Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Horcoff is hurt, but no reason to panic

There is one thing the Edmonton Oilers are known for in hockey and that’s not hitting the panic button.

This team doesn’t make a first-instinct trade when trouble strikes or fire a coach in the middle of a long season, at least not since Glen Sather sacked George Burnett back in the 1994-95 season.

With Shawn Horcoff’s shoulder injury after taking a hard, late hit by Andy Sutton during a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders, fans in Edmonton are already hitting that giant red button.

“The Oilers need to claim someone off waivers, like (Erik) Christensen,” said one caller to the Team 1260 Tuesday. “Steve Tambellini needs to make a trade now.”

Not so fast, fans.

Horcoff’s injury, if it is a long-term injury, is probably a good thing for the copper and blue. Players like Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will have to step up, and we all remember what happened when Horcoff was last on the long-term injured list.

Does anyone remember 2008?

Horcoff only played 53 games that season when the Oilers missed the playoff for the second time since the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. But unlike last season, or the other failed season in 2007, 2008 gave fans hope.

Fans everywhere got to see how good Gagne and Cogliano really are as rookies and, with them paired up with — back then — a talented Robert Nilsson, they helped the Oilers get close to the playoffs as rookies.

Now the pair of young guns are older and much wiser after their poor sophomore seasons.

Both are restricted free agents after this season, so they have something to prove. And Cogliano, who has struggled a bit this season, has much more to prove after his name was linked to that botched Dany Heatley trade this summer.

And with a healthy Mike Comrie, and with Gilbert Brule continuing to play well on the dot, the Oilers are fine without their $7-million man. (Yes, I know Horcoff is a cap hit of $5.5 million. Woptie-doo.)

When the Oilers fight off this flu bug, and when they can fight off the injury bug on their blueline, the Oilers are capable enough to be an eighth to a fifth place team in the West Division without Shawn Horcoff. (No, I don’t have the homer glasses on.)

There is no reason to hit the panic button, or for fans to abandon ship.