4 Reasons the Edmonton Oilers Need Shawn Horcoff in the Lineup

Adam BowenContributor IIIMarch 21, 2013

4 Reasons the Edmonton Oilers Need Shawn Horcoff in the Lineup

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    When Shawn Horcoff went down with a knuckle injury, it exposed how valuable the captain really is to the young Edmonton Oilers squad.

    While arguments can (and will certainly) be made that Horcoff is extremely overpaid for his current role on the team, it has become increasingly clear since his return from the injured reserve list that his contributions to the Oilers go beyond scoring goals or providing offense.

    From line depth to faceoff prowess, Horcoff adds a certain depth of versatility that the Oilers desperately need more of in order to make the next step in the Western Conference.

    Here are the four main reasons the Edmonton Oilers need Shawn Horcoff in the lineup.

4. He Knows How to Win Draws

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    Throughout his career with the Edmonton Oilers, Shawn Horcoff has always excelled at being an extremely reliable center who is capable of winning timely faceoffs.

    Considering that the Oilers' current No.1 center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, has struggled at winning draws so far in his short career, Horcoff's value to the Oilers is that much more significant.

    Horcoff can be trusted to win draws in his own zone or in the attacking end, and he plays significant time on both special teams units because of this fact.

    He may not have the offensive punch that his large contract would warrant, but his position and penchant for timely faceoff wins have kept Horcoff on the roster. 

3. He Provides the Spark for Secondary Scoring

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    At this point in the 2013 season, Sam Gagner can no longer be considered secondary scoring, as his performance this year has often been the main catalyst for the Oilers' attack.

    Without Shawn Horcoff in the lineup this season, the Oilers were forced to tinker with line combinations and had to rely on unproven AHL call-ups as stopgaps at center.

    Because of Horcoff's absence, players like Nail Yakupov suffered, relegated to playing with bottom-sixers rather than highly skilled forwards.

    While Horcoff was out, Yakupov languished on the third line alongside Eric Belanger and his production and subsequent development took a step back in the process. 

2. The Oilers Lack Versatility

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    The Oilers have an abundance of top-end, small-stature forwards, but lack players who have a bit of size and edge to their game.

    Horcoff isn't the biggest player, but the veteran Oiler has a different skill set that seems to mesh well with players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

    Horcoff has established chemistry with both Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth, but he can also line up with the younger superstars in the Oilers lineup and allow them to focus more on the offensive aspect of their games.

    With Horcoff out of the lineup, the Oilers attack is all the same and the team suffers in large part due to the lack of versatility.  

1. He Is the Captain of the Team

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    Whether or not the choice to name Shawn Horcoff—and not Ryan Smyth—captain after Jason Smith left the Oilers was the best decision is beside the fact. 

    Shawn Horcoff has been an admirable captain on a team that has struggled to establish its identity over the past decade or so. 

    Horcoff may not have flashy numbers or score 60 points a season (though fans have come to expect this thanks in large part to his extremely large contract), but it is the less glamorous things that he does that truly set him apart and are the aspects the club misses most when he is out of the lineup. 

    Horcoff can not only win draws, but thanks to his speed and willingness to play a physical game, he is an extremely valuable penalty killer.

    On a young team such as the Oilers, a veteran voice such as Horcoff's goes a long way to establish the culture of the locker room and help to instill the work ethic needed to be a successful player at the NHL level. 

    With Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall being named alternate captains this season, it is imperative that Horcoff is in the lineup and mentoring these two fledgling superstars.