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.

History

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: