Dallas Stars 2015-16 Player Grades: Aleš Hemský
Aleš Hemský's second year in Dallas went better than his first. How much better, though?
Ales Hemsky has now completed two of the three years of his deal, and we know a few things, now. Like, for example, that he owns a house in which to house Radek Faksa. Also, he is sort of pretty great at defense, like the numbers indicated. Third, he and his honeybunch have amazing Halloween costumes.
What we also know about Hemsky is that, despite hands and skating that can roast defensemen's chestnuts on an open fire, he probably isn't going to score 50 points anymore. Dreams of a Benn/Seguin/Hemsky line making a laughingstock of players in the offensive zone have thoroughly evaporated, but that isn't a wholly bad thing by any means. Hemsky became the Veteran Presence on a truly excellent third line for the latter portion of the season (and the playoffs)—a season that came on the heels of a dreary year filled with line demotions and the occasional healthy scratch. Now, Hemsky is being selected to World Cup teams for his country. Things have a way of working themselves out, sometimes.
So, the specifics: first, Hemsky still makes most everyone he plays with better, with Benn and Seguin being notably odd exceptions. I'd say it's just a sample-size issue, but at this point, the players and the coaches seem convinced it's a chemistry thing, so that, in all likelihood, is that. Still, a player who can make Roussel a possession-driver is a very valuable one indeed, so if the top line can find ways to produce without Hemsky, it's something we can deal with.
Hemsky was still a streaky scorer this year, but instead of hiding all his production in the middle like last year, he chose to save a lot of it for the second half, which leaves a much better taste in the fans' collective mouth. More to the point, Hemsky played 75 games, and he was effective as usual when it came to lugging the puck from the defensive zone to the other end. Hemsky was not the sort of player to get hemmed in his zone very often either, as he had both the 5th-highest defensive zone start % to go with his 5th-highest relative shot differential. Not bad work at all.
To add to that, Ales Hemsky flat-out produced at even strength. Despite playing most of his minutes away from the Stars' top scorers, Hemsky was second on the team in assists per 60 minutes at 5v5, and he trailed only the big three in overall points per 60 despite averaging about a minute less per night than players like Antoine Roussel, Val Nichushkin and Mattias Janmark. If I might employ some shoot-from-the-hip analysis, that sure looks like a player who creates quality opportunities for his linemates even in limited time, eh? (If you're inclined to lend credence to War-on-Ice's scoring chance numbers, they back this point up: Hemsky was 4th on the team in SCF per 60, just ahead of a rather heavily tattooed pair of arms what go by "Tyler.")
Of course, while Hemsky's even-strength production was great, the power play was another story. Number 83 was only 10th on the team in power play time per game, and even that might have been more than he deserved, given how few points he put up. Of Hemsky's 13G/26A line this season, only one goal (and four assists) came during the man advantage. In fact, Hemsky's only PPG this year came all the way back in the very first game of the season. You may remember it:
I'd like to welcome our new lord and offensive saviour Ales Hemsky.— Erin (@ErinB_DBD) October 9, 2015
Not to get bogged down in the semantics of the thing, but I am always fascinated with the "Expectations" portion of the Player Grades criteria. In Hemsky's case, I am especially fascinated, but that sentence has been true of pretty much Everything Hemsky since he was signed in 2014. You could make the argument that Hemsky still didn't live up to expectations this year because he didn't help the power play enough and didn't pile up points in a season where points were being piñata'd down upon the lineup for anyone to pick up. There was no earthly reason Hemsky should have two sub-40 point seasons in a row on this Stars team, so any bounceback was mere regression to the mean.
Conversely, I'd be tempted to say that Hemsky stayed relatively healthy again, that he drove play at evens like few other players on the team (or in the league), and that he helped Radek Faksa get his groove going. I'd imagine that set of bona fides was a bit eyond what many of us had on our "What Hemsky Does" cheat sheets.
In that vein, it's also interesting to compare this summer to last year, as Hemsky has found himself almost (dare I say it) appreciated after finding a niche on the third line. Last year, you will recall, many of us were resigning ourselves to the fact that Hemsky was not a fit on this team, and that he would be moved at first opportunity. That did not happen, and it's hard to say the team wasn't better off as a result.
That may not help you decide where your rating should fall, but it certainly should whet your appetite for whatever Hemsky has for this team in the final year of his deal. It may not be what you want to see, but it will surely be intriguing. And for fans, that's really the most important thing, if we're being honest with ourselves. Just make us happy, guys.
"Rate Aleš Hemsky's 2015-16 season on a scale of A to F" -a poem, by me.
|A for Ales, bright and strong||83|
|B for Beer, which maketh song||316|
|C for Czeching Line Supreme||136|
|D for stick-first Defending||10|
|F for Faksa, rent is late||8|
|Š for Caron: punctuate!||4|