But there is a lot of razzle dazzle in the Moose line-up this season with the likes of Mason Raymond
, Michael Grabner and Juraj Simek, and Moran is often over looked. His quiet demeanour and relaxed personality don’t exactly scream superstar, but you can’t judge a book by its cover and Moran’s novel is one that’s certainly worth a read.
Moose head coach Scott Arniel certainly can’t put it down.
“He’s a guy that if you don’t know where he is and he gets the puck, it could be trouble. He’s very crafty and he finds people because he’s just such a good passer. He leads by example on the ice and I think when it comes to his teammates, they all recognize the contribution that he puts forth night in and night out.”
Moran, 28, a product of Abbotsford, BC, is currently second on the team in scoring with four goals and nine assists this season. He’s been a major component of Manitoba’s offence, both even-strength and on the power play, despite losing his top two linemates early on this year. Jason Jaffray and Jozef Balej both went down to injury, but that didn’t slow down Moran, the 5’11”, 185-pound centreman actually looked more comfortable in a Moose jersey than ever before.
You’ll have to flip back a few chapters to understand why.
Familiarity has always led to success for Moran, a trend that started in his first season with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen in 1995-96. He put up decent numbers early on with a combined 110 points in his first two seasons, but in 1997-98, his third season on the team, Moran exploded for 102 points and never looked back.
The youngster proceeded to string together 118 and 120 point seasons, leading Calgary to a WHL Championship in 1998-99, before winning the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL Player of the Year in 1999-00.
Once Moran got the ball rolling he would have given Jarome Iginla a run for his money in a popularity contest in Cowtown, and that’s why his #20 hangs in the rafters of the Pengrowth Saddledome as the only Hitmen’s jersey ever retired.
“That was a huge thrill,” said Moran in late November. “It’s something you never expect as a player and I was totally honoured when they did it. It’s something I’ll never forget.
“The whole five years were great, getting to grow with the team from the start. We had a couple rough seasons, then we got a little better, then to be one of the top teams in the WHL my last couple years was exciting.”
Moran left the Hitmen as the team’s all-time regular season leader in games played (357), goals (204), assists (246) and total points (450), and as Calgary’s all-time playoff leader in assists (48) and points (82).
Skip ahead a few chapters to Moran’s time with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, and it’s clear that his progressive climb to the top of the offensive heap in Calgary was no fluke. Success and familiarity go hand-in-hand for the seventh round 1998 NHL entry draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres.
It took a few seasons before he truly hit his stride, but by the end of a five year stay in Syracuse, Moran was the team’s all-time leader in games played (334), assists (143), points (241), power play goals (38) and shorthanded goals (9). And just like in Calgary, Moran became dominant in his final two seasons, finishing second in team scoring in 2003-04 with 59 points and leading the Crunch offensively in 2004-05 with 72 points.
“It took me a little longer than I would have liked to adjust to the American League level, but I got good coaching down there and I was able to play in a lot of different situations and I think it only helped me. I grew a lot as a player there.”
Signed by Vancouver June 19, 2006, Moran is now in his second season with the Moose, and he’s already matched his highest single season output from his time with the Crunch, recording 72 points last season sporting Manitoba colours.
It took him a few seasons before he really took flight in Calgary and Syracuse, but he’s already one of Manitoba’s most dangerous weapons and he’s comfortable no matter who he’s playing with this season, meaning Moose franchise records could start to fall in a few seasons.
Until then Moran will keep working hard at getting back up to the NHL – he appeared in five games as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001-02 and 2003-04 and three games with the Canucks last season – but don’t expect him to add any flash to his game. He’s perfectly content remaining the player that he is, and he knows the phone will ring because of it.
“It’s important to just try and be patient and when you’re time comes you have to take advantage of it. You never know, it could be tomorrow, it could be in a few months, but when you get up to Vancouver they’re going to give you a chance to play and you have to take advantage of it.” Photos taken by: Jonathan Kozub and Derek Jory