Put Hemsky on the PP, not the PK

Jason Gregor
November 04 2008 09:31AM

With the Oilers finally getting some offence, and specifically their offensive leader Ales Hemsky, many are wondering why Hemsky doesn’t play more minutes.

I don’t agree with having him play on the PK. Why put him in a situation where he has to work harder and where offence is a rarity? I’ll show you later why putting offensive players on the PK doesn’t translate to more points.

I would have agreed with the argument that Hemsky should get more ice time, but after looking at the stats you can’t blame the coach for Hemsky’s ice time. Rather, it falls on the shoulders and legs of Hemsky himself.

Before you scream, “Gregor stop smoking the hippie whiskey! Of course it is the coach’s fault, he runs the bench,” I’veve found some proof that if Hemsky wants to play 20+ minutes a game, he already has permission from his coach. So far it looks like Hemsky has chosen to play fewer minutes.

Here is the list of the top 38 scoring forwards from last year in the NHL (taken from NHL.com):

You will see that Hemsky, who finished 37th in scoring amongst forwards last season, was 26th when it came to shifts per game (last column). The reason his minutes are two to three less per game, compared to most of the other top forwards, is because his shift length is shorter.

Only five of the top 38 forwards had a shorter shift average than Hemsky. And all five of them played 30 seconds or more per game on the PK, which would tend to lead to a shorter shift. The fact is Hemsky gets only a maximum of four fewer shifts per game than the other top scorers, and in most cases only one or two fewer shifts a game.

His minutes are down because in many cases, his shift length is ten seconds shorter than other top players. If you want Hemsky to get top-end minutes he has to start lengthening his shifts.

This data also shows those playing PK minutes, which are much harder than five-on-five or PP minutes, don’t get a big return for their efforts.

Daniel Alfredsson and Shane Doan were the most productive with each having nine PK points, while Mike Richards (6) and Derek Roy (5) were the only other players to get five or more. Richards played 3:17 a game on the PK to get those whopping six points. He played 4:52 per game on the PP and registered 33 points. The bang for your buck just isn’t there on the PK for most of the league’s top scorers. Let your 3rd line checkers play those minutes.

Eight of the top nine scorers in the league last year had one or no points on the PK. In fact 26 of the top 38 scorers had one or less PK points. It doesn’t look like playing Ales Hemsky on the PK will get him more points. Wouldn’t it be more productive if he stayed on the PP for an extra ten seconds every shift?

Alex Ovechkin actually averaged fewer shifts per game than Hemsky, but of course Mr Iron Lung’s shifts average 1:05, so he is an exception. Only Patrick Kane and Mike Ribiero played less per game than Hemsky. It wouldn’t take a lot for Hemsky to average 20+ minutes per game. Five seconds here on each shift and that gives him an extra minute per game right away.

The question is, can he still be effective adding seconds to the end of his shifts? Only Hemsky knows the answer to that. I would like to see him try.

You can listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 jeanshorts
November 04 2008, 09:41AM
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Wait, so it's not a good idea to put one of your top offensive guys on the ice at a time when his job his primarily to block shots and play hard along the boards? What kind of sensible logic is this!

Maybe I'm stretching here, but maybe they could try the same thing that they did with Nilsson and give him a few shifts on the forth line. Depending on the opposition line I could see a lot of ice opening up for him if he's got Pouliot and Brodziak out there getting in the way of the defense.

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#2 Fiveandagame
November 04 2008, 09:48AM
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I think you'll see hemmer start to extend his shifts as he scores more. I remember seeing Jagr play, the guy would float around the ice for what seemed like five minutes then pot a goal. He'd never come off.

Maybe Hemmer is just too polite and doesn't want to limit other players ice time.

Hemmer get selfish!

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#3 Scott
November 04 2008, 09:49AM
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Hemsky is almost always the first guy to change on his line. I've never been sure why he changes early, but it's pretty consistent.

It's why you see an occasional cycle with Penner, Horcoff and Cole or Gagner.

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#4 The Towel Boy
November 04 2008, 09:57AM
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Ah, yes...the "Jagrian Neutral Zone Float"...a classic tactic...one that I employ in the beer league. 60% of the time, it works all the time.

As for Hemmer's minutes...I've noticed a few times he seems to leave the ice almost frustrated cuz he got leveled trying to skate through 3 guys. Or he dawdles off after finally clearing the defensive zone by chipping it out, all resulting from an earlier turnover at the other end.

Hopefully as his game rounds out, the minutes will just follow naturally. Less frustrated = more hungry = a desire to play more.

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#5 Deep Oil
November 04 2008, 10:26AM
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Maybe a stretch here - but Gregor's point of Hemsky on the PP makes sense - just add an 02 bottle for Hemmer to extend his jump, reduce injury probability - I still don't know why ALL athletes don't replenish their 02 debt (pride??) and extend their playing time and career based on stress on the body - I know they are professional athletes - but EVERY advantage counts.

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#6 jeanshorts
November 04 2008, 10:39AM
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On a side note, anyone know if it's worth their time for the Oilers to take a stab at Ouellet? Could he fill this mythically Glencross gap everyone keeps talking about? Or is there no point considering the ridiculous amount of depth up front already?

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#7 jeanshorts
November 04 2008, 11:45AM
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Well, scratch the Ouellet idea.

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#8 Fiveandagame
November 04 2008, 11:52AM
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jeanshots - I think we have too much depth already and with the lack of flexibility with who we can have on our roster due to the 3 goalie scenario, I think a waiver wire pick up would be tough.

I think any addition will have to be made by subtraction and either sending someone down or putting them on waivers.

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#9 David S
November 04 2008, 12:24PM
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I've been thinking for a while that Hemsky has been off way more than has been explained. Perhaps its by design that he's playing shorter shifts in order to get back into shape(?). The PK forces you to move your feet. You simply can't float on a PK. Again, maybe this is part of an on-ice conditioning plan. Whatever has been troubling him, its obvious he's rounding into form, which would support the above hypothesis.

At the same time, maybe we could all stop subconsciously comparing him to the mythical kid we saw grow up here in the 80's. His ilk will never come this way again and its patently unfair to hang Hemsky with the mantle of a scrawny savant who had the best supporting cast the game has ever known.

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#10 The Towel Boy
November 04 2008, 01:10PM
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Mythical?

Dr. Randy Gregg was real David.

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#11 Reggie
November 04 2008, 01:14PM
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I think you have to factor in a couple of intangibles. If you put your star player on the PK as Detroit does, what is the point of doing it ? To ensure you get more scoring ?

Actually, you do it to keep your players involved and have skill players challenge the opposition PP. By having skill players on the PK, the opposition PP must make better passes, be more conservative and as a net result you should see the PK% rise.

I am not advocating PK time for Hemmer, as I would love to see him get double shifted 5on5 instead, but don't rule out the advantage of having skill players on the PK

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#12 Jerry MacWire
November 04 2008, 01:49PM
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David S, you need to spend more time when you are at work viewing www.edumbtonjurnal.com like any good Canwest employee and less time wasting valuable bandwidth that Lenny A. pays for.

We need more copy. ASAP!

-30-

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#13 DJ Spyn Cycle
November 04 2008, 01:52PM
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Jerry, David S isn't David Staples. When Dstaples posts, he uses his full name.

NOW TAKE IT BACK! :p

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#14 Jonathan
November 04 2008, 01:59PM
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I'm not so concerned about Hemsky's five-on-five ice-time, but his powerplay ice-time. Maybe he just doesn't have the stamina, but he's been among the best powerplay options in the league since the lockout with the man advantage, and he just doesn't get the ice-time.

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#15 The Towel Boy
November 04 2008, 02:39PM
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DJ, we can't take it back...there's no EDIT function....

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh...burrrrrrn.

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#16 The Towel Boy
November 04 2008, 02:43PM
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Jonathan, are you saying Hemmer should stay out for the full 2 minute PP every now and then instead of getting off after 1 minute ticks by?

Doesn't Kovie do that in Montreal? Don't they have a kick ass PP? Hmmm.

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#17 David S
November 04 2008, 04:03PM
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Reggie - That's an interesting perspective. Never thought of it that way. Thanks!

Jerry - Swing and a miss.

David Staples - Regrets again. Some traffic must be making it over from nexopia.com or HF boards.

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#18 Jonathan
November 04 2008, 05:01PM
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Towel Boy: Something like that. Maybe not the full two minutes, but a minute and a half, whatever. He's the most dangerous weapon there (truly elite production levels) and MacT should maximize his use.

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#19 The Towel Boy
November 04 2008, 07:53PM
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Jonathan: Agreed.

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#20 Antony Ta
November 05 2008, 01:10AM
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Ales Hemsky's TOI/G is pretty low. Do you think this would get higher if he started playing more minutes and got more tired as a result of it? Or would he produce more (giving faith to his athletic ability to apply it to creating more G as a result of more TOI)

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#21 Mike
November 05 2008, 07:54AM
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Antony,

"Do you think this would get higher if he started playing more minutes"

Well da...Of course playing more means more minutes. That was the whole point of the article.

Gregor's last line was basically saying only Hemsky knows if he will get more tired. What part didn't you get.

If he plays more hopefully he scores more.

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