Horcoff and Die

The first time I noticed Shawn Horcoff, a pretty pass was zipping through the slot in a fall 2000 scrimmage. The intended target didn’t get the pass, as his stick had been raised by his shadow; the two skaters faded from the scene, the puck safely out of harm’s way. The shadow? Shawn Horcoff. His mark on that play? Long forgotten. Shawn Horcoff showed everyone early on he had the ability to play a complete game.

The fall 2000 Oilers had a plethora of new hires up front. An entire line (the Bulldog line: Brian Swanson, Michel Riesen, Dan Cleary) were joined by Dan Lacouture and Dom Pittis; Horcoff and Mike Comrie were sent away. Comrie forced the issue and made the grade mid-season, but by that time Horcoff was already there.

Horcoff’s early years included many struggles (he had a galling tendency to pass the puck along his own blueline) and early in his NHL career it wasn’t clear he was going to score enough to play a major role. However, "Horc" answered every request from the coach and eventually moved up the depth chart to the top line C job (Doug Weight owned it when he arrived, Nugent-Hopkins will probably own it when he leaves) and has had his share of good times and bad since taking on that difficult role.

Many Oiler fans consider Shawn Horcoff an overpaid, undertalented fraud; don’t count me among them. Shawn Horcoff is a throwback type, a player who doesn’t see himself as a special case and doesn’t press for a specific role that suits his skills best. No sir. He’s a two-way center with heart, a solid option for a team that hasn’t enjoyed an impact player up the middle since Weight was sent to St. Louis years ago.

Today, the Oilers named Shawn Horcoff captain. His coach said that as part of the selection process he had asked all of the players for their choice. Horcoff’s name was front and center throughout the conversations. Ales Hemsky said "they couldn’t have picked a better guy" and I’m inclined to agree. There are things a fan like me can’t know about the inner workings of a hockey team; however, anyone who has watched this team since fall 2000 can tell you Shawn Horcoff answered every call, left it all out on the ice and delivered to the best of his ability.

I can’t think of a better man for these young kids to look up to as they grow into NHL players over the next few seasons. Horcoff will no doubt play the "Stan Weir" role on the ice, and will deliver in very important off-ice roles as well. Good choice, Tom Renney. And for those who don’t appreciate Horcoff’s talents, I offer the title of this post as a friendly suggestion.

  • Slapshot

    Al

    When Horcoff continues to have a cap hit at age 35 and 36 of $5.5m and is playing on our 3rd or 4th line, that is a HORRIBLE contract. Real solid player we are just paying way too much, for WAY too long

    • OK. The contract could have been better thought out in terms of cap hit. granted. I still don’t have a problem paying a hard working forward of medium skill above a skilled forward with an ego and no work ethic.

      AL

  • Clay

    Being in Calgary, I’m literally the only Oiler Fan in a building full of Flames fans. Most of them are the typical bandwagoners (“Is Lanny coming back soon? I think he could turn this around!”), but there are a handful of real hockey hounds, and we have some good natured back-and-forth about our teams.

    To a man, they all sincerely like Horcoff.

    The one guy I get into it most with always says that the best part of the Oilers ’06 run (besides that they didn’t add to their cup total) was Horcoff sticking his face in front of Lidstrom’s shot, and MacT running out on the ice to check on him.

    If you want a leader to set example for the youngin’s, who better than a guy who never complains, always gives it his all, plays through injury, and does everything asked of him.

  • Paq Twinn

    I like most fans believe his 70 point season was an abberation, but I also believe last year falls in the same catagory. Horc has always been a consistant, heart and soul trooper. Plus he was the only logical choice due to the above statement and the length of his tenure here in Edmonton. He’ll bounce back and make every Oiler fan forget about his sub par performance of 09/10.

  • Paq Twinn

    IMO, Raffi Torres and Fernando Pisani own the two worst contracts in Oilers history. Though Mr. Souray could be a contender if this whole messy thing drags out to the term of that contract.

    I’d even make the case that Nilsson’s contract was worse. Sure Horc had a hideous year last season, but they guy played hurt with a shoulder injury that would sideline most players.

    Here’s hoping he looks more like the Horcoff of old, with the entrusting him of the “C” as part of what gets him there.

  • PerryK

    This is what ESPN said in just before the Stanley Cup Final..

    HERO — SHAWN HORCOFF

    About 10 guys on this team epitomize Oilers hockey — speedy, hard-nosed, relentless, humble play. Shawn Horcoff epitomizes the guys who epitomize Oilers hockey.

    The 27-year-old native of Trail, British Columbia, has bounced back and forth between the NHL and the minors, has been a healthy scratch and generally was a man without a role on the Oilers. But this season, he’s emerged as the team’s No. 1 center. Actually, emerged doesn’t cover it; scrabbled, clawed, elbowed and scratched is more like it.

    Although he entered this spring with modest playoff experience (11 games), Horcoff is tied with Chris Pronger for the team lead with 17 points, 16 of which have come in the last 15 games. More impressive, 12 of those points have come playing 5-on-5, when point production is at a premium. Those points are a true illustration of Horcoff’s importance and how much he’ll be counted on during the finals against Carolina.

    Only Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour has won more than Horcoff’s 220 faceoffs, so he’ll likely spend a lot of time hunched over across from Brind’Amour with games on the line.

    Although Horcoff’s journey has been bumpy at best to this point, coach Craig MacTavish calls his positional play “impeccable.”

    As for the 6-foot-1, 204-pound former Michigan State star, Horcoff insists he’s giving as much now as he did when he first came into the league in 2000-01. Now, he’s just getting a lot more in return. Said Horcoff during the Western Conference finals: “This is 20-something years in the making.”

    ______________________

    Question – was the Horcoff contract and the Souray “affair” an overreaction to the Pronger snub ?

  • PerryK

    Now for some thing totally different:

    Do you guys think that this situation is akin to promoting the Union Rep to Foreman (“Captain”) as a standard Union busting strategy?

    ~

  • Anyone on here who dislikes a player’s game, ability, effort and passion simply because of the contract they were given is a fool.

    Many of our favorite Oilers had some less – than – pleasing seasons. If the whole city is against him, then the whole city is on his side to turn things around.

  • Clyde Frog

    Does it matter, at all what his contract is? When we signed him to the contract do you haters have an actual 1st line centre to replace him with? Have we crippled our team and let free agents get away because we couldn’t manage the cap with his contract?

    If we didn’t re-up and Horcoff walked, what would we have replaced him… Ethan Moreau?

    Have you forgotten how close we came to being the team with Wade Redden’s contract? You can make a case that Horcoff’s salary defended us against that blunder.

    I don’t get the hate, it’s not like anything really would have changed if we let him go. He wasn’t a lead weight around a good teams neck, he was a decent player who played on some pretty terrible teams.

  • OnlyOil

    LT good read…I couldn’t think of a better captain going forward till one of the kids are deemed ready for that role. Horc was selected 99th overall, if there is a player who knows what it takes to make the NHL, it’s Horc. He’s all blood guts and determination with some talent sprinkled in there. He will show the young guys what it takes to be a very good pro.

  • OnlyOil

    Horcoff has played both good and bad for the Oil, but there’s one thing we can say for sure. He never quit. Even when almost EVERY single fan did!

    I like that character, and if he can shoulder the mistakes for the kids the same way he has taken his lumps on his own, and still come out and face the music, he can earn a lot closer to his contract JUST FOR THAT!

    He’s got a big job ahead of him, but frankly, he’s never implied he won’t try his best, and as a captain leading by example is 80% of the the job.