Boyd Gordon: Shawn Horcoff, minus the baggage

Looking at the Oilers’ centre depth chart, it always seemed likely that newcomer Boyd Gordon was going to get his share of defensive assignments and then some. Dallas Eakins seemed to confirm that on Tuesday, when he slotted Gordon in the most thankless role on the team: Shawn Horcoff’s old job.

Time on Ice & Faceoffs

There are plenty of similarities between Gordon’s work on Tuesday night and Horcoff’s deployment during the 2012-13 season; the following are the latter’s per game averages stacked up against Gordon’s numbers from Tuesday.

The faceoffs are a little higher for Gordon than Horcoff, though the absence of Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins from the lineup might have something to do with that (as might the fact that it’s a single game). The other item is that while Horcoff played regular minutes on the power play in front of the net, Gordon appears to be on the ice solely as a faceoff man. Gordon had all of three power play shifts in game one, and he took a faceoff on each:

  • 17 seconds (ended in goal)
  • 11 seconds
  • 19 seconds

Interestingly, Gordon and fellow centre Will Acton were the only forwards to average 30 seconds or less on the ice per shift; penalty killing work had a lot to do with that but so did Gordon getting faceoff-and-gone shifts.


There are, in my view, three reasons for the Oilers to have chosen Gordon over Horcoff for the defensive specialist role – a role which tends to destroy the numbers of whoever fills it:

  • Age: Gordon’s five years younger
  • Baggage: Gordon doesn’t have it in Edmonton
  • Contract: While the dollars are similar, Horcoff’s cap hit is much higher

There aren’t huge differences in size or style of play; if anything Horcoff’s scoring history gives him the edge as a player today. This was simply a case of bringing in a fresh face that counts for a bit less against the salary cap and is less likely to decline over the next few seasons.

Somebody has to take the important faceoffs, kill penalties and start shifts at the wrong end of the rink. Will Acton and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner might get some of that work, but the most likely candidate for the majority of it has always been Boyd Gordon.

Recently around the Nation Network

Check out StreakCred, the addictive hockey game that both helps charity and includes loads of awesome prizes.

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney goes into the anatomy of a shift. He looks at Winnipeg’s James Wright’s performance against Edmonton and breaks down exactly what happened before offering the following summation:

This is a 38 second shift in which James Wright touched the puck twice without pressure, and the Jets lost possession both times to sub-optimal plays. It’s a shift in which Wright makes two poor defensive plays (bad angle in the neutral zone, getting trapped deep on his own turnover), and is the singular reason the Jets lose possession on the breakout to his side. To my eye, that’s 5 wrong decisions in fewer than 40 seconds of hockey.

Click the link above to check it out, or feel free to check out some of my recent stuff below:

  • Supernova

    We are going to burn Gordon’s shoulders out at that rate.

    Oilers need to have a decent second option at Center for wins, someone you know has a higher than 50% chance.

    Acton looked good in his first game but we will see after 10 games.

  • Supernova

    Minus the baggage – and plus a goal! By my eye, Gordon was much more effective with and without the puck than Horcoff was last year. I am/was a Horc supporter but he just didn’t have the drive anymore (can’t blame him really). Gordon is much better than Horc, minus the baggage. Double positive? Inverse negative? Not sure how that works…

  • A few people have asked me “who this Gordon guy is”. I always describe him as Shawn Horcoff with a bit less offense and a whole lot less psychological trauma suffered from fan abuse. Lol

    • pkam

      I haven’t seen Gordon plays enough to compare him to Horcoff, but that defection by Gordon is a beauty. I don’t remember any defection from Horcoff ever, does anyone?

      • geoilersgist

        I remember someone (hall/eberle?) banking one in off of Horcoffs rearend. That is about as good a deflection he had.

        I am still a fan of Horcoffs but it was time for him to move on.

        • pkam

          I am not one of those Horcoff haters. But when Racki said Horcoff has more offense than Gordon, the 1st thing came to my mind was that defection by Gordon, and hence my post.

          • Nothing against Gordon.. I know I’m going to love him, but to toss Horcoff’s superior offensive numbers (historically) aside because of one pretty deflection is as narrow minded as it gets.

            They don’t ask how, just how many. Gordon ‘ s ability to run with the big boys is underrated though

          • pkam

            Except the last 2 years, Horcoff had been playing top 6 with PP time, and if I am correct, Gordon was playing 4th line most of his career. Is it reasonable to compare stats with different linemates, different ice time and pp time?

            Horcoff was playing mostly 3rd line last couple of years with top 6 minutes when there is injury to RNH and Gagner, and some PP time. And I see very little difference in their stats. I wonder if Gordon will have the same or better stats if he is given the chance that Horcoff has.

            Not saying who is better, but those stats are not a fair comparison.

          • It isn’t completely fair comparing, no, but this is also why I said “a bit less offense”. I don’t think there’s a big difference, but I still think prime Horc > prime Gordon, offensively. Just thought it seemed a bit of a “seen him good moment”, pointing out Gordon’s deflection (which really was nice though) as something that Horc couldn’t ever do. Not sure how many times Gordon has accurately picked the five hole on a breakaway or shootout, for example.. The number of times Horc has “crested” it would make that irrelevant of course.

  • G Money

    I think Gordon is a substantial upgrade on Horcoff.

    The biggest differential is simply age.

    The Horcoff/Gordon role is a brutally tough one to play, and I just don’t think Horc had the legs (or maybe as MacT says, the spirit) for it anymore.

    By eye and by Corsi, Horc was steadily degrading in his effectiveness over the last three seasons.

    If Gordon can be the Horcoff of five years ago, as opposed to the Horcoff that was last year or would have been this year, that’s a huge win for the Oilers.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Horcoff always was and still much better than Gordon , give your heads a shake ! Gordon can only wish he could be that good over his career . Our former captain who represented the team well , players and union and city as well . Shame on how some of you are dissing on him . Not only a premier defensive player , but also had seasons over a point a game – a complete player and person . Some either forgot , or their just not very good at assessing talent levels .

    • Klima's Mullet

      Horcoff is a good hockey player but you are underestimating Gordon. He never had the privilege of skating on a line with dynamic players as often as Horcoff. His zone starts and quality of competition over the last few years have been among the most challenging in the entire NHL. His job was to keep the puck out of his own net and few have done that job better than Gordon (with middling line mates). Horcoff was also always a regular on the PP while Gordon rarely skated on Phx’s PP. It is not a realistic comparison. Let’s see how Gordon does with some elite wingers and a bit of PP time this year with the Oil.

    • Klima's Mullet

      This rant is hilarious. “Seasons over a point per game”?? Which season was that? The best he ever achieved was 73 points in 79 games (05/06). His second best point total was 53 points in 80 games.

      Premier defensive player?? He had a rating of -22 or worse in three of his last 6 seasons here. Not all his fault, but Horcoff was okay defensively…hardly a premier guy.

      And as for the “great” faceoff man?? Horcoff was below 50% in the last 4 seasons he played here.

      Horcoff is a great person, but he was very ineffective in that last few seasons.

      • pkam

        I was close on point a game clip . 73 in 79 (05-06) and 50 in 53 (07-08) . Most seasons seemed he to be around 50 till last couple . He did play physical if you check out his penalty minutes over the years , far exceeding Gordon’s paltry best year of 16 minutes . Gordon has only 6 short handed goals his entire career NHL . Gordon’s best offensive year was a paltry 29 points . Horcoff’s speed would leave Gordon sucking slew water . Horcoff was a deserving first liner much of his career , Gordon is not that gifted .

        • Supernova

          Horcoff’s time in Edmonton can be split up really into two parts:

          05/06-08/09 (Borderline 1st line center):

          227 points in 292 games (.78 PPG), with a 52% faceoff percentage. He was a total of -14 over this 4 year time span (on what was a generally weak team with the exception of 05/06).

          09/10-12-13 (3rd line player at best)

          109 points in 236 games (.46 PPG), with a 48.3% faceoff percentage. He was -45 over this 4 year time span.

          It is clear to everyone that Horcoff has been mediocre the past 4 seasons.

      • If Horcoff didn’t have such a big nose, he would have finished a second later…

        Jokes.. Love Horc. Jack of all trades, master of nine, but would have been a great 2nd to 3rd line C if the big pay day wasn’t a constant reminder / noose around his neck. Hoping he does well in Dallas.

      • There is no doubt that Horc was a fast skater 5 years ago when he was at the top of his game but he noticeably lost a step (or two) in the past couple seasons with the Oil. Horc also had a offensive touch to his game 5 years ago too, which also evaporated from his game. No one in their right mind would send Horc to the All Star game based on his last couple seasons.

      • No he isn’t. He was faster 5 years ago, and the last couple years he lost a step but its not anywhere as close to what Smyth has lost. Guy skates perfectly fine and always has. At 34-35 he’s what anyone could expect of him.

        If anything Horcoff has lost is his hands. Guy use to be able to carry a puck over the blue line and make passes and plays. The good ol days he was dynamite cycling the puck especially with Smyth. His one timer went a way and his timing never came back.

      • ginganinja


        Horcoff is not an Eakin’s type of player. Shawn (and I know the biggest strike against Horcoff was his payday) seldom finished checks. If they published turn away stats, he would lead the team. At his best he would rub a guy out, but never with any intent.

    • pkam

      Horcoff is a 3rd line player with the contract of a 1st line player, and playing most of his career in the top 2 lines, except the last couple years.

      If we compare him to other 3rd line players, he is pretty good in most categories that you listed, except physical play.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Was watching the SJ/Canucks game last night. Burns had an excellent chance to put one in back door. Thornton sent a great pass cross crease and Burns Horcoffed it. It never crossed my mind that he whiffed on it. First thing that came to my mind was that he Horcoffed it.

    Is that wrong?

  • Spydyr

    Younger,cheaper,no baggage,bigger,meaner, stronger ,a better player at this point in their careers.Other then that exactly the same.

    Must be four days between games.

  • Supernova

    We are not here to talk politics nor should we be discussing how much money who’s making, it’s between the team and the player. As player goes, Horcoff has serve as an adequate captain for the Oil, and in most games he performs well as he could ( mind you, he played hurt a lot of his time here ), now that he’s traded, we shouldn’t be talking ill of him at all…. everybody gets old, everybody has bad games from time to time. Not knocking Gordon at all, but he’s still got to play a bit more here to prove his worth to the team!

  • Oiler63

    For years fans seem to blame Horcoff for not playing up to his contract but ignored who created the problem in the first place. If Horcoff makes $2-3 million a year he’d still be with us and still be the captain and everybody would be saying “2 horcoff to go please”.

    It’s Lowe who created the mess and handed out the contract that’s right up there with the Gomez contract. Those two contracts would probably go down in hockey textbook as contracts you want to avoid as a GM. Thumb up to MacT for being able to ship that contract out of town and thumb down to Lowe for dodging the responsibility and shamelessly saying he knows about winning.

    Lowe, if you know about winning, how do you explain the past 7 years. The fact is you know nothing about it. It’s the Gretzkys and Messiers who truely know about winning. You just happened to be there. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.

  • As much as I wanted to run Horcoff outta town. How damn good would this team have looked with RNH, Gagner, Gordon, and Horcoff down the middle with a Hall fill in. The Oilers would be without question as deep as anyone down the middle.

    Gordon I think will be a favorite here as time goes on because he’s a gamer, he does subtle things, the puck goes the right way, and he seems like almost a quiet leader. He can play with or without skill, has sandpaper, and is really strong in all three zones. I’m a real fan of his so far. I know his skill set is different then say Jared Stoll, but its like we almost filled in that hole we have missed for so long.

  • Noel May

    The only thing I notice with Gordon on the draw, is the style he uses. He gets very low which is effective; however, he cannot generate enough power to move the puck back all the way to the D. Wingers need to get on top of this and collect the lose puck when he does win those faceoffs. One of the goals against on Tuesday came on this kind of scenario when the Oilers won the faceoff, yet the Jets were able to beat them to the puck. Just one little adjustment from the wingers will make all the difference.

  • Noel May

    Gordon is a better fit on this team right now. Horcoff needed a change of scenery. Gordon’s role is clear and he understands it. Hopefully guys like RNH, Hall and Gagner can help shoulder the burden of taking all these faceoffs.

  • Connor Snipes

    The best thing is that Boyd won’t tell the kids that they don’t owe the city anything like the fan abused former #10 did. It was best for everyone for him to move on. Love Boyd’s effort and he’ll fit in beautifully.

  • ginganinja

    Oilers recalled Hamilton apparently.
    Do the Oil drop Smytty to the fourth line insert Hamilton into the third and bring Joensuu to the top six?
    Thats probably what I would do.
    But I’m a moron

  • Flames get another 2 points on road trip tonite , despite not having perhaps their two best centers in Cammallerri and Colbourne . They are leaving us in the dust , as they play to top of conference . What could be worse ?

  • The Last Big Bear

    1) Stajan and Backlund are the Flames 2 best centres.

    2) The Flames dressed career-backup Joey MacDonald tonight, so not having an NHL calibre starter is not an excuse.

    3) Washington’s offence tore Calgary’s defence apart last night. Because if you don’t have legit 1st-pairing defenders (like another team in Alberta that I could mention), then the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Johanson, Green, and Grabovski are going to rip you a new a-hole. You can have 15 NHL-ready defenders if you want, but you can only ice two of them at a time. And if those 2 aren’t good enough to shut down the other team’s top players, you’re going to have a bad time.

  • The Last Big Bear

    We are in our 8th year of rebuild and Flames about 8 months ? Where did we go wrong ? How can Flames be above us already ? Must be our weather . Flame fans , what are you hiding ?

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I would take the Flames defense over the Oilers. I love Justin Schultz’s offense but in my mind, the rest of the Oilers defensemen are 5,6,7,8 guys trying to fill 1,2,3,4 spots.

    It has been their achilles heel for many years in a row now, and a few KHL exiles and Ference are very minor upgrades of what the team iced last year.

    Add bad goaltending and you have a recipe for basement dwelling for years on end, no matter how good the fowards may be. Eventually a team will get hemmed in their own zone. Playoff teams have Dmen that can outlet the puck tape to tape or skate a player open. Brodie, Russel, Giordano and Wideman can do that, and they still aren’t a playoff team. The Oilers have J.Schultz and then…..??

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate the Flames, and the Oilers will finish slightly above them, but I can’t see the Oil making the playoffs with the current blueline and goaltending.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Oh, and I take Gordon over Horcoff anyday. Horcoff scored some points nearly a decade ago. I take the smaller cap hit and better faceoff percentage along with some offense. That tip the other night for example.