Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff

Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008 11:08AM

In one of the threads below, commenter Gord made an interesting comment, one that I thought deserved some investigation:

Putting up points with Hemsky and Penner the last couple weeks is automatic and any other Oiler could produce at the same rate given the same opportunities.

Now, I realize that Gord limited this comment to the past few weeks, but the notion that Shawn Horcoff is an offensive passenger on the top line is one that has been floated by his detractors time and time again. Watching the top line play, it’s obvious that Ales Hemsky is an elite talent, but I think it’s dishonest to claim that “any other Oiler” or “any other centre” would fit in as well on the top line as Shawn Horcoff.

With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to review Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky’s numbers together and apart thus far this season.

Horcoff and Hemsky Together

Goals For and Against: 15/9 (+6)

Shots For and Against: 170/128 (+42)

Corsi: 319/239 (+80)

Defensive/Offensive Faceoffs: 96/102 (-6)

Hemsky w/o Horcoff

Goals For and Against: 4/6 (-2)

Shots For and Against: 56/63 (-7)

Corsi: 102/110 (-8)

Defensive/Offensive Faceoffs: 20/27 (-7)

Horcoff w/o Hemsky

Goals For and Against: 3/3 (0)

Shots For and Against: 55/59 (-4)

Corsi: 99/120 (-21)

Defensive/Offensive Faceoffs: 43/23 (+20)

We can make a few conclusions from these numbers, and these conclusions balance nicely with what we know about the players and the composition of the roster.

The first conclusion: Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff are far better together this season than they are apart. Common sense tells us this, and the numbers confirm it. Ales Hemsky is easily the best RW on this team; every player on the roster performs better when they play with him. By the same token, Shawn Horcoff is not only easily the best centre on this team, he’s the only veteran centre the Oilers have. Hemsky’s numbers without Horcoff drop off alarmingly; this is likely to be caused more by the quality of the other centres (Cogliano, Pouliot, Brodziak, Pisani) than it is by any problem with Hemsky.

The second conclusion: Hemsky is a strong territorial player. We know that during the time Hemsky and Horcoff were separated (largely during that Eastern road trip), Hemsky was playing some of the game’s elite checkers, and he was doing it with either kids or veterans with some obvious defensive flaws. Despite that, the territorial advantage was pretty close to even. The numbers tell us not that Hemsky is a poor player without Horcoff, but that he does a tremendous job carrying his linemates against some exceptional two-way players.

The third conclusion: Horcoff is a strong defensive player. Despite being used in a largely defensive role against offensive players (without Hemsky, he spends twice as much time starting in the defensive zone than he does in the offensive zone), the shot clock is break-even. The difference between the shots +/- and the Corsi +/- is interesting; Corsi indicates territorial advantage, in much the same way as faceoff breakdown does, but Horcoff and Co. do a much better job getting their shots on net than their opponents do. Thinking back to those games, I’d argue that Horcoff’s line did an excellent job of restricting their opponents time and space, and getting down in shooting lanes.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 The Towel Boy
December 18 2008, 11:13AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I love science!

Avatar
#2 Clayton
December 18 2008, 11:24AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I just love it when you talk about Hemsky! I get all turned on.

Avatar
#3 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 11:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Clayton wrote:

I just love it when you talk about Hemsky! I get all turned on.

Deeply disturbing, dude. And I mean that.

Avatar
#4 OvenChicken8
December 18 2008, 12:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Good read. Seeing how most other players excel when they are playing with Hemsky, it makes me wonder how someone like say Spezza would play with him haha.

Avatar
#5 Cam
December 18 2008, 12:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Once in a while I have a dream where Buffalo didn't match the Vanek offer sheet. It's so wonderful...

Avatar
#6 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 12:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I wonder how Gomez would perform with Hemsky? Thats after we ship Staios and Shremp, and a pick to NYR...that is.

...sigh....Cogs looked good last night.

Avatar
#7 Wanye Gretz
December 18 2008, 12:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

This be some good calculations Master Willis.

Avatar
#8 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 01:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Looking at those numbers, we all realize that Hemsky and Horcoff together are The Vaunt, right? This season, they've outshoot the best opponents the other team has 170 to 128. Those are elite numbers.

Avatar
#9 shakey
December 18 2008, 01:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

So what you're saying here is that this team cannot win without Rob Schremp. Interesting...

Avatar
#10 Gord
December 18 2008, 01:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm glad to have inspired this masterpiece. ;) Godd stuff JW!

Avatar
#11 Clayton
December 18 2008, 01:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Deeply Disturbing What?! I try to pay you a compliment on a grand piece of writing and this is the thanks I get?! BTW, did you mean to write 'they've outshot'?!

Avatar
#12 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 01:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Clayton wrote:

Deeply Disturbing What?! I try to pay you a compliment on a grand piece of writing and this is the thanks I get?! BTW, did you mean to write ‘they’ve outshot’?!

No, I meant that they've outshoot. I speak with a thick Scandinavian accent (much like you, C.B.) and I wanted people to hear that statement in my barely comprehensible english.

Avatar
#13 Benhur
December 18 2008, 01:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Interesting article...but I wonder what the numbers from late last seasons run compare to now since Horc was out for repairs.??? And what was the diff. .... physcological panic to make the playoffs, desperation or personell and line combos/personal performance???

Avatar
#14 Clayton
December 18 2008, 01:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Thats twice now, and yes I am counting.... but seriously i did enjoy the article. @ Jonathan Willis:

Avatar
#15 RLH
December 19 2008, 08:55AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

As always, nice analysis. I'd like to see the same numbers, with power play broken out. I'm thinking that changes the offensive/defensive ratios quite a bit. Mind you, I think you've proven the right conclusion, I'm simply curious.

Avatar
#16 Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008, 09:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ RLH:

That's just the even-strength numbers. The powerplay numbers are even more lopsided. I should have made that clear, sorry.

Avatar
#17 Depth, Or A Lack Thereof - OilersNation
December 22 2008, 02:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

[...] this, they’re destroying their opposition –- I posted the numbers for Hemsky and Horcoff a few days ago, and on average they outshoot their opponents 132 to 100. All three are plus [...]

Comments are closed for this article.