Friday, September 29, 2006

Mad About Moreau

This video was recently up on Hot Oil (propelling, by my informal count, Moreau to victory in the third round of the hot-off), and holy fuck is it ever impressive. Particular highlights for me include the goal against Montréal, mostly because I was there for that game, and I remember remarking how troubled our powerplay must be if we've decided to put Ethan Moreau on it, pretty much the exact instant he walked off the boards and roofed a slapper from the top-left of the circle.

The things that stand out the most across the mere 13 or so goals shown here, to me, are how deceptively quick Moreau's shot is (by which I mean, even when he's winding up, the puck just rockets off his stick), and how incredibly fast he is , both in terms of acceleration and top speed (evidenced by the shorthanders), both of which I guess I technically knew about him, but frequently forget.

Anyway, I got to thinking: given his evident skill, is Moreau going to have a breakout year? I've remarked before on here on his ability to get into scoring positions, if not finish (I believe my words were something to the effect of, "If he scored on half the chances he creates, he'd be the power forward he was drafted as"). On the one hand, it's slightly ridiculous to think that a 31-year-old hasn't exactly peaked yet, and I don't mean to suggest that he's all the sudden going to start posting 80-point seasons for the rest of his career. What I'm thinking of is something more akin to what Todd Marchant had his last year here: a season where a reasonably skilled, hard-working guy starts getting the breaks he normally doesn't, and puts up a point total no one was really expecting.

To my mind, Moreau and Marchant are incredibly similar players (fast as all get-out, shut-down defensive players, and for whatever reason, more or less unable to put the puck in the ocean, despite their ability to get it to the end of the pier). While Marchant always put up a few more points (he was good for about 35-40 in his time here; Moreau's ran the gamut from 20 to, more recently, about 30), I don't think it's ridiculous that, given the situation, Moreau could see a significant jump in his points (maybe to about 50?). He's on to a team that, while deep at forward, is also fairly balanced, meaning it's unlikely any one line will see the lion's share of offense-friendly minutes. Though he'll probably be getting more tough minutes than people like Lupul, Torres and Hemsky, he does fairly well, scoring-wise, against people who have offensive prowess but are somewhat lax defensively: seven of his 27 points came shorthanded, which is kind of a ridiculous percentage (though not totally unheard of: Chris Phillips, Chris Kelly and Matt Stajan had similar percentages, though Moreau's right near the top). If Sykora stays as a centre, that makes Smyth, Torres, Moreau and a rookie (Mihknov, Jacques, Thoreson, Winchester) the top four spots on the depth chart, which, given Torres' streakiness, could mean he sees third- and even second-line minutes fairly frequently, playing with people like Lupul, Hemsky, Sykora and whatnot. Also, given that lineup, he's certainly not a guy who anyone is going to bother keying on unless he starts putting up big numbers in a hurry (which I sincerely doubt). He probably won't see any powerplay time, but I imagine he'll eat up a fair number of even strength minutes, especially protecting leads and such, which again ties into that scoring against bad defenders thing.

I don't know, I'm not saying this will definitely be the year Moreau busts out, but I think this is certainly a situation where he could (it might even be a contract year for him, though my high opinion of him doesn't allow me to think he's anything but a guy who play for love and to win). He's obviously going to be an important player even it he only got 20 points this year, but given the right couple of breaks, I think a 20-goal, 50-point season is well within his reach.

Or maybe this is just overcompensation for my defence fear. Whatever. Just watch the video again and tell me he doesn't look like a guy who should have had double his 11 goals last year.


SoOiled said...

Moreau definately will be an even bigger bearcat this year. You could see a huge confidence gain during last season that was compounded mightily in the playoffs, when he was a monster. I agree with your vision of a point-scoring increase, but have always thought his greater value was in the ice-opening ability his speed enables, along with his fearlessness, his strength and feisty demeanor. He holds a huge place on this team, and hope one or two of those kids watches closely.

MetroGnome said...

I think Moreau had a "Shean Donovan" season. The year Donovan scored 18 (Some in surprisingly spectacular fashion), everyone wondered if he had suddenly and inexplicalby emerged as an offensive threat.

Nope. It was just a career year aberration. Kinda like the one Marchant had. And it'll probabaly be true of Moreau as well, given his age and such...

Course, the benefit Moreau has over Dono is the virtual wealth of scorers he'll be surrounded with this year.

mike w said...

Gotta say that watching the same tape, I get a different impression. What is more remarkable about that Montreal slapper is how much time Moreau had to tee up, more so than the hardness or accuracy of his shot. On many of those goals other teams simply made him look good.

No doubt Moreau is a keeper, but I wouldn't expect more than 15 goals from the guy. His shoot ain't bad, but his puckhandling and creativity are below average.

Steve said...

Anyway, I got to thinking: given his evident skill, is Moreau going to have a breakout year?

Well, he'll certainly be getting top-line playing time, so it will just be a question of whether he makes use of it.

Wait. That's not accurate at all.

Colby Cosh said...

Forgetting Moreau's speed seems like forgetting that Gretzky had kinda good hands. Frankly, given the speed with which he beats defencemen, wraps around, and takes off on the breakaway, there just isn't any excuse for him not to score close to 20 in any kind of playing time. Either way I'd love to see a win-relevance analysis of the goals he does score--they all seem to come in the third periods of close games.

kristin said...

Honestly, I think Moreau is easily one of the most underrated and underlooked players on the team.
I don't consider him a goal scorer (and he's obviously not), but the goals he does score are amazing. He does, however, do a great job at setting plays up at key times. If anything, he's more of a defensive forward (yesss.. they do exist!)

mike w said...

I still contend that you are all wrong, turkeys.

case said...

why didn't moreau or any of the oilers(or did they?)go to the nhl/fhm mixer? the photos on the nhl site are amazing. the shawschremp redemption. c'mon!

sacamano said...

I'm with Mike.

What is this, the 5th?, 6th?, 7th? season in a row that the question of whether Ethan will finally break out has been asked?

He's not breaking out. Like Popeye, he is what he is.

Pleasure Motors said...

Well, again, by "breakout," I just mean have something like a career aberration (metrognome: 11 goals last year is pretty much Moreau's average; he had 20 the season before the lockout), where he gets maybe 20 more points than we expect.

Mike, I agree with you fully that Moreau is incredibly uncreative (every goal was a slapper or a drive to the net, essentially), but Marchant was, too—still, that much speed creates chances, and whatever Moreau's faults with the puck, he does have a certain nose for getting into scoring positions, if not finishing them. And again, given that he'll probably see a semi-regular shift with the likes of, at worst, Stoll and Pisani, I could see him at least getting a few more assists, if nothing else.

Or maybe I'm just hoping we're going to challenge Boston's record for 20-goal scorers. Sigh.

Oh, also: Steve, I'll not take guff from a man who drafted JS Giguere in the third round of a fantasy hockey pool.