A fine mess

Was Ethan Moreau doing what a captain had to do against the Dallas Stars Thursday, or did the E-Train look like he’d come off the rails by taking selfish, boneheaded penalties that led to a costly 4-2 loss at the American Airlines Center?

In a melee sparked by Steve Ott’s blindside of Tom Gilbert — a hit that prompted Moreau to, first, pile on Ott after Dwayne Roloson and Laddy Smid had already responded, and, second, to flail away at Dallas defenceman Nicklas Grossman — my vote is for the latter.

Five minutes to Moreau for losing it, none to Grossman for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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As far as Moreau’s double-minor, one for tripping and another for roughing, that led to the eventual winning goal by Fabian Brunnstrom early in the second period, same thing.

Tripping? OK. A headlock and the stinky glove? Not so much. Not at all, in fact. Stupid penalties. Selfish penalties. Nothing to do with playing tough. Nothing to do with leadership. And nothing to do with the tough, honest hockey Moreau has made a career on.

Leadership?

Of course, not everybody sees it the way I do. Long-time Oiler fan and journalist David Staples, at the Cult of Hockey at The Journal, saw Moreau’s ill-timed fits of temper as some sort of Messier Moment:

“Whatever the Oilers did wrong in the past, they responded properly this time, first with goalie feisty Dwayne Roloson coming in to give Ott a bash, then with snarly Ladislav Smid jumping on the guy, and finally with the fierce captain, Ethan Moreau, piling on and punching Ott in the head.

It did my heart well, I tell you. For once, the Oilers looked like a team, as opposed to a collection of paycheque men.”

As you’d expect, Craig MacTavish didn’t take issue with Moreau’s response, either. Said MacTavish: “There’s nobody that does it better than Steve Ott. He picks his spots. He’s an effective player. We did have the right response on the hit on Gibby, but it was a Steve Ott-type game.”

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Sorry, coach, no sale. The right response? Throwing punches at Grossman, who kept his gloves on (yet managed to end up on top of Moreau) and taking the extra five?

It’s not the first time Moreau has taken ill-timed, costly penalties this season, so he doesn’t get a pass for a one-off. While I’m not in the camp of people yelling for Moreau to be stripped of the captaincy, let’s get real here. Moreau lost his temper. He took stupid penalties on two different occasions that led to the Oilers losing a game they had to win.

Correct me if I’m wrong

  • Shouldn’t fans who think it would be a great move for the Oilers to acquire Alexei Kovalev from Montreal at least find out why the Habs chose to sit their best player at a critical point in the season before they jump to conclusions? Arguments about whether Kovalev would help in the stretch drive aside — he certainly would, if he felt like it — it would seem prudent to find out what the issues are before clamouring for Steve Tambellini to pull the trigger on anything, no?
  • While Dwayne Roloson has performed better than I thought he could or would since Mathieu Garon was traded, MacTavish is now in the position of having to ride the 39-year-old all the way to the finish line. It’s 14 straight starts and counting. The wheels have to fall off Roli, don’t they?
  • Saturday’s game against Calgary will get the obligatory hype we’ve come to expect, but the Oilers aren’t catching the Flames for the Northwest Division title. Not a chance. I agree with what MacTavish suggested several weeks ago: I see the Oilers playoff hopes hinging on the three games they have remaining against the Minnesota Wild. If I’m the Oilers, I’m more worried about the Wild, who have two games in hand, than Anaheim.
  • While there’s been the suggestion Tambellini will wait until closer to the trade deadline to make any moves, I believe the return of Fernando Pisani next week could set things in motion. Just a gut feeling on that front.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.


  • Robin B

    Rick wrote:

    Bob Cob wrote:
    I didn’t get a good look at the hit on Smid, was it cheap or clean? I ask because it seems that any hard hit, clean or cheap, warrants a fight in retaliation immediately and that is one thing that really drives me crazy.
    Assuming that you are talking about the Ott incident (if not, stop reading), the hit was on Gilbert not Smid. Smid actually jumped Ott before Moreau piled on.
    As for the hit it was kinda greasy. Gilbert didn’t have the puck and his back was towards Ott.
    Not the worst hit but not really surprising that it drew the Oilers attention either.

    It was vintage Ott. He plays right on the edge all the time. I've seen him hit guys like that for five years now. Got a good look at him during the lockout season when I was covering the AHL. I've seen him get filled in for that more than once, but he's a stubborn, gutsy player who doesn't let a punch in the mouth back him off.
    On the other team, fans hate him. If he's an Oiler he's an "agitator."

  • Chris

    The D has been okay. Roli has exceeded expectations. The reason this team is not safely in 5th or 6th place: Nilsson and Gagner. These two kids, who were such a big part of last years stretch run have combined for only one goal more than Brodziak and Stortini… And this despite having premium minutes and powerplay time. Rookies and sophmores on other teams who draw quality second line minutes are expected to produce. Cogliano is cold, and Cole has been a bust; but Gagner and Nilsson need to find the back of the net! What team can really expect to qualify for the post season when 2/3rds of their SECOND line are on pace for less than 10 goals each on the season? I don't care that Gagner is too young to shave… he's old enough to cash that NHL cheque, isn't he?

  • Dennis

    18 has been taking dumb penalties For Years.

    The problems with Moreau are as follows:

    – overpaid for his role and/or the true difference he makes. He can't play tough min anymore – 10's line is the match at home and the big lines run against them on the road – and even with 'all' his goals this year, he's on the ice for more GA than GF; 28/30 to date.

    – he's one of the most consistently dumbest Oilers in recent memory in terms of never being able to curb his penchant for taking stupid penalties. it happens year after year and folks who watch the games know that.

    – it's a bad example and precedent for the kids that virtually everyone can be criticized or benched for transgressions other than Moreau. You aren't happy with the efforts of 27-51-78? You bench those guys. 18 takes dumb penalties for the 27th consecutive season? Not a ******* peep.

  • Robin B

    @ Tyler:
    Yes, I know. I was there.
    Obviously, you're quibbling with me saying there's no way MacTavish intended to use Roloson in 14 straight starts. Well, he didn't. It is a surprise.
    A 12-2 split, as an example, in that same stretch is still qalifies as going with your No. 1 guy, but you're at least building in breaks. Sooner or later giving Roloson morning skates off isn't going to keep him sharp and fresh.

  • Nah, it was a terrible goal. I don't like it any more than you do. With that said, he's posted a .913 save percentage in the 14 games he's played since the deal. He's had some stellar streaks and he's had some stumbles.

    It's a roll of the dice either way. I don't have any faith in JDD and I'd rather bet on a tired Roli if I was the coach. There are other things to hammer MacT for…like Moreau's complete immunity when it comes to taking stupid penalties.

  • Jason Gregor

    Rick wrote:

    I blame Brownlee and Gregor for the Ott incident last night.
    If you guys had only forwarded a copy of your interview from last week with him to the Oilers players they would have been prepared for his antics. He pretty much scripted exactly what ultimately went down.

  • Obviously, you’re quibbling with me saying there’s no way MacTavish intended to use Roloson in 14 straight starts. Well, he didn’t. It is a surprise.
    A 12-2 split, as an example, in that same stretch is still qalifies as going with your No. 1 guy, but you’re at least building in breaks. Sooner or later giving Roloson morning skates off isn’t going to keep him sharp and fresh.

    I'm not quibbling with anything. I believe that he may have had intentions to do something otherwise. The issue that I take is that this is a surprise. It's not the way he's coached in the past when he's had one goalie he trusts and one who he doesn't.

    Whatever MacT's intentions, when it comes to not riding his number one goalie as hard as possible down the stretch, he's demonstrated in the past that he has the willpower of a fat guy faced with a bag of cookies in this particular scenario. Plus, the local consensus seems to be that he should be fired if they don't make it (even some of the media types are on board with that) and it's understandable to me that if his job's on the line and he's got a choice between rolling the dice on a tired Roli or an untrustworthy JDD, his intentions of playing JDD more might lose out.

    It's been a while since there's been an Oiler prospect who's had as much of a season invested in him as JDD. Eats a roster spot at the start of the year because they're convinced he'd get snatched up on waivers, forces the move of Garon and now MacT is pouring games onto Roli because he's got a young guy he doesn't want to waste points on. Hopefully the Oilers are better at picking goalies than I am because I don't see him as being worth the investment and if they miss by a point or two after a tired Roli loses a game here or there down the stretch…well, it sure would suck if he didn't pan out.

  • Rick wrote:

    I blame Brownlee and Gregor for the Ott incident last night.
    If you guys had only forwarded a copy of your interview from last week with him to the Oilers players they would have been prepared for his antics. He pretty much scripted exactly what ultimately went down.

    Don't blame Brownlee he wasn't in on the interview with Ott. You are bang on though. Ott understands his role better than most. As he said, "If I hit the King and have to answer to a peasant, I'll do it every game."

    Ott fights when he has to and has a decent enough scoring touch that he will be sought after when his contract is up after next season. His $1.4 million cap hit is very reasonable.

  • Robin B

    Tyler wrote:

    even some of the media types are on board with that)

    I guess even the dimmest dolts stagger across the obvious once in awhile and see the light like the smart guys, eh?

  • I guess even the dimmest dolts stagger across the obvious once in awhile and see the light like the smart guys, eh?

    Every so often I wonder if the extent to which I write things tongue in cheek comes across over the internets. That comment was tongue in cheek, in case you took offence.

    Re the media and firing MacT: The stout refusal to blame the coach for everything was one of the things I liked about most of you guys (Stauffer excluded, obviously). Even now, when you say he should be gone at the end of the year if they don't make the playoffs, I get the sense that it's as much to shake things up and get some new blood as anything else. The mob…well I think it consists of a staggeringly high proportion of people who actually think that he's not a very good hockey coach. It's like everyone's forgotten Ron Low.

    Kevin Lowe? Another story.

  • yo

    One of the most disturbing things to me is that after a game where the captain's latest gaffs have arguably impacted the game result, MacT shows up at the post game interview with a rehearsed excuse for Moreau at the ready. He's done it for the last two games and if memory serves he's done it previously.

    I said it months ago and I still believe it to be true..
    Moreau wanted the 'C' way too much and maybe for the wrong reasons. He's trying to do things he's not equipped to do and what may be an oversized ego in play is hurting the team.

    I vote for Souray based on what he has developed into here in Edmonton. I do think he has added dimensions to his game here that others may have done in Montreal, Koivu for example, things that occur off the ice but have an impact team-wide on the ice. Here he can carry more weight because of the lack of credible leaders and the presence of so many young players who still have a ways to go to be anything more than talented boys. If some of these Oiler players were in the Detroit Red Wings system 30-40% of them would be in the AHL/ECHL.

  • Robin B

    @ yo:
    You're right, of course.
    Moreau has developed a lot of loyalty with MacTavish and he gets way more slack than many other players, especially younger players, do.

    That's a trait many coaches exhibit with their veterans, but it's nonetheless frustrating for fans when it's obvious some actions have no defence.

  • Tommyboy

    There is definately something there. Far and beyond the debacle of epic proportions that was the Captains night last night.

    I find myself asking what it is about this guy that makes him qualified to be the captain of this hockey club. His tendancy to take terrible and selfish penalties is well documented here and as bad as that is…what does this guy know about winning? The team has stunk the entire time he has been here, with the exception of the trip to the cup finals that he was very much a passenger for.

    He is the black hole of passes…they go and in disapear never to return… He gets the puck…head down…skate forward…lookup…shoot. Doesn't matter where is in the zone. I would venture to say that he is a large reason that Cogliano has hit the skids the way he has.

    Don't even get me started about his "toughness". The guy can through a bodycheck…I give him that. But as far as dropping the gloves…he shouldn't even bother. I can't believe that the "fight" Jordan Tootoo was obliged to for hitting Hemsky was done by this guy. That was the most pathetic attempt at sending a message I have seen. The message it sent was…Feel free to kill our star because this is the all you will have to deal with…Moreau going through the motions. Does that lift your team watching your beloved captain grab a guy who deserves a whupping and get tossed to the ice in 2 seconds flat….and it's not like he was fight Boogaard here.

    I can't imagine the example this guy is setting for the young players…but I find it pretty coincidental that the play of the young kids really started to hit stride when he was gone from the lineup.

    I think they are putting way too much responsibility in this guys hands. He should be a 4th liner where he can skate hard and bang bodies.

    When you put your team short handed for as long as you were on the ice during the game…there is something wrong. Maybe if we are lucky Phanuef will go ankle hunting on the powerplay this weekend and kids can start playing like they did last year. Problem is that Moreau will likely be in the box so that likely won't happen.

  • socaldave

    in today's game, Mike Modano notwithstanding, can you keep a player you've stripped of the C? I dunno, man… if you're gonna relieve someone of the captaincy, you pretty much have to trade him too, don't you?

  • Dennis

    You shouldn't not deal a guy just because he's the captain. It shouldn't give him a free pass and it would be great to get rid of a guy making that much money or makes that less of an actual impact.

  • Robin B

    Dennis wrote:

    I’ll be here for the next 10 min so stay busy, Mr. Moderator:)
    And Go Censorship and the one who’s either thin-skinned enough to demand it and/or the guy who’s only too keen to employ it:)

    We get it, Dennis. You can't help yourself. If something critical isn't written about somebody like Moreau or MacTavish or Lowe, you'll point out what butt-kissers the MSM is. If something critical is written, it's not critical enough or it should have been written before (even if it has been), so you trot out the same schtick. You're the conscience. You're the only one who sees things as they are and tells it like it is.

    But it's not about you being an asshole and coming here with an agenda, it's about censorship and free speech, right?

  • Jonathan Willis

    socaldave wrote:

    in today’s game, Mike Modano notwithstanding, can you keep a player you’ve stripped of the C? I dunno, man… if you’re gonna relieve someone of the captaincy, you pretty much have to trade him too, don’t you?

    Given Moreau's cap hit relative to his contribution, wouldn't that almost be a good thing?

    The Oilers need someone with that consistent physical game, but it'd be nice if he was a) cheaper and b) took fewer stupid penalties.

  • Kid

    Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

    Kid wrote:
    I know it would take more then just Cole but Jones is the type of dman we need more of and Van reimsdyk would be a great prospect to have.
    Dude, Van Riemsdyk was the #2 pick in ‘07. It’ll take a LOT more than Cole to get him.

  • shakey

    @ socaldave:
    @ Dennis:
    He's a Captain on the Oilers. History shows all Oiler captains get traded. Is Moreau next? I don't know.
    I'm not ready to get him a spot on the Fire MacT wagon but he needs to face the music for his actions the same way others on the team have had to. I know he gets some leeway because he's a vet and captain but it is a bad example when so many of his mistakes are selfish and most of the younger guys mistakes come from learning how to be a pro.

  • Kid

    Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

    Kid wrote:
    I know it would take more then just Cole but Jones is the type of dman we need more of and Van reimsdyk would be a great prospect to have.
    Dude, Van Riemsdyk was the #2 pick in ‘07. It’ll take a LOT more than Cole to get him.

    I think you are wrong. Van Reimsdyk has not worked out in philly and I am sure they are shopping him around from what I read on tsn.ca and I dont think it would take a goalie to get him.

    Philly needs to make a run this year and have a really good chance if they get the right players in there and to do that they will have to give up on players like Van Reimsdyk to do so.

    Your right it will take more the cole but not a LOT more.

  • Dennis

    RB: No worries, son:) Don't blow out your rotator cuff patting yourself on back or anything.

    There's no doubt I am envious of the access for sure but while I wouldn't say I'm the most principled guy in the world or anything:) I'd certainly have a hard time spending my time selling s-it as sugar and then going off when someone called on the labeling:)

    If that's what it takes to work in the factory, have at it but just don't blow up the BP gauge when you've got guys outside picketing:)

    I'd lay down a witty snap to dot this 'I' but it would all go for censored naught:)

  • Robin B wrote:

    @ Dennis:
    Life ain’t fair, Dennis, or you’d have the press pass you’d have given your left nut for by now. Pity.

    That hardly makes him unique. Most of the local media gave 'em both to the Oilers in exchange for a press pass.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Colin wrote:

    Any chance Moreau might get shipped out?
    He’s the kind of “gritty” player that contending teams like to add for playoff drives, would have some value.

    I wonder about this too. On the one hand, having one less player taking dumb penalties can only be a good thing. On the other hand, there was a lack of cohesiveness in the locker room until only a few weeks ago when 'someone' called a players meeting and started down the path to righting the ship. We haven't won every game since then, but we have been better and we've played as a team. If that 'someone' was the Captain, then I worry about what potential impact his loss has on the team chemistry. If that 'someone' was someone else, then bring on the fourth round pick and let's get on with life.

    The bottom line is that even though Ethan Moreau has been praised for all of the 'intangibles' he brings to the game, they are offset by an equal number of other things that don't show up on the scoreboard such as PIM. He's a fourth-line plugger being asked to play above his abilities because he can be very defensively responsible when he's on the ice instead of in the box. If all we're giving up is Moreau the Forward and nothing more, we can survive without him and maybe even be better for it. If however, he's the invisible glue that's holding the room together, trading him now might just get us that lottery draft pick that so many people are hoping for instead of a first-round date with the Sharks or the Wings.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Dennis wrote:

    RB: I can tell you one thing it’s certainly Not about: a fair fight when my comments are deleted and yours aren’t:)

    I kind of feel like Dennis is giving a Moreau to RB…hauling him out of a pile to pound him for no reason… Whoopdee doo. Whoop-pidddy—doooo.

    I'm a Scientist!