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THE TEAM TODAY: Horcoff at the helm

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


For the first time this season, the big news at Rexall Place didn't take place on the ice or involve one of the hyped rookies.

Following the final practice of the pre-season, the Oilers
held a 45-minute team meeting and officially announced that veteran Shawn Horcoff would be the 13th captain in franchise history.

"It's a big honour," Horcoff said after the announcement. "I think it's something that's the pinnacle of every player in the NHL. It doesn't get any better than this."

GM Steve Tambellini is convinced the 32-year-old center is the right man for the job.

"He's capable, he's an intelligent guy, he cares about the Oilers a great deal," Tambellini said. "I think he presents a good example of a pro package for what our young people need to see."

When asked what kind of captain he'd like to be, Horcoff didn't hesitate.

"I want to be a guy that leads both on and off the ice and is very approachable," he explained. "I think that's the biggest thing, that you have to be a captain that guys can come to when they need help, for various reasons, and they look to him at the toughest times to help them through that, especially as a team."

Horcoff's teammates are confident the new captain will deliver.

"He's the right guy and it's a great fit for us," Sam Gagner said. "He's got unbelievable work habits and he approaches the game the right way; he's always in here doing the right things. He's a guy you can really look up to because of that, because of the way he approaches everything in his life.

"It's obviously really exciting as a teammate to see that he's been given the captaincy because of how hard he's worked over his career, and the guys are going to stand behind him because of that.

Tom Gilbert added that Horcoff was the logical choice for captain.

"It was obviously no surprise in this locker room. He's vocal, he leads on the ice, and he's done a great job with not only the guys that have been here for the last couple of years but all the young guys. He's going to be a good guy to fill that spot," Gilbert said.

With his first NHL game on the horizon, Taylor Hall is proud to have the new captain as his linemate.

"Obviously there's a lot of good leaders on this team, and for me to be on his line right now and sitting beside him in the room, and him kind of taking me under his wing is very special," Hall said.


Sam Gagner

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Derek of Ottawa, ON submitted a question for Sam Gagner.

DEREK: "In your junior career and your career to date with the Oilers, you have had the opportunity to play with two players that have gone first overall in the NHL entry draft in Patrick Kane and Taylor Hall. Although somewhat different types of players, do you see any striking similarities in the two players in terms of personality, confidence, or passion for the game?

SAM: "I definitely see similarities. In order to go first overall you need to have a sense of confidence in your abilities and the way you play the game, and I think that's something that's very similar in Taylor and Patrick. They're guys that know they're good and because of that, they go out there and show it every night.

They have a great passion for the game where they always want to prove that they're the best player on the ice every night and that's a great testament to them.

They're both obviously great players. Patrick has shown in his first few years in the NHL that he's a game-breaker and one of the top producers in the league, and I expect Taylor to do the same thing. He's a guy that always wants to be the best on the ice and prove that he's the best. That's a great thing for us and we're all obviously really excited to have him as a member of our team and it should be great going forward."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola



With the pre-season schedule completed and the final series of cuts made, the Oilers are gearing up for Thursday's season-opener vs. Calgary.

The team held a lengthy two-hour practice at Rexall Place Tuesday morning, showcasing the opening-day roster for the first time.

Up front, Oilers coaches crafted the following lines:

Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Cogliano - Brule
Jones / MacIntyre - Fraser - Stortini

Head Coach Tom Renney is pleased to be through the pre-season and have his player personnel confirmed.

"It's good to get to this point where now you can really concentrate on your individuals and their needs in terms of development, and I don't think anybody on this team is exclusive to that or excluded from that," he explained. "It does give you a chance to sort of look at what the flavour of this thing might be and have an idea what you want the finished product to look like."

The players are also eager to get started.

"As you get older, [the pre-season] is something you try and get through and try and get the rust off and the kinks out and I think that's what most of the veteran guys use it for," Dustin Penner said.

"I think everybody's excited; everybody deserves their spot here," Ladislav Smid added. "I think we worked extremely hard this camp. We played pretty good games too as well, so we should be feeling good.

"Obviously we still have lots of things to improve but we all know that and we're going to work on it and I think we should be okay for the season."


Taylor Hall

One of the most excited players is first-overall pick Taylor Hall. After surviving Monday's cuts, Hall will make his NHL debut in Thursday's Battle of Alberta.

"It's still pretty surreal, just thinking back on all the hockey I've played," Hall said after practice. "I was thinking last night that it was pretty cool that I'm officially on a team and I'm going to play a game in the NHL. So it's definitely a great opportunity and I'm just trying to relish it right now."

The easy-going rookie was quick to thank linemate Horcoff for his guidance and support throughout camp.

He's a great guy and he's done such a great job with me and Eberle," Hall said. "It's just the little things that he does, just talking to me on the side and showing me drills and stuff like that that makes it a lot easier for us ... I would be cheating myself if I didn't use that experience."


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Brad of Onoway submitted a question for Ryan Whitney.

BRAD: "What does the Oilers organization bring as a place to play compared to other teams that you have played for?"

Ryan Whitney

RYAN: "I think that the whole organization here is really top notch. You look at the locker room that we have and the facilities, it's all pretty special. The fan base does a great job of making sure we're sold out, even when we were in last place like last year. It's a good group of people that are making sure fans are going to be here.

We're also treated very well. We stay at some great hotels on the road, our flights are always done really well, and it's a great place to play.

All the guys here are happy to be here, they want to play and be an Oiler and that's what you need to have. It's a young group and it's an exciting group. We'll have our ups and downs this year, it's not going to all go smoothly, but I don't think they'll be any quitting in here because everyone's really excited to play."

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola



Consecutive losses to their arch rivals likely didn't have the Oilers in a great mood to start Monday morning, and for eight players, it only got worse.

Oilers coaches and management made some difficult decisions and trimmed their roster by six forwards and two defencemen, bringing the total number of players in camp to 24 The club must be down to 23 by Wednesday.

Linus Omark and Chris Vande Velde were assigned to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, while Shawn Belle, Alexandre Giroux, Ryan O'Marra, Ben Ondrus, Richard Petiot and Liam Reddox were placed on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Barons.

It was a "tough day," Head Coach Tom Renney said, but he hopes players are motivated by the experience.

"I think that all of these people today need to recognize that this is still very much the front end of a work in progress and it doesn't let anybody off the hook, myself especially," Renney explained. "What they have to remember is that this will be a body of work over time that I think they should want to be a part of because this is a pretty exceptional organization, in my mind, with a great landscape."


Some of the more veteran players, like Ondrus and Belle, have been through final camp cuts before and had a positive perspective on the experience.

"It's never easy being reassigned but they've got numbers to get down too and unfortunately I was not in the mix right now," Ondrus said. "It's what they feel they need to go ahead and have a good season, and hopefully down the road I can still be a part of it."

"It's a pretty disappointing time right now," Belle added. "There's obviously some positives I've got to take out of it, that I still stuck around here for a little bit.

"I just had my meeting -- it was positive. They just told me to continue to work hard down in Oklahoma City and show that I belong in the NHL and just go from there."

Rookie O'Marra said his first reaction to the 8:30am phone call was shock, then disappointment.

"I was already awake -- I haven't been sleeping much the past few days. I knew it was coming between eight and nine so I was up at about eight, just sitting around and hoping it didn't come," he reflected.

"It was just kind of paralyzing when he (Patrick Garland, Oilers Team Services Manager) called. When I picked up the phone, I didn't say much at first -- I didn't say anything actually -- I just heard Patty say what he had to say. And just said thank you. I couldn't really speak."

Linus Omark

Fellow rookie Omark was also tight-lipped.

"Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm going to go to Oklahoma and do my best there and hopefully come back," he said to the media.

When asked if he felt he was given an opportunity to succeed, Omark replied,"I don't want to discuss that. I want to play, so that's all I can say."

Renney understood Omark's reaction.

"Everybody aspires to the NHL, at least I hope they do, so he can comment however he chooses. I have no trouble with that whatsoever. It's an emotional time -- he believes he's an NHL player. Good for him."

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer

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