Center Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers will miss the rest of the NHL season.
Word is that Horcoff—who will have surgery on his left shoulder this week, in effect ending his season—aggravated the injury during the NHL All-Star Game over a week ago.
Horcoff, who was on pace to top 30 goals for the first time in his career, seemed destined to set career highs in goals (22) and had an outside shot at surpassing his high in points (73) until this setback.
According to media reports, Horcoff first sustained the shoulder injury on October 12. The Oilers' leading scorer had been putting off surgery throughout the season.
But hearing word that a premier player (Horcoff leads the team with 21 goals and 50 points in 53 games this season) had to miss the rest of the year—perhaps crippling his team's playoff chances—thanks to an injury suffered in a meaningless mid-season game that no one takes seriously, must make fans cringe.
Even if you don't root for the Oilers, you can't help but feel their pain. Unless of course, you are a Flames fan.
Would Horcoff's season have been extended longer if he hadn't participated in the All-Star Game?
That is debatable.
Horcoff may well have aggravated the injury at another point during the season.
But surely he could have suited up for at least a few more games—helping the Oilers get some valuable points in the standings—had he not dressed for the Western Conference against the East in Atlanta on January 27th.
There have been some—most notably Bob McCown from Prime Time Sports—who have suggested in the past that the NHL just scrap the annual All-Star contest. It is injuries like this that just make you wonder why the league even bothers.
Is there any meaning to the All-Star Game, which unlike baseball's Midsummer Classic does not guarantee the winning conference an extra home game in the Stanley Cup Final?
Why didn't the Oilers, knowing that Horcoff already had a bad shoulder, demand that he skip the game in the first place?
Why on earth did Horcoff even bother attending, instead of joining others (including Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Dany Heatley, Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur) who chose to decline the invitation for various reasons?
Obviously, Horcoff doesn't have the elite status as the other all-stars who missed the All-Star Weekend, but losing him does not bode well for a struggling Oilers club from here on out.
Now, it will be a tough road for the Oilers, who are tied for 13th place in the Conference with a 23-26-5 record and 51 points, and on the fringe of playoff contention being eight points back of eighth-place Nashville.
Without Horcoff the rest of the year, the Oilers will probably be battling to stay out of the basement of the entire league instead of battling for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles is last overall in the league with 45 points, followed by Tampa Bay at 47.
This latest setback is a devastating blow to the Oilers indeed.