"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."
After last night's game, Twitter, blogs and message boards erupted in agony. Tom Renney sent Shawn Horcoff out for the shootout with the game on the line and left multiple YOUNG GUNZ! on the bench. Never mind that Horcoff was 9 for 17 in his career in the shootout coming into the game, 4th-all time amongst all players with 10 attempts or more, it was a terrible move according to the pained cries from Alberta.
It's just another in a long series of undeserving criticisms leveled at Horcoff by Oilers' fans. Horcoff was their primary target of ire last night, despite leading all forwards in ice time. For the season, Horcoff is averaging 21:12 per game, good for 10th in the league among forwards. Despite playing only four minutes in the first period against the Penguins (his low time on ice was met with rejoicing from fans who declared "a new era" in Edmonton) he's now played 38 minutes in the last 5.5 periods.Horcoff actually finished second in total ice time last night behind Tom Gilbert. Gilbert has also taken his fair share of lumps from fans who call his $4 million annual price tag an albatross and a gross overpayment. They take their shots at Gilbert, and spew words like "soft" and "heartless", even though he's been the best and most consistent defender on the team for the last three seasons. Gilbert, by the way, is currently 10th in the entire league in time on ice. He's also played five minutes more per game than any other Oiler. Even with noted physical defensemen Andy Sutton and Theo Peckham on the team, it's Tom Gilbert who has been tasked with the enormous minutes.
Horcoff has played 2:20 more per game than any other forward. Horcoff isn't just carrying the minutes load, either. Horcoff took 30 shifts last night, and started 22 of those shifts with a faceoff. 10 of those faceoffs came in the neutral zone, 9 in the defensive zone and just 3 in the offensive zone. He won 13 of them for a 59% win rate on the night. Compare this to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who took 18 shifts and 8 faceoffs. Just 1 of those faceoffs came in the defensive zone. In game 1 against the Penguins, Horcoff took 26 faceoffs, 17 of them in the defensive zone. He won 17 of 26 for a 65% win rate. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took 15 faceoffs, just 6 in the defensive zone.
Tom Renney's willingness to dump the load on Shawn Horcoff is what has allowed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to look like an offensive dynamo. It's easier to avoid those long shifts in the defensive zone if the kid never starts there.
Both of these men are being entrusted by the Coach to carry a tremendous burden for the young Oilers. By placing that burden on them, Renney is enabling the other less-able players to succeed in sheltered roles. Remember this the next time some cocksure "fan" starts in on the two veterans.