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Tencer's Blog: The Captain Speaks

by Dan Tencer / Edmonton Oilers

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish presents Ethan Moreau with his jersey adorned with the captain's "C" on the front prior to the start of the regular season. (photo: Andy Devlin/EOHC)
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Oilers captain Ethan Moreau spoke last night for the first time since an extremely busy 10 days that saw the introduction of a new ownership regime, 2 highly publicized attempts at making a splash in the free agent market and 3 trades. In an interview with me on 630 CHED's "Inside Sports" Moreau made it clear that he and his teammates are extremely pleased and excited with the recent developments.

"The players are excited and I think for good reason," Moreau said. "It's gonna be a pretty cool new era for Edmontonians and the players."

Moreau, who has been a member of the Oilers since the 1998-99 season, says it feels like a new world for the Oilers. "It's comforting for a veteran player and somebody that's been in Edmonton for a long time knowing that the resources are there, as they have been with the Investors Group the last few years," Moreau explains. "We're going to be a cap team and we're not going to have any financial worries. Our team is strong, the dollar is strong and our owner is committed to having a winning team and he's obviously got the financial part taken care of."

"It's just more exciting knowing that if we do our part we're gonna get help and we're gonna be in a position where we'll be a contender every year."

Part of the help that Daryl Katz will try to provide in this new era will be, he hopes, the acquisition of high profile free agents. The Lowe/Katz duo made every effort possible to secure Marian Hossa and Jaromir Jagr, but both chose to sign elsewhere. "It's not a huge shock that we didn't get those guys," Moreau said. But, that doesn't mean he's upset or worried. "It's more important, for me at least, that our young developing players and the guys that we already have are gonna be able to stay."

"We have a lot of young players in Edmonton that have potential to be stars and we're gonna be able to keep all those players."

Without question, that's the most important part for Moreau. He lived through the Doug Weight trade, among others, and is now comforted by the knowledge that money won't ever be an issue in keeping youngsters like Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert.

Trade talk

In 3 recent trades the Oilers moved Raffi Torres, Jarret Stoll, Matt Green and Joni Pitkanen. With the deletion of Torres & Greene particularly, the Oilers lose a significant physical element. Moreau admits that it could be an issue, but feels there's enough on the roster to compensate. "Yeah, we definitely lose some aggression," Moreau admits. "You also have to remember that myself and Sheldon (Souray) weren't in the lineup for the bulk of the season. He's gonna provide a real presence on the back end and some confidence and some toughness and I'll provide that, too. We're gonna make up for it."

And, Moreau knows that fans will be skeptical. With the injury trouble that he and Souray have experienced the last 2 years, it's human nature to wonder if they'll be available for 82 games next season. "I'll be more than 100% come training camp," Moreau says emphatically. "It's a pretty simple injury, unfortunately it happened twice. I just broke my leg; there's no ligament damage. As far as me playing my game and playing tough and physical, there won't be any ill effects."

Moreau also knows that it isn't all about toughness. If the team succeeds in playing a puck possession game, that will take care of a large part of the battle. And, if the team can have a productive poweplay, teams will presumably be less likely to take liberties that will result in powerplays against them. "It's funny how things work," says Moreau. "When Anaheim won everybody thought they were just gonna run around and be tough guys and now Detroit won so everybody wants to be skilled again. Hopefully we have a nice balance."

Out with the new and in with the new

For the 2nd straight off-season, Kevin Lowe dealt a player that was acquired in a significant trade and spent only 1 year with the team. Last summer it was Joffrey Lupul; this summer, Joni Pitkanen. The Oilers were initially high on Pitkanen's skill, but were unable to attain a solid level of comfort with him. From a players perspective, Moreau feels it was an obvious mismatch. "He wasn't a very outgoing person," Moreau explains. "He just wasn't a good fit; he didn't fit in with the players or the coaches like we thought he would. Hopefully things work out better for him in a different place.

To replace him on the blueline, Lowe swung a deal for Lubomir Visnovsky. Playing against him for many seasons, Moreau is welcoming Lubo with open arms. "Yeah, he's a very good player," Moreau says. "His stats for the last 3 years, he's always at the top of the league in assists and points for defenseman. Just being down in LA and talking to some of the players and some of his coaches, they really like him as a person, too. He's a real likeable guy and his teammates like him which usually tells a story for a player. He's extremely hard to contain, he jumps into holes and he's really quick."

The knock on Visnovsky is his size and willingness physically. Moreau knows he isn't a big hitter or fighter but says from experience playing against him, he's no wuss. "You always know when you play against guys who's gonna back down or bail out and he was never a guy like that. He always wants the puck first."

Finally, the other new piece to the puzzle is Erik Cole on left wing. He'll play top 6 minutes and add a nice combination of skill and grit to the copper and blue lineup. As you can well imagine, Moreau thinks highly of a player that is cut from a similar cloth. "He made a big difference in the Finals against us. When he was healthy a few years ago he was probably the premier power forward in the league. He brings some physical play which well help out a lot and he does that on a consistent level."

"He's one of those guys that gives you instant credibility as a team; if he stays healthy he should be one of the best power forwards in the league."

Dan's Dish: The Oilers have re-signed forwards Marc Pouliot and Jean-Francois Jacques. Pouliot proved at the end of last season that he's got the jam to be an NHL forward while Jacques is still teetering on the AHL/NHL edge. The signings do, however, complicate things further with the number of bodies the Oilers have at the forward position.
You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 8 to 11 on 630 CHED.

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