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, Sportsnet, 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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#51 Smokey
October 04 2013, 01:39PM
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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?

No he isn't. He was faster 5 years ago, and the last couple years he lost a step but its not anywhere as close to what Smyth has lost. Guy skates perfectly fine and always has. At 34-35 he's what anyone could expect of him.

If anything Horcoff has lost is his hands. Guy use to be able to carry a puck over the blue line and make passes and plays. The good ol days he was dynamite cycling the puck especially with Smyth. His one timer went a way and his timing never came back.

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#52 madjam
October 04 2013, 08:04PM
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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 ?

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#53 Cowbell_Feva
October 05 2013, 04:24AM
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I would take the Flames defense over the Oilers. I love Justin Schultz's offense but in my mind, the rest of the Oilers defensemen are 5,6,7,8 guys trying to fill 1,2,3,4 spots.

It has been their achilles heel for many years in a row now, and a few KHL exiles and Ference are very minor upgrades of what the team iced last year.

Add bad goaltending and you have a recipe for basement dwelling for years on end, no matter how good the fowards may be. Eventually a team will get hemmed in their own zone. Playoff teams have Dmen that can outlet the puck tape to tape or skate a player open. Brodie, Russel, Giordano and Wideman can do that, and they still aren't a playoff team. The Oilers have J.Schultz and then.....??

Don't get me wrong, I hate the Flames, and the Oilers will finish slightly above them, but I can't see the Oil making the playoffs with the current blueline and goaltending.

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#54 Cowbell_Feva
October 05 2013, 04:26AM
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Oh, and I take Gordon over Horcoff anyday. Horcoff scored some points nearly a decade ago. I take the smaller cap hit and better faceoff percentage along with some offense. That tip the other night for example.

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#55 hockeycrazed
October 04 2013, 11:54AM
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We are not here to talk politics nor should we be discussing how much money who's making, it's between the team and the player. As player goes, Horcoff has serve as an adequate captain for the Oil, and in most games he performs well as he could ( mind you, he played hurt a lot of his time here ), now that he's traded, we shouldn't be talking ill of him at all.... everybody gets old, everybody has bad games from time to time. Not knocking Gordon at all, but he's still got to play a bit more here to prove his worth to the team!

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#56 Tommyjr26
October 04 2013, 01:46PM
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@Jonathan Willis

JW,

Horcoff is not an Eakin's type of player. Shawn (and I know the biggest strike against Horcoff was his payday) seldom finished checks. If they published turn away stats, he would lead the team. At his best he would rub a guy out, but never with any intent.

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#57 OILERSORDEATH
October 04 2013, 03:06PM
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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?

I do remember Horc fanning alot of shots and missing wide open nets. thats why I broke the remote about 6 times.

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#58 OILERSORDEATH
October 04 2013, 03:08PM
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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.

LOL! Dude you couldn't of nailed it more on the head than that! Epic

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#59 Rama Lama
October 04 2013, 04:22PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

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

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

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#60 Ducey
October 04 2013, 06:04PM
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ginganinja wrote:

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

Maybe they plan to rumble with Vancouver and want some more beef - although you would think they would go with Eager? Good question.

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#61 madjam
October 04 2013, 08:42PM
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Error on Colbourn as he was playing , but Stajan was out . Whats our excuse ? Jets taking it to Kings tonite .

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#62 pkam
October 04 2013, 10:47AM
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geoilersgist wrote:

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.

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.

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#63 pkam
October 04 2013, 11:08AM
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Racki wrote:

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

Except the last 2 years, Horcoff had been playing top 6 with PP time, and if I am correct, Gordon was playing 4th line most of his career. Is it reasonable to compare stats with different linemates, different ice time and pp time?

Horcoff was playing mostly 3rd line last couple of years with top 6 minutes when there is injury to RNH and Gagner, and some PP time. And I see very little difference in their stats. I wonder if Gordon will have the same or better stats if he is given the chance that Horcoff has.

Not saying who is better, but those stats are not a fair comparison.

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#64 Noelpm
October 04 2013, 03:10PM
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The only thing I notice with Gordon on the draw, is the style he uses. He gets very low which is effective; however, he cannot generate enough power to move the puck back all the way to the D. Wingers need to get on top of this and collect the lose puck when he does win those faceoffs. One of the goals against on Tuesday came on this kind of scenario when the Oilers won the faceoff, yet the Jets were able to beat them to the puck. Just one little adjustment from the wingers will make all the difference.

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#65 madjam
October 04 2013, 09:53PM
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We are in our 8th year of rebuild and Flames about 8 months ? Where did we go wrong ? How can Flames be above us already ? Must be our weather . Flame fans , what are you hiding ?

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#66 TigerUnderGlass
October 05 2013, 11:20PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

NO........simply a superior hockey player.

To be clear, you believe I'm dreaming when I say Gordon is not bigger than Horcoff because Gordon is better at hockey?

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#67 Supernova
October 04 2013, 10:58AM
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Klima's Mullet wrote:

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

One game against a team that is also known to be weak at center.

Thats not a area to be proud of.

how would they fair against San Jose? LA?

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#68 Racki
October 04 2013, 11:16AM
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pkam wrote:

Except the last 2 years, Horcoff had been playing top 6 with PP time, and if I am correct, Gordon was playing 4th line most of his career. Is it reasonable to compare stats with different linemates, different ice time and pp time?

Horcoff was playing mostly 3rd line last couple of years with top 6 minutes when there is injury to RNH and Gagner, and some PP time. And I see very little difference in their stats. I wonder if Gordon will have the same or better stats if he is given the chance that Horcoff has.

Not saying who is better, but those stats are not a fair comparison.

It isn't completely fair comparing, no, but this is also why I said "a bit less offense". I don't think there's a big difference, but I still think prime Horc > prime Gordon, offensively. Just thought it seemed a bit of a "seen him good moment", pointing out Gordon's deflection (which really was nice though) as something that Horc couldn't ever do. Not sure how many times Gordon has accurately picked the five hole on a breakaway or shootout, for example.. The number of times Horc has "crested" it would make that irrelevant of course.

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#69 Harlie
October 04 2013, 01:58PM
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ginganinja wrote:

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*

How long until Gordon becomes Whiffdon?

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#70 Cynic
October 04 2013, 07:02PM
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Boyd Gordon is playing at least 2 lines above his talent level. But hey, you'll find out soon enough.

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#71 Harlie
October 04 2013, 07:59PM
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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 love Supertramp. Or at least did back in the 80's. Kinda embarrassing as they are basically the world's first boy band. But some good tune's..so I dig the reFerence.

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#72 Rama Lama
October 05 2013, 03:35PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

NO........simply a superior hockey player.

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