Shawn Horcoff scored goals in each of the Oilers first two games to start the 10-11 season. He would score 7 more in a season in which he missed 35 games.
Shawn Horcoff entered the NHL in the fall of 2000. His competition for playing time included men like Doug Weight, Todd Marchant, Rem Murray, Mike Comrie, Dom Pittis, Brian Swanson and Chad Kilger that first season. Horcoff outlasted all of them (some of them twice) and has survived to play 684 NHL games with the team (10th on the all-time list).
Shawn Horcoff’s replacement is either on the roster or close to graduating. Among Sam Gagner, Eric Belanger, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Lander and others there are some quiet nights on the horizon for the captain. Horcoff has been a good soldier for the Oilers. I believe his role will change drastically beginning this season.
NHL Prediction for 11-12: 62, 13-18-31 (.500)
- His role is changing. Is he going to play defense? No, but Horcoff has been the Oilers leader in TOI per game among centers for a long time. Marchant in 02-03 was the last time a center not named Horcoff played an entire season with the Oilers and led the C’s in time-on-ice per game. One of the reasons he played more? Horcoff was used in all three situations. That is unlikely to happen this year.
- He won’t be on the PP? Yeah. Despite leading the team’s centermen in PP points in just over half a season, I don’t think he’ll be one of the top 2 options (Gagner and RNH). I wouldn’t give Nugent-Hopkins a lot of 5×4 time but can’t see the Oilers passing on that opportunity. And Belanger is a veteran hand who can help in all areas, he’ll cut into all three areas.
- He’ll still PK a lot and play the tough minutes. Sure. Horcoff had a strong year before the injury, and that included the tough opposition. Although his zone finish was poor and he was outside the actual scorers at 5×5/60 (despite playing a lot with Hall-Eberle and Penner-Hemsky) he did well in most of the advanced stats. Solid Corsi despite tough opposition, did a nice job as mentor to the kids and sports a wonderful end of season plus minus.
- He’ll have the same role at evens and PK? I think less. Gagner has shown progress and will probably take on more responsibility (and with it better opportunity) and Belanger can do a lot of things. I think Horcoff plays a lesser role this season.
- Good, that will mean Horcoff will be more effective. Yeah, it could work that way. However, I see three great sets of good wingers and four centermen. The math doesn’t work. The #1 overall pick is a key–if he makes it then one of the other three C’s will be a 4th liner at even strength. It isn’t going to be Gagner, he’s part of the future too.
- Horcoff is a better player than Belanger. Are you sure? It’s hard to tell, but a long look at the Belanger numbers suggests the new veteran center is a very good hockey player. The big worry is Horcoff’s offense at evens. If he can recover to a point where he’s one of the top 6F options then RNH, Gagner and Belanger won’t take his even strength minutes. But right now I think there’s a chance he’s going to be in a checking/PK role for this team.
- And Belanger ahead of him on the depth chart? Well, Gagner, RNH and Belanger ahead of him at even strength and the two kids taking the PP time.
- How bad is his even strength offense? He hasn’t been above 1.6/60 5×5 in three years. Last season Horcoff was 1.47; Gagner 1.91 and Belanger 1.85.
- Horcoff was playing with crappy linemates. Well, no. 32% of his even strength minutes were spent with Hall-Eberle, 19% with Penner-Hemsky and 12% with Paajarvi-Eberle. At even strength, Shawn Horcoff played 81% of his EV minutes this past season with a combination of the names above. That’s not crappy.
- So, you’re saying he’s 4line C? No, I’m saying that for the first time since he was a young pro Horcoff has some real competition for the big minutes on the team. His age, his injuries and the Oilers finally addressing center might mean he fades from the top 9F’s at times this season.
- He’ll still play tough minutes. Yes. But I think his role is changing. Shawn Horcoff isn’t going to be an offensive option at evens and will have a diminishing role on the PP.
- Which makes him what? The next Brian Rafalski.
- Ha-ha, he’s going to retire with 20M still out there! Not this season, but as Horcoff’s role diminishes (and it will) on this team it’ll be more and more difficult for him to play a role.
- Surely it isn’t that bad. Well, yes it is. Gagner and RNH are going to be C’s in this league for a long time, Belanger duplicates his skills and costs much less and soon Hall and the boys will need to be paid real coin. The Oilers are going to have to make a decision on him.
- When? Well, Lander is probably a year away from his rookie season, so I’ll say 2013 summer.
- Will it be push or shove? There won’t be any night of the long knives but I think it’ll happen in a couple of years. Maybe he takes the Sillinger role or maybe they hire him for the NHL coaching staff.
- You’re nuts. He’ll play well into his 30′s. Shawn Horcoff will be 35, fall 2013.
- All because of a slight downward trend at even strength scoring? Horcoff has been playing with good linemates (for the most part) all down the line and is going to get passed by the other centers on this team.
- You’re going to miss him. Sure will, one of my all-time favorite Oilers.
By The Numbers
•06-07 5×5 per 60m: 1.52
•07-08 5×5 per 60m: 2.59
•08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.59
•09-10 5×5 per 60m: 1.37
•10-11 5×5 per 60m: 1.47