THE COURAGE FOR THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

First time I saw Shawn Horcoff was fall 2000, one dozen years ago. It was a pre-season game, he marked his man at center ice after a turnover and shadowed him down the ice, tied up his stick as a perfect pass came flying through the slot and rode the man out the scoring area. Textbook from a rookie, music!

Shawn Horcoff was there the night Mike Comrie bolted the team, he was there on that very effective 4line he played on as a rookie. He spent time on the wing, learned the hard lessons MacT gave all the kids in those years and emerged as a solid 2-way center. Big, strong, good skater and some touch around the net. I well remember the spring of 2006, his ‘face block’ in the dying seconds of the Red Wings season, and remember too his tireless effort in the lost seasons caused by a rebuild undertaken in the heart of his career. The ‘contract’ brought him riches and much derision.

All of this during a time he was still effective, playing at a quality level and facing suffocating zone starts. Shawn Horcoff is a solid NHL player and has been a standup captain all down the line. I have never heard a word in print or on the air about Horcoff passing off a responsibility or refusing to execute the gameplan.I don’t need to ‘name names’ but Edmonton’s captains have a long and varied history, with at least one being an historically poor choice.

CAPTAIN!

The day Horcoff was named captain, many of the things accomplished above were quoted as being reasons for his getting such an honor. The captain is the leader, and Horcoff led in the field of conditioning, effort, playing while injured and never giving up in the face of adversity.

VIDEO EVIDENCE!

There’s a very funny video (Colin Priestner’s) Oiler fans know well in which Horcoff is first mocked and then exhalted in short order—and that’s pretty much the story of #10 (1:23 to 1:26 in the video below).

THAT SAID…..

Shawn Horcoff is in a unique situation today. The captain watches over a team whose best young players are taking on more difficult roles, and the young cluster is pushing for more playing time and more responsibility. Sooner or later, Taylor Hall is going to be the captain of this hockey club, and if not Hall then Jordan Eberle or the Nuge.

When does one make that decision? Does Shawn Horcoff wait for the team to come calling or make things happen on his own terms, to (as Lee Fogolin did with such class) pass the torch to a new generation? Horcoff’s time as captain has been difficult, and the contract has made him less popular than he should be among the fanbase. A single gesture like abdicating his captaincy would no doubt be greeted with a tremendous response from Oilers Nation and represent a smooth transition to the inevitable.

#10

And if he’s willing to go that far, perhaps Horcoff might do as another Oiler captain did and give up his number 10 to a new phenon–in this case Nail Yakupov. Horcoff’s time with the team is nowhere near the end—that contract will keep him here for the duration—but his role has and will continue to be reduced and the time is coming when he will not be on the ice in pivotal moments of the game.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Shawn Horcoff doesn’t have to prove one damn thing to Oiler fans. He’s been a loyal soldier and signed a contract offered and accepted in good faith and worked his tail off to deliver. The contract is no longer an issue beyond representing a different time in Oilers history.

At this point, it’s more about the way he’d like to handle a sensitive issue. Shawn Horcoff is still the captain of the Edmonton Oilers in name, but the young cluster represents the future and at some point the organization will segue into a younger captain for the future.

A new beginning, a new number and a new captain might suit Shawn Horcoff and the Oilers in equal parts. A chance for the Oilers to transition smoothly and an opportunity for the player–once again–to show Oiler fans Shawn Horcoff is an admirable, stand up guy.

I don’t know if blocking a puck with your face is more difficult than passing the torch to a younger man, but I suspect Shawn Horcoff will have both experiences before he calls it a day.

NATION RADIO

Team 1260 at high noon, email is nationradio@theteam1260.com and you can post comments and questions below. Twitter is my second home @Lowetide_ and @ItsNationRadio for your thoughts. Scheduled to appear:

  • Tom Lynn from Veritas Hockey will help us on the CBA, the impact of a lockout on players below the NHL and his experience at the recent Ivan Hlinka tournament. 
  • Jason Strudwick, former NHL player, Oilers Nation contributor and bon vivant about town. We’ll discuss the impact of a lockout on players and their families and find out how much players know about the issues.
  • Tyler Dellow from mc79 hockey will break down the Taylor Hall contract and its possible impact, the CBA and impending lockout and we’ll ponder lockout entertainment options.
  • Kent Simpson, Oil Kings color commentator will touch base on the Oil Kings and the massive season ahead.
  • Rob Soria from Oil Drop will talk about his recent Chris Pronger article.
  • Ilya Ostrovsky owner of the EMHL and a man who grew up in the shadow of the Kremlin. We’ll talk about adult hockey in Edmonton and what’s available, and I’ll ask him about his unique connection to hockey in Russian and in Canada.