Oilers following true form

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

There was a point this season where Ales Hemsky was playing so well, it seemed inconceivable he would not be able to lead the Edmonton Oilers into the playoffs.

The right winger had seemingly come of age and it appeared he could be counted on a nightly basis to provide an offensive spark.

But as his form dropped, so did the fortunes of the hockey team, and in the end, Hemsky too was left wondering what went wrong as the Oilers failed for a third consecutive time to qualify for the playoffs.

"I think I did everything that I could, I just wasn't happy with my last month," Hemsky said.

"Up to then, I thought I was playing well, I was feeling good. Maybe I got tired or something. I don't know what happened. It's a tough question to answer. But I don't really want to think about it. I'll go home, relax and get ready for next season and try to do my best again."

Hemsky once again led the team in scoring, finishing with 23 goals and 43 assists in 72 games. His offensive numbers were down from the previous year where he finished with 71 points, and the 2005-2006 campaign when he collected a team-high 77 points.

Expectations were high on the 25-year-old native of Pardubice, Czech Republic, coming into the season as he seemed prime to take the next step towards league-wide stardom.

It's what the Oilers were banking on when signing Hemsky to a multi-year deal through the 2011-2012 season.

But so far Hemsky has failed to take that step and his leadership skills have been called into question. He's the first player off the ice following practice, doesn't like dealing with the media and rarely shows up for an optional skate.

This season he also picked the worst possible time to question the manner which head coach Craig MacTavish was using him, and complain he wasn't being counted on enough.

At the time, the Oilers were in the thick of the playoff race and needed to present a unified front. It wasn't in their best interest for their star to act like a petulant child and demand more attention.

The coaching staff acted quickly to quash any potential rift, but the damage had been done and now changes are likely to take place.

"We didn't make the playoffs, it's not their (coaches') fault, its obviously our fault," Hemsky said.

"We are the players; we have to be better. It doesn't matter who they bring in, it's up to the players to play better. But if they bring somebody else in, I don't really want to comment on that. It's not my business."

This season, Hemsky fizzled down the stretch, scoring just two goals in his last 17 games. Coincidently that's when the Oilers fortunes began to take a turn in the wrong direction as they lost eight of their last 11 games to slide right out of the playoff race.

Granted he didn't have much help.

Hemsky's linemates for most of the season in Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner each finished with just 17 goals. Horcoff could only seemingly score from one spot on the ice and once that was taken away was ineffective around the net. Penner looked to have lost all interest in trying after netting 29 goals in Anaheim and cashing in on a lucrative contract offer.

Then there was Ales Kotalik who squandered more opportunities than he put away, and Patrick O'Sullivan who never could find his scoring touch in his brief stint on the top line.

"I felt good, I felt strong, I thought I was skating well for most of the season," Hemsky said. "But I think as a team we have to get better. It's not something just one or two guys can do. Everybody needs to help each other. I thought I tried my best, and unfortunately, there are some things you can't control."


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