Old Friend or New Foe? Shawn Horcoff Returns to Edmonton

Tonight’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars marks the return of Shawn Horcoff.  A former captain of the copper and blue and long-standing teammate, Horcoff experienced the good, the bad and the ugly during his time in the Alberta capital and now tonight it’s a question if he’s an old friend or new foe.

Drafted 99th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Horcoff would suit up 796 times for the Oilers, racking up 162 goals and 285 assists, good for 447 points.  Hardly your prototypical Hall of Fame numbers but it was his leadership that so many media members and former teammates point too when reflecting on Horcoff’s time in Edmonton.

Sam Gagner gives thanks to Horcoff, stating he learnt how to be a leader and a better teammate from him during their five years together.

Many of the main stream media have stated on Twitter the utmost respect they have for Horcoff who worked hard everyday, practice or game, it didn’t matter.  He was always willing to address the media no matter how frustrated he was personally or how bad the team was struggling.

Horcoff spent twelve seasons in Edmonton and the highlight has to be the cup run in 2006, despite falling one game short of having his name etched in hockey history.

His best season came that same year, notching 22 goals and 51 assists for 73 points in 80 games.  Those career best numbers earned him a new contract worth $3.6 million and laid the ground work for the heavily scrutinized extension that followed in 2008.  An enormous 6-year, $33 million dollar deal was solidified despite three sub-par years when comparing it to the 2005-06 season.

It was there that Horcoff started to be the brunt of many Oilers fans frustrations given the team’s lack of success on the ice and failing to duplicate the 05-06 season.

Fans are constantly referring to the fact that it’s been seven long years with no playoff hockey and through that drought, Horcoff’s lofty contract and lack of production was the scape goat, amid Steve Tambellini‘s ridiculous decisions.

Fifty-three points was the highest point total Horcoff would put forth in a season since that glorious ’06 campaign.  Not necessarily numbers that reflect the value of a large contract and maybe the burden of being named captain was additional and unwanted pressure, we’ll never know.

But naming him captain was the right choice to lead this so called re-build that is now approaching the ten-year mark and Horcoff is no where to be found, aside from the visitor’s bench tonight.  He was a leader for this team who worked his tail off night after night and always put the team first and that has to count for something.

Many Oilers fans point to the Ryan Smyth trade and feel it was then that the team lost it’s identity.  Maybe so, but when the Craig MacTavish traded Shawn Horcoff last summer, it was then that this team lost it’s leader and so far no other player has emerged to fill his shoes.

So when you see number ten in the visitors jersey tonight, back on Rexall ice for the first time since last season, give him a round of applause and thank him for his services as an Oiler.  He may be a new foe, but he’ll always be an old friend and an Oiler for life in this writer’s opinion.

Welcome back to Edmonton, Shawn.

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