I have not heard even one word from anybody in an official capacity in hockey ops with the Edmonton Oilers about the possibility former captain Shawn Horcoff is considering a return to our city by way of a PTO, but Kurt Leavins has heard “murmurs” about same from somebody.
I’m not sure if Leavins, who is a contributor to the Oil on Whyte blog here in town, is in the know or is absolutely without a clue, so I’m not going to suggest he’s way out in left field on this one and neither am I going to put a lot of weight in what he Tweeted today. What I do know is he has people talking.
Here’s the Tweet that got it started.
Hearing murmurs (unofficial, so far as I can tell), of Horcoff considering a PTO w the #Oilers as well. I can see that, actually.
— Kurt Leavins (@KurtLeavins) August 24, 2016
WHAT SAY YOU?
The reaction about a possible encore to the Shirts Off For Horcoff era, as you’d expect, is mixed. Those who remember Horcoff as an overpaid underachiever during his final four seasons in Edmonton want no part of a curtain call — even at a cut rate — especially with him about to celebrate his 38th birthday Sept. 17.
Those who look at Edmonton’s centre ice depth chart and wonder if Mark Letestu or Anton Lander can get the job done as fourth-line pivots (who doesn’t?), and those who believe Horcoff might have value to offer in the way of leadership and experience, think he’s worth a look if his old bones can survive training camp.
Now people are actually talking positively about bringing back Horcoff. It’s like some never learn. Honeymoon syndrome in a bad relationship
— Netflix and Kjell (@KjellIverson) August 25, 2016
Why are we talking about Shawn Horcoff? If no other team wants him, we shouldn’t want him either. #oilers
— Bryna Campbell (@Bryna_C) August 24, 2016
@KjellIverson Horcoff at 750k as end of the roster wouldn’t be useful? Beats the hell out of a Petrell, Jones or Gazdic.
— Tyler Hupka (@HBomb1982) August 25, 2016
When I look at Horcoff, I see a player with two distinct phases to his tenure in Edmonton. In Horcoff’s first eight seasons with the Oilers, he worked his way up the pecking order. He busted his ass, he paid his dues. That ascent culminated in the 2005-06 season, when he had a career-high 73 points, including 22 goals, during the regular season. He put an exclamation mark on that with 19 points in 24 playoff games on the way to the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
The second phase of Horcoff’s tenure unfolded in 2009-10 after he signed a six-year contract extension worth $33 million. It was deal that had a $5.5 million annual average value. At the same time as the big ticket kicked in, Horcoff’s production declined. That’s a lot of cake for a two-way player who can’t break 40 points. It was not a combination that made for a happy fan base.
THE WAY I SEE IT
By the time Horcoff packed his bags for Dallas in 2013-14, it was “good riddance” all around for the vast majority of fans here. Understandably so, even though there isn’t a single person out there who would have told the Oilers when it came time to sign a new contract, “Oh no, that’s too much money. I’d like to sign for less, please.” I do not recall Horcoff or his agent holding a gun to anybody’s head. The big ticket wasn’t Horcoff’s fault, but it was his problem. Understood.
Here and now, the amount of money Horcoff would be signing for if he showed something in the professional tryout would not be an issue. His ability to contribute, on the ice and in the dressing room, and whether it makes sense to consider him as an option – if he is, indeed thinking about a PTO here — is all that matters.
I don’t know how much Horcoff has left in the tank in terms of his on-ice ability to contribute, but I don’t like his chances of reversing the obvious decline in his play we’ve seen the last few years. I do, however, like what Horcoff has to offer the Oilers when it comes to experience and leadership, given the make-up of this team.
What I know about Horcoff is he’s the definition of a true pro. He’s willing to put in the work. Everything he accomplished here from the time he broke in with the Oilers in 2001-02 came from a little bit of talent and a whole lot of sweat. Horcoff gives you what he’s got – even with that he didn’t have a hope in hell of living up to that contract – and that’s all you can ask of a player.
While that will draw eye rolls from those who don’t want to hear about another old guy “who is good in the room,” or those who’d consider a curtain call by Horcoff as a return to the Old Boys Club, I can see some benefit to having a player like that around to show somebody like soon-to-be-captain Connor McDavid and the other kids here the ropes. Horcoff has been there and done that. I saw it first-hand. He’s one of the most committed players I’ve known.
Is Horcoff going to make or break the Oilers? Of course not. If he actually is considering a PTO here, is he worth a look? Damn straight he is. If Horcoff can’t play a lick, the look-see ends right there, no matter what he does in the room. If he’s got something left and he’s the same pro and teammate I’ve always known him to be, then I roll the dice on him.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
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