The veteran is the obvious choice for the job given the fan discussion over the last month. He plays in all situations and does the dirty work for the Oilers. There is no harder worker on the team and his leadership is unquestioned. He's likely going to end up babysitting at least one winger on the ice this year, and it's not a stretch to think that he will be asked to babysit half of the team.
A lot of those sentiments were echoed by Tom Renney, Steve Tambellini, and many of Horcoff's teammates today after he was, in fact, named captain. Horcoff takes a lot of guff from fans, but that's more because of his salary (and yes, it is something of an albatross) than it is his game, his work ethic, his desire to help the team, or his ability to lead, and frankly, those four things are pretty darn important when naming a captain. But that doesn't mean there aren't questions. Should the Oilers have picked someone younger? Should they have picked someone who isn't connected to "the old guard" of Moreau, Staios, and MacTavish? Should they have picked the best player, or at least someone that fans don't love to hate?
So, should the Oilers have picked someone younger? Some of his teammates addressed that very concern today. Taylor Hall said that Horcoff was "[his] choice" for team captain, a testament to the leadership Horcoff has provided through training camp. One of the advantages to having Hall in the NHL is that he'll be able to learn to play all over the ice from both his coaches and teammates. With Hall starting the year on Horcoff's wing, I'm more confident that will happen. Sam Gagner was asked specifically about the age gap between Horcoff and many of the team's most talented players and responded by saying, "Horc might be ten years older, but he's in touch with everything that's going on, and guys call him the GM because of how organized he is, and how he's just got everything so taken care of. That's something you can really look up to." The GM is a great nickname. Considering the contract he and his agent negotiated, I'm pretty sure I'd prefer them to Steve Tambellini!
It would be easier to dismiss those comments from Hall, Gagner and others "saying what people say" if we hadn't already heard similar things from Andrew Cogliano earlier in the summer: "I want to be a guy like Horc. He plays hard offensively and defensively." Sure, Horcoff sounds a bit like Sam's older brother in that quote above, but I think it's great that the captain is someone it seems almost everyone on the team looks up to.
Should they have avoided the old guard? Personally, I don't think so. If Horcoff was a problem in the room, hazing the young guys, blaming his teammates, and so forth, I can say with confidence that he wouldn't have been given the "C". Since that isn't the case, I think there's some benefit to having a long-time Oiler in the position. He knows the city, knows some of the history of the team, and most importantly, knows what it feels like in Edmonton when the team is winning. If this team somehow surprises and makes it to the playoffs, Horcoff is going to be the guy who will help keep everyone on an even keel amid the excitement, a role that I think is important.
What about picking a guy so many fans hate? It may actually work in his favour. Edmonton is a tough town to play in, and the team always has its scapegoats. Jason Arnott, Tom Poti, Cory Cross, Dustin Penner, and there are sure to be more while Horcoff is here. He's sure to take a lot of that scapegoating himself, but if it does happen to Sam Gagner, or Andrew Cogliano, Horcoff will be able to relate and help. He'll be able to understand what they're going through and help them deal with it.
I think Shawn Horcoff is a good choice for captain of this team. He's a player who's worked hard to get where he is, and that's always a good example to hold high on a young team. He's also a player who chose Edmonton after two pretty bad seasons, one of the only players (ever!) to commit his entire prime to the Oilers. As contracts come up for renewal, honouring that kind of commitment may well be put to good use.