Principe on Hemsky: Offering More or Ales

December 14, 2011, 1:17 AM

The play of Alex Hemsky this season isn’t exactly what he was expecting from himself. After two seasons were ended prematurely with shoulder issues, this was supposed to be Hemsky’s year. However, so far this season the winger has missed 11 games with yet another shoulder problem though Hemsky says he feels pretty good. It’s just that his numbers aren’t pretty good. 19 games and 11 points might be good enough for some players, but not for Hemsky.

Listen, count me as one of those guys who felt Hemsky’s point total would finally match his talent. When Wayne Gretzky calls you out as a “special player” then I’m buying what the Great One is selling. If there was anyone on Edmonton prior to the last season or two who had the pure skill to play in the 80′s it would be 83. There were times that Edmonton’s talent cupboards were pretty bare with Hemsky being the only exception. He has the ability to dazzle crowds with the puck on his stick, which is why I thought and almost would have guaranteed that this year Hemsky would hit the 100-point plateau.

My prediction was in part because of the Oilers’ personnel coming into this season. His old buddy and linemate, Ryan Smyth, was coming back. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall would be a year better and the possible emergence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as an elite player would at least push Hemsky past his career best 77 points. However, a limited pre-season hampered his start and just two games in, his shoulder became a problem again. Since then, Ales still hasn’t found his stride and doesn’t look like the player who could take your breath away and steal a game from the opposing team.

On Tuesday, he spoke about the fact that his role has changed this season. Once the focal point of the Oilers offence, Hemsky is now deferring to the kids in this department. Now that Tom Renney has other options, the coach hasn’t hesitated to redistribute responsibilities. Hemsky doesn’t look happy and then again, why should he? The 13th pick in 2001 has been to the playoffs exactly twice since he came to Edmonton. That’s once for each shoulder he’s had operated on. Now he’s been relegated to option 1A or 1B instead of the team’s go-to scorer.

In the past, it’s been his body that’s been broken down but right now I would say it’s his spirit that’s taking a beating. He sees a bright future but he hasn’t as of yet, been a big part of the growth. As Ales Hemsky said on Tuesday, they have more good players than in the past and now he’s intent on proving that he’s still one of them. I believe he’ll do that.

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