Simply The Best

This is Shawn Horcoff before the turn of the century. Although many Oiler fans have been calling for his head since 2007, Horcoff remains the best center in town. Will that change any time soon? 

Shawn Horcoff is the most complete center on the Oilers roster. He faced the toughest opponents, had the best faceoff percentage, was entrusted with the elite calibre rookies. In every demonstrable way, Shawn Horcoff was the leader of the Edmonton Oilers. Again.

Center: 5×5 scoring (points-per-60 minutes)

  1. Sam Gagner 1.91
  2. Shawn Horcoff 1.47
  3. Andrew Cogliano 1.33
  4. Colin Fraser 0.48

Center: Quality of Competition

  1. Shawn Horcoff .057
  2. Andrew Cogliano .022
  3. Sam Gagner -.013
  4. Colin Fraser -.086

Center CorsiRel

  1. Sam Gagner 7.0
  2. Shawn Horcoff 7.0
  3. Andrew Cogliano 2.3
  4. Colin Fraser -9.6

Center: Scoring Chances

  1. Shawn Horcoff 199-186 .517
  2. Andrew Cogliano 290-329 .468
  3. Sam Gagner 271-317 .461
  4. Colin Fraser 90-135 .400

The first three sets of numbers are courtesy Gabriel Desjardins behind the net, the final numbers (scoring chances) are from the brilliant work at C&B.

What does it all mean?

The Oilers have two very young centermen trying to grow up quickly in Gagner and Cogliano. Gags numbers show the offensive ability and a fine CorsiRel, but he faced easy competition and the scoring chance numbers should have been better. Was this a result of his struggles with the two Swedish kids? Don’t know. We are reaching a point where even the most stubborn Gagner supporters (me, Zona, a few others) should begin to wonder if he’s going to be the player forecast those years ago. I’m still betting on him.

Cogliano is making progress, and I think coach Renney has been helpful in the process. Cogs isn’t scoring a lot and his scoring chance totals are about the same as Gagner’s but he did it in tougher waters. It’s small progress but there’s a heartbeat.

Colin Fraser’s numbers are disappointing but we also have to remember that the man was playing with some subpar linemates for much of the season. Edmonton’s depth forwards were among the worst in the NHL.

This is Gilbert Perreault as a Montreal Junior Canadien, shortly before Buffalo drafted him in 1970. There is no 20-year old Gilbert Perreault in this draft, so the Oilers options for improving center involve the following:

  1. Signing a free agent like Brooks Laich.
  2. Trading for a qualitied veteran center.
  3. Trusting that Gagner-Cogliano can improve this coming season.
  4. Inserting Anton Lander in the mix and hoping for the best.
  5. Allowing the number one overall pick to stick with the big club if he impresses.
  6. Moving Taylor Hall to center full time.
  7. Go crazy and offer the moon for Mike Richards.

I think option six looms large.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Here you go David.

      The sooner this kid is outta here the better. He’ll be taking valuable icetime away from the future of this hockey club, Hall,Gagner,Hopkins and/or Sean Couturier plus whatever happens this summer. There’s no denying this Kevin Lowe effort will do much more harm than good in the very near future here, make that in just 2 yrs from now. I’d hesitate even keeping him at half of what he’s due over the balance of this contract. One could argue that close to every friggen cent of the money the Oilers made from that 06 playoff run has gone straight into Shawn Horcoffs pockets. Horcoff needs to be gone so those minutes can be utilized by players whom will be part of the future of this club and move forward. Hall and Eberles comments about Horcoff this past year were probably more of a professional courtesy than how they really actually felt i’m sure. Get this poor mans whatever you want to call him as far away from these kids as possible. What’s he going to teach them, how to get hurt, or how to slow the game down so he can keep up? We’re far better off burying Shawn in the minors and bringing Ryan Smyth back.

  • Ferg

    Looking at the depth chart I just don’t see much wriggle room unless someone gets shipped out. I would assume that Gags and Horc are definitely her for next year, but I don’t see a position for Fraser on this team. That leaves cogs. Now, if he stays, and RNH gets drafted (assuming that the most recent reports are true and he is both NHL ready and Edmonton’s probable first choice) then I can’t see that foursome being competitive in any capacity. Best case scenario: Fraser gets traded, or demoted, Cogs (god love him) gets shipped out and we get a better version of him (that being someone with size, better defensive game and a much better face off percentage). But that still leaves RNH, Horc and Gags as your top 3. Still leaves much to be desired in my humble opinion.

  • ItsTheBGB

    Option 5 and 6.

    Proposed this on HFboards. Getting flamed hard right now, but LT, what about offering Paajarvi + for Jeff Carter considering Bryzgalov will want north of 5mil making Philly over the cap.

        • paul wodehouse

          …hundred mill a year for a hundred years…perfect laffed my FAO…thx rindog …i f0ckin’needed that…not to mention the obligatory no movement clause…he’s gonna be close to 40 when it’s done…stooopid long… but we ain’t dealin’ with philly please say in isn’t so…eighth overall is the prize…if it’s still up for the highest bid…what DO the mighty blue jackets want for that pick? could Hemsky play with Nash? would Brule get his old apartment back if he moved back to the Heartland Ohio?…would Bono visit?
          There’s Fraser,BackHurtJock,Plante…what else does Howson see that he likes…including our 19th back…
          Couturier available at Eighth?

          RNH could go back to junior, we’d develop the BIG centre…and carry on

    • T.C.

      This trade is strange. Philly is so hard against the cap and adding Bryzgalov to the lineup makes little sense. How much do they think the cap is going to rise next season? As to the Oilers center woes. Patience. There is a deal to be made with Philly and it isn’t for Richards. I would target Braydon Coulborn. Young dman wit alot grit who would pair well with Peckham. At 3.4 he is a little overpaid but we could easily absord that salary. Especially since we will have souray off the books at the end of the year at 4.25 million. Philly will be looking for picks or prospects. I like a deal that see Coulborn come to end in exchange for our 19th pick.

    • John Chambers

      I think a trade with Philly is good out-of-the-box thinking. A smart GM has to take advantage of opportunities – a team over the cap limit pre-supposes a tremendous opportunity.

      Prime example – Atlanta fleeced Chicago last year when Chi was up agains the cap for two cornerstones of the Winnipeg franchise – Andrew Ladd and Dustin Buff.

      As for a defenseman – not Timmonen, Coburn maybe, Carle maybe as well. I wouldn’t want to give up Paajarvi, or Marincin, or even Curtis Hamilton, but perhaps Omark, or Plante, or Teubert, or the 19th overall pick.

      Versteeg might also be of interest, but it’s been well documented that we’re small on the wing. Van Riemsdyk would be worth dealing Plante + the 19th overall for.

  • Lowetide

    Dano: Ideally, they’d keep Fraser around as a 13-14F (and 5th center) because he can do things like penalty kill. Also, given better linemates those offensive numbers might improve a little.

    The key imo is to find a quality 2-way center who can play multiple roles. Win faceoffs, kill penalties, score 15 goals. He might play some nights on the 3line and other nights on a scoring line and he could move up when injuries happen (and they always happen).

    Kyle Brodziak, that kind of guy.

  • oilbaron

    I think horcoff should be our teams 3rd line center and be used in a shutdown role. Give gagner more minutes with the top end talent on this team for 3/4 of the year and see if it jump starts his offense.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Option 6 is much like the B’s putting Chara in front of the net on the PP, rather than having him blast 105+ mph slap shots from the point – serious misuse of a HUGE talent/asset!

    None of those options seems likely. I guess this is why next year is only year 2 of a 4 – 5 year rebuild. No panic here. Just make sure you do it right, ST and Co.

  • How to improve at C? If only the #1 rated player in this year’s draft was a Center. That sure would make things easier. Too bad RNH is a…oh, wait, he’s a Center.

    Gagner was on pace for career year (even while playing with rookies for long stretches) before Jones got a little shanky on the bench, and the Oil will draft a future 1C in RNH. I dont think the Oilers can count on Horcoff to be a difference maker since his FO% and scoring has been trending down, but he’s obviously still a useful enough player. Moving forward the answers down the middle will be Gagner and RNH. If that doesnt work out then there is no safety net to fall back on. The eggs are in that basket whether we like it or not.

    • Peterborough

      I think you are right but the best move would be to keep RNH in junior for another year, no need to start the clock on him just yet that also gives us a buffer between him and the prized three. Give him a year to get bigger and stronger and a year for the rest of the team to get better.

      • I was against it with Hall and I’m against it with RNH. I believe that all players deserve the right to earn a job out of camp. If RNH is the 5th best option at C when training camp ends then by all means put him back in juniour. It doesnt happen very often that the #1 pick plays another year in JR but if he doesnt earn a spot then thats the way it is.

        However, if he does prove to be a better option than Cogliano/Fraser for the 3C spot then puting him in the WHL for contract reasons is a bad way to start off this kids Oiler experience.

  • Zamboni Driver

    To answer the “what does it mean” question…

    Wait I know I know!

    Shawn “IliftweightswithBatman” Horcoff is your best centre….

    The answer is…..Last place two years in a row!

    • Travis Dakin

      Or, when everybody is healthy and he had a team around him, he was the number 1 centre on a team that went to game 7 of the Stanley cup final. Scored 71 points. He can play.

  • Ferg

    Lowtide said;

    The key imo is to find a quality 2-way center who can play multiple roles. Win faceoffs, kill penalties, score 15 goals. He might play some nights on the 3line and other nights on a scoring line and he could move up when injuries happen (and they always happen).

    Kyle Brodziak, that kind of guy

    I thought we had that guy..his name is Horcoff

  • 24% body fat

    Center – GAGNER #1 needs the icetime with good players not babysitting fringe AHL to NHL rookies who made the team because how bad the oilers are, not saying paajarvi is bad but would not have made a lot of rosters last year and spent time in AHL. HORCOFF number two to start the year. RNH number three than up to two with proper growth. LANDER number four to provide faceoff and penalty kill options. Hopefully Pitlick can replace Horcoff with this core group in a year of so.

    LW – HALL obviously, Paajarvi, Jones, Hartikanen, SMAC

    RW – Hemsky, Eberle, Omark, Brule

    Brule and Cogs need to be moved. And why not try your best offensive player at each postion as a line. Hall Hemsky Gagner

    • Chris.

      Gagner did not exactly light it up with Hall or Eberle last year do so.

      Both Hall and Eberle were rookies so that point makes no sense.

      Paajaarvi is not a “fringe” NHLer and far from a AHLer.

      And a # 3 center is usually left for your checking center with the most responsibility in shutting down he oppositions best players, now I’m not an NHL coach but putting RNH in that spot might not be the best for your team.

      Horcoff is your best bet at # 3 once your top 2 get established.

      Lander or Cogs should be #4

      • 24% body fat

        Yes they were rookies, but hall is in an elite class and eberle has ahl experience and a full junior career. Omark and Paajarvi have never played the north american game. ANd youve got to remember when gagner played with hall and eberle, he had to be the defensive one. no offensve rookie has their hands tied. Remember gagners rookie year, point production and no D. So ya he had to babysit. And with MP slow start, on a good team he would have been in the AHL, there was talks about this all year on this site and arguments went both ways. He was a fringe player for the year not for his career. And as for RNH as a number 3 I said this is on a depth chart. He is not going to be a checking line center but third in even minutes on the team until they see him ready.

  • 24% body fat

    If Philly is looking for cap dump, than the other team holds all the cards. Especially with Phillys goalie history. A second rounder may do it and it might not even need to be 31st.

  • 24% body fat

    We can’t get rid of Horcoff, yes his contract is bad, however it doesn’t matter right now as the Oilers have tons of cap space and he is the best center we have. He is a valuable piece and if we do draft RNH and Gagner he will be a key contributor as the 3rd line C, maybe his last two years of the contract will suck but right now and next year they don’t, plus he is the captain and from the sound of how the locker room was this year and how he mentored the kids he is a pretty damn good one, he isnt a number 1 Center or MVP but he is important to this franchise.

  • 24% body fat

    I wouldnt be trading any of the young kids right now, we are not 1 or 2 players away so no point in fishing (build the team then trade prospects) I think a trade with Philly could be in the books, hopefully they sign Bryz.

    1st Line-Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
    2nd Line-Hartikainen-Gagner-Hemsky
    3rd Line-Paajarvi-RNH-Omark (Too young but no real options)
    4th Line-Jones-Fraser-Cogs/Brule

    This is assuming the Oilers draft RNH and do nothing, I would prefer:

    1st Line-Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
    2nd Line-Upshall-Gagner-Hemsky
    3rd Line-Paajarvi-Laich-Omark
    4th Line-Hartaikanen-Konopka-Jones

    Send RNH to junior or play him on the wing for half the season.