When word surfaced that the Los Angeles Kings were on the verge of signing banged-up winger Ethan Moreau to a one-year, $600K contract, the reactions ranged from mildly supportive to a shoulder shrug to stunned criticism.
Aside from the most blindly supportive members of the Kings’ front office and equally optimistic fans, it’s likely that Moreau is the only person who expects the move to be a slam dunk. Jonathan Willis points out the most obvious problem – though not necessarily the only issue – that comes with signing the soon-to-be 36 year old winger: his lack of health. He missed huge chunks of three of the last five seasons with wear-and-tear related injuries, with 186 games lost to various ailments during that five-year span.
It’s tough not to think of the Kings’ run of bad luck with injuries in the previous decade or so as a caveat while discussing their seemingly bright future. You may remember that semi-solid Los Angeles teams were derailed by injuries in many cases as the team saw players such as Pavol Demitra, Ziggy Palffy, Adam Deadmarsh and Jason Allison fall apart due to health issues.
The current Los Angeles roster features some obvious injury risks with Moreau, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams in the mix – especially since the latter two could play very important roles as scoring wingers. Even Anze Kopitar went down with a nasty ankle injury last season.
Many of us cannot help but second-guess the Kings’ decision to sign Moreau, but the team brought in the rugged former captain of the Edmonton Oilers with the hopes that he’ll provide veteran leadership. (It’s also likely that they’ll ask him to do the hockey equivalent of “Charlie work” such as spending time on the penalty kill and grinding out fourth line minutes.)
The biggest line on his resume is almost certainly his connection to the Oilers’ Cinderella run to just one win short of a Stanley Cup in 2006 (which happened to be the last time Moreau made a postseason appearance). He reflected on that run with Mayor’s Manor, calling it both the highest and lowest point of his career.
“Going to the Finals was probably the high and the low point,” he said, when speaking of his time playing in Edmonton. “We were one game away from winning a Stanley Cup. Then, losing was probably the low point because you come so close to realizing a dream that doesn’t happen – you’re left with a very, very empty feeling – which is motivation to get back there with this team and to win it. That’s the only thing that will kind of make that feeling go away.”
One cannot help but wonder if Moreau wonders if his career will go away before that feeling will dissipate. He told Mayor’s Manor that he hopes to play until he’s 40, but to do so, he’ll need to surprise onlookers who are far from convinced that he can turn around his health and all-around play. Willis points out some discouraging defensive numbers that indicate that Moreau’s time in the NHL is about to run out, but we’ll have to wait and see if this low-risk move by the Kings turns out to be an irritating (if small) waste of money or a nice bargain.