guys who essentially creates the offense on the 1st line is a RW. Hockey is a game that is made for the centerman to be the playmaker. It makes sense, a winger on each side and 2 d-men.

    When the RW is the playmaker, you need a goal-scoring centerman. There aren't that many of those.

    My comparison of Hemsky is Ray Whitney. But much better one-on-one skills and vision. The year Staal potted 45, if I remember correctly, Whitney was the RW feeding him passes.

    A #1 center isn't even enough. We need a center that can score 35 + to become a real contender.

    Who can score 35?

    E. Staal
    Lecavalier
    Crosby
    Malkin
    Toews
    Briere
    Horton
    Jokinen
    D. Roy
    Ribiero (30 is more realistic)
    Datsyuk
    Zetterberg
    Kopitar
    Parise
    Drury (same as Ribiero)

    There are probably others I'm missing. But I think eventually, unless Hemsky becomes a goal scorer, a fundamental change is needed.

  9. kris says:

    I'm gonna guess O'Sullivan on L1. Maybe you get, in descending order of toughness of minutes:

    O'Sullivan-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Penner-Gagner-Pisani
    Cogliano-Pouliot-Nilson
    Moreau-Brule-Stortini

    The whole year is on Gagner turning into a star. (I think the PR campaign on Gagner developing into a star will start soon, possibly crescendoing, when he can't meet the hype because he's like 12, into a 'Gagner sucks' thingy. Think Jason Arnott.

  10. oil dude says:

    I would prefer to see POS as 83's LW if there are no further roster changes. They generated good chances when they were together after the trade but POS was snake bit and then moved onto 89s line for the rest of the year (where he remained snake bit) . He would be a lock for 20-25 goals and if either him or 83 take the elusive next step then we are looking at a potential 30-35 goal LW…. finally.

  11. NBOilerFan says:

    LT do you really want them to stay the course with Penner or try O'Sullivan?

    Cause as much as you say that, I just don't believe it. I think you want a more legitimate #1 LW then those two options as well as most of us.

    I have always been fine with staying status quo, but I woudl prefer a trade for a legit #1LW.

    I'm still hoping beyond reality that Gagne is available. But I would welcome either Kessel or Sharp as well.

  12. quain says:

    Ribiero (30 is more realistic)

    I don't really care to address your overall point, but I do hate Mike Ribeiro.

    In nine seasons the highest goal total he has had is 27 which was a year he scored on 25% of his shots. He's never scoring 30.

  13. Lowetide says:

    NB Oiler Fan: I want to keep Cogliano until we know what he is. I'd rather keep Cogliano than get Heatley, although it's not certain there's anyone who believes me when I say it.

  14. TC91 says:

    I think if we keep Penner on 1LW with Hemksy and Horcoff all year long he's going to pot 30-35. Not so sure about either O'Sullivan or Cogliano on 1LW because of their lack of size.

    Hemsky IMO probably could be a centre (not so sure about faceoffs though) and I think it could be a good idea to try him there for a few games or at least the preseason. If that did happen (pretty unlikely) I think these lines would be pretty interesting:

    Penner – Hemsky – O'Sullivan
    Nilsson – Gagner – JFJ/Brule/??
    Cogliano – Horcoff – Pisani
    Moreau – Pouliot – Stortini/Brule

    A bit radical but we could switch Hemsky with O'Sullivan if Hemsky doesn't work out at centre. That line along with Horcoff's line could be the two tough minutes lines. IMO JFJ could probably mesh with Gagner and Nilsson like Cole did.

  15. NBOilerFan says:

    Lowetide said…
    NB Oiler Fan: I want to keep Cogliano until we know what he is. I'd rather keep Cogliano than get Heatley, although it's not certain there's anyone who believes me when I say it.

    I believe that, but you said if Heatley goes elsewhere you'd prefer they used Penner or O'Sullian at #1LW, and said that "ouutside of those men" they should look at others.

    Do you think that if Heatley doesn't come here, they should stand pat, or shou;d be gunning for a Sharp/Kessel?

    Perhaps its as long as they don't deal Cogs, is it?

  16. Lowetide says:

    I'd be fine with a scoring winger coming in, and would prefer one with some grit.

  17. matt says:

    Tanguay?

  18. NBOilerFan says:

    Lowetide said…
    I'd be fine with a scoring winger coming in, and would prefer one with some grit.

    Thanks… just wanting to clarify your thought.

  19. Woodguy says:

    I would like to see what Cogliano's SH% is if he is Hemsky's LW and shooter, with Horcoff (sometimes 89, but not that often).

    Cogliano's shoot % over the last two year playing with plugs*:

    *Remember that one of those plugs is Nilsson, who has dropped saucer passes in the right spot at high speed enough to make most of us think "wow, he did that more than once, wish he would do it more often"

    18 goals on 98 shots for 18.4%
    18 goals on 116 shots for 15.5%

    I'd like to see if he would keep it around 12% for 250 shots for 30 goals.

    I bet he could do it.

    Especially if he plays wing, so he covers the high slot in his own zone.

    3 defensemen on this team (Vis, Grebs, Gilbert) are capable of hitting him with a stretch pass.

    If he's covering the point, and the nano-second he thinks one of those 3 possess the puck in the d-zone and he skates as hard as he can to the opposition blue line while soft saucer comes his way, it might be like watching the Eskimos when Henry Williams played.

    Speed=big play potential.

    If Cogs stays here, please LW. He's not a good center and could flourish on the wing.

    Of course the most probable future is a trade for a 1LW, probably involving Cogs out of fear of wasting Hemsky…tick….tick…..tick

    Hope he's good.

  20. Lowetide says:

    That's why you keep Cogliano imo. He's not going to sustain these rates but is there a scorer there? I'd sure as hell like to know before they send him away.

  21. knighttown says:

    @ DanMan

    I posted a few years ago something similar but reversed. Ales Hemsky should be a center. Very few people have an assists to goals ratio in the 2.5:1 area like Hemksy does and the ones that do are the following:

    Nick Backstrom- 3.4
    Henrik Sedin – 3.3
    Marc Savard- 2.4
    Joe Thornton – 2.2

    It makes sense since centers have the whole ice to work with whereas wingers have this big wall beside them. Go back through the years of great playmakers…Gretzky, Oates, Forsberg…they all roamed the middle.

    I actually think its a "miss" that some coach never plauyed him there as it really lets creative players move around a little bit so the thugs like Regehr can't get him in those awkward spots.

    My bold 2009-10 prediction? Quinn tries #83 at center this season.

  22. DanMan says:

    That is an intriguing idea, Hemsky at center.

    The only issue with that: 95% of hockey systems have the center supporting the puck (on the breakout or defensively)

    In terms of the breakout, you want Hemsky streaking up the right side for the most part (I like the cris-cross as well).

    Can he be a centerman defensively? That is a big question. He will have to alter his style of play in some respects to do this.

    But, the way I see it, the game of hockey hasn't all been figured out yet. So what the hell? Hemsky at center, might as well give it a shot.

  23. Lowetide says:

    Hemsky did apparently play some center for Cze along the way, but I don't like the idea. Hemsky is a superior performer as a RW and I don't think we need to fix him.

    Rather, the organization needs to fix other things (and I'd include Horcoff on the list of things that don't need improvement).

    Plus, I've had enough of this stupid "hey, lets let Toonces play center" crap we've endured over the years. Ryan Smyth, Fernando Pisani, Penner and on it went.

    Enough. Hemsky is NOT the problem.

  24. oil dude says:

    Hemsky did apparently play some center for Cze along the way

    Thats probably where Quinn got the idea that our "lone ranger" was a centre. That would be hilarious if Quinn put him at C considering MacT took a beating for playing people out of position.

  25. DanMan says:

    It really is a broken record but the guy really needs to trust his shot more.

    Remember the beauty he scored against Columbus?

    It would bother me when I would listen to the call in shows and hear it almost nightly. I could tell he was trying to create, trying to get everyone involved. But, at some point, you have to realize you have the best shot on the team, and fire away.

  26. West Coast Oil says:

    Long time follower, trouble I have is I usually follow along with my BlackBerry which makes it difficult to post, but I thought I would finally comment.

    Some people may say I am too optimistic but regarding our top 6 I would like to see us try them one more year.
    If you think about the last couple of years we had to watch Gagner and Cogs develop after being pushed into the NHL too early (in my opinion).
    Penner dealt with moving to Edmonton and having the high expectations and more of a key role thrust upon him (don't forget in terms of hockey time in the NHL he is still a rookie as well).
    Patty O just joined the team last year after being dealt to the Oilers out of left field.
    We had the whole MacT situation going on where not only did he make some strange decisions on ice he alienated himself from most of the room.
    In short I am saying the team was completely dysfunctional last year from top to bottom and in hindsight the blame should lie with management not pulling the trigger on MacT sooner.
    We can talk about our players playing small but the fact is during the 08 run when the kids almost made the playoffs the term small was not used at all to describe anyone on the team. Like Peter commented earlier if the team plays to potential size is no longer an issue.

  27. Lowetide says:

    I think that was an issue but Hemsky's improved over the years:

    2002-03: 50/0.8 per game
    2003-04: 87/1.2 per game
    2005-06: 178/2.2 per game
    2006-07: 122/1.9 per game
    2007-08: 184/2.5 per game
    2008-09: 185/2.6 per game

  28. DanMan says:

    LT: He has improved, but show me a guy who has scored 30 and under 3 shots per game. It is very, very rare.

    If he gets up to 3 + per game, that only opens up the ice for Horc/Gagner, Penner/O'Sullivan, and the point guys. More shots means more assists (one cannot forget the value of rebounds, either).

    More shooting + better finish from Horc = 90 points for # 83.

  29. Lowetide says:

    We'll have to agree to disagree. I don't think the Hemsky won't shoot issue is an issue anymore.

  30. DanMan says:

    In a certain way, I don't want him to change his style at all. He plays the game the way I played (except with speed, talent, hands, and physical ability, and at a much higher level – I actually don't know what I'm talking about, I sucked, but I was very creative) and I'm a HUGE fan of his….

    Can't TC just goddamn start already?!?!?!?!!!

    And NAIT should open their ice rink for shinny, I'm fiending!!!!

  31. bookie says:

    We'll have to agree to disagree. I don't think the Hemsky won't shoot issue is an issue anymore.

    I ran the math and if Hemsky would should 23x more often than he currently does, he would break all of Wayne Gretzky's career records in a single season

  32. bookie says:

    career GOAL scoring records only

  33. DanMan says:

    HAHAHAHA

    Bookie, you always have the best posts

  34. blackadder says:

    It's difficult finding a RW who compares with Hemsky. I loved Rick Middleton when I was a teenage Bruins fanatic – just an incredibly gifted hockey player. His best scoring years came after Barry Pederson arrived – the pair were dynamite before Pederson got hurt. But Middleton was more of a finisher than a playmaker and I think that's where he and Hemsky diverge as players.

    If you go back another ten or fifteen years, there's a player that kind of jumps out as comparable to Hemsky – Bobby Rousseau. He, Beliveau and John Ferguson played together on the Canadiens teams that won four cups in five years in the sixties. He had a great shot, good skater and a marvelous playmaker.

    I wonder if it would be better to structure Hemsky's line in a similar way – which would mean we should be looking at upgrading center not LW. Penner has the size and skills to fill the Ferguson role. And no, I'm not suggesting he has anything near Ferguson's determination or toughness. But he can dominate along the boards and has the hands to grab any rebounds that come along. Neither Horcoff nor Gagner possess the talents that a center on this line should have, however. Lecavalier and Staal are the kinds of players who I think would work best with Hemsky within this sort of structure, although neither are obviously available. Unfortunately, I can't see many out there who the Oilers might have a shot at – unless they want to take a flyer on a player like Marleau.

  35. Ribs says:

    Booth is an interesting name to bring up. I don't think he's going anywhere since he just signed a large contract but Florida does do some silly things.

    How about a guy who shoots 3.95 shots per game?

    K.Lowe & Friends will have to go visit his agent again if they want him again this year.

  36. DanMan says:

    I find Patrick Marleau to be one of the more overrated players in the leauge. I purposely didn't include him in my list of potential 35 goal centers because his goal totals dipped after he went back to the position in 07-08.

    He fits best as a LW, but it makes you wonder if he played pretty much a full season with Thornton and managed 38 goals, what does that say about Jonathan Cheechoo and 56?

    Or does it say something about Patrick Marleau?

  37. Black Gold says:

    Unless Cogs is playing with Hemsky, I want him on the RW.

  38. Coach pb9617 says:

    I think if we keep Penner on 1LW with Hemksy and Horcoff all year long he's going to pot 30-35.

    With Horcoff and Hemsky, Penner's season equivalency is 24-32-56, a rate that puts him 20th in goals and 21st in points among left wings for the '08-'09 season.

    While together with Penner and Horcoff, Hemsky's scoring rate is 3rd among right wings behind Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson. Horcoff's rate is 10th among centers. Without Penner, Hemsky's rate is 15th among right wings and Horcoff's rate is not in the top 45 in the league among centers.

    At that scoring rate, the "Horpensky" line is the 3rd most productive goal scoring line in the Western Conference:

    Marleau – Thornton – Setoguchi – 94
    Hossa – Datsyuk – Holmstrom – 86
    Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky – 86
    Franzen – Zetterberg – Samuelsson – 84
    Sedin – Sedin – Burrows – 81

    How about we just hope that Quinn gives this line a chance to play?

  39. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    @coach

    Getlzaf-Perry -Ryan scored 88 goals and 220 points last season and Ryan only played 64 games.

    While 31 of those goals were on the PP, arguing Horpensky would be the third most productive line in the WC is a bit of a reach since last time I looked PP goals still count.

  40. Coach pb9617 says:

    Getlzaf-Perry -Ryan scored 88 goals and 220 points last season and Ryan only played 64 games.

    While 31 of those goals were on the PP, arguing Horpensky would be the third most productive line in the WC is a bit of a reach since last time I looked PP goals still count.

    Perry and Kunitz were the most common Getzlaf linemates last year, fella.

    Ryan didn't play with him until the end of the year, so they don't count.

  41. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Quite aware of that coach, but it seems highly likely they will this season with Koivu and Selanne on the second line.

    You're projecting Horpensky's numbers into next season since they didn't play together that much last season either so fair is fair. Fair?

  42. DanMan says:

    I go through these cycles with Dany Heatley. I'll go 3-4 days without thinking about it, expecting to go into the season with the lineup the way it is.

    But every few days it hits me again how big of a trade that would actually be. Probably the biggest blockbuster since J.Thornton.

    If it doesn't go through, and Tambellini doesn't go after another LW, Penner's gotta be there. And stay there. Quinn likes the big guys. If Penner shows him something physically, it will take a real prolonged slump to get him off line 1.

  43. Lowetide says:

    DanMan: I imagine the Oilers will move in another direction (or complete the trade) when Tambellini returns (which is probably Monday).

    At a guess I'd say we'll see a two-for-one trade or three-for-one with the new winger coming back here.

  44. Coach pb9617 says:

    You're projecting Horpensky's numbers into next season since they didn't play together that much last season either so fair is fair. Fair?

    I'm projecting Horpensky's production based on the 72 games they've played together over the last two seasons and comparing it to this past season. That makes them the third best scoring line in the west.

    I'm not projecting anything for next season.

  45. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Coach pb9617 said…
    I think if we keep Penner on 1LW with Hemksy and Horcoff all year long he's going to pot 30-35.

    Looks like a projection to me.

  46. quain says:

    But Middleton was more of a finisher than a playmaker and I think that's where he and Hemsky diverge as players.

    I agree with this. Hemsky is shooting more, sure, but he's never accepting the role of shooter. Has Hemsky taken a one timer or put himself into position for one, ever? He shoots when it's a good idea, or when there's no other option, but he never passes, gets into position, and then thinks shoot, shoot, shoot as he waits for the puck. And it's to his detriment, I think. He could learn a thing or two about how to play in the offensive zone from Datsyuk.

  47. dave says:

    I think the thing with hemsky is if he started to shoot 10 a game can you imagine can you imagine the passing lanes that would open up. Alot of his amazing shot goals have come due to defencemen playing the pass cause that's the book. After all the systems get played out, the 1 on 1 battles and for guys with all the talent like hemsky the only thing left is the mind game but he is very predictable but the talent has carried him this far.

  48. Doogie2K says:

    Hemsky is shooting more, sure, but he's never accepting the role of shooter. Has Hemsky taken a one timer or put himself into position for one, ever? He shoots when it's a good idea, or when there's no other option, but he never passes, gets into position, and then thinks shoot, shoot, shoot as he waits for the puck. And it's to his detriment, I think. He could learn a thing or two about how to play in the offensive zone from Datsyuk.

    The series-winning goal against Detroit in '06, that ridiculous give and go with Samsonov. That's the only one that springs to mind, but there must be other examples.

  49. Lowetide says:

    This is what losing organizations do, they focus on the negatives with regard to their best players. The Expos traded Gary Carter for (among other things) his tendency to GIDP.

    He's hitting 30 homers a year, right in the middle of the lineup, he's catching every fucking day.

    But you trade the guy because he hits into too many DP's? THAT'S what losing organizations do.

    Leave Hemsky the hell alone. Want a lack of offense? Start pissing around with Hemsky.

  50. quain says:

    It's a far cry from 'Hemsky isn't much of a shooter' to 'we should trade Hemsky because he doesn't shoot enough' isn't it? Recognizing limitations isn't exactly a sin.

    If I were actually a proponent of messing with Hemsky my response would be we've been a losing organization for three years with Hemsky given free reign. I'm not sure what messing around with him is going to do.

  51. slipper says:

    When the puck's on his stick he's always looking for the one punch knock-out.

  52. slipper says:

    Hemsky's next three seasons should be fucking awesome. He's tracking so well.

    He didn't take the jump to true first line match-up until his 24 year old season; he was pure butter at 22 and played second line softer minutes with Horcoff and Smyth at 23. Yet, when he made the jump the dummy line didn't waver.

    He's entering his prime seasons already proven that he can play against anyone and score against anyone. Now just wait to see what he can do with Dany Heatley, who's the absolute perfect compliment to Hemmer's cock the right hand and throw for the heavens approach to dishing out the puck.

  53. Master Lok says:

    How about trying Cogliano or Gagner as centre, and O'Sullivan and Penner as Hemsky's leftwingers?

    Then move Horcoff to Pisani's line as the shutdown line.

    (and as LT said, leave Hemsky alone).

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