GDB LXXX: Like Custer’s Last Stand

One of the biggest misconceptions in American history is Custer’s Last Stand because it implies that George Custer and his troops made some heroic final stand v. the Cheyenne, which was never the case.

Custer and his troops were on the offensive at the Battle of Bighorn, only to get overwhelmed and killed by the Cheyenne and Sitting Bull. I learned this in History class many years ago, and got a refresher here.

What I didn’t recall from our teacher was the dates the battle occurred; June 25th and 26th. How fitting that the NHL draft is on the exact same days this year. Oiler fans are hoping Steve Tambellini will mirror Sitting Bull, make the correct pick, and lead the Oilers to many victories down the road.

But who will be leading the team next season?

Tonight is the final home game for the Oilers, and many wonder if it is the last home game for Ethan Moreau.

Will this be Moreau’s last home stand in an Oiler uniform?

If the Oilers don’t win they will tie the franchise-low of 17 home wins, set in 1992/1993 and 1993/1994, and with Moreau’s recent play it looks like he is trying to lead this team away from being the worst in franchise history.

Moreau has five goals, eight points, is +1 and has 38 shots in his last 16 games. In the previous 57 games he tallied 4-5-9, was -16 and had 98 shots.

If you pro-rate Moreau’s last 16 games over 80 games he’d have 25 goals and 40 points. Of course those would be career highs, so it’s safe to say he wouldn’t keep up his recent pace over a full season, but I wonder if his recent strong play will see him back in Edmonton next season.

It was obvious at the deadline that Moreau was ready — and hoping — to be dealt, but Steve Tambellini tried unsuccessfully to move him. The fact no team was willing to take him, had to be a blow to Moreau’s ego, and rather than pout about it, Moreau has responded with his best hockey of the season.

I’ve never doubted that Moreau cares. He’s played the game with heart, grit and determination since breaking in with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1996. It’s also fair to say that for a long period this year (34 games with no goals and four points) he looked defeated, broken down and on the downside of his career.

He’s used the realization that no team wanted him as motivation to prove to people he can still play. Along with Shawn Horcoff, he’s been the most consistent forward since the deadline, and it’s not surprising that he’s done that since Pat Quinn made them the checking line.

Despite being the 14th overall pick in 1994, Moreau learned early that if he’d be more of a checker than a scorer. He has worked diligently on his skating since entering the league and that’s why for many years he was considered one of the better 3rd line players in the game.

He’ll be 35 in September and if he wants another contract next summer he’ll need to keep playing like he has since he was shunned by the other 29 general managers.

The Oilers will make a lot of moves this summer, but they can’t trade the entire team. They need to keep some guys, and Moreau’s recent play could have him here next September. H would have been moved in March if he didn’t have another year on his deal, so don’t be surprised to see him here next year.

Many fans and media have debated the merits of buying him out this summer, but I don’t see the Oilers buying out three guys, and with Jordon Eberle, Linus Omark and their first pick coming in camp next year, those guys are going to replace Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan, not Ethan Moreau.

You could buy out both O’Sullivan and Nilsson for a little more than what it would cost to buy out Moreau. Sure, Moreau struggled for most of this season, but he’s given more to the organization than O’Sullivan and Nilsson combined and that should count for something.

I think reality hit Moreau hard on March 3rd, and rather than sulk the rest of the season, he looked in the mirror and realized that he needed to be better. I don’t think a strong final 19 games can erase everything, but it shows he still cares.

He isn’t the long term solution moving forward, but he is still a better option than many of the bottom six forwards the Oilers currently have and the over abundance of soft, small and non-productive forwards.

MEANINGLESS GAME

Oilers fans won’t have to fret about beating Colorado and helping the Flames make the playoffs, because the Phlegms took care of business on their own by losing to San Jose last night, while rookie, Matt Duchene scored a beauty in the shootout to send the Avs to the playoffs.

Something tells me the Avs might be suffering a “playoff” hangover tonight and the Oilers should be able to give their loyal fans one final home win.

Dustin Penner mentioned 35 goals yesterday morning, so the big man might be bringing it hard tonight. He also confirmed he hasn’t been contacted by Mark Messier and Craig MacTavish yet about the world championships.

Penner is currently tied for 16th in goals with Nick Backstrom and the only Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla have more goals amongst Canadian players not in the playoffs. Iginla never goes to the worlds and Nash just played in the Olympics so he might want a rest. If they don’t ask Penner then its clear MacTavish still has an axe to grind.

However, Penner didn’t sound overjoyed about going. “I haven’t been asked yet,” he said. I pushed on and said if you were would you go? “I would do some deliberating.” I think Penner will need some assurance that if he goes all the way across the world that the coach will play him. While MacTavish seems to have moved on, based on his commentary on TSN, I’m not sure Penner has. He should go if he is asked, and MacTavish should invite him.

Billy Moores was announced as one of MacTavish’s assistants yesterday, and with the Dallas Stars out of the playoffs I wonder if Charlie Huddy will get the call? It’s great to go with guys you know, but the optics would be horrible if Huddy is invited.

  • I would actually enjoy if Huddy is included. I was as fierce a MacT basher as any but if those 3 could coach a talented team to a victory against equal opponents in the world championships it may put a little more pressure on Lowe/Tambellini to bring their A game to improve the Oil.

  • Flames are out, blah, blah, blah… I wonder if Brett Hull's gonna get his hands on Dallas ownership. I also wonder if he then names Wayne Gretzky as GM/part owner. I then wonder if Craig MacTavish replaces Marc Crawford behind the bench, reuniting him with Charlie Huddy in Dallas.

    And I see NHL Central Scouting has Seguin ranked ahead of Hall. Yet some people still think *they* know better. All I'm saying is its a toss up… to suggest *you* know better is incorrect. *You* may guess better. In reality, there may not be a wrong choice… and if there is, we may not know for 6 or 7 years.

      • Jason Gregor

        Loser mentality…You want the first pick, so you get the option to choose the best player. Worrying about past draft screw ups, which was years ago, is a loser mentality.

        • These are the same people that have been towing the "Well I really doubt Hall/Seguin are going to live up to the hype" line for the last little while.
          When did having the first overall pick become such a horrible burden?

          If there is one thing Oiler fans are good at, it's being incredibly pessimistic and always finding something to complain about.

          • Chris.

            Not to start a fight, but Re: comment #37: IMO, your emotion is clouding your player assessment. When guys like Nilsson or Cogliano have a good fifteen game stretch (If that has ever happened) you can be counted amoung those who get all excited and are quick to forget past transgressions and failings… Yet, when guys like Moreau or Horcoff have good stretches, you grumble about bruised ego's and will inevidibly make some comment about a bad contracts etc. Fact is, Moreau has been a good player for this franchise. He was a key contributer on a team that nearly won a Stanley cup. At 35, he has lost a step, and his NHL career is nearing it's end… Moreau is coming off a dominating performance and will probably play his last home game as an Oiler tonight… Why do you have to call him "an anchor" and genearally run him down today?

          • I said he WAS an anchor for half the season. He's playing quite well now.

            I've been consistently pro-Cogliano, I dont think that's changed ever and I dont think I've been any higher on Nilsson than anyone else. The guy has 2 games of brilliance followed by 2 in the press-box. Always has.

            I didnt mention Moreau's contract at all, hardly seems fair that you accuse me of bringing it up when I didnt.

            As for Moreau's ego, that was brought up by Jason in the body of the Blog. "The fact no team was willing to take him, had to be a blow to Moreau’s ego, and rather than pout about it, Moreau has responded with his best hockey of the season." In case you missed it.

            For all the complaints about my emotion clouding my judgement I'm not the one who digressed into a nostalgic ode to Moreau the key contributor to a team that almost won the Stanley Cup.

            Who's the one whose emotion is clouding their judgement?

          • Chris.

            I'm referring to your total body of work on this site.

            Currently, you list Moreau as your goat, with honorable mention to Horcoff… yet the sad fact is: your GOAT (a geriatric player 29 other GM's didn't want) is still a better, more complete overall NHL player than half of the guys on the Oiler roster… So if you used evaluatory tools instead of emotion to name your goat: why isn't O'Sullivan, or Nilsson, or Chorney, or Strudwick, or Pouliot, or even Cogliano your goat?

          • Goats were chosen at the beginning of the year. I decided not to change mine mid-stream. I dont think Moreau is a good Captain and his leadership (good or bad) has had more impact on the club than the bad play of Nilsson.

            Call out my total body of work on the site if you will. I think you'll find that most of what I thought was pretty well supported and articulated.

          • Seguin is ranked first in both yes, but the ISS guy went back on his rankings in his interview:
            "The confidence I have in this is that, I think they're so close, they could be flip-flopped," Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire

            I agree with Rosscreek here. It's a toss up and there likely isnt a better player.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    He's had 2 fights this year.

    Bottom line is the penalties he does take are bad ones. Spin the stats however you want, he takes bad penalties at bad times. He is undisciplined.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Not like we had that many this year that mattered. I can't see too many of Moreau's 22 minors being the reason we lost 54 games this year.

          • Of course there are bigger issues than what some 4th liner does. That doesnt mean Moreau's keen ability to take a late game, momentum killing penalty helped anything.

            Overstated or not, he was an anchor weighing the team down for half the season only to return as an on-ice presence when it truly didnt matter.

            Apparently his ego was bruised when he found out no one wanted him, not when his team was floundering under his leadership. I'm not going to pretend the first 60 games didnt happen just because he might end the season on a high note.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Good article for retaining some present elder players . Should Nilsson and O'Sullivan not be put on waivers first before buyout , similiar to Schremp – or others for that matter ? How much of a bad season that players may have had , are attributed to managerial handling of team and it's needs never been filled ? What conditions were out of players control for that matter including questionable coaching decisions ? I feel a lot of you are overblaming the players here . A lot of you say go with youth , etc. -then you want to get rid of them after a real bad year for almost all players under strenuos conditions and injuries with no second chance to redeem themselves. There is ups and downs in all careers- does not mean some won't rebound for next season . Just like the normal worker succumbs to taking the blame for management, supervisory, etc.( or mismanagement) because he faces the rath of management if he tries to do otherwise and criticize their decisions . The players almost always take the brunt of it and criticism .

    • Jason Gregor

      Good article for retaining some present elder players . Should Nilsson and O'Sullivan not be put on waivers first before buyout , similiar to Schremp – or others for that matter?

      You can only buy out a player during the two week window in the off-season. Schremp was put on waivers after camp and was picked up, if the Islanders didn't claim him the Oilers didn't have the option of buying him out.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    ~ the club should keep Moreau one more year, Oilers will win the 2011 draft and this 6'3" kid, Sean Couturier would certainly look good on the left wing playing with Horc and Hemmer ~

    How long till Oilers get in contender shape? 3 more years? Starting next year, this year or last year?

    If Moreau gets to stay after 19 desperate hockey games, this organization has bigger issues that won't get solved in 3 years…

  • Chris.

    After a quick glance at the stats I see Moreau is tied with Cogliano for goals, and only a couple behind Nilsson and O'Sullivan despite recieveing almost no PP time. Just sayin…

    Where is the big drop off between the ~skill~ guys and the grinders… or is there one? Moreau, despite his age, and all his shortcommings; AND after a brutal season: is still a better overall hockey player and contributer than all the smurfs on this team not named Gagner or Brule… and that's just sad.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      For the record he is ninth in points at EV and PK combined. And if Pouilot and Hemsky played he probably be 11th.

      On the stupid penalty thing I'd have to agree. He still takes quite a few minors that he shouldn't, but I think his minor penalties is about half of last year's, so he has improved alot.

  • Ender

    @ Jason Gregor

    You're right about the optics of Huddy being invited now, but the shame is that I'd rather have Huddy coaching for us than Moores. I wonder; did MacT know Huddy wasn't available for some reason before he invited Billy?

    If Moreau is in camp next year, it shows that management is incapable of making a decision or learning from their mistakes. I love heart-and-soul guys and trying every night gets you a ton of brownie-points in my books. That said, you cannot continue to take stupid penalties night after night and look out of your element for 2/3 of the season and then expect me to forgive you because you show you have some ability after all. If Moreau is capable of playing at this level consistantly, then why didn't he do it throughout the entire season instead of just now? And if this streak since the trade deadline is the anomaly, then why would we bring him back to have him wallow again?

    I agree that buying him out is not the best answer, but surely there is a better solution that letting him lace up in Oilers silks again next season. And as fair as it might sound, you cannot reasonably expect him to have to skate for a position in training camp. If the captain of the team shows up to camp, you pretty much have to give him a roster spot. To tell him after a couple of exibition games that you're stripping the C and buying him out then – well, that won't happen. Whatever happens with Moreau will have to happen in the off-season, and if the Oilers can't unload him for a bag of pucks, then they should resort to whatever means are necessary to fill his spot on the roster with someone else, up to and including the dreaded buyout.

    • Chris.

      This Moreau taking stupid penaltys angle is getting a little old. Moreau is fourth in PIM's on the Oilers, 136th in the league,and has taken less penalties than ~undisciplined bruisers~ like Olli Jokinen, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Semin.

      Try having a little perspective.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Glad to see others have noticed, he's had what? 2-3 fights this year? That means he's had 25 or so minors all year, I'd bet a few were coincidental as well.

        Big deal.

      • Let's Rebuild

        It's not necessarily the number of penalties it's the timing of those penalties. Moreau seems to take penalties at the worst possible time, when we are trying to comeback late in the game, or after a momentum swing.

        • Chris.

          Is there ever a really great time to take a minor penalty? Moreau is often on the ice during critical situations, hence the bad timing of his penalties.

          BTW, Moreau has the same or less minor penalties than over 140 other NHL players.

          Malkin is fourth on the list (behind Downie, Hartnell, and Burrows) with 43 minor penalties as opposed to Moreau's 21. Other noteables with more minor penalties than Moreau include: Brier, Kovalev, The Sedin's, Gomez, Heatley, Mikko Koivu, The Staals, Paul Stastney, Nash, Afinogenov, and Horcoff… Moreau has similar minor penalty totals to players like LeCavlier, Ovechkin and Ryan Smyth even though he plays in a more shutdown/bottom six role. The list of players who are in Moreau's role, who take more penalties than Moreau; is waaaay to long to list here.

          Let's stop with the penalty thing okay? Moreau hasn't been that undisciplined this year.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Have to remember that those guys get alot of hooking, slashing penalties trying to steal the puck. They get away with it quite a bit and generate chances that way. I wouldn't compare Moreau to guys that are known for offense. You need to look at other bottom six players.

            Moreau ranks 60th or so for minor penalties, so it isn't exactly great, but considering he was 7th last year in minor penalties it isn't so bad.

  • The Fish

    What I didn’t recall from our teacher was the dates the battle occurred; June 25th and 26th. How fitting that the NHL draft is on the exact same days this year. Oiler fans are hoping Steve Tambellini will mirror Sitting Bull, make the correct pick, and lead the Oilers to many victories down the road.

    After the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull ended up exiled in Saskatchewan for a number of years. I'm actually hoping that Tambo does that.

  • DoubleJ

    I just hope we get two more wins. I think Moreau should be gone. If he can put in this kind of effort why was he a no show for the whole season? That's not a leader, this team needs leadership. Moreau doesn't deserve to be here, because he has played hard for 15 games.
    Too little too late. IMO.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Jason, your kidding about all the Moreau love in your article… right? It would have made more sense if you would have posted this on April 1st. I can only assume you felt like doing some creative writing to get a few laughs?

    • Jason Gregor

      No love man, just my take on the team. Like I wrote, a solid 19 games to end the season doesn't erase a brutal first 3/4 of the year, but he has shown that when given a specific role he seems to play better.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    A little perspective on the un-movable one/buyout candidate:

    He's 3rd in goals on the Oilers 5 on 5 + PK.

    I think the guys a tad underrated around here.

  • OilFan

    Good read. I hope Penner gets the invite. Would be good for him I think. Why buy out POS and Nilsson ? Would the Oilers not be able to trade them ?

    BUBBA ARMY!!!!

  • The Fish

    Good article, but the real news today is that the Flamers missed the playoffs. At leats the Oil have some up and coming young talent. The Flames are a mess and the Sutters should be canned as a result. King should be gone too after arranging for his team to get the flu shot before people in need. KARMA IS A B!TCH.