Overlooked and Underrated: Ales Hemsky


Aretha Franklin said it best. Respect isn’t earned overnight, yet it can certainly vanish in such an instance. Dozens of actions on and off the ice can increase popularity and make a name become customary in everyday conversations.

A single dirty play or frowned upon hit can make all of those forgettable. Suddenly, you’re the bad guy now because of a foul that you didn’t think twice about before committing.

Could I get a hand here offensively?

Could I get a hand here offensively? (Photo courtesy of svictoria29/ Flikr.)

Due to the long list of NHL stars, some fantastic athletes are ignored and their abilities unnoticed by a large portion of fans. Giving hundreds of players equal amounts of time in the spotlight wouldn’t be logical or possible.

Credit should be given where it is due at the very least though. In this series, I will be presenting the talent of these players over the next couple of weeks.

My primary goal is to unveil one face from each club and discuss their value which is often overlooked. This week, I will begin with Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers.

Thirty teams equal thirty offensive specialists who can score goals or more importantly, assist their line mates. Hemsky can be classified as a highly ignored commodity outside of Western Canada.

As Edmonton’s leading offensive producer in each of the past four seasons, it’s easy to recognize that the Oilers are rather underwhelming without his services. The Czech native glides on the ice when skating and superior puck skills empower him to dictate the play often.

His remarkable playmaking and creativity can’t be topped by many. Room for improvement is available in anyone’s overall game and Hemsky could benefit from shooting the puck increasingly.

Apparently the 25-year-old has tackled this issue by posting back-to-back 20-goal seasons which were his first two. After attempting 122 shots two years ago, Hemsky fired 185 in his recent 72 games.

Continuously presented with new line mates over the course of the year, the search may have finally found a perfect suitor in Ales Kotalik. These two Czechs are likely to be paired so long as they sit on the same bench and both represented their country at this year’s IIHF World Championship in Switzerland.

Kotalik joined Edmonton for 19 games following the trade deadline and with more time, should find extended chemistry. His patented one-timer gives Hemsky an instant stick to search for with the next smooth pass.

In late March, Hemsky expressed his disappointment of feeling rather unimportant and used in altered ways from his normal routine. Utilized as a checker, it’s understandable to hear his distaste for such a role.

Expected to be someone who could take control of the team, he has not quite been that type of player. To blame it all on Hemsky however, is unacceptable. He never complained about the constant average playmates such as Dustin Penner.

Shawn Horcoff was the preferred line mate normally but even he couldn’t keep up with Hemsky on a nightly basis. There are a gaggle of teams like Edmonton with one major asset expected to score the majority of the goals.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Gaborik and Alexander Ovechkin are in similar predicaments. The difference is they are blessed with teammates such as Bryan Little, Mikko Koivu and Alexander Semin who share plenty of the responsibility.

Who has been a factor of such levels benefiting Hemsky? Sheldon Souray was the remainder of the list to have reached 20 goals and tied Horcoff for second in points.

The Oilers’ top star needs to feel comfortable in that he may do what he does best on the ice. Turnovers are the cause of concern because they have eventuated in the past. But moments of brilliance have arised as well.

Until another highly ranked forward is incurred, no other options are available.

The 25-year-old feels prepared to be the big man in Edmonton. The skills are there to carry him but his mindset is what is capable of halting his goal. While faltering is a possibility, Hemsky doesn’t appear frightened by such a set of events.

At least give him a chance.