Boyd Gordon: Shawn Horcoff, minus the baggage

Jonathan Willis
October 04 2013 07:53AM

Looking at the Oilers’ centre depth chart, it always seemed likely that newcomer Boyd Gordon was going to get his share of defensive assignments and then some. Dallas Eakins seemed to confirm that on Tuesday, when he slotted Gordon in the most thankless role on the team: Shawn Horcoff’s old job.

Time on Ice & Faceoffs

There are plenty of similarities between Gordon’s work on Tuesday night and Horcoff’s deployment during the 2012-13 season; the following are the latter’s per game averages stacked up against Gordon’s numbers from Tuesday.

The faceoffs are a little higher for Gordon than Horcoff, though the absence of Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins from the lineup might have something to do with that (as might the fact that it’s a single game). The other item is that while Horcoff played regular minutes on the power play in front of the net, Gordon appears to be on the ice solely as a faceoff man. Gordon had all of three power play shifts in game one, and he took a faceoff on each:

  • 17 seconds (ended in goal)
  • 11 seconds
  • 19 seconds

Interestingly, Gordon and fellow centre Will Acton were the only forwards to average 30 seconds or less on the ice per shift; penalty killing work had a lot to do with that but so did Gordon getting faceoff-and-gone shifts.

History

There are, in my view, three reasons for the Oilers to have chosen Gordon over Horcoff for the defensive specialist role – a role which tends to destroy the numbers of whoever fills it:

  • Age: Gordon’s five years younger
  • Baggage: Gordon doesn’t have it in Edmonton
  • Contract: While the dollars are similar, Horcoff’s cap hit is much higher

There aren’t huge differences in size or style of play; if anything Horcoff’s scoring history gives him the edge as a player today. This was simply a case of bringing in a fresh face that counts for a bit less against the salary cap and is less likely to decline over the next few seasons.

Somebody has to take the important faceoffs, kill penalties and start shifts at the wrong end of the rink. Will Acton and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner might get some of that work, but the most likely candidate for the majority of it has always been Boyd Gordon.

Recently around the Nation Network

Check out StreakCred, the addictive hockey game that both helps charity and includes loads of awesome prizes.

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney goes into the anatomy of a shift. He looks at Winnipeg's James Wright's performance against Edmonton and breaks down exactly what happened before offering the following summation:

This is a 38 second shift in which James Wright touched the puck twice without pressure, and the Jets lost possession both times to sub-optimal plays. It's a shift in which Wright makes two poor defensive plays (bad angle in the neutral zone, getting trapped deep on his own turnover), and is the singular reason the Jets lose possession on the breakout to his side. To my eye, that's 5 wrong decisions in fewer than 40 seconds of hockey.

Click the link above to check it out, or feel free to check out some of my recent stuff below:

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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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#1 Racki
October 04 2013, 08:46AM
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A few people have asked me "who this Gordon guy is". I always describe him as Shawn Horcoff with a bit less offense and a whole lot less psychological trauma suffered from fan abuse. Lol

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#3 Retsinnab5
October 04 2013, 09:44AM
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@Rumpelstiltskin

Horcoff was a good player, but his contract was a bum.

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#4 Larry
October 04 2013, 09:46AM
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Hahaha! Horcs gone and were STILL blaming him!! Remember how we couldn't win a game without him in the lineup last year?

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#5 brian_d
October 04 2013, 08:43AM
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Horcoff needed a change, and we found a replacement that is, despite probable lower offensive output, an upgrade. Win-win.

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#6 justDOit
October 04 2013, 09:49AM
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Gordon looks heavier/stronger, and has a great menacing look out there that Horc just never had.

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#7 Clarko
October 04 2013, 10:43AM
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madjam wrote:

Horcoff always was and still much better than Gordon , give your heads a shake ! Gordon can only wish he could be that good over his career . Our former captain who represented the team well , players and union and city as well . Shame on how some of you are dissing on him . Not only a premier defensive player , but also had seasons over a point a game - a complete player and person . Some either forgot , or their just not very good at assessing talent levels .

This rant is hilarious. "Seasons over a point per game"?? Which season was that? The best he ever achieved was 73 points in 79 games (05/06). His second best point total was 53 points in 80 games.

Premier defensive player?? He had a rating of -22 or worse in three of his last 6 seasons here. Not all his fault, but Horcoff was okay defensively...hardly a premier guy.

And as for the "great" faceoff man?? Horcoff was below 50% in the last 4 seasons he played here.

Horcoff is a great person, but he was very ineffective in that last few seasons.

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#8 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
October 04 2013, 12:29PM
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NUGE IS BACK ON MONDAY NUGE IS BACK ON MONDAY

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#9 TigerUnderGlass
October 04 2013, 04:05PM
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pkam wrote:

I haven't seen Gordon plays enough to compare him to Horcoff, but that defection by Gordon is a beauty. I don't remember any defection from Horcoff ever, does anyone?

Impossible. No one could forget that wondrous day when S. Horcov defected from the motherland to sleep in a pile of money.

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#10 Klima's Mullet
October 04 2013, 10:12AM
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madjam wrote:

Horcoff always was and still much better than Gordon , give your heads a shake ! Gordon can only wish he could be that good over his career . Our former captain who represented the team well , players and union and city as well . Shame on how some of you are dissing on him . Not only a premier defensive player , but also had seasons over a point a game - a complete player and person . Some either forgot , or their just not very good at assessing talent levels .

Horcoff is a good hockey player but you are underestimating Gordon. He never had the privilege of skating on a line with dynamic players as often as Horcoff. His zone starts and quality of competition over the last few years have been among the most challenging in the entire NHL. His job was to keep the puck out of his own net and few have done that job better than Gordon (with middling line mates). Horcoff was also always a regular on the PP while Gordon rarely skated on Phx's PP. It is not a realistic comparison. Let's see how Gordon does with some elite wingers and a bit of PP time this year with the Oil.

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#11 Dodd
October 04 2013, 08:01AM
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Hopefully a nice fit. We need a C to stick....

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#12 Rumpelstiltskin
October 04 2013, 08:14AM
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Horcoff is a bum!

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#13 j
October 04 2013, 08:27AM
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Minus the baggage - and plus a goal! By my eye, Gordon was much more effective with and without the puck than Horcoff was last year. I am/was a Horc supporter but he just didn't have the drive anymore (can't blame him really). Gordon is much better than Horc, minus the baggage. Double positive? Inverse negative? Not sure how that works...

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#14 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
October 04 2013, 11:28AM
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Was watching the SJ/Canucks game last night. Burns had an excellent chance to put one in back door. Thornton sent a great pass cross crease and Burns Horcoffed it. It never crossed my mind that he whiffed on it. First thing that came to my mind was that he Horcoffed it.

Is that wrong?

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#15 madjam
October 04 2013, 09:58AM
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Horcoff always was and still much better than Gordon , give your heads a shake ! Gordon can only wish he could be that good over his career . Our former captain who represented the team well , players and union and city as well . Shame on how some of you are dissing on him . Not only a premier defensive player , but also had seasons over a point a game - a complete player and person . Some either forgot , or their just not very good at assessing talent levels .

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#16 Danger Pay
October 04 2013, 09:42AM
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A younger Horcoff. As long as Mac T doesn't sign Gordon to a ridiculous (Horcoff-like) contract... this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the Oilers.

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#17 Klima's Mullet
October 04 2013, 10:16AM
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Supernova wrote:

We are going to burn Gordon's shoulders out at that rate.

Oilers need to have a decent second option at Center for wins, someone you know has a higher than 50% chance.

Acton looked good in his first game but we will see after 10 games.

Every Oilers center was 50% or higher in the face off circle against the Jets.

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#18 Racki
October 04 2013, 10:48AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Oh, yeah, Shawn Horcoff was a terrible skater.

But hey, why let facts get in the way of a nice rant?

If Horcoff didn't have such a big nose, he would have finished a second later...

Jokes.. Love Horc. Jack of all trades, master of nine, but would have been a great 2nd to 3rd line C if the big pay day wasn't a constant reminder / noose around his neck. Hoping he does well in Dallas.

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#19 Supernova
October 04 2013, 08:23AM
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We are going to burn Gordon's shoulders out at that rate.

Oilers need to have a decent second option at Center for wins, someone you know has a higher than 50% chance.

Acton looked good in his first game but we will see after 10 games.

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#20 G Money
October 04 2013, 09:57AM
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I think Gordon is a substantial upgrade on Horcoff.

The biggest differential is simply age.

The Horcoff/Gordon role is a brutally tough one to play, and I just don't think Horc had the legs (or maybe as MacT says, the spirit) for it anymore.

By eye and by Corsi, Horc was steadily degrading in his effectiveness over the last three seasons.

If Gordon can be the Horcoff of five years ago, as opposed to the Horcoff that was last year or would have been this year, that's a huge win for the Oilers.

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#21 Rama Lama
October 04 2013, 10:22AM
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For those who are hard on Horcoff........just remember, except for skating, stickhandling, playmaking, scoring, physical play and shooting, Horcoff was a good player.

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#22 Clarko
October 04 2013, 12:03PM
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madjam wrote:

I was close on point a game clip . 73 in 79 (05-06) and 50 in 53 (07-08) . Most seasons seemed he to be around 50 till last couple . He did play physical if you check out his penalty minutes over the years , far exceeding Gordon's paltry best year of 16 minutes . Gordon has only 6 short handed goals his entire career NHL . Gordon's best offensive year was a paltry 29 points . Horcoff's speed would leave Gordon sucking slew water . Horcoff was a deserving first liner much of his career , Gordon is not that gifted .

Horcoff's time in Edmonton can be split up really into two parts:

05/06-08/09 (Borderline 1st line center):

227 points in 292 games (.78 PPG), with a 52% faceoff percentage. He was a total of -14 over this 4 year time span (on what was a generally weak team with the exception of 05/06).

09/10-12-13 (3rd line player at best)

109 points in 236 games (.46 PPG), with a 48.3% faceoff percentage. He was -45 over this 4 year time span.

It is clear to everyone that Horcoff has been mediocre the past 4 seasons.

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#23 ginganinja
October 04 2013, 04:42PM
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Oilers recalled Hamilton apparently. Do the Oil drop Smytty to the fourth line insert Hamilton into the third and bring Joensuu to the top six? Thats probably what I would do. But I'm a moron

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#24 TigerUnderGlass
October 04 2013, 04:09PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Younger,cheaper,no baggage,bigger,meaner, stronger ,a better player at this point in their careers.Other then that exactly the same.

Must be four days between games.

He is neither bigger nor stronger than Horcoff. This whole discussion is beyond belief.

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#25 916oiler
October 04 2013, 10:57AM
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Good signing by Mac Attack!

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#26 ginganinja
October 04 2013, 12:56PM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

Remember the days of Scorecoff? *wipes tears from eyes* But Im moving on and Im ready for this new era with Scoredon. *stands and takes a bow*

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#27 Dog Train
October 04 2013, 03:49PM
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Gordon is a better fit on this team right now. Horcoff needed a change of scenery. Gordon's role is clear and he understands it. Hopefully guys like RNH, Hall and Gagner can help shoulder the burden of taking all these faceoffs.

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#28 geoilersgist
October 04 2013, 10:36AM
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@pkam

I remember someone (hall/eberle?) banking one in off of Horcoffs rearend. That is about as good a deflection he had.

I am still a fan of Horcoffs but it was time for him to move on.

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#29 Oiler63
October 04 2013, 12:10PM
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For years fans seem to blame Horcoff for not playing up to his contract but ignored who created the problem in the first place. If Horcoff makes $2-3 million a year he'd still be with us and still be the captain and everybody would be saying "2 horcoff to go please".

It's Lowe who created the mess and handed out the contract that's right up there with the Gomez contract. Those two contracts would probably go down in hockey textbook as contracts you want to avoid as a GM. Thumb up to MacT for being able to ship that contract out of town and thumb down to Lowe for dodging the responsibility and shamelessly saying he knows about winning.

Lowe, if you know about winning, how do you explain the past 7 years. The fact is you know nothing about it. It's the Gretzkys and Messiers who truely know about winning. You just happened to be there. Don't get too far ahead of yourself.

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#30 Spydyr
October 04 2013, 11:52AM
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madjam wrote:

I was close on point a game clip . 73 in 79 (05-06) and 50 in 53 (07-08) . Most seasons seemed he to be around 50 till last couple . He did play physical if you check out his penalty minutes over the years , far exceeding Gordon's paltry best year of 16 minutes . Gordon has only 6 short handed goals his entire career NHL . Gordon's best offensive year was a paltry 29 points . Horcoff's speed would leave Gordon sucking slew water . Horcoff was a deserving first liner much of his career , Gordon is not that gifted .

It is not 2006 any more .Click your heels three times.

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#31 ginganinja
October 04 2013, 12:51PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

Cant wait for Monday. Sexy baby Nuge is back. Put beer in the fridge.

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#32 gord962
October 04 2013, 11:27AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Oh, yeah, Shawn Horcoff was a terrible skater.

But hey, why let facts get in the way of a nice rant?

There is no doubt that Horc was a fast skater 5 years ago when he was at the top of his game but he noticeably lost a step (or two) in the past couple seasons with the Oil. Horc also had a offensive touch to his game 5 years ago too, which also evaporated from his game. No one in their right mind would send Horc to the All Star game based on his last couple seasons.

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#33 pkam
October 04 2013, 09:25AM
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Racki wrote:

A few people have asked me "who this Gordon guy is". I always describe him as Shawn Horcoff with a bit less offense and a whole lot less psychological trauma suffered from fan abuse. Lol

I haven't seen Gordon plays enough to compare him to Horcoff, but that defection by Gordon is a beauty. I don't remember any defection from Horcoff ever, does anyone?

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#34 Gkpoil
October 04 2013, 08:53PM
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madjam wrote:

Flames get another 2 points on road trip tonite , despite not having perhaps their two best centers in Cammallerri and Colbourne . They are leaving us in the dust , as they play to top of conference . What could be worse ?

We're missing our two best centers AND an NHL caliber goalie.

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#35 StHenriOilBomb
October 05 2013, 12:45AM
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@madjam

Man, you're not even good at this. I'm falling asleep.

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#36 pkam
October 04 2013, 10:41AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

For those who are hard on Horcoff........just remember, except for skating, stickhandling, playmaking, scoring, physical play and shooting, Horcoff was a good player.

Horcoff is a 3rd line player with the contract of a 1st line player, and playing most of his career in the top 2 lines, except the last couple years.

If we compare him to other 3rd line players, he is pretty good in most categories that you listed, except physical play.

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#37 TigerUnderGlass
October 04 2013, 04:25PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Pull out the Supertramp album......."Crime of the Century", there is a song written for people like you........called Dreamer.

I'm confused. Are you saying you believe Gordon is bigger than Horcoff?

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#38 Top Cheddar
October 04 2013, 04:27PM
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The best thing is that Boyd won't tell the kids that they don't owe the city anything like the fan abused former #10 did. It was best for everyone for him to move on. Love Boyd's effort and he'll fit in beautifully.

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#39 The Last Big Bear
October 04 2013, 09:40PM
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1) Stajan and Backlund are the Flames 2 best centres.

2) The Flames dressed career-backup Joey MacDonald tonight, so not having an NHL calibre starter is not an excuse.

3) Washington's offence tore Calgary's defence apart last night. Because if you don't have legit 1st-pairing defenders (like another team in Alberta that I could mention), then the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Johanson, Green, and Grabovski are going to rip you a new a-hole. You can have 15 NHL-ready defenders if you want, but you can only ice two of them at a time. And if those 2 aren't good enough to shut down the other team's top players, you're going to have a bad time.

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#40 BeeKayDub
October 05 2013, 10:13AM
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madjam wrote:

Flames get another 2 points on road trip tonite , despite not having perhaps their two best centers in Cammallerri and Colbourne . They are leaving us in the dust , as they play to top of conference . What could be worse ?

Wow, they've played two games. Get a grip.

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#41 Smokey
October 04 2013, 01:30PM
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As much as I wanted to run Horcoff outta town. How damn good would this team have looked with RNH, Gagner, Gordon, and Horcoff down the middle with a Hall fill in. The Oilers would be without question as deep as anyone down the middle.

Gordon I think will be a favorite here as time goes on because he's a gamer, he does subtle things, the puck goes the right way, and he seems like almost a quiet leader. He can play with or without skill, has sandpaper, and is really strong in all three zones. I'm a real fan of his so far. I know his skill set is different then say Jared Stoll, but its like we almost filled in that hole we have missed for so long.

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#42 Racki
October 04 2013, 02:01PM
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Harlie wrote:

How long until Gordon becomes Whiffdon?

I would like to trademark "Void Gordon" right now.

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#43 HallFever
October 04 2013, 10:18AM
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@Supernova

The Nuge should be the second option.

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#44 madjam
October 04 2013, 11:47AM
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Clarko wrote:

This rant is hilarious. "Seasons over a point per game"?? Which season was that? The best he ever achieved was 73 points in 79 games (05/06). His second best point total was 53 points in 80 games.

Premier defensive player?? He had a rating of -22 or worse in three of his last 6 seasons here. Not all his fault, but Horcoff was okay defensively...hardly a premier guy.

And as for the "great" faceoff man?? Horcoff was below 50% in the last 4 seasons he played here.

Horcoff is a great person, but he was very ineffective in that last few seasons.

I was close on point a game clip . 73 in 79 (05-06) and 50 in 53 (07-08) . Most seasons seemed he to be around 50 till last couple . He did play physical if you check out his penalty minutes over the years , far exceeding Gordon's paltry best year of 16 minutes . Gordon has only 6 short handed goals his entire career NHL . Gordon's best offensive year was a paltry 29 points . Horcoff's speed would leave Gordon sucking slew water . Horcoff was a deserving first liner much of his career , Gordon is not that gifted .

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#45 Supernova
October 04 2013, 12:04PM
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HallFever wrote:

The Nuge should be the second option.

agree, he is realistically a year away from being a good second FO option.

Recovering from shoulder surgery, being young and weighing less than average.

I have no problem envisioning RNH as a very capable FO man for his career but we are a ways from there.

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#46 David S
October 04 2013, 09:24PM
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madjam wrote:

Flames get another 2 points on road trip tonite , despite not having perhaps their two best centers in Cammallerri and Colbourne . They are leaving us in the dust , as they play to top of conference . What could be worse ?

*Slap*

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#47 Racki
October 04 2013, 10:51AM
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pkam wrote:

I am not one of those Horcoff haters. But when Racki said Horcoff has more offense than Gordon, the 1st thing came to my mind was that defection by Gordon, and hence my post.

Nothing against Gordon.. I know I'm going to love him, but to toss Horcoff's superior offensive numbers (historically) aside because of one pretty deflection is as narrow minded as it gets.

They don't ask how, just how many. Gordon ' s ability to run with the big boys is underrated though

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#48 Spydyr
October 04 2013, 11:44AM
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Younger,cheaper,no baggage,bigger,meaner, stronger ,a better player at this point in their careers.Other then that exactly the same.

Must be four days between games.

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#49 Oiler63
October 04 2013, 11:51AM
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Retsinnab5 wrote:

Horcoff was a good player, but his contract was a bum.

That said, Kevin Lowe is a bum.

Why is he still here by the way? Yeh right, cause he kisses owners' butt really well.

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#50 Rama Lama
October 04 2013, 01:11PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Oh, yeah, Shawn Horcoff was a terrible skater.

But hey, why let facts get in the way of a nice rant?

Ok so you agree.......he could skate at one time.....everything else I was right on.

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