The Dallas Stars appeared to assume the “seller” role at the trade deadline. The night before, they shipped out Erik Cole to the Detroit Red Wings for prospects and a draft pick. They had suffered a big injury to Tyler Seguin and the losses just continued to pile up. Many thought Shawn Horcoff, an unrestricted free agent to-be, would be dealt for future assets as well. Although Stars General Manager Jim Nill got plenty of calls on Horcoff, he ultimately decided to keep the veteran in Dallas. Why? Well, the reason the Stars kept him is the same reason many teams wanted him. The leadership he provides is important to the success of the team not only down the stretch but in future years to come as well.
What Does Shawn Horcoff Bring?
When Jim Nill traded for Shawn Horcoff, many fans were hoping he would return to a top-6 type of role. I’ll be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with Horcoff at the conclusion of the regular season last year. Since then, Horcoff has shown how important he is to Dallas and why Nill traded for him in the first place. He was a captain in one of the toughest hockey markets in Edmonton and knows how to lead. There is a reason he had an “A” on his jersey at times throughout his first year and a half in Dallas. You really can’t put a value on the guidance he has given Jamie Benn, who became the captain of the Stars at an early stage in his career. Benn has shown at times throughout the last two years that he is still young by taking some undisciplined penalties and has been visibly frustrated on the ice. I believe having Horcoff around has had a calming effect on Benn and has truly contributed to how good Jamie Benn has led the team.
The leadership goes way beyond just helping Jamie Benn become a captain, it reverberates throughout the team. He is a no-nonsense type of guy who expects nothing but the best from himself and his teammates. Just reading his quote after the win last night really speaks to the type of leader he is in that locker room. Following the win last night in Florida; “It’s huge for us, we need wins to get back in the race. Tonight was a good start. We’ve got to forget about that now and get refocused for Tampa.” He is full of quotes like that and is an incredibly important leader for the Dallas Stars.
It’s Not Just Leadership
Shawn Horcoff has largely been limited to a fourth line role in Dallas but he performs about as well as you could ask from a player in that role. He averages about 12 minutes a night, which is the third lowest among any Stars forward who has played at least 24 games. He isn’t playing sheltered minutes in his fourth line position either, as his zone starts are about even spread across the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones. He spends some of his minutes on the penalty kill and some on the second power-play unit as well, so he plays in all aspects of the game. For Stars who have logged at least 50 shorthanded minutes this season, he has been an incredibly effective penalty killer. The Stars have only given up 8 power play goals when Shawn Horcoff is on the ice, which is the second lowest total on the team. Horcoff has contributed nicely in his role this season as he has chipped in 9 goals and 23 points so far. He currently stands at a +3 in +/-, which is solid considering most of the team is littered with minus players. He sits on the positive side of the possession meter as well, with a respectable 52.8 corsi-for %.
Although Horcoff isn’t scoring a ton, he has some pretty memorable clutch moments in his time with the Stars so far. His shootout winner against his old team in Edmonton after the Stars clawed their way back from a 3-goal deficit was important. In a 3-3 game against the Blackhawks, Horcoff fought Patrick Sharp and ended up salting away a 6-3 win with an empty net goal. Last season, Horcoff saw his team struggling, down 2-0 to the Detroit Red Wings. He was able to will a goal through Jimmy Howard in the dying moments of the second period, giving his team life heading into the third. The Stars would win that game in overtime. He just simply does a lot of things right for a team that is learning how to win.
The entire game last night was a visual representation of why Shawn Horcoff is still a Dallas Star. He had a pretty assist on the first goal. He was able to get a good bounce and get credit for the second goal. He was easily the loudest Star on the bench while Curtis McKenzie was taking on Dmitry Kulikov. He was the first person to get to Jhonas Enroth to congratulate him on his first win as a Star. He wants to be in Dallas and he thinks the road to his Stanley Cup will come with this team. Shawn Horcoff a great person to have around and that is why he remained in Dallas after the trade-deadline.
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix