In his first interview since taking a stick in his eye last Saturday, Oiler captain Ethan Moreau discussed everything from his eye, to leadership, to his discipline to an overrated offence.
You can listen to the entire interview at www.justagame.ca, but I have taken out a few key points…
JG: How is the eye?
EM: I’m lucky that I had started with good eyesight, and right now my eyesight is about 80% back to normal. Even if it doesn’t improve anymore I would be able to come back and play, but I’m expecting a full recovery. I’ve had some damage to the eye itself, but that is mostly cosmetic, and once the blood from the back of the eye clears I should be fine.
JG: When do you expect to return?
EM: I hope to skate next week, but I have an appointment Monday and they are being really cautious with activity right now. Hopefully I can start some activity Monday with a light bike ride, and then hopefully I can get on the ice next week. Ideally two full practices would be enough to get me back in condition since I haven’t been able to do anything up until now.
JG: Will you wear a visor when you return?
EM: I won’t have a choice; I think I’ll have to wear one for a number of reasons. It is unfortunate that you have to go through an incident like this to wear one. I lost total vision and couldn’t see the day after it happened so it puts things into perspective. I’ve been through some pretty significant injuries with a broken leg, broken hand, broken mouth, but all those things are superficial and they will heal. This was the scariest moment of my career and definitely for the short term –the rest of the year– I won’t be able to play without one.
JG: Since you’ve been an Oiler you had lots of guys who had more effort and less talent, and now it is reversed. Is it hard to get these guys to understand that effort is still the most important facet of a player’s game?
EM: It should come naturally. I think our skill, and not be negative, is overrated. Outside of Hemsky and Visnovsky were not tremendously skilled or talented. We don’t have guys who are 30 or even 20 goal scorers. I think the identity of our team has changed a lot, and try to shift to a more skilled, puck moving team, but that hasn’t translated to the offence that we thought it would. We have to find a way to get back to playing an energetic and more physical game. And that is up to the guys in the lineup. If they want to stay in the lineup and in the NHL they have to find a way to contribute.
JG: As a player who relies on emotion you realized early in your career that you had to play balls to the wall to stay in the league, how do you relate to players who have more skill aren’t the same type of player as you?
EM: That is a really good question. Sometimes it is hard for me. Sometimes I get frustrated and what to say certain things, but I catch myself because I realize the game is different. It’s not the mid-90s when I came in or Stevie (Staios) or Shelly (Souray) came in. We came in literally fighting for jobs but the game has changed now. There is more emphasis on skill and puck movement. I don’t think it is productive for me to tell a supposedly skilled, smaller guy to go out and run around and get his ice that way because that is not who they are, or the player they are, or the reason we drafted them.
Sometimes it is hard to relate, but I also play offensively at times as well, so I can help them in that sense. Knowing where goals are scored in the NHL, not many are scored on the perimeter; most of them are scored from in front of the net. Look at the best players in the world; a lot of their goals come from getting to the net like Iginla. I guess Ovechkin is an exception to that because he can score from the outside. A lot of the really good young players are getting to the net and scoring goals, and I thought that was lacking in our game last night, we were on the perimeter too much.
JG: Compared to what you got away with early in your career, do you have to change your style of slashing and being physical to avoid taking so many penalties?
EM: Yeah I do, that is something I have to work on. I have to maintain my physical play and I do a lot of checking with my stick. I think referees look at physical guys who play that style and for some reason we get more penalties than other guys would. I went through a tough stretch where I was taking too many penalties, and when I get back I will work on that, but I can’t let it take away from my physical play.
JG: Were those penalties out of frustration?
EM: I don’t really get frustrated. I think everybody has a switch. I mean sometimes when the game is out of hand and you are losing, and you know it isn’t going to hurt your team, that is frustration and not caring if you are going to get a penalty because it won’t affect the outcome of the game. Some of it is error in judgment, or putting yourself in a bad position while some were bad calls, but I always take responsibility for the penalties that I get.
JG: Is it hard for married new players to bring their families to Edmonton and get acclimatized, and does that concern you?
There is no reason why they can’t. I’ve raised my family here, and it is a lot like the childhood I had growing up in Canada. My son plays hockey like everyone else, and they are involved in activities and we are involved in the community. It’s what you make of it. The number one thing is if the hockey is good then everything else is good. When things are going well on the ice and your team is doing well, that makes the city that much better to play in.
JG: As Captain of the team, your team has had more nights this year than in previous years where you didn’t have the same compete level as the opposition. Do garbage cans get thrown around still? Can you chastise guys individually, or do you have to do that in a calmer manner?
EM: A little bit of both. You have to assess the situation. You can’t do that every game, and be breaking stuff and yelling at guys every game. You’re not going to get a good response. But there are times for that and there are times to call guys out and times to be calm and supportive and help your teammates that way.
I wish I had the answer for you. There have been a lot of nights where we haven’t had the same level of competitiveness as we’ve had in the past, and a lot of that is because we have changed our team. I think the problem this year is that some of the skill and offensive guys we’ve had haven’t put up the numbers we’ve anticipated. And when that (not scoring) happens the other part of the game doesn’t look very good, and it looks like the effort level isn’t there.
In the past we had guys who had an aggressive style of play, skated and hit, but now it is a different brand of hockey. And sometimes it translates into a product that appears we aren’t working as hard as we should. The positive is in the backend we move the puck a lot better and it has been a noticeable change and that has been a huge positive. I think the problem lies in our forwards and our inability to forecheck and win battles and to provide offence that way.
To simplify your game is a lot to ask of some guys, because they are coming out of junior or coming from different teams where they were offensive players, and they got a lot of their points on the powerplay or they could score on the rush.
This league is extremely hard to do that in. You have to be an elite player to be able to put up points strictly on the rush and to capitalize on the powerplay. You have to find a way to be able to score five-on-five, and a lot of times that is through cycling or getting in and winning one-on-one battles.
It is a learning process for a lot of guys and hopefully we can figure it out. You can change your game even if you are a skilled guy that has relied on his skill or powerplay time in the past. There is always time to change, if you want to change, and become a different player and produce offence in a different way.
Moreau did talk give his thoughts on the trades and a few other things as well, so if you want to hear the entire interview go to www.justagame.ca.
When Moreau skated off the ice many wondered how serious his injury would be, but, thankfully for him, it sounds like he will be back on the ice very soon.