October 06 2010 05:38PM
The first time I noticed Shawn Horcoff, a pretty pass was zipping through the slot in a fall 2000 scrimmage. The intended target didn't get the pass, as his stick had been raised by his shadow; the two skaters faded from the scene, the puck safely out of harm's way. The shadow? Shawn Horcoff. His mark on that play? Long forgotten. Shawn Horcoff showed everyone early on he had the ability to play a complete game.
The fall 2000 Oilers had a plethora of new hires up front. An entire line (the Bulldog line: Brian Swanson, Michel Riesen, Dan Cleary) were joined by Dan Lacouture and Dom Pittis; Horcoff and Mike Comrie were sent away. Comrie forced the issue and made the grade mid-season, but by that time Horcoff was already there.
Horcoff's early years included many struggles (he had a galling tendency to pass the puck along his own blueline) and early in his NHL career it wasn't clear he was going to score enough to play a major role. However, "Horc" answered every request from the coach and eventually moved up the depth chart to the top line C job (Doug Weight owned it when he arrived, Nugent-Hopkins will probably own it when he leaves) and has had his share of good times and bad since taking on that difficult role.
Many Oiler fans consider Shawn Horcoff an overpaid, undertalented fraud; don't count me among them. Shawn Horcoff is a throwback type, a player who doesn't see himself as a special case and doesn't press for a specific role that suits his skills best. No sir. He's a two-way center with heart, a solid option for a team that hasn't enjoyed an impact player up the middle since Weight was sent to St. Louis years ago.
Today, the Oilers named Shawn Horcoff captain. His coach said that as part of the selection process he had asked all of the players for their choice. Horcoff's name was front and center throughout the conversations. Ales Hemsky said "they couldn't have picked a better guy" and I'm inclined to agree. There are things a fan like me can't know about the inner workings of a hockey team; however, anyone who has watched this team since fall 2000 can tell you Shawn Horcoff answered every call, left it all out on the ice and delivered to the best of his ability.
I can't think of a better man for these young kids to look up to as they grow into NHL players over the next few seasons. Horcoff will no doubt play the "Stan Weir" role on the ice, and will deliver in very important off-ice roles as well. Good choice, Tom Renney. And for those who don't appreciate Horcoff's talents, I offer the title of this post as a friendly suggestion.