Horc hopes to turn game around

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

It got so bad that by the end of the season, he was being booed after scoring.

More maligned because of his price tag than his play, Shawn Horcoff became the whipping boy for those disillusioned by the Edmonton Oilers’ dreadful season.

“Obviously the way things went last year was disappointing for everybody and it made for a long summer,” Horcoff said. “But coming back now, seeing all the new faces and a lot of the young guys, and seeing how excited they all are, brings back a lot of good memories.

“It definitely erases some of the bad ones from last year.”

Horcoff had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year, scoring 13 goals and adding 23 assists with a minus-29 rating in 77 games.

Compounding matters was the fact he was in the first year of a six-year, $33-million contract extension, which paid him $7 million last season. The contract was negotiated based on an all-star season that saw him score 21 goals in 53 games two years prior.

It’s where Horcoff is eyeing to get back to this year.

“I changed a lot in the off-season to try and assess where I was at, where I need to be and what I need to do to get back to being successful,” he said. “I know I can do that. I think I’ve proven it multiple times before, so I’m looking forward to getting back to my old self and helping the team as much as possible.”

Throughout training camp, Horcoff appeared to be back to his old self, although time will tell if he’s been able to completely regain his form.

“This is as well as Shawn has been skating in a long time,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “And I think he’s been growing, playing with some of these young players. He’s done a nice job of communicating with them.

“He should be a player that gives you positives at both ends of the ice and that’s what we need in that veteran, leadership guy.”

An unsuccessful experimental off-season training regime and shoulder issues contributed to Horcoff’s struggles last season.

He seemingly lost a step and his effectiveness in the face-off circle was limited.

“I just tried something different last summer that didn’t work,” Horcoff said. “It was a little bit off the charts. But things get old when you do the same things year after year and you have to try something new.

“There are a lot of guys in the NHL that used that training method before, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t work for me, so I went back to what’s comfortable.”

Heading into the season, he, just like the entire organization, has put the last-place finish behind him. The Oilers are going into the year with a much younger and more talented lineup, led by first overall pick Taylor Hall and former first-round picks Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi.

“It’s a new vibe, a fresh start and a different mindset,” Horcoff said. “We’re building towards something now, and there’s definitely a goal in mind and a plan in place.

“It’s a different feeling than it has been around here in the past couple of years.”

Horcoff is one of the few remaining players left from a veteran core that was disbanded to make room for the next generation.

Being around such a young and talented group has seemingly re-energized the 10-year veteran.

“I was here when we came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup,” Horcoff said. “Any time you get that close and lose, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and you want to get back there.

“I think now we have to preach a little bit of patience, but there is definitely a plan in place of trying to get back there and trying to get it done this time. It’s obviously in the early stages, but it’s something for all of us to look forward to.”


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