Faceoffs and Shawn Horcoff

After much hue and cry over the Oilers’ faceoff failures last season, the criticism of the team’s performance in that department has lessened. Of course, a 5-2-1 start lessens the criticism in every department, but the team has actually seen modest improvements, going from 47.9% last year to 49.4% this year.

That 1.5% increase basically works out to one extra faceoff win per game; which suggests that people like me may have raised too much fuss over last season’s struggles in the faceoff circle.

Still, it’s far too early to congratulate Quinn on improving the team’s faceoffs, or to congratulate Steve Tambellini on fixing the problem, because the reality is that the one of the biggest reasons the percentage has shifted is because Pat Quinn is using Shawn Horcoff on more faceoffs than Craig MacTavish did last year.

Consider this simple breakdown:

2008-09 Faceoffs

  • Horcoff: 53.9% success rate
  • Rest of the team: 44.4% success rate
  • Percentage of faceoffs taken by Horcoff: 36.86%

2009-10 Faceoffs

  • Horcoff: 54.0% success rate
  • Rest of the team: 46.3% success rate
  • Percentage of faceoffs taken by Horcoff: 40.50%

When you put all those numbers together, it means that of the 1.5% increase in faceoff percentage, nearly one-third of it (0.4%) was caused simply by Quinn’s decision to use Horcoff more on draws. Much of the rest can be attributed to Andrew Cogliano, who went from being the worst faceoff man in the NHL in the last decade to simply being below-average. If he can keep that up, it will make a significant difference to the Oilers season percentages (and really, it’s a huge leap forward).

The real question though is how much using Horcoff for faceoff duty is hurting this team. Last year, the question of how much those extra faceoffs hurt the rest of Horcoff’s game was raised more than once around the Oilogosphere. This summer, Jason Gregor asked Horcoff about it in an interview (I’d post the link, but it seems to be gone), and Horcoff responded thusly:


"Honestly, there were times where it’s taxing. There were times where at least in the third period I was taking every defensive zone faceoff for the majority of the games, and it gets tough. As easy as it sounds to just jump on the ice, take a faceoff and get off, it saps energy. You don’t get the recovery time on the bench to get your legs back under you. A lot of times I was going on and off the ice four times within a minute and half, two minutes. It was a little bit tough."


"But, like I said, a player never complains about ice time. He enjoys being out there as hard as it is. I enjoy taking faceoffs. I’ve always taken pride in that part. It’s a great one-on-one battle in the game and I like doing it. But, at the same time, a little bit of help would be nice in there."


Last year, Horcoff took 1756 faceoffs. This year, he’s on pace for 1804. Last year, Horcoff led the league in faceoffs taken. This year, he’s on pace to lead the league in faceoffs taken. Last year, he took far more defensive zone than offensive zone draws. This year, he’s taken far more defensive zone than offensive zone draws. Last year, Shawn Horcoff had his worst season since the NHL lockout. This year, given that his regular LW is J-F Jacques and his powerplay time has been reduced, he’ll probably be in tough to match last year’s results.

  • GSC

    Of course this is going to be thrown out there as a reason/excuse for Horcoff's offensive woes. And maybe it is the case.

    Or, could it be that he's just not that good offensively, and that the boxcars of previous years were all smoke and mirrors?

    I'd like to add a stat in regards to Horcoff: number and frequency of whiffs. If he were a baseball player, Horc would be at the bottom of the batting order. He'd be the typical one-dimensional infielder who can field, but can't hit.

    That's how I see it.

    • Oil Fever

      I'd really like to see some numbers behind the "whiffs" Horc is putting, I was at the game Tuesday and was watching for "whiffs" from other guys, Horc had a couple but so did Grebs/Vish/Hemsky and a few others.

      Everyone is beeting the whiff drum, lets see someone put some proofs behind the endless claims.

    • I've made up my mind on Horcoff, as I assume most people around here have.

      The idea that four years of results – results which put Horcoff right in with Chris Drury and Daymond Langkow – are 'smoke and mirrors' seems dumb to me, but suit yourself.

      Most guys don't have careers as long as the number of games Horcoff has played since the lockout.

      • GSC

        So, rather than stick to the math and stats that you swear by and almost always cite, you just go with "I've made up my mind on Horcoff"?

        That's fine, but don't expect others to simply let that slide.

        As for the "smoke and mirrors" remark, that's why I said could be. I wanted to see what you had to say about it, since you and the other stats guys usually look beyond the boxcars.

        Long story short, my point is that you're just as guilty of bias towards a player as the rest of us.

        • If you haven't been convinced by the other 3000 articles I've written with the math, I'm not going to convince you by telling you about defensive zone draws, quality of competition, or that Horcoff's easily one of the NHL' 100-best offensive forwards since the lockout.

          So why should I waste my time?

          • GSC

            Your idea of convincing someone is to revolve everything around a certain statistical formula and stick to it…except when it starts to take a negative turn, like it is here.

            All I wanted was to know why you aren't following your usual methods of evaluation here? You responded with an answer basically stating that you're biased.

            Why should I be convinced? Because your stats said so? Those same stats are telling a different story now, and you choose to ignore it because you're just as capable of bias as the rest of us.

          • GSC

            And we return to the fact that you have an agenda. How many of those articles that you've written centre around Horcoff?

            The masses aren't happy with Horcoff, you and some other bloggers decide to form a different argument based on statistical formulas in order to present a counter. Fine, that's cool.

            But now that there's the possibility that the majority of fans who aren't happy with Horcoff might be right, you retreat to that same old agenda and throw some more crap at everyone to digest. Really, what was your reason for posting this article? Because Horcoff's production is down and the heat is on when it comes to prognosticators claiming that he's not going to produce.

            We all get what you're trying to do. You want to come across as the more cerebral or intellectual hockey fan. That might work for arguing against some out there, but not all.

          • ~You know what? You're absolutely right.

            The fact that I've written a number of articles about Horcoff clearly shows bias. After all, how many articles should an Oilers' blogger write about the team's first line centre? Maybe one?

            Yes, after four years, eight games with poor results clearly show the masses were right all along. Because my agenda precludes honest evaluation of the subject, I need to toss out an article.

            I'm primarily motivated by a desire to appear smart, something which becomes mopre and more doubtful every day.~

            As for my motives, you don't have a clue.

            You don't know, for example, that I decided I was going to write an article entitled "Pat Quinn's Faceoff Solution" and explain how Quinn had improved the Oilers' faceoff numbers. You don't know that when I looked at the data I realized a good chunk of the cause was because he was using Horcoff more than MacTavish did. You don't know that once I realized that Horcoff was going to be used in the same role as last year (albeit with less powerplay time) I decided I'd refocus the article on that.

            No – all you know is that I think Horcoff's a more valuable player than you do, that I talked about his role in the article, and that you're right and I'm wrong. Therefore, the whole thing must have come about because of some grand plot of mine.

            But go ahead, keep guessing my motives. Your ignorance of them hasn't kept your mouth shut so far, so there's no reason that it should in the future.

          • GSC

            Of course I didn't know where you were going with this article to begin with, or what the title was, or the rationale you used. Why not state that in your findings? "I began to research (such and such), but found this…" That kind of thing makes your research look less biased.

            You're explaining this to me now, postmortem. Why not do this in the article itself? That's what I was looking for, JW. The fact that you entitled the article "Faceoffs and Shawn Horcoffs" is suggestive, at least to me it is.

            As for your agenda, it's simple to see really: why would you evaluate the statistics and write these articles if you're not trying to persuade someone to agree with you?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    We may not have an issue right now with faceoffs, but lets see what happens when Horcoff isn't in the lineup. Then what happens?

    It is nice to see guys getting better on the draw, well except O'Sullivan who looks like Cogliano did last year.

    The smart hockey guys will tell you faceoffs mean very little if you know what to do when you lose a faceoff. Seems to me that is the area that Quinn has worked on.