Within every Cinderella story, there is usually a wicked step-sister. With every up, their is a down. With every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, the downside of Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Mike Comrie having tremendous starts to the 2009/2010 season, is that Shawn Horcoff seems to be the part of the equation that hasn't fit. Not good for the Oilers most expensive forward.
This isn't to suggest that it's entirely Shawn Horcoff's fault.
Shawn Horcoff has been asked to fill roles on this team that very few Oilers, if any, can fill. Edmonton lacks a number of faceoff capable forwards, which means Horcoff is called upon to take 42 percent of them. Shawn Horcoff has taken 200 faceoffs this year, while the rest of the team has taken a total of 292 combined.
Furthermore, while Shawn Horcoff has never really been that true No. 1 center the Oilers have needed, the Oilers have been unable to find a suitable replacement, so Horcoff again was slotted into that position.
Again, not Horcoff's fault.
With all that said, Shawn Horcoff is earning $7 million dollars this season. That's an awful lot of money for a player who has two points while leading the Oilers in time on ice per game.
Before many of you go there—yes—I realize his cap hit is $5.5 million per season. Yes, I realize he spends much of that ice time killing penalties, winning draws, and playing a solid two-way game. Shawn Horcoff provides critical elements of a hockey team that are hard to replace.
But understand that it'll take one, maybe two, more games before none of that matters. If Horcoff doesn't start to produce on the offensive side of the ice, fans will quickly jump on the move Shawn Horcoff bandwagon faster than they jumped off the move Dustin Penner one.
As time goes by, it's going to get harder and harder for Horcoff to contribute where people notice it most.
He's was moved from the top line for his inability to click with Ales Hemsky and the result, was a 13-point effort between Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, and Horcoff's replacement, Sam Gagner. The first line likely won't put forth those kind of numbers frequently, but Thursday's game against Columbus didn't help his cause.
The second line, to which Horcoff now resides, isn't helping him much either.
Mike Comrie has been the latest Oilers casualty of the flu and is questionable against Calgary on Saturday. That leaves Horcoff, O'Sullivan and anyone that has enough strength to lace up his skates and get through a game. The most likely candidate will be Robert Nilsson or Gilbert Brule is he's feeling well enough to play.
So, what is Shawn Horcoff to do? Well that probably depends on how the next couple games go for Edmonton. Should the Oilers not find themselves in a lot of penalty trouble against both the Flames and Canucks, it provides Horcoff a chance to get out on the powerplay. A place where his opportunity to score will likely increase.
Horcoff could also use a little help from the magic produced between O'Sullivan and Comrie that existed in the preseason. If somehow those two can get things going again, Horcoff should find himself on the receiving end of some second, possibly first assists.
If Horcoff gets really fortunate, he gets the chance to finally finish on a couple of his many shorthanded chances he has yet to bury.
No matter which way you slice it, if you asked, Horcoff would probably gladly contribute some of his hefty new salary to get off the snide—a small price to pay for a kick-start in the right direction.
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