THE LETTER: ALL IN GOOD TIME

If Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche can recognize the lay of the land and peel the "C" off his jersey and hand the captaincy over to a teenager like Gabriel Landeskog, why can’t Shawn Horcoff do the same with Taylor Hall?

Well, Horcoff can and, in good time, he likely will, but there’s absolutely no reason for the third-year Oiler captain to follow Hejduk’s lead and hand over the letter to Hall, or anybody else, between now and the start of the 2012-13 NHL season, whenever that is.

I understand the sentiment – and there has been plenty of it in these parts in recent days – that Horcoff, facing a diminished role as his career winds down, could get out in front of the inevitable transition that will see youngsters like Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins take over as the on-ice leaders of the team. That swing is already underway.

And I get the argument that if Hejduk, a more accomplished and dynamic player in his prime than Horcoff ever was, can give the letter to Landeskog, who is younger than Hall and Eberle, there’s no good reason it can’t happen here. And that’s true. It could, and will, happen. Just not now.

LEADERS WILL LEAD

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: leaders will lead by nature whether they have a "C" or an "A" on their jersey or not. Hall, a two-time Memorial Cup MVP with the Windsor Spitfires, is one of those players. There’s no doubt in my mind he has captain written all over him.

Hall, easily Edmonton’s most dynamic player, has given us glimpses of his desire to have a bigger voice on and off the ice with the Oilers, and he did so this spring, long before he and Eberle hit the jackpot with their new contracts.

"As players, we’re all maturing," Hall said in response to a question by Jason Gregor when we scrummed him at the end of the season. "I know myself, I’m doing the same thing. In the room I want to be more vocal and try to take that next step.

"I want to be here for a long time. I want to be here when we’re the team that’s contending and we’re in the playoffs and everything like that, so I’m looking forward to kind of taking that next step next year along with Ryan and Jordan and having a bigger voice in the room."

TIME WILL COME

The voice Hall talks about will carry greater weight and resonance in the dressing room moving forward. Horcoff, entering his third year as captain, would have to be exceedingly dim not recognize that. But it’s the player, not the letter, teammates respect. The player makes the letter, not vice-versa.

The captaincy, at least in Edmonton, isn’t about pinning the letter to the best or most dynamic player. If that was the case, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger and Jason Smith, to name just four, would never have worn it with the Oilers. Points totals, popularity and jersey sales aren’t the measure.

There is something to be said, especially with a young team like this edition of the Oilers, for experience and gamesmanship and context. Horcoff, despite his shortcomings, brings that. So does Ryan Smyth, also facing a diminished role.

At some point, and in the not-too-distant future, that experience will give way to the dynamic Hall, and it should. I’m guessing that Horcoff, if I know him at all after all these years, will recognize that time when it comes and he’ll do exactly what Hejduk just did.

That time is not now.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • paul wodehouse

    I for one agree with the article……..no need to rush this changing of the captaincy.

    I believe that the best captain is the one that shows the greatest passion, heart, and drive………talent aside.

  • paul wodehouse

    Good read,thank you for the thoughtful insights.

    I believe that aside from putting a box in the corner and giveing everyone a vote there is only one logical choice beyond Horcoff,and that is Sam Gagner.

    Sam is an established NHLer who has gained the respect of his peers the coaches and the NHL referees,Sam is respectfull but not a pushover,he is intense and has a voice but he DOES NOT WHINE HE ACTS LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.

    Sam fights for his teammates not himself and he has excellent grasp of the moment in games ,he knows when to do the proper things to keep the team rolling in the right direction,his leadership qualitys are becomeing overwhelming to be frank.Gagner works for 60 mins every night,and what you get in minute one you get in minute 60,that is serious leadership,and if anyone watches the 8 pt night tapes please watch the FACES of the players Sam is LEADING out on the ice,they are BLOWN AWAY by the overwhelming command of the entire ice surface Sam teaches them how to execute,Sam is the only player we have with Pedigree that is ANYWHERE NEAR becomeing a Captain,he is a high pick who boxed up his offensive tendencies and learned defence very young,he was forged under pressure and he was lucky enough to have been put in positions where he recieved critical minutes through wins and losses teaching him to be accountable for every step he makes out there for 60 mins.

    We have at least five men who would become Captains on many NHL teams.

    But the perfect storm only exists for one of them and thats Sam Gagner,the timeing is perfect the evolution of his career is perfect the ages of the core are a perfect fit to respect him and what he has done since he was 18,the young guys KNOW sam understands evry step they are going through,and i will end with the Big Night because when i am prepareing myself to walk into the fires of hades and I look to my right,I want to see the man who can put up 8 pts,the man who can in two games break a team record owned by the Great One,I dont care how much everyone else is willing to bleed beside me,I AM WILLING TO BLEED but i NEED a superpower in human flesh beside me to take me into the flames without fear.

    All respect to the many leaders we currently have here,but if we are talking future,there is only one way to go and that is forward the same direction Sam Gagner has grown for his entire career to date.Truth is Sam is ready now and he has pushed the schedule forward on his own.

    Is there going to be a change in the room??Well I have faith in Horcoffs ability to feel the moment,he is a professional,if anything I would like to see him keep the C this year and make a career statement for himself,then hand the C to Sam at the end of our Stanley cup parade after we blow up the NHL with the NHS.

    Hallsy has work to do,he doesnt need the letter right now,he knows he hasnt earned it with offense,and he hasnt earned it by sacrificeing for the team enough yet,he also knows he will soon have done all of these things and will have his day,I dont believe he is obsessed with it at all,I think he wants to WIN plain and simple,and just wants to get down to chopping heads already.He doesnt care who leads the charge as long as he has a front seat for all the action.

    I think all of our young core are win orientated,and I seriously doubt they care who has the C as long as that man works as hard as they do to WIN games every night.You will earn the respect of the young guns if you show their desire to win and if you work harder than them every night,you need the passion to be burning and you need the physical endurance to outwork them or at least push them to work harder.

    I think this is the year where we see our next Captain emerge,the hows and whys defeat me as I am a fan,not a pro,but this has to be the year as per the ages and curve of the evolution of this group,the core is set already so we can make these analysis pretty darn accurate as far as when things need to happen,names are impossible to nail down but times sure arent,everything has a shelflife.
    Somehow i get this memory that our Captains usually get traded or leave immediatly after the pass the letter??
    If history repeats we will see Horccs gone before the deadline unless we are ripping it up.

    Landeskog may not be ready yet,that was a questionable move,now we will all may get to see the worst side of early exposure to the NHL and its pressures.Sad for Landy,but then again he got lucky when Nuge was hurt as it pumped up his value,had Nuge smashed him by 20 points then he would be in a different dynamic.Never look a gift-horse in the mouth as they say.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think were all on the outside looking in and making our best guesse.

    It should be the team that picks the C not the fans or to a lesser degree the owners/managment let the players vote on there capten for all we know hoc could be as respected by his teammates as he is disrespected by his fans