Couple Thoughts on Shawn Horcoff

rsz_game25horcAny hopes of Shawn Horcoff playing one more season in the NHL were put to rest this morning as he officially accepted a new front office role with the Detroit Red Wings. While I do think he’ll eventually be part of a coaching staff one day, starting off in a player development role suits him just fine for now.

He was absolutely one of my favorite players, mostly because he was a solid centermen, but also because his work was often overlooked and taken for granted. He was also a reason why I got into shot-based metrics like Corsi and Fenwick around the time the advanced numbers were taking off. Many times, you would see him play against the best lines, prevent bad things from happening, and then skate off the ice with nothing really to show for it. But when we started getting access to time on ice numbers and started to see how much the team relied on him to play against the Sakic’s and Yzerman’s, you began to appreciate how much he meant to the franchise.

He also represents to me an era of the Oilers that will never get a lot of praise, but one that I’ll always be attached to. Now I have nothing against the dynasty Oilers and obviously appreciate and respect their accomplishments. But I was too young to really be into hockey in the 80’s, and really have zero attachment to that era and those players.

Instead it’s been the Oilers since 1997 that I’ve had an attachment to and identify with. Every move the team has made, every season, the players, I feel like I have my own story to tell and my own interpretation of the events. So following the career of Horcoff, from his draft day to the 2006 playoff run, to the trade to Dallas, to his season in Anaheim, there’s a sense of loss with the news of his retirement, but also a renewed sense of connection to a player that accomplished a lot over the course of 15 seasons.

Below are the links to articles I’ve written about Horcoff. Included in those links are the numbers he posted as an Oilers, but also a review of his performance in Dallas, where he was a solid depth player, and Anaheim, where he continued to be a reliable utility player and saw his ice time gradually increase.

 

 

 

Shawn Horcoff’s 2015/16 Season

Shawn-Horcoff--Anaheim-Ducks-jpgLast summer , I put together a case for the Oilers to bring back Shawn Horcoff as a way to solidify their depth and give support to the young forwards.  Obviously a long shot that he’d actually come back to Edmonton as a free agent. But he was worth a look as he put together two decent seasons in Dallas as a depth winger, and would’ve been a cheap signing.

Articles are here:

Bringing Back Horcoff
Bringing Back Horcoff (Part 2)
Brincing Back Horcoff (Part 3)

I was happy to see that Horcoff signed with the Ducks as it gave him a great chance to win the cup and cap off a great career. I didn’t expect him to play a whole lot to be honest, as I figured he would be a fill-in for Nate Thompson while he was recovering from surgery. But when I checked in in December, not only was Horcoff still playing at center even with Thompson back, but his ice-time had gradually increased from the start of the season.

Horcoff actually finished the season well scoring 13 even-strength points in 59 games (Source: War on Ice), good for 9th on team among forwards (over 250 minutes of ice time). And his 1.22 points/60 wasn’t too far off from his six year average of 1.28. Looking at his Relative to Team metrics, we see below that while the team did slightly better possession wise without Horcoff on the ice, the Ducks actually generated more high-danger scoring chances when Horcoff was on the ice (+3.62), ranking him 2nd on the team behind Ryan Getzlaf. This appears to have translated into more goals, as the team got a higher share of total goals at even-strength when Horcoff was out there (+2.03), ranking him 6th on the team this season. Worth noting that luck (i.e., PDO) does not appear to have been a factor as the team wasn’t getting a higher-than-normal shooting percentage (only 6.33%) with Horcoff on the ice, and his personal shooting percentage was lower than his six-year average.  I’ve also included expected goals, which captures shot quality and factors in the type and location of the shot (Source: Corsica Hockey).

 

Horcoff Profile 2

The key takeaway from this table is that comparing this season’s numbers with his six year average, things aren’t too far off and in some areas, he was better than his average. Considering Horcoff is turning 38 this fall, I figured we’d start to see a decline in productivity but that hasdn’t been the case this past season.

Unfortunately for him, the 20-game suspension for taking a banned substance is what will likely define his season. It’s also hard to overlook the fact that Horcoff is 38 soon and has been dealing with injuries and may even consider retiring. But seeing what he could do as a depth player this past season, I think more than a few teams could take a chance on him and sign him to a very reasonable contract. Horcoff is well past his prime now, but the fact that he can post numbers that are near his career averages indicates, to me at least, that he may just have something left in the tank.

Shawn Horcoff Plays in His 1,000th NHL Game

Originally published on The Copper & Blue.

20101006_horcoff

This past Thursday night, former Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff played in his 1,000th NHL game, a milestone that only 301 players in the history of the NHL have reached before him.

Since being drafted in the fourth round by the Oilers in 1998, 99th overall, Horcoff has notched 509 points, which ranks him 10th in his draft class. 447 of those points were with the Oilers, where he also played in 35 playoff games, scoring 23 points.

Following his tenure with the Oilers, Horcoff played with the Dallas Stars where he scored 20 points as a depth player in 2013/14, and lead the roster in playoff points that spring. He followed this up with a 29 point campaign in Dallas, ranking sixth on the team in points per 60 at even-strength. This season, Horcoff has notched 13 points in 51 games for the Ducks, and has played significant minutes on the penalty kill, which ranks number one in the league.

The 37-year-old is nearing retirement, but is still providing good prouduction as depth player. His time with the Oilers was often criticized because of his contract, but his effort level and contributions on-the ice cannot be overlooked.

Congrats to Shawn Horcoff on a significant milestone. And all the best in the playoffs this season.

 

 

Checking in on Shawn Horcoff

HorcoffThis past off-season, I put together a couple of posts on Horcoff and how he’d be a good addition to the Oilers bottom six. In his two seasons in Dallas, Horcoff was a reliable third line winger who produced well at even-strength, and even led the team in playoff points in 2013. I thought he would’ve been a smart, low cost addition to the Oilers and could move around the lineup as needed. And at the same time, he’d provide guidance to the young core, and slide into the pivot spot if/when an injury occurs. If you’re interested, the posts are here.

Bringing Back Horcoff
Bringing Back Horcoff (Part 2)
Brincing Back Horcoff (Part 3)

I can’t say I was too surprised when Horcoff signed with Anaheim for one year at $1.75 million. At 36, he’s near the end of his career and was looking to be on a Stanley Cup contender. What I found surprising was that the Ducks brought him in as a center to play behind Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, as Nate Thompson was going to be out until December following surgery. The fourth center from last season (based on the number of faceoffs taken) was young Rickard Rakell, who I though the team would give more minutes to to develop him as a pivot.

I figured now would be a good time to check in and see how Horcoff is doing as a Duck. What we know for sure is that he’s been the club’s third line center, playing most of his minutes at even-strength with Andrew Cogliano and Carl Hagelin. The trio have produced relatively well with Horcoff scoring four goals and three assists at even strength, ranking him third among the Ducks regular forwards when it comes to points/60 at 1.35.  Horcoff has also played the fourth most minutes on the Ducks penalty kill, which currently ranks 2nd in the league. He’s taken the bulk of defensive zone starts and holds a 50.2 win percentage when it comes to faceoffs at even-strength.

For reference, here’s Horcoff’s current set of stats compared to the previous six years.

Horcoff Profile

 

What’s worth noting is Horcoff’s increasing ice time at even-strength this season. Even with Nate Thompson returning this month, Horcoff continues getting his usual ice time, with young Rakell now being moved to wing, playing on the top line with Perry and Getzlaf. This moves bodes well for everyone involved, with the coaches having some flexibility if any centers go down with an injury.

Horcoff - TOI-GM

The increased ice time had me wondering about his quality of competition, and if the increase is because he’s going up against the opposition’s top centers more frequently. Below is Horcoff’s competition’s percentage of ice-time courtesy of War on Ice.

Horcoff - TOIC-GM

Here we see that Horcoff is in fact taking on competition that gets a higher share of their teams ice time. To verify what I was seeing here, I checked the Ducks’ last five games to see which center’s Horcoff played against and how he did in terms of shot differentials.

Opponent Most TOI Against (Even-strength) CF CA Diff
Vancouver H. Sedin/D. Sedin 8 4 4
Tampa Bay Stamkos/Filpula 5 6 -1
San Jose Marleau/Ward 6 4 2
Pittsburgh Crosby/Kunitz 5 4 1
Carolina Lindholm/Staal 8 4 4

Not only has Horcoff been going head to head against the top competition, but he’s actually been doing alright when it comes to shot differentials. Just to be sure, I wanted to confirm that the other two Ducks’ centermen were actually seeing weaker competition now that Horcoff is taking on the Crosby’s and Stamkos’. Here’s a look at the percentage of ice time Getzlaf’s and Kesler’s competition gets.

Getzlaf - TOIC-GM

Kesler - TOIC-GM

 

Coach Bruce Boudreau was clearly throwing Getzlaf and Perry against the other team’s top lines, but has moved away from that strategy in an attempt to bolster the offence.  I think it’s smart move on his part to look for matchups that would benefit his top two lines. And really, none of that would be possible if Horcoff wasn’t added this past off-season.

Lastly, I wanted to see what proportion of goals and shot attempts Horcoff was achieving with his most common linemates this season.

Horcoff and Cogliano

Horcoff and Hagelin

I think the Ducks should be encouraged by the fact that these three have had chemistry and have the ability to take on the tougher competition. Horcoff is posting a Corsi For % above 50% with both Cogliano and Hagelin, and I would hesitate in splitting them up even with Thompson back in the lineup.

Thoughts

The Ducks made a great signing bringing in Horcoff this off-season. He’s been a productive depth centerman who filled in nicely for Thompson, and might even hang on to that third line center spot for the rest of the season. This surprised me for two reasons: one, I thought he was done being a centerman. And two, Thompson and Rakell appeared to have those center spots held down for good behind Kesler and Getzlaf. Anything can happen in an NHL season, but it’s nice to see Horcoff carving out a regular role as a Duck.

As for the team itself, the Ducks started off very poorly and are still languishing at the bottom of a very weak Pacific Division. The team has shown improvements, now sitting at a 52.1% score adjusted Corsi (7th in the league), and a 50.4% when it comes to scoring chances (15th in the league). These are both major improvements from the first month of the season when the club ranked in the bottom third in both categories. Unfortunately, the club’s inconsistent goaltending combined with a 4.9% shooting percentage (last in the league) and a 30th ranked Goals For% will need to improve if the club has any hopes for the playoffs.

Sources of data: War on Ice, Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Analysis, NHL.com

Bringing Back Horcoff (Part 3)

C7G6458_slideI should probably change the name of this post, as Horcoff has officially signed with the Anaheim Ducks for one year at $1.75 million. But since this ties in with Part 1 and Part 2, I’ll leave it as is.

Once the Oilers acquired winger Lauri Korpikoski for Boyd Gordon, I figured there’d be no chance of Horcoff returning. The Oilers left wing roster chart was filled before the free agency window opened with Hall, Pouliot, Hendricks, Pakarinen and now Korpikoski signed to play next season. Horcoff had success as a center for the Oilers, but in his past two seasons, he’s been primarily a winger in Dallas.

The Ducks, it appears, have signed him as a centerman. Their left wing roster already has Perry, Maroon, Sekac and now Hagelin who was acquired from New York. Down the middle is where they’ll likely use Horcoff as Nate Thompson is out until December. Ahead of him will be Getzlaf, Kesler and young Rickard Rakell, who the Ducks are probably looking to develop over the next year as he heads into restricted free agency.

It’s obvious Horcoff really wanted to join a cup contender for next season, which is fair considering his age. He’s likely to start as the third/fourth line center until December when Thompson comes back, and then be fighting for a roster spot.. It’s a good, low risk signing for the Ducks, who have added experience to their roster and have flexibility setting their lines.

It’s worth noting that the Ducks replaced Beleskey’s production on left wing with relatively cheaper options in Horcoff and Hagelin, who were both productive last season for Dallas and New York, respectively. (Oddly enough, Beleksey appeared in my list of comparables in my last post on Horcoff). Here’s how all three did at even-strength, when the score was close (Source: War on Ice).

2014-2015, Even-strength, Score Close
Statistic M. Beleskey (ANA)
LW
S. Horcoff  (DAL)
LW/C
C. Hagelin  (NYR)
LW
Games 65 76 82
Goals 12 5 10
Assists 7 11 12
Points 19 16 22
TOI/Game 7.65 6.20 7.70
Points/60 2.29 2.04 2.09
Player Shooting % 15.79 12.20 11.36
Zone Starts (Offensive)% 51.44 50.55 48.44
ZSO%Rel 2.54 0.11 -2.30
Corsi For% 53.22 53.13 49.21
CF%Rel 3.09 1.02 -0.72
Scoring Chances For% 53.85 57.08 48.43
SCF%Rel 2.46 4.79 -2.46
Shots For% 51.22 52.20 49.92
SF%Rel 0.47 0.04 -1.27

Not bad potential replacements, considering the cost. Hagelin played mostly with JT Miller and Kevin Hayes in New York, and my guess is he’ll play with Kesler and Silfverberg, who were often Beleskey’s linemates (Source: Hockey Analysis). Haglelin had slightly more points this past season, but his possession stats and shot-share don’t show too well. Horcoff is definitely nearing the end of his career, but he’s a nice option for the Ducks who should be at the top of the division again this season.

Bringing Back Horcoff

horcoffHear me out.

For the first time in a long time, the Oilers are poised to start a season with four legitimate centermen. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anton Lander made some very nice progress last season, while Boyd Gordon, who is in his last season of his three-year contract, played consistently in both ends of the ice. Connor McDavid will be in the starting line-up in October and at this point I’ll assume he’ll be at center.

We’ll also have Leon Draisaitl (truly) competing for a roster spot in training camp. I hope he flourishes and makes a huge push, but I would not be disappointed if Leon spends a season in the AHL to refine his game. Keep in mind, the AHL’s California teams will play less games next season and focus more on player development. Young prospects like Leon will get more ice time and more opportunities to play different situations.

As of today, the 2015-2016 forwards roster looks something like this:

LW C RW
Pouliot RNH Eberle
Hall McDavid Yakupov
Pakarinen Lander Purcell
Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer

Not bad, right? And you can easily shift guys around and even entertain the idea of having Draisaitl somewhere on the wing.

My concern here is that the Oilers would be absolutely hooped if one of the centermen got hurt. The other issue is that Lander might regress or Gordon might start slowing down due to the workload. Plus, it might be best that McDavid ease his way in to the NHL by playing wing with an experienced centerman. Draisaitl could possibly be that replacement player, but it would make no sense to stunt his development because the Oilers weren’t deep enough at center.

What I propose is that the Oilers acquire an experienced centerman who could play wing, but shift to center as needed. Someone who could slide into that third line left-wing spot and play some special teams as needed. And with a young core, it’ll be imperative that the club bring in a proven leader to provide guidance.

The Candidate

Shawn Horcoff will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, just completing his six year, $33 million contract that he signed with the Oilers in 2008. He’s 36 years old now, having played 946 NHL games and scoring 496 points. There is no question that his career will be coming to a close soon, but it’s his performance last season that has me thinking he could be a productive player for the Oilers next season.

Below is a summary of his play at even-strength over the past five seasons (Source: War on Ice).

Season Team Gm G P A TOI/Gm P60 CF% ZSO%
2010/11 EDM 47 4 14 10 13.83 1.29 48.42 50.73
2011/12 EDM 81 7 16 9 13.37 0.89 47.08 42.99
2012/13 EDM 31 4 8 4 11.3 1.37 42.38 40.57
2013/14 DAL 77 1 13 12 10.16 1.00 48.65 52.38
2014/15 DAL 76 6 22 16 10.06 1.73 52.68 50.99

Horcoff notched 29 points last season, with 22 of those points coming at even-strength. His offensive zone starts were down slightly from the previous year, but he managed to perform better in terms of productivity and possession. He played limited minutes in Dallas, and produced at a third-line level.

What should be noted is that Horcoff played a lot on the wing, as the Stars had Seguin, Spezza, Eakin and Fiddler as pivots. Horcoff still took a lot of faceoffs, but he was 6th on the team in faceoff attempts (Source: NHL.com).

Horcoff’s two most common linemates last season were Vernon Fiddler and Colton Sceviour (Source: Hockey Analysis). Here’s a quick summary of how they fared together and apart.

Corsi % (Even strength)
Linemate With Horcoff Without Horcoff
C. Sceviour 55.0 52.7
V. Fiddler 53.1 48.5

Horcoff away from these two had a decent Corsi. What’s interesting is how both his linemates posted slightly better Corsi’s when Horcoff was with them. Horcoff might be getting older, but he’s not at the point where he drags down teammates. It should be noted that Horcoff had reasonable zone starts and typically went against the other club’s bottom six forwards.

Dallas Stars 201415

The key thing to consider is that Horcoff filled the kind of role the Oilers really need this year: an experienced forward, who can produce on the third line, not be a drag on his linemates and make a seamless transition to center when needed. He did a little bit of everything, serving as a mentor to the younger players in Dallas.

And if you want some “toughness” and “grit” and whatever on the third line, he’s your guy:

I can’t imagine a lot of teams lining up to sign him due to his age, so the acquisition cost should be low. The other issue of course is whether Horcoff would want to sign in Edmonton, likely preferring to join a cup contender. My guess is that because of McDavid and the reputable management team in place now, Edmonton would be a prime destination for many, including Horcoff.

And if Horcoff doesn’t fit what the Oilers want, here’s hoping they strongly consider adding an experienced center through trade or free agency. It’s absolutely critical.