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Hemsky and Horcoff are Headed Out of Town

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Craig MacTavish is actively trying to move Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff.

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Doug Pensinger

Craig MacTavish was on the Team 1260 yesterday and had a very candid conversation with Mark Spector. He addressed a number of different issues, but the most interesting part by far was his commentary on the future of Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Here's a partial transcript of MacTavish's comments:

Spector: Your thoughts on whether or not [Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff] can be rehabbed into what they once were before a long period of losing here in Edmonton.

MacTavish: It's hard, I think. I think both of those players are really at similar crossroads. Sometimes change is good for both the organization and the player, but at the same time, they're valuable players, and we're not in a position that we're going to be able to move them without getting something substantial in return. But I think when you've been in an environment like Edmonton has had the last little while, that you start, as a veteran, at times -- and maybe it's just subconsciously -- that you really start to lose your belief in your ability to win.... I have a lot of allegiance and a lot of loyalty to [them].... I have a lot of respect for both of those players. But I think that from both their perspectives, an ideal scenario would be to move them on and wish them the best in their next destination.

Spector: I guess when you talked about bold decisions and tough decisions, that's got to be 1 and 1a on your shopping list.

MacTavish: I'm not so sure about that. I think it's a pretty obvious decision. Again, would we welcome those players back if the right circumstance doesn't present itself? Absolutely. But I think that in talking to both those guys, the best situation would be to be able to move on.

Very candid indeed. Most NHL General Mangers will talk about players as commodities when speaking very generally, but it's unusual to see that sentiment come out when specific players are being discussed. The strategy being articulated isn't bad though. If the Oilers move Horcoff, they'll certainly need to bring in another center, but with Horcoff leaving, they'll have the cap room to do it; The same basic logic applies to Hemsky, though he would be easier to replace internally. When I put together a three-year plan I had both Horcoff and Hemsky staying, but I can certainly see the logic in moving them if the return is reasonable, a point that MacTavish emphasized. No, the only thing odd here is that MacTavish is talking so openly about a move that hasn't yet been made.

As though he's trolling us, MacTavish actually speaks to this exact point later on in the interview when he's asked about the Oilers conducting interviews with various coaches:

Spector: You're obviously trying to beef up your coaching staff. Describe to us what you're trying to accomplish there, please.

MacTavish: Well, for me, my policy is I don't want to comment on any ongoing personnel decisions that we're making. Those decisions will be made and when they are made then we'll have plenty to discuss and be able to try and shed some light on why we're making these decisions. But it's very counter-productive in my experience to start talking about these things before you actually make the move, so I'm going to plead the fifth on that.

I understand that these situations are different in that Horcoff and Hemsky are his "property" while the coaches being interviewed aren't. Still, these situations seem awfully similar to me. As a fan of the team, it's much more fun to hear MacTavish talk strategy (it certainly helps me to speculate more intelligently!) but I can't figure out what he's trying to accomplish by talking about these two players publicly. If Horcoff and Hemsky are moved over the summer, it's probably not a big deal, and even if they come back, we're talking about adults here, so I'm sure everyone involved will be sent to rot in Hershey deal with the situation professionally. Still, it would be a pain for either of the players to have to answer question after question about wanting out of Edmonton, and it would be a pain for MacTavish to have to answer questions about why he wasn't able to move these players. It wouldn't have to be, but certainly could become a distraction, especially if the Oilers get off to a slow start. Given that downside, why not just wait until something's official before speaking publicly?