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Photo Credit: Brad Jones

Top 10 Unsung Heroes: Ethan Moreau (4)

It’s only mid-January during a season in which many people, me included, were confident the Edmonton Oilers would build on their long-awaited return to the playoffs last spring. That long ago went sideways. Fans are pissed. They want answers. What they don’t want is the latest instalment of our ongoing Unsung Heroes list. I get it, but you’re getting it anyway.

In one sense the timing isn’t that bad. It’s been mentioned more than once in recent weeks, as people vent and search for answers, maybe the Oilers are missing what a veteran like Matt Hendricks brought to the team last season. Not so much on the ice but off it. Work ethic. Leadership. Accountability. I tend to agree. Times like this are when guys like Ethan Moreau, Jason Smith and Kelly Buchberger came in handy. All three of them former captains. Glue guys. Moreau was that.

Ethan Moreau

Left Wing — shoots L
Born Sep 22nd, 1975 — Huntsville, ONT
Height 6.02 — Weight 220 [188 cm/100 kg]

Drafted by Chicago Blackhawks

Round 1 #14 overall 1994 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1995-96

20

CHI

8

0

1

1

1

4

1

0.0

1996-97

21

CHI

82

15

16

31

13

123

114

13.2

1997-98

22

CHI

54

9

9

18

0

73

87

10.3

1998-99

23

TOT

80

10

11

21

-3

92

96

10.4

990

12:22

1998-99

23

CHI

66

9

6

15

-5

84

80

11.3

825

12:30

1998-99

23

EDM

14

1

5

6

2

8

16

6.3

165

11:47

1999-00

24

EDM

73

17

10

27

8

62

106

16.0

1103

15:07

2000-01

25

EDM

68

9

10

19

-6

90

97

9.3

964

14:11

2001-02

26

EDM

80

11

5

16

4

81

129

8.5

1017

12:43

2002-03

27

EDM

78

14

17

31

-7

112

137

10.2

1054

13:30

2003-04

28

EDM

81

20

12

32

7

96

180

11.1

1221

15:04

2005-06

30

EDM

74

11

16

27

6

87

151

7.3

1183

15:59

2006-07

31

EDM

7

1

0

1

-4

12

18

5.6

106

15:08

2007-08

32

EDM

25

5

4

9

-4

39

54

9.3

398

15:55

2008-09

33

EDM

77

14

12

26

0

133

159

8.8

1183

15:22

2009-10

34

EDM

76

9

9

18

-18

62

143

6.3

1095

14:24

2010-11

35

CBJ

37

1

5

6

-9

24

56

1.8

462

12:29

2011-12

36

LAK

28

1

3

4

-3

20

29

3.4

295

10:32

11 yrs EDM

653

112

100

212

-12

782

1190

9.4

9488

14:32

4 yrs CHI

210

33

32

65

9

284

282

11.7

825

12:30

1 yr CBJ

37

1

5

6

-9

24

56

1.8

462

12:29

1 yr LAK

28

1

3

4

-3

20

29

3.4

295

10:32

Career

928

147

140

287

-15

1110

1557

9.4

11070

14:07

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1996-97

21

CHI

6

1

0

1

3

9

10

10.0

1998-99

23

EDM

4

0

3

3

3

6

6

0.0

70

17:26

1999-00

24

EDM

5

0

1

1

0

0

5

0.0

79

15:46

2000-01

25

EDM

4

0

0

0

-2

2

5

0.0

42

10:35

2002-03

27

EDM

6

0

1

1

-4

16

10

0.0

74

12:23

2005-06

30

EDM

21

2

1

3

0

19

40

5.0

306

14:35

Career

46

3

6

9

0

52

76

3.9

572

14:17

WHY HE MAKES IT

Now, before you start (or continue) yelling at your computer screen — “Brownlee, a third-liner like Moreau isn’t going to fix the broken special teams, help score enough goals or snap his fingers and make Cam Talbot stop more pucks” — I don’t for a second think that Moreau or players like him are the answer for all that ails the Oilers right now. Lack of depth is lack of depth. Rotten special teams are rotten special teams. Not even the biggest dose of guts and grit changes that fact.

What I do know, though, is that Moreau had a way of making things better — even if better wasn’t necessarily good enough — because he was always ready to work and insisted his teammates do the same. Win or lose, he gave you all he had. Win or lose, he insisted everybody else do the same. Moreau was tenacious in every way — in the corners, in the room, in the gym. That’s just the way he went about his business, and he brought those qualities long before he assumed the captaincy from Smith.

With Hendricks gone, do the Oilers have that guy? I can’t say for sure. I’m not in the room like I was when Moreau was in his prime here — before injuries eventually broke him down and made it impossible for him to be the player or leader he’d been in his first six seasons after coming over from Chicago. Who settles things down behind closed doors when everything is falling apart now? Who kicks ass when it needs to be done? The stuff we don’t see. That’s the unsung part of what a player brings to a team.

THE FINE PRINT

Moreau was never close to being the best player on the teams he toiled with here. Doug Weight and Bill Guerin and Ryan Smyth were the go-to guys. Moreau would be even further down the marquee today with the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic here. McDavid, for my money, is the best player on the planet right now. Connor just needs to be Connor. He doesn’t need to that blood-and-guts glue guy. Just play, kid.

Somebody has to bring it, though. Lucic? Sure, but he’s a little high up on the salary scale to be considered unsung. Kris Russell, who made this list, brings it by virtue of insisting on throwing his black-and-blue body in front of shots to the point where it’s cringe-worthy. That’s part of the mix, too. I wonder what we’d get if we could somehow drop a 24-year-old Moreau into this group. Of course, we’ll never know.

I spent countless hours talking to Moreau during his years here. For all the interviews we did, I couldn’t find one quote from him for this item where he talked about his knack bringing what we call intangibles — saying the right thing at the right time on the bench or in the room, trying to change momentum with a big hit or a fight, those kinds of team-first things. Moreau just did them. That’s just the way it is with players cut from this cloth. More doing, less talking. Teams can never have too much of it. 

This series of various Top 10 lists will focus on the post-1990 Oilers – the players who haven’t played on a Stanley Cup winner in Edmonton.

The List:

  • ubermiguel

    I never had to doubt Moreau was going to put in an honest effort, and he gave the best years of his professional life to the Oilers, what’s not to love?

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Respectfully disagree, Robin. These profiles are EXACTLY what the fanbase (and team management) need to see right now. Guys like Moreau are the kinds of players this team will need to get back to the playoffs next year. Heart-and-soul guys who do the dirty work (penalty-killing) well. Please keep these coming!