Sooner or later, everybody moves on. That’s true in every walk of life and it’s no less so with players in the NHL or for those of us who make a living reporting about them.
Players come. Players go. Be it through trades, free agency or retirement, that’s the way it works. Players know it. I know it. I’ve lost track of exactly how many players have walked out of the dressing room door, as well as those walking in, in the years I’ve covered the Edmonton Oilers, but it’s in the hundreds.
Somewhere along the line, I can’t remember when, I began making a habit of trying to spend a little time with a player I believed or knew was on the way out for one reason or another — whether the player knew it or not. Some time to talk away from the glare of the scrum. To shoot the breeze. To have a laugh and remember when. Essentially, it’s my way of saying goodbye and good luck without actually saying it.
With the NHL trade deadline looming Wednesday, I had that talk with Ethan Moreau this morning.
THE CHICAGO FOUR
I was waiting for Moreau to finish treatment on Ken Lowe’s table 30 minutes or so after everybody else had left the dressing room today when I started thinking about how long he’d been here.
I sure didn’t think it would be parts of 12 seasons and 637 games. When Moreau arrived on March 20, 1999 with the Chicago Four — Moreau, Chad Kilger, Dan Cleary and Christian Laflamme — I saw him as a throw-in as part of the deal. Kilger was the keeper. Cleary was the steal.
With all of them long gone, I long ago learned better about the guy who has worn the captain’s "C" here since it was passed along to him Oct. 2, 2007 by Jason Smith.
"Sorry to keep you waiting so long, man," Moreau said after escaping Lowe’s clutches and emerging from the back. "What’s up?" What’s up, indeed, I thought. Like Moreau didn’t know. "You’re the last one left," I said. "By a long time," Moreau smiled.
So began the obligatory interview all reporters do with the deadline approaching. Mostly, though, we just talked. I kept thinking how, a few years back, Moreau was so good on a line with Todd Marchant and Mike Grier. I thought about how he scored 20 goals in 2003-04 and about how so much has changed for him and the Oilers since then.
I thought of the time years ago when I went over to Moreau’s house to do an interview about the joys of fatherhood after the arrival of his son, Trey, during a rehab from shoulder surgery. Proud papa. At the time I remember thinking, this is a good man. I still feel that way.
THE TIME COMES
Moreau’s performance, or lack of same, has been talked about and written about every which way over the past couple of years, so I’m not going to cover that old ground at length here.
Moreau’s leadership has been questioned. He’s been criticized for taking stupid penalties. He makes too much money. Fans have been calling for him to be run off for a long time. Trade the bum. Make him go away.
Much of the criticism is warranted. Most of his flaws, while real, I’d argue, have been magnified by this team’s abysmal results since the Stanley Cup run of 2006. While Moreau is very much the same blood-and-guts guy he has always been, minus a step, fans have a right to their opinion. It comes with the territory.
I didn’t ask Moreau today, at least on the record, if he agrees with the critics that it’s well past time for him to move on, or if he’d prefer to be traded by the deadline Wednesday. If that would be better for him and the Oilers. That’s like tossing a player a grenade. Besides, I know the answer.
I suspect fans who want Moreau gone will get their wish sooner than later. Good men come and go. That’s the nature of the business. As he shook my hand today, I thought again how Moreau is one of them. A good man.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.