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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#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 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 Rama Lama
October 05 2013, 03:35PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

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

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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 HallFever
October 04 2013, 10:18AM
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@Supernova

The Nuge should be the second option.

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#65 916oiler
October 04 2013, 10:57AM
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Good signing by Mac Attack!

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#66 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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#67 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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#68 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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#69 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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#70 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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#71 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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#72 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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