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Principe's Blog: On Line with Ales

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Ales Hemsky (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC).

What to do with Ales Hemsky? That's the question that surrounds his return. Out since he injured himself in a game against Minnesota on Oct.13th. A shoulder problem again but a different part of his shoulder that he had fixed this summer. Whatever it was the powder blue jersey that signifies don't touch me, don't look at me...basically leave me alone, has been discarded for a regular practice jersey. That means I'm good to go and ready to be jostled, bumped and pushed to make sure everything is alright. That looks to be the case for Ales which means he'll be back very soon.

Could be as early as Tuesday night and, if not, then expect it to be Thursday against Boston. Either way he's coming back so get used to having the most talented player on the team in the lineup. (I know most talented is up for discussion but will leave that for a blog later this season.) To me Hemsky can still play and play well but where do you play him? That's how you know times have dramatically changed for Edmonton.

In the past when he was out and then was cleared to play you would simply put the right winger on the top line. End of story...that's it that's all but now the plan for placement is a little more complicated. I decided to toss out that question on Twitter @Gene Principe (shameless plug as I'm three people away from 12,000 followers as I write this. Who knew cheesy lines and bad puns could actually build a following?) The responses were numerous as were the suggestions.

First off, the few who think that the Oilers give Hemsky even more time to recover as to not disrupt a winning lineup. I appreciate the idea but I don't think you can do that. First off he's your best player or one of them and that can't be the right message to him. Hey, I hear your healthy but we're doing pretty well without you so see that chair over there sit down and we'll call you when we need you.

I know that without Ales the Oilers went 7-3-1 going into the Montreal game but during that time they scored 27 goals. Not bad but you have to think that number would be higher maybe into the mid 30's in goals if he hadn't been hurt. I think he has to play as soon as he's healthy.

After that it was open season on who should come out of the lineup to make room for him. Suggestions for coming out ranged from Sam Gagner, Ben Eager, Anton Lander, Magnus Paajarvi, Lennart Petrell and one person even suggested Taylor Hall (I think it was Derek Dorsett). The thing is once you take someone out it's not a slam dunk on where to slot in Hemsky. Easiest way to do it is with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff.

Ryan Jones, who's done a great job with Smyth and Horcoff, would then slide down to the fourth line. Out goes Petrell or Eager. Yet if you put Ales on the third line you can then move Gagner back to centre drop Belanger to the fourth unit with Eager and Petrell. However, if Belanger takes Lander's spot in the middle then Anton can move to the wing and again it's Eager or Petrell who goes.

Now if you sit Paajarvi or Gagner then Hemsky can play on the third line to help Belanger and either Magnus or Sam whichever one doesn't get pulled. Had even one guy suggest breaking up the kids and putting Hemsky with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Paajarvi. That I don't think will happen but so many line combinations and so much time for Tom Renney to eventually decide what to do with Ales Hemsky.


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