Thousands of years ago when baseball was an organized sport with credibility, many teams worked all summer to win something called the “pennant.” My team, the now defunct Montreal Expos, never won a “pennant” because Bud Selig is the Devil and when they finally matured as a franchise they didn’t get a real left handed bat with power until Larry Walker came along and then it was too late. The Expos used to produce very good right handed hitters, but never had a left handed bat who could play everyday (Al Oliver couldn’t throw when he came over from Texas) and they had other problems (like Doug Flynn) and never got it done.
The lesson of Larry Walker is one sports franchises in modern sports (like hockey, football and basketball) can learn from the long forgotten sport of baseball (along with “greed kills” and “people from Milwuakee can also be assfaces”). The lesson is this: sometimes a guy you sign off the street or draft 99th overall could end up being that left handed bat in the middle of your order.
Shawn Horcoff is the Oilers’ left handed bat who can play in the middle of the order. On a team with wizards and warlocks, Horcoff is a guy who can play at pace while doing the actual nuts and bolts heavy lifting required to get the playing field pointed in the proper direction. Although not in Larry Walker’s class as a player, Horcoff’s unique skills (when laid against the rest of the roster) make him as valuable to this team at this time.
Faceoffs, coverage down low, making a pass or taking a pass, taking a hit to make a play, cheating for defense when Hemsky’s ad-libbing. For those reasons and more, Shawn Horcoff is the Larry Walker in the middle of a bunch of right handed bats, the rhythm section of the Rolling Stones, the Jerry Seinfeld to Kramer, George and Elaine.
Horcoff’s role this fall will be to center a line of potential All-Stars in Ales Hemsky and one of Erik Cole, Dustin Penner or Robert Nilsson. He’ll also get plenty of powerplay time, although that role may well be split with young Sam Gagner as the season enters the second half. His penalty killing time may also be cut back as candidates like Marc Pouliot and Andrew Cogliano learn on the job.
This is a player with a wide range of skills, a player who can execute the job of center on a good NHL team. This is a player good enough to be the go-to center on a club that came within a hair of winning a Stanley (Horcoff led all forwards in time-on-ice, spring 2006).
He isn’t going to be the most famous man on this team, but he’s the most valuable. He’s also going to ride Hemsky and a brilliant powerplay to a career season.
06-07 5×5 per 60m: 1.52
07-08 5×5 per 60m: 2.59
06-07 5×4 per 60m: 4.87
07-08 5×4 per 60m: 4.00
My Prediction/Actual Numbers From Last Year
Predicted: 82gp, 20-44-64 (.780 per game)
Actual: 53gp, 21-29-50 (.943 per game)
My Prediction for this Season
71gp, 26-44-70 (.986 per game)