Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drafting Yakupov should not mean the end of Hemsky as an Oiler

If the Edmonton Oilers decide to take Nail Yakupov with the first overall selection at Friday's NHL Entry Draft, there are some out there that believe it could mark the end of Ales Hemsky in an Oilers uniform. With Yakupov being a left handed shooting right winger, the writing would be on the wall for the highly talented Czech. With Jordan Eberle and the Sarnia Sting winger set to be fixtures on the right side for years to come, Hemsky would obviously not be a long term fit for this organization. However, on a short term basis he would still serve a purpose...and a vital one at that.

While Edmonton have done an excellent job of collecting good young talent via the draft but one area they have struggled mightily in, is finding the right veteran mix to help the kids along. Their lack of success in finding good transitional players, have seen the Oilers own previous "front line" players drop down their depth chart. With that being case, players like Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff can now be used in roles that better suit their skill set.

As much as people like to complain about Horcoff, having the captain as their third line centre from the start of the season, should make a huge difference for the club. Same goes for Hemsky. The veteran winger has something to prove after a horrendous 2011-2012 campaign and doing it with a lot of high-end skill around him, will make his life far easier. Regardless of what line Ales plays on, the Oilers top two units will be in a 1A/1B scenario, especially with the addition of a talent like Yakupov.

If the Russian winger bumps Hemsky over to the "left side", my guess is he would be more than alright with it. He played parts of games late last season with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins and looked just fine. A guy with his skill set isn't going to complain about what wing he's on,  when he sees the ice with the likes of Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nugent-Hopkins or Yakupov. Ales has suffered through many a year in Edmonton playing alongside guys that were simply incapable of seeing or thinking the game at his level. That is no longer the case.

The two year contract extension he signed at last season's trade deadline, tells you Hemsky wants to be here. Many felt his $5 million deal was an "overpayment" but you tell me what he would have been offered come July 1st? With the free agent market being what it is, Ales definitely left a bunch of money on the table and did it to prove a point. He believes he is still a very good NHL player and is just starting to enter the prime of his career. He may not be that superstar player but he isn't exactly someone that should be easily dismissed.

Whether he finds himself on a line with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins or with one or both of Hall and Yakupov, depending on what the organization does with Sam Gagner, Hemsky should be primed for a comeback season. As much as Oiler fans would love to see all the kids just thrown out there to fend for themselves, at this stage of the game, that may do them more harm than good. With the amount of losing this franchise has endured over the last decade, they need to start winning some games and having a guy like Ales Hemsky in your top six, should do just that.


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