TRANSITION: THE LETTERMEN

The transition we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons on the ice with the Edmonton Oilers was manifested in the dressing room today as Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger named his captains and assistants.

Shawn Horcoff will retain the captain’s C, which is absolutely no surprise to me, even if others would like to see the letter taken off his jersey (and then the jersey taken off his back). Stripping Horcoff made no sense, none. You don’t yank a letter off a player’s jersey because he’s overpaid.

Jordan Eberle, as Jason Gregor told us well in advance of today’s moves, will be one assistant captain and wear the letter full-time, while Taylor Hall and Nick Schultz will rotate the other A.

Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky, who were both assistant captains last season, won’t have a letter in this abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. While that’s a sidebar to Eberle, Hall and Schultz getting letters, the moves definitely make a statement that times are changing. This is good.

LEADERS WILL LEAD

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again where the captaincy of any team is concerned: leaders will lead regardless of whether they have a letter on their jersey or not, so who wears one is not as big a deal as some people make it.

That said, while having that extra letter stitched on your jersey is largely symbolic, it is a statement and a confirmation, in the case if the Oilers, of what those who’ve been paying attention already know – moving forward, Eberle and Hall, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will shape this team. They’re the marquee guys. They’re the best players. They’re the leaders.

Again, this we already knew. There’s still plenty of room for Hemsky, who doesn’t need a letter to remain one of the four most talented forwards on this team, not to mention the most proven. Whitney, a healthy Whitney, that is, could play a very significant role with this team. There’s Ryan Smyth, and the unheralded "other" Schultz, overlooked in the buzz over Justin Schultz.

I won’t be the least bit surprised to see Horcoff’s C on jersey No. 4 or jersey No. 14 in the next couple of years, but we won’t see it now, and that’s just fine. Everything in its time.

THE RIGHT MOVE

There’s been plenty of takes on the acquisition of defenseman Mark Fistric here already, so I’ll keep mine relatively brief.

Aside from being the son of the meanest SOB I’ve ever seen play in the WHL, New Westminster Bruins defenseman Boris Fistric, who terrorized opponents and visitors to Queen’s Park Arena in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fistric is the perfect fit for this defensive group.

We know he’s a stay-at-home type. We know he bangs, and while he’s not nearly as haywire as the old man in terms of doffing the leather and getting after it bare-knuckles style – Boris Fistric once had 49 minutes in penalties in one IHL playoff game – young Fistric isn’t afraid to back things up.

What I like most about acquiring Fistric is he gives Krueger the opportunity to have a puck-mover and a stay-at-home type in his top-three defensive pairings – the importance of having a guy who can dish the rubber on the back end at all times can’t be overstated, given the talent and speed up front. The ability to transition on a first-pass will be significant.

Krueger can pair Ladislav Smid with Jeff Petry, Schultz with Schultz and Whitney with Fistric, who brings some of the same elements as Andy Sutton but is younger and more experience than injured Theo Peckham.

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

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I die a little bit inside, everytime I see Horcoff holding up that jersey. It is painfully clear that Horcoff will be the weak-link on the PP. I would almost rather have the Belanger triangle out there because at least he can win faceoffs. Whiff-city here we come.

    • RexLibris

      I am with you, and his salary aside, i am sorry, Shawn Horcoff
      has no real strengths other than being decent at face offs.
      Anyone can show leadership in the dressing room, Smyth can do that.
      Does he have a mean streak ? No , [ not that that is necessary]
      He is so replaceable, and i am not sure he is even above average anymore.
      His skills have diminished, sure he has heart ill give him that but c’mon.
      Hey he is an Oiler and i cheer for him , but those cheers and praise
      are few and far between for me anyway. Never really was a big fan of his and i guess thats obvious, other teams have their Horcoffs as well i guess.

      This guy should not see any PP time EVER. He has hands of stone.
      It wont bother me a bit when he no longer wears Oilers Silks,
      Yeah, its just my opinion, but i think that of many as well.
      You Like Horc or you hate him, there seems to be no in between.

  • Maybe having hall rotating is because next year Shultz will keep it ebs will keep it and hall will be C, halls gpg and ppg are close to ebs, hall was on pace for more goals than ebs last year. I feel like halls style is perfect captain material, if he can stay healthy. When hall is out of the lineup our team drops ways off.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Maybe having hall rotating is because next year Shultz will keep it ebs will keep it and hall will be C, halls gpg and ppg are close to ebs, hall was on pace for more goals than ebs last year. I feel like halls style is perfect captain material, if he can stay healthy. When hall is out of the lineup our team drops ways off.

  • oliveoilers

    So, if Whitney returns to form, and everyone stays relatively healthy, is there anything more on defence we could really ask for? Sure we don’t have the number one minute munching stud defender, but three lines of solid D, with one puck mover and one stay at home, sounds pretty solid.

    Maybe take Yandle over Whitney? Maybe? But with the likes of Klefbomb coming likely next year, I’m not so sure. It’s just so uncertain and will be fun to see how everything plays out.

    PS we will have FISTric and klefBOMB on our backend. Let the pun headlines begin.

    • yawto

      If I remember correctly, that is a lot like the Hurricanes defence that eaked out a cup win over us in ’06. No superstuds, just 6 guys that can play. Like the way this team is shaping up, just hope Duby can hold it together.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Ya, it doesn’t seem like one stud defender wins cups anymore (unless you’re Lidstrom) and that’s what’s great about the NHL under a cap. It’s a top to bottom team game for the most part. Personally, I think Schultz, Schultz, a healthy Whitney, and Fistric (especially because of how few penalties he takes) is a rather sizeable upgrade over Gilbert, Sutton (even though I was really high on him but he got suspended a ton), an unhealthy whitney and anyone of Plante, Tuebert, Peckham, or Potter.

        • Time Travelling Sean

          To be fair the Bruins had Chara, and the LAK had Doughty, and then they have 5-6 guys who could play. Here’s hoping Schultz is like those two.

  • RexLibris

    Hi Robin,

    Just my take on this, but Fistric reminds me a bit of Craig Muni. I don’t recall much being said about Muni’s defensive awareness being top-shelf, but his hits kept some opponents honest and made room for the rest of his team.

    If Fistric is your number 5-6 hitter, then things don’t look too bad.

  • RexLibris

    Smitty has one season left … standing in front of the net on PP’s to distract the goalie and get the odd garbage goal.

    Horcoff .. not sure ..he could end up as a healthy scratch or replacing Gagner. Could go either way.

    Gagner talks a much better game than he plays but I hope that he proves us naysayers wrong.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    In terms of who wears the ” C”, or the “A”, it does not really matter. Like RB says leader lead no matter what!

    Stripping Horcoff of the C would have accomplished nothing except embarassing him in front of his peers. Even though I’m no fan of Horcoff, he does not deserve this.

    I like that Krueger is wisely transitioning his team to the young guns…….it has to happen for the sake of the team.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I watched the Tamby interview eariler today and he mentioned that they have two first round picks this year?

    Did I miss something??? I know that we have two second round picks but having two first round picks make me very happy!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Krueger did the right thing. Not a Horcoff fan either, but no need to start division in the room
    [ youth vs older guys],we seen that before.
    Letter hands out make sense … and I have no doubt that Hall gets the “A” next year. See how he handles the rotating A.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If passion for the game, work ethic and the desire to improve your skills is a desired character trait for a leader on this team, then perhaps Nail Yakupov deserves a letter on his jersey.

    Small sample size i know. He could end up being the best of the 3 first overalls they will field in their lineup this season. Nobody appears to be having more fun than Nail out there. He could even be good enough to prolong Gags and Hemskys time here in an Oiler jersey.

  • book¡e

    What if its all staged and Horcoff gives his C to Ebs on opening night. If I were taking the C from my captain, I would prefer it to happen this way.

    Not that it would be an ultimatum, but rather a plan hatched by the coach and Horcoff or something of the sort.

  • Rocknrolla

    This is a good transition for the young guns. Let them be alternates for a year and by as soon as Horcoff is gone, one of them will be the new captain. Eberle being a full-time alternate makes me think that he is the favourite going forward and that makes sense. He is the face of our franchise right now and his calm demeanor will make for a friendlier relationship with the zebras than Hall’s abrasive style.

  • Rocknrolla

    If Smyth makes it public when his last year is before retirment and it is still to early to see Hall or Eberle get the C, it would be really great if Horcoff saw the writing on the wall and gave up the C to Smyth for the one year.

    Smyth is the ultimate Oiler and he deserve a C and a cup. It will be a very sad day when Smyth leaves this team.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Horcoff will not get bought out this year because the Oilers need the centre depth. He may be bought out over the summer. But removing the C now, would do nothing but create rampant speculation and obviously, the team doesn’t need that distraction. Horcoff keeps the C.