The Refinery

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With the injury to Ales Hemsky it soon became apparent how little depth the Oilers had. Sure, Sam Gagner and Erik Cole finally came around – but where were they for the Islanders game. Okay, let’s be fair, they practically played 3 games in 3 nights with that skills competition added in.

But how about the rest of the team? Where the hell have they been? With Pisani and Hemsky out, there is no longer any offensive and defensive balance on this team, and Horcoff is no longer looking like the super-balanced leader that Kevin Lowe has been making him out to be. Yeah, Shawn Horcoff is a character guy. But collecting good feelings and hauling ass are two different things.

What happened to the Shawn Horcoff who leapt into a shot in the playoffs in ’06? Is he missing? Weighed down by a fancy new career-security contract?

With all the talented youth on this roster it sometimes hurts when nobody is around to give direction. The Oilers are getting plenty of leadership from Hemsky, Cole, Souray, and Visnovsky, and this has rubbed off on the Horcoff’s, Gagner, Gilbert, and Grebeshkov, but HOW IMPORTANT Hemsky actually is to this team has never been more obvious with how Penner and Horcoff have seen their play drop off.

The true mark of a veteran player is knowing how to pick up their game when times are down. Erik Cole  may have struggled all season but he has never picked a better time to start cashing in on his chances. Now if Horcoff, Nilsson, and Penner had anything to learn from Cole, it is consistency.

If the Oilers could add more guys like Cole, it would offset the effect of losing guys like Hemsky, at least in the short run. We’re talking about guys like Shanahan, Smolinski: guys who have a defined role and plug straight into that role and know what to bring to the table, night-in, night-out.

Not offensive consistency mind you, since MacTavish has had a revolving door of linemates for Cole this season, and not all of them offensive (Moreau, Brodziak, and others come to mind). The kind of consistency I’m talking about is a professional courtesy to the Oilers organization, to the fans, and to themselves.

Mostly, you can’t call yourself a professional if you don’t show up every game – win or loss.

So let’s see you play better, Horcoff, Penner and Nilsson. And to be honest, Penner is playing a lot better than the other two. Horcoff looks really bad without Hemsky, and I mean that in a good way because Hemsky is a world-class player. Penner, at least, has shown that he can play with Gagner.

If Cole, Gagner, Cogliano, Pouliot, Penner, and Moreau can suck it up and perform on different lines when injury hits, then Horcoff definitely needs to learn how to do the same.

And he should know this better than anyone – he who missed 29 games last season.


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