Just an hour before the start of NHL Free Agency, the Dallas Stars traded for center Jason Spezza. Not soon after, while Spezza was on his initial conference call with Dallas media, the Stars announced they had signed winger Ales Hemsky -- an announcement that left Spezza with a case of his trademarked giggles.
In Hemsky, the Stars have a right wing they believe can be a skilled addition to either the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin or on the second line with former linemate Spezza. After starting his career in Edmonton, and posting a career high 77 points in 2005-2006, this speedy playmaker saw his minutes and role gradually reduced while with the Oilers until he was shipped out of town at the deadline last season.
What is the true story behind Hemsky, a player that was controversial among fans, reviled by local media and praised by most of the blogosphere? How will Hemsky fit in on the Stars?
We turned to Derek Zone of Copper & Blue for the answer:
Let's start generally: What were your thoughts overall on Hemsky on his time in Edmonton?
He's one of the best players to ever play in Edmonton. Unfortunately, he was tasked with playing out the last 8 years on one of the worst non-expansion teams in the history of the NHL, so no one knows how good Hemsky is. He can be sublime and subtle, jaw-dropping and stunning and do it all on the same shift.
While Hemsky's trade to Ottawa last season was mostly due to his pending UFA status, his name had been mentioned the past several years in trade rumors. What didn't work for Hemsky in Edmonton?
He signed an incredibly team-friendly 6-year, $24 million contract and outproduced that deal but for a couple of injury-riddled seasons, even though he played through injuries that no one knew about until well after the fact. He was one of the best wings in the NHL during that time but didn't have much help during Edmonton's first rebuild. Couple that with the fact that Hemsky didn't play towel snaps and butt slaps with the local beat writers, so his public image was repeatedly and purposefully smeared by those beat writers...and it mostly worked.
There's been a lot of debate over which line Hemsky should slot into -- Seguin and Benn, or with Spezza on the second line. Where would Hemsky work best, in your opinion -- what type of player does he work with the best?
Any of them except Sam Gagner. A very long time ago, I wrote a series of articles about Dustin Penner and in them showed that the Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky line was the third best in the conference. No one knew. Hemsky can play toughs, he can play with young players or veterans. He can do whatever the team needs him to do.
Ruff preaches a hard and fast pace but also requires his forwards to play a full 200' game and help out defensively. How will Hemsky work in that system?
I'm going to wager that your readers will say "Who was that [on the backcheck] [in the passing lane] [who deflected that] [stole that puck]?" about Ales Hemsky way more often than anyone thinks they will, and maybe more often than any other forward on the Stars.
Finally, many are expecting Hemsky to finally live up to his potential after coming to Dallas.
I almost feel like you're trolling me with this question. From 2005-06 through 2010-11 Ales Hemsky scored 96 goals and assisted on 235 more. That's 331 points in 360 games, or .92 per game. Just what exactly are your expectations for Ales?
What do you expect for him with the Stars?
I expect Hemsky to carry his weight and more and take the team to the playoffs. I expect him to get to the playoffs with some talent around him and do stuff like this.