Call him Cap'n Horc

In an online survey conducted by QMI Agency, Edmonton Oilers supporters voted on who they would...

In an online survey conducted by QMI Agency, Edmonton Oilers supporters voted on who they would like to see as the new captain of the team. Shawn Horcoff was the overwhelming favourite. (KEN ARMSTRONG/QMI Agency file photo)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

They’re heading in a new direction and are in need of a leader.

With the departure of Ethan Moreau, the Edmonton Oilers are in the market for a new captain this season.

There seem to be a number of options with a handful of veterans and young up-and-comers capable of taking on the role.

QMI Agency asked readers for their opinions as to whom they believe should be the Oilers next captain.

Shawn Horcoff has emerged as the frontrunner.

The veteran centre struggled last season, scoring just 13 goals and adding 23 assists in 77 games. Those numbers were accentuated by the fact Horcoff made $7-million after signing a staggering six-year, $33-million contract shortly after Daryl Katz took over the team.

However, with the departure of Moreau, Horcoff has become the longest-serving Oiler, and due to a contract that will pay him $6.5-million for the next two seasons and then decrease to $6-milllion, $4-million and $3-million for the following years, he won’t be going anywhere.

It would almost be insulting to Horcoff not to be made captain of the team, considering how long he’s been with the organization and the size of his contract extension.

The native of Trail, B.C., is the first to admit his struggles last season and is expected to have a stronger campaign this year.

If he can come anywhere near his all-star form of 2007-2008, Horcoff would provide strong leadership to what is shaping up to be a very young squad.

Other options for the team captaincy include Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Taylor Hall, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney.

Hemsky, is generally considered the team’s most talented player, but a shoulder injury put a pre-mature end to his season.

He’s served as an assist captain with the Oilers and is second behind Horcoff in the QMI Agency poll.

Oiler fans have been waiting for Hemsky to take his game to the next level following an outstanding playoff run in 2006, helping the club get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

However, he’s been unable to become the point-per-game player the Oilers envisioned the native of Pardubice, Czech Republic, developing into.

Perhaps putting the ‘C’ on his sweater would provide the motivation needed for Hemsky to make that jump.

Dustin Penner also received consideration, mainly due to his 32-goal campaign last season.

Signed to an offer sheet by the Oilers as a restricted free agent away from the Anaheim Ducks, Penner has two years left on his contract. However, it’s very unlikely the native of Winkler, Man., will re-sign with the Oilers once it expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

A player the Oilers have already tried to deal, it seems unlikely Penner will be given the captaincy of a team built for the future.

In that vein, the Oilers could go with one of their younger players as a captain heading forward.

A year ago, Sam Gagner would have seemed the obvious choice as the face of the team’s future.

Yet, despite breaking into the league out of junior, Gagner has not developed at the pace the Oilers envisioned. His progress is one of the reasons the Oilers decided to be patient with Jordan Eberle, who now along with Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall are the poster boys of the future.

Hall seems destined to become a superstar.

The first overall pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft will probably one day become the clear-cut choice to become the Oilers captain.

But to give him that role in his first year would be adding even more pressure to a young player who already is being touted as the saviour of the club.

Not even Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Wayne Gretzky had to take on that burden in their rookie seasons.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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