This Team Needs Shawn Horcoff Or A Player Exactly Like Him

Jonathan Willis
April 22 2009 10:41AM

Horcoff goal

Shawn Horcoff’s a player that I have some difficulty discussing objectively. He’s a good player with a wide range of skills and an underrated offensive game; in point of fact, his offensive game has been of first-line quality since the lockout. Horcoff is also a player that the majority of the Oilers’ fan-base don’t seem to appreciate; despite the mess on left wing this season, “a real first line centre” is routinely listed as a major team need on the message boards and in the hallowed halls (if I’m not allowed to use hackneyed phrases than I’m quitting to work for the Sun) of the comment sections here.

The disdain for such a useful player drives me nuts; I’ve overreacted more than once while defending Horcoff’s performance, and as a result it’s difficult for me to be objective. So I’m not going to get hung up on what his exact value to the team is here. I’m going to use some basic logic to make a point about team needs.

First off, the ages of the current group of Oilers’ centre-men:

  • Shawn Horcoff: 30
  • Sam Gagner: 19
  • Andrew Cogliano: 21
  • Kyle Brodziak: 24

Other players used include Marc Pouliot (23), Liam Reddox (23) and Patrick O’Sullivan (24). In other words, there’s exactly one guy in the position over the age of 25. This isn’t rocket science; there’s a very young group here and Horcoff is the only player currently in the prime of his career.

Secondly, let’s look at professional experience. The current group by total number of NHL games played:

  • Shawn Horcoff: 560
  • Sam Gagner: 155
  • Andrew Cogliano: 164
  • Kyle Brodziak: 175

Other players used include Marc Pouliot (141GP), Liam Reddox (47GP) and Patrick O’Sullivan (207GP). If I wanted to really drive the point home I’d list the number of games these guys had managed prior to the start of this season; it’s not only a young group, it’s an inexperienced one.

Thirdly, let’s look at faceoff ability. Here’s the faceoff percentage of the various Oilers’ centres this past season:

  • Shawn Horcoff: 53.9% (1756 taken)
  • Sam Gagner: 42.0% (690 taken)
  • Andrew Cogliano: 37.2% (702 taken)
  • Kyle Brodziak: 51.6% (947 taken)

Other players used include Marc Pouliot (48.3% - 211 taken), Liam Reddox (44% - 25 taken) and Patrick O’Sullivan (41.4% - 99 taken).

Now we’re going to consider game situations. The fourth item is actually a question: with one minute left in the third period, with the goaltender pulled and the Oilers down by one, a faceoff occurs in the offensive zone – which player should be sent out to take the faceoff against the other team’s best defensive players? Looking at this roster, I only see one viable option. Cogliano, Gagner and O’Sullivan have some offensive ability, but Shawn Horcoff is the only player with both the offensive acumen and faceoff savvy to be on the ice in that position. He’s not a perfect player; obviously as a coach I’d rather see a player with more high-end offensive talent out there, but he’s the best option currently on the roster. If he were (hypothetically) to be dealt, this team would need a new player for those sorts of situations.

The fifth item for consideration is almost the opposite of that: with one minute left in the third period, with the opposition net empty and the Oilers up by one, a faceoff occurs in the defensive zone – which player should be sent out to take the faceoff against the other team’s best offensive players? Looking at this roster, I only see one viable option. Kyle Brodziak can win faceoffs, but he doesn’t have the defensive acumen to contain the best players in the game – Shawn Horcoff does. He’s the perfect player for the situation; if he were (again hypothetically) to be dealt, this team would need a new player for those sorts of situations.

So, looking at this list, what conclusion do we come to? I know the conclusion I come to – that if the Oilers dealt Shawn Horcoff, they’d need to find a player who has a) NHL experience, b) is in the prime of his career, c) is a faceoff expert, d) averages at least .75 points per game and e) can contain the best players in the NHL when the game is on the line. Maybe they could fill that hole with two players; they’re very unlikely to fill it with one.

This team is young down the middle; eventually Gagner, Cogliano and perhaps others can fill some of the roles that Shawn Horcoff now plays. For now though, he’s far too valuable to the team offensively and defensively to be traded except for a complete player of a higher caliber, and those sort of players aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. This isn’t a defense of Horcoff’s contract, an evaluation of his worth league-wide, or anything of the sort – it’s a practical look at the holes this roster has down the middle, and an explanation that if this team wants to develop it’s young centres (and it should!) they need players like Shawn Horcoff to carry the burden until those players are ready.

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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.
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#151 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 12:06AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: we have 3 defenseman that were better than Bouwmeester this season offensively. I've seen people say "Trade Visnovsky for him" and I roll my eyes because Vis was playing much better than Bouwmeester. The only thing that intrigues me is how many minutes he plays a night. The guy is a work horse. Maybe if he didnt HAVE to play 29 minutes a night he would produce better.

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#152 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 12:18AM
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uh, what's goin on with the site, it just ate my last post?

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#153 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 12:33AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

uh, what’s goin on with the site, it just ate my last post?

*Shakes the internet. Puts another loonie in and presses B6. Internet starts to whir and buzz. Finally, 2 posts fall from the one platform. Victory is mine!*

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#154 Librarian Mike
April 23 2009, 07:31AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Bouwmeester? Just what this city needs; one more drunk driver.

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#155 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 08:22AM
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@ Librarian Mike: ZING!

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#156 RossCreek
April 23 2009, 08:29AM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Bouwmeester? Just what this city needs; one more drunk driver.

WOW! Running guys out of town before they even get here. Stooping to new low's. Why doesn't anyone wanna sign here?

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#157 RossCreek
April 23 2009, 08:52AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Archaeologuy wrote: uh, what’s goin on with the site, it just ate my last post? *Shakes the internet. Puts another loonie in and presses B6. Internet starts to whir and buzz. Finally, 2 posts fall from the one platform. Victory is mine!*

Does the internet accept quarters? And how much do you have to shake it? I saw my post 20 min ago (and another one) and now they're both gone. :-{ *shake, shake, shake* **stooooopid internet eating all the posts**

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#158 RossCreek
April 23 2009, 08:54AM
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Lol. Now they're both back, but my last post is gone. Is it possible the internet has the same cold/flu I've had the past few days? If so, then all is forgiven.

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#159 Rick
April 23 2009, 09:09AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

And by not giving him the contract the team ran the risk of him walking away for nothing. Meaning you (or fans in general) are strongly voicing that they would have prefferd to lose him in the hopes of maybe, some day getting someone better to spend the money on. Looks like a pretty poor plan to me.

You're making some crazy leaps in assumptions there.

The contract is not reasonable for the player in question. If the risk of not overpaying someone is them walking away then you have to be prepared to let them walk away.

The trick here is that Horcoff didn't have a comparable player to hold up as an argument for that kind of money so how much of a risk was there really going to be?

If anything I would think his most comparable reference is playing 2 1/2 hours south of here and is on the books for a cap hit of a million less.

Your post almost makes it sound like you think Horcoff is the best the Oilers can do so we should accept that players like him will be overpayed. If that is the case then what do we have to look forward to as fans? Certainly not watching a contender.

Let's consider Horcoff overpaid by 1 mil per, Penner 1.5, Pisani 500K, Staios 700K.

That's 3.7 mil per season that could be going towards improving this team but is used up in overpaid contracts. We should be content with that?

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#160 Chris
April 23 2009, 09:10AM
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Had the Oilers not resigned Horcoff last summer, does anyone seriously believe he wouldn't be testing free agency this July? The Oilers are a disaster right now... I imagine Horcoff would give a more competative team a discount just to get outta dodge. Assuming the Oil pretty much strike out again this summer at the free agent frenzy... How many games do you think this team would win next season without Shawn? How mad would we all be at Oilers Management then? The contract is what it is. Oiler players aren't interested in giving Edmonton much of a home town discount... And I expect this trend to continue until this team becomes more competative.

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#161 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 09:35AM
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Chris wrote:

Had the Oilers not resigned Horcoff last summer, does anyone seriously believe he wouldn’t be testing free agency this July?

If they got that impression they would have traded him before he walks away for nothing. Do you honestly believe anyone other than the Oilers would offer him more than 4 million dollars? He would be a tier 2 UFA in the sense that he wouldnt be a July 1st priority for any team. By August he would either be making 3 mill for the Islanders or back with the Oil for less than the 5.5 hit he makes now.

I dont know how many people other than Willis would be OVERLY upset to see Horc go in a deadline deal. Maybe the Oil lose a few more games in the stretch and get a better draft position.

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#162 J-Bird
April 23 2009, 09:35AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

We'll agree to disagree on contract value man. Cheers.

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#163 J-Bird
April 23 2009, 09:37AM
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@ OB

We'll agree to disagree on value contracts man. Cheers!

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#164 Ogden Brother
April 23 2009, 09:51AM
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Rick wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: And by not giving him the contract the team ran the risk of him walking away for nothing. Meaning you (or fans in general) are strongly voicing that they would have prefferd to lose him in the hopes of maybe, some day getting someone better to spend the money on. Looks like a pretty poor plan to me. You’re making some crazy leaps in assumptions there. The contract is not reasonable for the player in question. If the risk of not overpaying someone is them walking away then you have to be prepared to let them walk away. The trick here is that Horcoff didn’t have a comparable player to hold up as an argument for that kind of money so how much of a risk was there really going to be? If anything I would think his most comparable reference is playing 2 1/2 hours south of here and is on the books for a cap hit of a million less. Your post almost makes it sound like you think Horcoff is the best the Oilers can do so we should accept that players like him will be overpayed. If that is the case then what do we have to look forward to as fans? Certainly not watching a contender. Let’s consider Horcoff overpaid by 1 mil per, Penner 1.5, Pisani 500K, Staios 700K. That’s 3.7 mil per season that could be going towards improving this team but is used up in overpaid contracts. We should be content with that?

When they signed the contract, the potential outcomes on the previous year were:

"worst case" (money wise)

He repeats his .95 PPG clip and the cap continues to rise at a 10%+ pace

If that played out he'd be looking at a 7+ cap hit.... and probably *gulp* 10 milliion!!!!!!! cheque for the first couple of years

"best case" (money wise)

He reverted back to a .75 PPG guy and the cap goes down/stays flat.

Hingsight is great isn't it.

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#165 Ogden Brother
April 23 2009, 09:53AM
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Rick wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: And by not giving him the contract the team ran the risk of him walking away for nothing. Meaning you (or fans in general) are strongly voicing that they would have prefferd to lose him in the hopes of maybe, some day getting someone better to spend the money on. Looks like a pretty poor plan to me. You’re making some crazy leaps in assumptions there. The contract is not reasonable for the player in question. If the risk of not overpaying someone is them walking away then you have to be prepared to let them walk away. The trick here is that Horcoff didn’t have a comparable player to hold up as an argument for that kind of money so how much of a risk was there really going to be? If anything I would think his most comparable reference is playing 2 1/2 hours south of here and is on the books for a cap hit of a million less. Your post almost makes it sound like you think Horcoff is the best the Oilers can do so we should accept that players like him will be overpayed. If that is the case then what do we have to look forward to as fans? Certainly not watching a contender. Let’s consider Horcoff overpaid by 1 mil per, Penner 1.5, Pisani 500K, Staios 700K. That’s 3.7 mil per season that could be going towards improving this team but is used up in overpaid contracts. We should be content with that?

"Your post almost makes it sound like you think Horcoff is the best the Oilers can do"

Well realistically, until Gagner matures, or the team sells the farm for a Spezza or a Vinny. Horcoff likely is the best the team can do.

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#166 Magicmeatbag
April 23 2009, 10:01AM
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I think this whole "Horcoff isn't worth the contract" goes away if he starts producing at his just under PPG rate and the team as a whole does better.

Here's hoping :)

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#167 Chris
April 23 2009, 10:01AM
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It's good thing Horcoff is under contract... After last season he'd probably be testing free agency otherwise... Would a UFA to replace Horcoff cost less given the state of things in Edmonton? If the Oilers couldn't find an experienced two way center; how many games would they win in 09/10?

If that were the case, right now we'd all be complaining about the failure of Tambellini/Lowe to extend Horcoff...

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#168 J-Bird
April 23 2009, 10:02AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Well realistically, until Gagner matures, or the team sells the farm for a Spezza or a Vinny. Horcoff likely is the best the team can do.

That's a scary thought isn't it? The Oil are years away yet from being competative, and that just sucks.

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#169 Chris
April 23 2009, 10:03AM
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If you are reading two very similar posts by me right now; it's because the internet ate them... I just re-submitted the same thought twice... I'm assuming this post will also get eaten.

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#170 Chris
April 23 2009, 10:05AM
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Oh. There they are. Sorry.

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#171 Rick
April 23 2009, 10:11AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

When they signed the contract, the potential outcomes on the previous year were: “worst case” (money wise) He repeats his .95 PPG clip and the cap continues to rise at a 10%+ pace If that played out he’d be looking at a 7+ cap hit…. and probably *gulp* 10 milliion!!!!!!! cheque for the first couple of years “best case” (money wise) He reverted back to a .75 PPG guy and the cap goes down/stays flat. Hingsight is great isn’t it.

Do you have any examples of other players that were late bloomers had a spotty track record of putting up .95 pts/game consistantly and were able to command that kind of money?

I am not arguing the point because I have some hate on for Horcoff, I am arguing the point because until I am shown examples that support his contract I remain convinced that the Oilers needlessly went way off the map in terms of what they gave him.

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#172 Chris
April 23 2009, 10:15AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

If they got that impression they would have traded him before he walks away for nothing. Do you honestly believe anyone other than the Oilers would offer him more than 4 million dollars?

Traded him for what? What exactly did we get for Smyth? Nilsson, O'Marra? Who cares?

Horcoff simply didn't give the Oilers a home-town discount... Bringing in a UFA this summer to replace his skill-set would be similarly expensive, and a gamble. I'm not the biggest Horcoff fan. He's a lower tier first line center on a lower tier franchise. Unfortunately, the reality is: a healthy Horcoff next season is key for the Oilers in their quest to avoid the western conference basement.

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#173 Dennis
April 23 2009, 10:49AM
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13's got a long way to go as a pivot - let alone as a checker - and MacT didn't think 51 had passed the test and he wouldn't even let 78 take the exam.

I'd like to see us bring in Moen-Pahlsson and make Pisani the new Neidermayer and, bam, we've got vet presences and familiarity with the LW-C.

I can't imagine Moen's gonna get a big offer and maybe he'd like to move closer to home. Pahlsson's profile may get a boost with an elongated Hawks cup run.

Also, I'd be shocked if Burke doesn't try to lure him back to TO.

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#174 Ogden Brother
April 23 2009, 10:55AM
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J-Bird wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Well realistically, until Gagner matures, or the team sells the farm for a Spezza or a Vinny. Horcoff likely is the best the team can do. That’s a scary thought isn’t it? The Oil are years away yet from being competative, and that just sucks.

Ya probably a couple of years from having a shot at being a top 5 team in the conference.

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#175 Ogden Brother
April 23 2009, 10:58AM
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Rick wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: When they signed the contract, the potential outcomes on the previous year were: “worst case” (money wise) He repeats his .95 PPG clip and the cap continues to rise at a 10%+ pace If that played out he’d be looking at a 7+ cap hit…. and probably *gulp* 10 milliion!!!!!!! cheque for the first couple of years “best case” (money wise) He reverted back to a .75 PPG guy and the cap goes down/stays flat. Hingsight is great isn’t it. Do you have any examples of other players that were late bloomers had a spotty track record of putting up .95 pts/game consistantly and were able to command that kind of money? I am not arguing the point because I have some hate on for Horcoff, I am arguing the point because until I am shown examples that support his contract I remain convinced that the Oilers needlessly went way off the map in terms of what they gave him.

Well he had his first .9 PPG season at 26? Lots of guys have big jumps in production at 25/26.

After what we've seen the last 3-4 years on July 1, it should be pretty clear a 25 goal/75 point Horcoff with a rising cap (ie normal economy) would command a pretty penny on the open market.

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#176 Archaeologuy
April 23 2009, 12:05PM
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Chris wrote:

Horcoff simply didn’t give the Oilers a home-town discount

No, clearly not. He wasnt worth that contract when he signed it ANYWHERE in the NHL. He got the opposite of the hometown discount. The Oilers were eating hamburger and thought it was a Rib-Eye, bad deal.

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#177 esa tikkanen
April 23 2009, 03:54PM
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ya, but Bouwmeester can kill penalties. G, G, and vish are all TERRIBLE penalty killers. Good 5-5, pretty good on the pp, but all 3 SUCK on the PK. Bo plays 29 minutes a game , is BIG and TOUGH and mobile, not just mobile! He is a franchise player, and is still younger than Gilbert!!!

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#178 dragon
April 23 2009, 05:00PM
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I'm sure others pointed out already: bring Horc another winger (once you trade the all-over-the-place, dissapear-15games-at-a-time Hemsky) and his production might increase. I believe he's a hard worker that needs a hard worker. In that final minute he WILL win you the face-off but then the puck gets given away by Hemmer! LOL

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