Should Ethan Moreau Lose The Captaincy?

It’s a loaded question.

On the one hand, Moreau is one of the longest serving Oilers, and a leader in off-ice charitable work, as seen above. It’s impossible to question either his passion for the game or his desire to win, and he is the kind of guy who plays through pain and often doesn’t get enough credit for it. Last season, for example, Moreau played with a broken hand from December until the end of the season. Here’s what I had to say about it at the time:

So, while I tend to agree with Shepso at Bringing Back the Glory that it’s incredibly frustrating to watch an injured player put into tough situations night in and night out while useful parts in Dustin Penner, Marc Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak and Robert Nilsson are relegated to lesser roles or the sidelines, there’s a positive upside to all this – namely, that Ethan Moreau’s performance could plausibly improve by a significant margin next season.

And if that improvement can turn the captain into a physical player who holds his own at even strength against tough opposition, he could be a very useful part of this team going forward. If the amount of attention his reckless penalties have gotten this season motivates him to change his ways (and to my eye he did improve in this area down the stretch), he may even be a player that I applaud next season.

Of course, the healing of that broken hand hasn’t fixed the problems.  Moreau’s play still isn’t where it was a few years back, to the point where some have wondered if he’s fully recovered from the eye injury he suffered last season.  He’s still taking poor penalties – last year he took 1.9 penalties and drew 1.0 penalties per 60 minutes of icetime (-0.9) but this year has been even worse because he hasn’t been drawing penalties.  So far on the season, Moreau averages 1.5 penalties taken and 0.1 penalties drawn (-1.4) for every 60 minutes he plays.  He’s the only forward on the team (min: 10GP) to have a penalty differential worse than -0.4.

Still, his poor play is only one of the arguments to remove his captaincy.  Derek Zona recently highlighted the other reason frequently bandied about – his willingness to criticize everyone other than himself.  Most of the readers here will recall the game against Vancouver on Boxing Day; the Oilers were playing a relatively good road game (even carrying the play to some degree) until two power play goals by the Canucks turned the game around.  I blamed Moreau; it was his pointless goalie interference call that put the Oilers’ down a man and led to the 5-on-3.  Moreau himself saw things a little differently:

"It’s our inability to kill a penalty and our inability to score a goal on the power play when we have the chances that cost us… We have to do a much better job killing penalties and our power play has to be better. We contribute our loss to special teams and that’s about it. That’s why guys get paid a lot of money, is to kill penalties, that’s their job. We’re not executing well enough. We have some of our best players, veteran players on the penalty kill and the power play and we’re not executing like we should. It’s unfortunate because we’re wasting some really good efforts."

The Oilers power play went 0-for-3 on the night, so it wasn’t like they got a ton of chances to score the winning goal; I really don’t know if I’d put the loss on that group.

As for Moreau’s comments about the penalty kill, I’m not sure how to take them.  The first power play goal against, Moreau was sitting in the box, and Horcoff was the lone forward out there in the 5-on-3.  The second goal however can be somewhat directly attributed to Moreau – the pass to the point went right through him, Edler took it and fired, and Kesler deflected it into the net.  So at first glance perhaps he is taking his share of the blame.

On the other hand, obscuring the issue is the comment about guys making money.  In order, here are the cap hits for the four players on the ice for the Kesler goal:

  • Sheldon Souray: $5.4 million
  • Tom Gilbert: $4.0 million
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: $2.925 million
  • Ethan Moreau: $2.0 million

In other words, the way I take that comment is ‘this team has overpaid guys who aren’t getting the job done.’

Zona looks at it as Moreau deflecting the blame from himself.  That’s how I take it too, and it isn’t the first time Moreau’s done it either (Last year, the power play and penalty kill both went 1-for-4, with Moreau on the ice for Anaheim’s power play game-winner, and after the game he laid all the blame on the power play.  I was fairly angry about that; 25% is a good power play rate, and 75% is a bad penalty-killing rate, but Moreau never mentioned the PK).

I’ve said many times that I don’t see what happens in the locker room, so it’s entirely possible that Moreau’s a great teammate behind closed doors.  But comments like the one he made above really bother me.  I’d think a good captain would step up to the plate and deflect blame from his teammates to himself, saying something along the lines of, ‘it was a bad penalty to take and it’s something I have to work on.’  It seems to me that comments like that would unite, whereas deflecting blame divides.

I can’t be sure one way or the other, but based on his on-ice play and public comments, it’s difficult to picture Moreau as an especially good captain.

  • @ Ogden Brother:

    Of course the players/coaching staff are going to decide who is captain. Doesn't mean we can't speculate about it.

    And yes, Moreau's often made the whipping boy, which is why I was careful to highlight his off-ice work and his playing through injury. There are definitely things to like about the player.

    But when he goes out there and points the finger at his teammates, I think it deserves pointing out. When he makes a dirty play in a total loss of discipline, that deserves pointing out too.

    Moreau isn't the Oilers' biggest problem, and removing his letter won't change that. But moving him elsewhere is probably a step in the right direction for the team, as far as I'm concerned.

    • rindog

      The probelm is; not a single player would ever publicly talk about the coach or the captain (excpet for maybe a Brett Hull or Jeremy Roenick). It is professional suicide for a player to that.

      I am assuming that if there was a private vote as to who the players thought would be the best captain for the team, Moreau's name would not show up on may ballots.

      And you are right about Moreau not being the biggest problem, but when you are trying to fix something that is broken – you have start somewhere and end up fixing everything if you want it to work again.

  • Here's what I had to say after the Minny loss…

    Well, its clear to me now that if anyone is to be moved this season, it should without a doubt be Ethan Moreau. Not because he's as bad as everyone is making him out to be. Not because he's all that much better than everyone makes him out to be. If for no other reason than to symbolically cut the head off the snake.

    Perhaps those who suggested Moreau has changed since being named captain are right. Its just sad that such a charachter warrior for this team over the years is going to be limping his way out of town with a "don't let the door hit you in the rear-end on your way out" attitude. He deserved better.

    If Craig MacTavish's firing was a "mercy killing", then so to should be Ethan Moreau's trade. He WILL be a decent pickup for a contending team, but he no longer has a place on this squad.

    Ethan's been a good soldier… its time for both sides to move on.

  • rindog

    Just look at every other captain in the league.

    Neidermayer, Kovalchuk, Chara, Rivet, Iginla, Brind'amour, Toews, Foote, Nash, Morrow, Lidstrom, McCabe, Brown, Koivu, Arnott, Langenbrunner, Weight, Druru, Alfredsson, Richards, Doan, Crosby, Blake, Brewer, Lecavalier, Luongo (lol), Clark

    Does Moreau belong in that list?

    With the exception of Clark, Foote & Rivet pretty much all of the other captains offer more than just hard work and public service.

    If the whole pointa to having a captain is for the rest of the team to look up to (follow), we are fighting a losing battle with Moreau as captain.

    People will argue that we have had guys like Buchberger, Smith, MacTavish as our captins in the past. Has anyone looked at how well those teams did?

    When Weight was captain, we were atleast competitive.

    The blueprint doesn't lie. Your best players have to be your leaders. When your worst players are your leaders – you have problems.

    Is there much of an argument that Horcoff, Staios and Moreau have been near the top of the list when it comes to ineffectiveness on the ice this year?

    As far as Moreau being captain, it was a bad idea right form the start. Selecting role players to be your leaders just doesn't work very well. A leader needs to be someone that the coach can put out and make a difference in the game (positively).

    This team should have named Souray the captain as soon as we signed him and gave the team to lead. He was our marquee player/signing and an allstar that was coming of one of the most impressive years by a defenseman in years.

      • rindog

        And the only reason Clark is captain is because they had no other options at the time. AO was a rookie when Clark was named captain. I can guarantee you that Ovechkin will be the next captain in Washington.

          • rindog

            Can we take to this trade to mean that the Oilers are not shopping Moreau right now? Surely, Howson would have had an idea if Moreau was available? This is exactly the type of trade that the Oilers needed to make.

            Either that or Howson knows what most of us know – Moreau is no good….

  • Muji 狗

    Oilers keep living in the past, another reason Moreau is still captain. Look at Croz in Pitt. He's a young guy, proving that the old guard doesn't neccesarily need to be captain. Change would be good in this case. I thought Quinn wanted to change the culture of the team. This would be a good step.

  • Muji 狗

    I'd like to go back to his crosscheck against the Blues: Not sure how many people watched the Canucks/Blues game last night. Rene Bourque shoved a Canuck from behind about 3 feet from the boards with a couple minutes to play in a blow out. The announcers even recognized this as a "play out of frustration"

    Though the act was different, this was essentially the same (actually probably had a better chance of ending far worst) scenario as to what Moreau found himself in the other night. However since Bourque is in the good books and Moreau is under the microscope, his situation blown out of proportion.

    Now compound this over ever action a guy does and you've got a great scapegoat!

    Stripping the C off of Moreau would have as big of an effect on the teams win/lose record as a coaching change did – none.

  • Muji 狗

    How about we let the coaches and more importantly his teamates decide if he should or shouldn't have the C.

    From a fans perspective it should basically be irrelavant who has the C. His teamates answer to him (and ultimatly he answers to his teamates). If the C on his chest is hurting the team, the other leaders (or coaching) would recognize this far sooner then us turds on the internet.

  • Muji 狗

    He's another piece that doesn't fit the puzzle anymore.

    I'm convinced that Quinn has been taking inventory for the past half season. He's making a list and checking it twice.

    On the other hand, what can you do with Moreau's contract? Who would want him?

    The Oilers success depends upon how well they plan for the next few years and I think he's one of the expendable pieces that will be gone.

    As for him being captain, they're supposed to lead by example aren't they? There's been too much chatter about how he's treated the youngsters on the team.

    Sorry Ethan but this isn't a union shop. Your seniority gets you nothing here. Produce or be gone.

    -30-

  • Muji 狗

    Agreed.
    The correct response would've been, "Well, Patrick O'Sullivan has really been a useless POS. That's why we're not getting it done."
    Seriously tho, yes. They need to Jason Smith him. Even if he's a great captain in the locker room, he's been a lousy player on the ice that the Oilers can't afford not to lose.

  • Travis Dakin

    I totally agree with you Mr. Willis, I messed up. Here's hoping that by March, I will have removed the captaincy from my sweater, hand it to Souray and pack my bags for another city. Happy New Year!