Gregor discusses the season with Horcoff

Horcoff scores on a hapless goalie

You know that feeling of dread when you stroll up to a party of your better half’s co-workers, or going out with your buddy after his wife/gf just dumped him, or your annual evaluation with the boss. You walk in wishing you could be somewhere else.

At the party you are forced to talk to people you don’t know or don’t like, and then you have to stay sober so the lady can have her three coolers.

Your buddy is devastated and maybe even cries. You feel awkward and try to convince him to just get drunk and hit on another girl. This turns out to be the worst advice because after six beers and a few shots, he is telling you about how he can’t go on without her. Even worse he talks to a girl and starts telling her about his ex. You watch in horror as he crashes and burns because you know he will come to you looking to be consoled.

Your boss asks you all sorts of impossible-to-answer-correctly type of questions.

What are you goals for next year?

What are your weaknesses?

How do you plan to maximize your time?

As the sweat beads down your brow, you struggle through the agonizing 30 minutes relieved just to get out of there without having to hear about his family holiday.

Well today that’s how it felt at Oilers practice. None of them wanted to be there, and neither did any media types. They might has well have had the game-day music director playing one of his usual downer songs in the locker room. (Honestly the music in the third period of the Kings game was the worst EVER).

Craig MacTavish wasn’t available, and since the Oilers won’t have a morning skate tomorrow or Saturday, MacTavish will only do post-game interviews until Monday when the Oilers have their final availability.

The Oil have missed the playoffs five of MacTavish’s last seven years, but I can’t recall a time where he went unavailable for three straight mornings. It signifies how distraught and disappointed the organization is as a whole.

They expected better, they expected to compete for the division, not a top-ten draft pick.

Is MacT’s unusual silence foreshadowing a move this summer? I sure think so. Granted there isn’t much he can say right now about the team, but I think his silence shows he doesn’t want to talk about the future, at least not until the season is over.

Outside of the coach’s future, another hot topic this summer will be how can Shawn Horcoff possibly live up to his $7 million deal next year?

Horcoff, was the consummate pro today and stood in and answered my questions.


JG: Did you play more power on power this year, and did it hinder your offence?

SH: I definitely played in more defensive situations and more defensive minutes this year than the previous two. Could I still have produced more offence with the role I had this year? Absolutely. I didn’t get off to the start I wanted. For whatever reason the first 15 to 20 games were a tough start for me. I need to work on something this summer and be better offensively next year.

JG: That contract doesn’t start until next season. When you signed it, was the expectation to be in a situation where you could live up to it? Do you need to be put in a situation where you will be given an opportunity to live up to it?

SH: I didn’t get that contract just off my offensive numbers, though, I think that’s what people need to realize. What puts me in that type of pay scale is a lot of the intangibles that I bring, the situations that I play, the minutes, the face-offs and the defensive minutes. But you are probably right, in order to put up 65 to 70+ points a year, you have to play offensive situation and pure offensive minutes. Without those minutes, it will be tough for anyone. But I have to finish better, that’s obvious.

JG: You led the league in face-offs, and played a lot of minutes. There’s a big difference between playing 20 minutes rather than 24. Were you fatigued at times?

SH: For the first time in my career, this year there were times where I hit rock-bottom maybe a little bit. There were games with 26, 25, 24 minutes and they’re not easy minutes. I’m a centreman who plays in a lot of defensive situations, with a lot of skating. I tried to stay in the best shape possible, but there are times in the schedule where it’s impossible. You’re playing seven games in 12 nights on the road and it’s impossible to get recovery time.

I talked to Mac numerous times during the year about trying to lower the minutes, and get guys in different situations, but at the end of the day he said it was a matter of having confidence and being able to get it done.

For me, I won’t question anything (ice-time) that comes my way. I enjoy the minutes. You want to be on the ice and play as much as you can. I think hockey players have that attitude that they are unbreakable and won’t get tired. But I think this year showed me that at times you can play too many minutes.

JG: When Oates was here did he help you that much in the face-off? Can you parlay that advice to Cogliano and Gagner?

SH: Oates helped me a little bit. I had a pretty decent base to start with, though. With face-offs you have to find something that works for yourself and you have to work on them. It’s a lot of timing now with the new rules not being able to cheat. You have to work on it throughout the year. It’s a lot of hand strength, wrist strength and the best guys in the league are really strong on their stick. It takes time to learn the guys around the league and what their tendencies are and what they like to do. And there is a big mental aspect to it. Face-offs are tough. I think you either have it or you don’t. With hard work you can get better, but you need a good base.

Cogs wants to get better. He asks a lot of questions and he has been working on it. He is still young and I think he will get better.


Make no mistake; Horcoff understands he will be under the radar more than ever next year. Regardless of his intangibles, he will need to score closer to 75-80 points to appease the masses and come close to living up to his new contract.

It was clear from Horcoff and a few others that this year really hurt. You could tell they believed they were better than an 11th place team. I’ve covered this team during the other four non-playoff years, and I never sensed they were this annoyed.

Sure, they were disappointed when they missed the playoffs in 2008, 2007, 2004 and 2002 but this year their faces were longer, their words shorter and the heartbreak deeper.

Too often lately the summer has filled the fans with more hope and belief than the actual games.

This summer, the personnel changes, the draft picks and the free-agent signings have to be ones that will make this organization better. A summer of discontent is unacceptable.

  • RossCreek

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    What are your thoughts on the captaincy? Regardless of your thoughts on Moreau, if he were to be replaced, throw out some names & reasons. I'll give you 2 to start with – Horcoff & Souray.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ RossCreek:
    I don't think Moreu should be replaced as captain, so why would I throw out names? That doesn't mean I don't think he could or should be traded.
    Besides, and it's been said before, a leader in the room and a leader on the ice isn't determined by who has a C sewn on their jersey.

  • oilgirl

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    I like Moreau as a captain too. I think he provides great leadership in the room and works well with the A's. A lot has been written about a rift in the room this year and I'm wondering if it's more of an age gap than a rift? I'm wondering if next year one of the younger guys needs to be included in the A's to help bridge that gap between the two age groups? What are you thoughts on a shakeup with the A's if Moreau isn't going anywhere as captain?

  • Tyler wrote:

    I do it every now and again – like I say, if the clip is available, I’d like to hear what Olczyk actually says but based on my reading of the CBA, Gregor is just wrong.
    I assume he’ll retract the “moron” gibe in due course.

    I put in a call to Rick to get clarification. If I'm wrong I have no problem admitting it. As for the moron comment, go back and read the posts, I only used that word because you used it first.

    I find it interesting that if I decide to stand up for myself when someone refers to me as a moron, that then I'm the bad guy…haha.

    People want to run at me I will stand up for myself. When someone questions me without a snide remark, then I respond the same.

    If indeed you are correct, then what is the point of paying guys 7 million one year and 3 in the last year? If the cap hit is the only number that matters why wouldn't they just put 5.5 across the board like they do with many of them. I'll ask Rick that.

    And your original point about how the contract declines and ends at 3 million year, and that is what he is worth at that time seems to contradict the cap hit theory.

    So if Horcoff is only 5.5 hit next year, then in the 6th year his 5.5 hit would look possibly worse than what it will next year. If his cap hit is constant then the last year of his deal doesn't make it any better than the first year. Or did I misinterpret what you meant.

    If I misunderstood Rick, it wouldn't be the first time I'm wrong…

    If I am, I'll admit it, but that still doesn't make Horcoff's contract any better. He hasn't come close to being as productive or efficient as guys who make his type of money. And with the cap going down, you have to agree that his contract will become more of a hinderance then, because it will limit them on bringing in a top end scorer, because their cap space is limited due to Horcoff's overpriced salary.

  • Mike wrote:

    In all fairness, Gregor could have posted his interpretation of how the salary cap works without calling the previous poster a moron.

    Mike the only reason I used that word, was because he referenced it first. As I've shown and stated. If people want to question my opinion, or facts that is great. I've responded to many of them, and when the questioning doesn't involve snide remarks I will respond the same.

    Sure, maybe I shouldn't have used it, but certain people feel the need to be derogatory so sometimes you respond in kind. I could have been the more mature one, but in this case I chose not to. I'll live with my decision.

  • RossCreek

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    If indeed you are correct, then what is the point of paying guys 7 million one year and 3 in the last year? If the cap hit is the only number that matters why wouldn’t they just put 5.5 across the board like they do with many of them. I’ll ask Rick that.

    For buy-out/trade purposes. If a team wants to buy a guy out, its only 2/3's of the actual $. Some teams have a budget much lower than the cap. Those teams are more interested in actual $'s than the cap hit. Every team would love to add Martin St. Louis (cap hit-5.25, actual $'s next yr-4). Only the rich teams would consider Daniel Briere (cap hit-6.5, actual $'s next yr-8). Make sense?

  • Tyler

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    I find it interesting that if I decide to stand up for myself when someone refers to me as a moron, that then I’m the bad guy…haha.

    Read it again Gregor. What I wrote was that only a moron is hung up on the fact that they're paying him $7MM in a year in which his cap hit is $5.5MM because the $7MM is irrelevant. I didn't say that you're a moron.

    In any event, if you're going to pull out the guns, you'd better be right.

    If indeed you are correct, then what is the point of paying guys 7 million one year and 3 in the last year? If the cap hit is the only number that matters why wouldn’t they just put 5.5 across the board like they do with many of them. I’ll ask Rick that.

    If cash isn't a concern, it's a way to hedge against a decline in performance. In Horcoff's case, the Oilers are paying him more cash for the seasons in which they're more certain about his performance and more certain that they'll want him as part of their team. In the more distant future, they have less certainty at the moment that they'll want him. Paying him less then makes it easier to move him somewhere else if they've decided that the time has come to part ways.

    So if Horcoff is only 5.5 hit next year, then in the 6th year his 5.5 hit would look possibly worse than what it will next year. If his cap hit is constant then the last year of his deal doesn’t make it any better than the first year. Or did I misinterpret what you meant.

    My point was purely that bitching about his $7MM for next year is silly, because he makes $3MM in year 6 and, therefore, his cap hit is lower than $7MM in year 1.

  • RossCreek

    @ RossCreek:
    To put it another way, lets use Dustin Penner.
    With his 5 years, at 4.25 each his total buyout would be 8.5.
    If he made 5.75 in yr 1, 4.25, in yr 2,3,4 and 2.75 in yr 5, his total buyout would be 7.5.

  • Oilersordeath

    How about Horc takes a pay cut down to around 5.5-5.75 mil, then he might not feel so guilty signing a contract like that. Thats gotta be eating at em.

  • Oilersordeath wrote:

    How about Horc takes a pay cut down to around 5.5-5.75 mil, then he might not feel so guilty signing a contract like that. Thats gotta be eating at em.

    Why would Horcoff feel guilty? The team signed him. Kevin Lowe offered him the contract, he is the one that should be getting more heat if Horcoff doesn't produce numbers equal to his salary.

    And under the CBA you can't re-negotiate a deal once it has been signed, gone are the days of players holding out for more money, and ripping up existing contracts.

  • Tyler wrote:

    My point was purely that bitching about his $7MM for next year is silly, because he makes $3MM in year 6 and, therefore, his cap hit is lower than $7MM in year 1.

    I never bitched about it. But even at a $5.5 cap hit he will be hard pressed to live up to that, when you compare his numbers to guys around the league making that.

    On his own team, he will be taking home almost double what Hemsky makes. Right or wrong, that contract will be almost impossible for him to live up to. But moreso the organization looks terrible for signing him to that deal.
    Tyler wrote:

    Paying him less then makes it easier to move him somewhere else if they’ve decided that the time has come to part ways.

    While the team that takes him gets to pay him less, they still have to take on the $5.5 cap hit, and that will be hard to swallow if he at that time is down to a 3rd line player. Either way, I think right now his contract makes him virtually untradeable.

  • RossCreek

    Sounds like MacT's season may NOT be over. Sources indicate he's on the shortlist to be named Canada's coach at the yearly World Championship (otherwise known as the Oilers playoffs). One step closer to being named an assistant for the Olympic team? Maybe.

  • Ogden Brother

    To be fair, one of the main drawbacks of the contract is the impending dropping cap… The contract was signed (or at least announced) on July 17th, 2008 everyone knew the cap COULD go down if league rev went down, and their was even some rumblings that we could be facing a reccesion, the DJIA and TSX were (roughly) 50% higher then they are today. Keeping in mind that the markets are a leading indicator, it's pretty hard to get down on some former hockey players for not knowing the depth of the upcoming reccession when the minds of the collective investment world hadn't figured it out yet.

    Even taking a moderate 7% growth (cap had been growing in the 12%ish range since it was instituted) would have given us a caps of

    60
    64
    68
    73
    79
    84

    over the life of Horcs contract, making his 5.5 in %

    9.2%
    8.6%
    8%
    7.5%
    6.9%
    6.4%

    Of the total cap. In todays $$ terms (56 cap) those % works out to a $ player:

    $5.1
    $4.8
    $4.5
    $4.2
    $3.8
    $3.5

    The above $ amount would make you the current __ paid center in the league:

    16th
    20th
    24th
    28th
    38th
    46th

    Points for centers in those spots put up this year:

    70
    66
    59
    57
    50
    46

    I for one don't want to punish the team for not seeing the financial $hit storm 1-2 months before the financial professionals did, So the question should be: Do you think Horc can put up the above point totals over the next 6 years? (remember that's assuming only a 7% growth rate… taking the 12% – 13% growth we've been seeing since the cap would change those drastically…. though maintaining 10%+ growth was probably unatainable)

  • Ogden Brother wrote:

    To be fair, one of the main drawbacks of the contract is the impending dropping cap… The contract was signed (or at least announced) on July 17th, 2008 everyone knew the cap COULD go down if league rev went down, and their was even some rumblings that we could be facing a reccesion, the DJIA and TSX were (roughly) 50% higher then they are today. Keeping in mind that the markets are a leading indicator, it’s pretty hard to get down on some former hockey players for not knowing the depth of the upcoming reccession when the minds of the collective investment world hadn’t figured it out yet.

    It is fair not to chastise the Oilers regarding the cap, but, regardless of what the cap would have been in the future, Horcoff had done nothing to prove he was worth $33 million over six years.

    Why the rush to lock him up at that time? Were they worried that Horcoff would become Ryan Smyth at the deadline?

    Paying Horcoff more than he is worth because the cap was probably going to go up is not a sound business decision. Was Horcoff going to be their number one center long-term? If not, there was no point paying him like one. Gagner might be the number one next year, and almost surely he will be in 2010/2011.

    They jumped the gun on extending Horcoff. I can’t see any reason why that extension needed to be handed out last July, regardless of the pending financial landscape.

    The last four years we have seen a trend from Horcoff. Good year (73pts), bad year (51), good year (50 in 53 games), bad year (50 this year). If he continues that trend, then he might be able to live up to the numbers you put out.

    But I’m not sure he will be a first line PP guy next year, and that will make it hard to reach 75 points. It is possible, but up to this point in his career he hasn’t shown an ability to be a consistent scorer year to year. So why did he get a six year extension at $33 million? It just doesn’t add up.

  • Ogden Brother

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    To be fair, one of the main drawbacks of the contract is the impending dropping cap… The contract was signed (or at least announced) on July 17th, 2008 everyone knew the cap COULD go down if league rev went down, and their was even some rumblings that we could be facing a reccesion, the DJIA and TSX were (roughly) 50% higher then they are today. Keeping in mind that the markets are a leading indicator, it’s pretty hard to get down on some former hockey players for not knowing the depth of the upcoming reccession when the minds of the collective investment world hadn’t figured it out yet.
    It is fair not to chastise the Oilers regarding the cap, but, regardless of what the cap would have been in the future, Horcoff had done nothing to prove he was worth $33 million over six years.
    Why the rush to lock him up at that time? Were they worried that Horcoff would become Ryan Smyth at the deadline?
    Paying Horcoff more than he is worth because the cap was probably going to go up is not a sound business decision. Was Horcoff going to be their number one center long-term? If not, there was no point paying him like one. Gagner might be the number one next year, and almost surely he will be in 2010/2011.
    They jumped the gun on extending Horcoff. I can’t see any reason why that extension needed to be handed out last July, regardless of the pending financial landscape.
    The last four years we have seen a trend from Horcoff. Good year (73pts), bad year (51), good year (50 in 53 games), bad year (50 this year). If he continues that trend, then he might be able to live up to the numbers you put out.
    But I’m not sure he will be a first line PP guy next year, and that will make it hard to reach 75 points. It is possible, but up to this point in his career he hasn’t shown an ability to be a consistent scorer year to year. So why did he get a six year extension at $33 million? It just doesn’t add up.

    I agree it was early, but we have the help of hindsight confirming that for us. All the negative "if's" have worked out:

    Regressed back a 50 point player
    Cap will likely be down a little this year
    Big economic uncertainty still on the horizon

    But if all (or even some) of the positive "if's" would have come to pass (and still may) his contract is a whole other story.

    Continue his 25-28 goal 72-78 point pace of last year
    Continued cap growth
    Solid economic future

    His contract would have been more then fair.

    Touched on it before, but if you really want to look at "value for money" then you should look how high he is on the pay scale for his position and then where the production is for that range.

    ie, Horc will likely be the 20th (roughly) highest paid center next year. 20th highest scoring center has 66 points (only one game left). Does 20-25 goals, 65-70 points look like an unresonable number for him next year? He'll have to pick it up, but it certainly wouldn't be without precedence for him to do it.

    Theirs a really good chance he'll be out of the top 30 highest paid centers halfway through that contract. Currently the 30th – 35th highest scoring centers have 52 – 56 points… resonable numbers for him to put up 3 years out.

  • Ogden Brother

    @ Jason Gregor:

    Also, if he did continue last years pace and the cap went to 60 this year, he'd easily command 6.5+ on the open market.

    It was clearly a risky move, but with the way this team attracts and maintains talent, I can see the reasoning behind it, and in my mind it had merit.

    In all honesty, it's the term I'm more worried about. 4 years would have been plenty.

  • RossCreek

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Why the rush to lock him up at that time? Were they worried that Horcoff would become Ryan Smyth at the deadline?

    After trading Stoll, the Oilers were heading into the season with 3 sophomore centers and Horcoff. Had they held on to Stoll, there wouldn't have been as much pressure to get the Horcoff deal done. After moving him, they (I assume) felt they had to make sure and lock Horcoff up and gave him a hefty deal to ensure that.