Horcoff on the dot

Jason Gregor
October 15 2008 08:00AM

While it’s only one game, the Oilers’ season opener was consistent with their pre-season games: Get out-shot, get better goaltending and lose more faceoffs. Obviously, they’d like the goaltending trend to remain but want to improve those other two facets.

Directing shots on goal will be easier than becoming a dominant team in the dot.

The Oilers won a paltry 28 per cent of the faceoffs vs Colorado. Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny were very good winning combining to win 29 of 41 draws for 66 per cent.

And they both dominated the Oilers’ best faceoff man. Shawn Horcoff, a career 54 per cent in the dot, won only five of 18 draws against those two, and he finished the game only six of 22 in the circle.

Last season Horcoff tore his labrum in game two and aggravated it the most when he took draws in the next 51 games. He admitted that his lack of success on Sunday was more mental than physical.

“My shoulder feels fine. If anything, I think it was more mental. I never got in sync in the dot, and I think I was hesitant. But I was awful the first five games last season, so I’m not concerned.”

While one could understand Horcoff being a bit hesitant in the draws, I was surprised when I looked at his faceoff success in those five games.

Game one vs San Jose

Horcoff won 13 of 20, for 65 per cent.

Win – Loss – Opponent 2 – 0 – Joe Pavelski 4 – 1 – Marcel Goc 5 – 0 – Torrey Mitchell 2 – 6 – Joe Thornton

Thornton dominated Horcoff, but other than that he was almost perfect.

Game two vs Philly

Horcoff won 13 of 20, for 65 per cent.

W – L – Opp 4 – 2 – Jeff Carter 2 – 2 – Mike Richards 1 – 0 – Mike Knuble 6 – 3 – Daniel Briere

Horcoff was more focused in the offensive and defensive zones, as he lost four of seven in the neutral zone. If you lose a draw, the neutral zone is the place to do it.

Game three vs Detroit (Road game)

Horcoff won six of 17, for 35 per cent.

W – L – Opp 0 – 1 – Dallas Drake 1 – 4 – Kris Draper 5 – 12 – Henrik Zetterberg

Zetterberg completely dominated Horcoff in this game, but in the next two meetings Horcoff rebounded to win eight of 12.

Game four vs Minnesota (Road game)

Horcoff won 11 of 22, for 50 per cent

W – L – Opp 8 – 4 – Mikko Koivu 3 – 2 – Eric Belanger 0 – 2 – Wes Walz 0 – 3 – Pavol Demitra

Horcoff was best in the offensive zone winning 63 per cent of those draws.

Game five versus Canucks (Home game)

Horcoff won 13 of 17, for 76 per cent

W – L – Opp 1 – 0 – Alex Burrows 4 – 0 – Ryan Kesler 5 – 3 – Henrik Sedin 3 – 1 – Rick Rypien

Horcoff dominated this game, but was extra good in the offensive zone winning six of eight.

Clearly, Horcoff wasn’t bad at all. In fact, he was really good combining to win 71 per cent of his draws. Horcoff will need to be better starting tonight in Anaheim, because the Oilers can’t realistically expect Andrew Cogliano or Fernando Pisani to improve overnight. Cogliano won only 39 per cent of his draws last season, and only won one of seven against Colorado.

If the Oilers want to control the puck, Horcoff—along with Kyle Brodziak (four of six in game one)—will have to carry the load in the faceoff dot. If not, the Oilers will need Mathieu Garon to stand on his head once again.

—Listen to Jason Gregor every weekday between 3 and 6pm on Just a Game on the Team 1260.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 george
October 15 2008, 08:18AM
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If we continue to suck in faceoffs for the next couple of weeks, is there any chance the oil pick up a faceoff specialist a la Yanic P? To me, this inability to win draws is the most glaring problem of all.

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#2 doritogrande
October 15 2008, 09:11AM
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Perrault doesn't have a spot on this roster. The only glaring hole is the 3-line C, and I can't remember seeing Yanic play tough minutes anywhere, at any time. Brodziak (and Pouliot) are better than him for the 4-line spot because they can actually play well enough to move up once the bench gets shortened.

Dustin Penner can take faceoffs too.

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#3 Oilerdago
October 15 2008, 09:16AM
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Startling numbers for Horc. The Oil had no puck possession Sunday and if they don't get it straightened out soon they are going to find themselves in a deep hole with all these road games.

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#4 Scott
October 15 2008, 09:41AM
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Jason,

Is it just me or do those numbers not add up outside of the San Jose game?

You got, for games 2 to 5: 13/20 -- 65% 6/17 --- 35% 11/22 -- 50% 13/17 -- 76%

But from your W-L records, I got, for games 2 to 5: 13/33 -- 39% 6/23 --- 26% 11/30 -- 37% 13/17 -- 76%

So, either the W-L data is wrong, or the truth is a bit more in line with what Horcoff said. He was very bad for three of the first five games last year.

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#5 r-gib
October 15 2008, 10:01AM
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Jason I think you meant to put "Total" in place of "Losses", but the numbers look right to me.

Yup not sure what Horc was talking about. He was obviously good off the get go. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Getzlaf and Morrison tonight.

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#6 Doogie2K
October 15 2008, 10:08AM
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I see Scott beat me to the punch on the math. For the record, I get the same numbers he gets.

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#7 DJ Spyn Cycle
October 15 2008, 10:26AM
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Hey all... I ran this past Gregor and he gave me some new numbers. Let me know if some of this still isn't making sense.

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#8 Jason Gregor
October 15 2008, 10:31AM
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My bad...I had the totals of Koivu wrong and the Philly game. The % is still right. Horcoff was very good for the first five games. Especially at home, which makes Sunday's numbers even more startling. He and Brodziak should take the majorities of the draws tonight, especially in the defensive zone.

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#9 Gord
October 15 2008, 10:41AM
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Yup, that fixes it. I made the assumption that was what was meant, based on the percentages given.

I wouldn't be worried about Horc's FW's - they will come around. He has shown he can win draws, it's just a matter of time for him.

I agree with doritogrande that Yannick can't play tough minutes. Also, other options need to be looked at before we just go out and sign someone just to improve FWs.

Looking at the Detroit model from last year, Datsyuk played C but Zetterberg took most of the draws, and then moved back to the wing and Datsyuk back to the middle. I agree it's not ideal, but winning a faceoff is a skill that, unfortunately, not every center posesses. Also, lots of wingers are great at taking draws but can't play the center position as it is a lot more difficult position to play that the wing. I'm sure MacT won't stand for the team to have FW stats like they did on Sunday so something will be done.

Good stuff, Gregor.

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#10 David S
October 15 2008, 11:11AM
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"I’m sure MacT won’t stand for the team to have FW stats like they did on Sunday so something will be done."

I'm sure Lowe and Katz won't stand for it very long either. I don't think we can underestimate how bad our new owner wants to win.

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#11 Antony Ta
October 15 2008, 04:37PM
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We need to acquire Scott Nichol.

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