• The Isle of Capt. Moreau is a glass enclosure across from the Oilers bench

    by Tyler Dellow • March 30, 2009 • Uncategorized • 21 Comments

    As another Oilers loss, which dealt an horrific blow to the post season odds settles in, I decided to take some time and go through Ethan Moreau’s work this season – specifically, the penalties he’s taken that put the Oilers shorthanded.

    In 71 games, Moreau has taken 31 penalties that have put the Oilers a man down and two more when they were already a man down. For a sense of perspective, with 30 teams in the league, each dressing 18 skaters a night, if all of those players gave the opposition .437 power play opportunities a night, the NHL would have about 19,440 power plays over the course of a season. As of the beginning of tonight’s action, the total was 9,491, so, unless things pick up over the final games, it would seem to be pretty clear that Moreau gives the opposition an astonishing number of power plays and probably all the more so if you figure that defencemen are more likely than forwards to taken penalties that result in power plays, as seems likely to me.

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    Here’s Moreau’s rap sheet at the left hand side. It’s pretty straightfoward. A couple of games jump out at me as ones in which Moreau’s penalty led to a key goal against – the HNIC game against Colorado on November 15, 2008 where Moreau makes it a 5 on 3, although I don’t remember the penalty and it may have been a good one. On November 26, 2008, Moreau took a double minor for high sticking and the Kings popped one in a 2-1 game, although not until Dustin Brown got in the box for interference. On February 3, 2009, he took an interference penalty against Chicago with the score 1-0 at 1:15 of the second; the Hawks scored and never looked back. The Dallas game on February 19, 2009 was basically performance art – he takes a penalty that the Stars score on to take a 3-2 lead and then wipes out any chance at a comeback with a rampage that leaves the Oilers SH for the final three minutes.

    Of course, giving the opposition power plays doesn’t just increase their chances of scoring – it also hurts your own chances of scoring. When I last checked, the league was averaging about 2.5 GF/60 at ES and about 0.9 GF/60 on the PK. At that rate, a two minute penalty costs you 0.053 goals for. Moreau’s put the Oilers down a man 31 times this year; it seems fair to argue that this has cost them a goal, somewhere. Maybe in the 3-2 (OT) loss to Colorado. The 2-1 loss to LA. Maybe the 4-2 loss to Vancouver that saw the Canucks score an empty net goal. The 3-2 OT loss to Anaheim in December. The 3-2 OT loss to Calgary on Feb. 21. The 1-0 loss to Columbus on Feb. 26. The 2-1 win over STL on Mar. 17. Last night’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota. Maybe not, maybe it was in a game where they got blown out or blew the opposition out. It’s all about the odds though and he’s shifted the odds the wrong way in a number of close games.

    I want to be clear about this criticism: every player takes penalties. You can comb through the records and find moments for every player in which he’s taken a penalty and the result has been bad. If you think that the PP goals against are largely random, in that the player has little control once he’s in the box as to whether a PP goal will occur, some guys will get burned taking very few penalties, while some guys will get away with taking tons of them. I don’t think it’s fair to necessarily pick through the events, find one and say: “This! This is why they’re not making the playoffs.” I’m interested in identifying the stuff that slants the odds against you.

    Moreau’s been a liability in that he’s obviously taking an inordinate amount of penalties, which makes the hill for the Oilers to climb that much steeper. This isn’t a new problem for him – he took 33 penalties that created power plays for the opposition in 2005-06. While it’s unfair to point to a specific moment and blame the season on that and you can’t expect him to take no penalties but he’s taken enough that you can, I think, fairly make the argument that he’s probably cost the team a point or two through penalties that had no point.

    There are some larger questions raised by all of this too. If you accept, as seems likely, that the difference in value between players is pretty small as you move away from the extreme right end of the tail on the bell curve of hockey talent, stuff like a proclivity for taking pointless penalties will really hammer a guy’s value. It’s long seemed obvious to me that a single hockey player doesn’t make that much of a difference – you can pretty much play .250 hockey with a team of replacement level players so a team that plays .500, plus a few points for OTL has about 55 points of actual value to spread over 23 guys or so. You can see where taking enough penalties to cost your team a point or two in the standings could have a real impact on your value overall.

    For an example of something similar, there’s a fellow named Mitchel Lichtman who has taken a pretty aggressive position on Manny Ramirez’ value for a long time; essentially he says that his defence is so bad that Manny is no better than many other so-so players. I don’t necessarily buy that analysis (I think Fenway Park screws up the defensive numbers) but the point remains the same – if Moreau’s number of penalties that lead to power plays is as excessive compared to the margin as I think it must be, it must put a real hit on his value.

    For reasons that I don’t understand but that I suspect relate to the fact that he’s a pretty good interview, comes across as a decent fellow, works hard and does things that get noticed on the ice, Moreau has largely escaped criticism from the media for the penalties this year. Anyone who watches the Oilers knows that an inordinate amount of them are just stupid penalties – the man has fifteen offensive zone penalties – but media guys go to great lengths to praise him. Ron MacLean almost criticized him a while back and then cautiously mentioned that “We love Ethan Moreau but he’s easy to coach.”

    If Moreau’s easy to coach, I can’t figure out how he takes so many penalties. No coach could want this.

    About Tyler Dellow

    21 Responses to The Isle of Capt. Moreau is a glass enclosure across from the Oilers bench

    1. March 30, 2009 at

      Moreau showed up in the Puck Prospectus article on Penalty Differential as well. Apparently he’s one of the worst forwards in the league by this measure (along with the Flames shiny new “big body down the middle”).

    2. March 30, 2009 at

      Yes. This has been my reluctant beef with Ethan all season. It’s been spooking me to to see an NHL captain taking the same kind of penalties that were getting Wild jeered by Springfield fans. It seems every time I’m yelling at an Oiler who has just taken a ridiculously pointless penalty, it’s him. This is a lack of discipline I find strangely inconsistent with other aspects of his play.

      On that other note, Fenway absolutely skews defensive stats, in my authoritatively subjective opinion.

    3. March 30, 2009 at

      I have preaching all year that Moreau takes what I call BTP (Bad Timing Penalties). I wish there was stats on that because I don’t mind a “good” penalty but his are ridiculous at times. Souray as of late isn’t that great at BTP’s either.

      I feel that when the Captain needs to be the leader, then he shouldn’t have any BTP. And anyone knows… this year we needed a Captain.

      (NNC – Need New Captain)

      BTW: great site. I have been a regular that reads your scoring chances posts. Keep up the good work.

    4. sketchy
      March 30, 2009 at

      Ethan Moreau = Kelly Buchberger?

    5. coach pb
      March 31, 2009 at

      Moreau showed up in the Puck Prospectus article on Penalty Differential as well. Apparently he’s one of the worst forwards in the league by this measure (along with the Flames shiny new “big body down the middle”).

      I did some work on this – Ethan Moreau is second in penalties taken.
      Ethan Moreau is 134th [of 135 possible playoff forwards] in taken/drawn differential.

      More here.

      MC – is it possible to see if Moreau leads in Offensive zone penalties, or at least offensive zone penalties/60?

    6. docweb
      March 31, 2009 at

      Unlike Rollie who put the blame on himself for the loss last night ( what happened to your teammates Rollie??) Moreau never seems to fess up to his crimes.

      It would be slightly easier to take if he would for once say “We need to quit taking stupid offensive zone penalties, like the one I took in the first period, because our PP has struggled this year. It really puts us behind the eight ball.”

    7. hunter1909
      March 31, 2009 at

      Moreau thinks he’s Mark Messier 2.0. Typical of a smaller man placed in a bigger man’s position of trust, Moreau is more concerned with the form of leadership(showing off) and not the substance(he probably doesn’t know what that word means).

      Being a young player on this team must be hell right now. Moreau provides about as much leadership as a prancing rock singer.

    8. Rick
      March 31, 2009 at

      I don’t know if this means anything, I am certainly not suggesting that there is direct causation, but part of your blog is suggesting that Moreau taking penalties is at a minimum lessening chances for the Oilers to score. Which is obviously logical.

      If you consider the scores in the games at the time Moreau took his penalties and compare them to the final scores, the Oilers generally seem to produce better after he serves his time.

      Discounting the Buffalo game because it was a write off from every angle and the OT/SO games (with the exception of the Colorado game where Moreau was in the box when Colorado tied the game in the final minute).

      The Oilers outscored the opposition 10 times, even 2 times and got outscored 7 times from the time of his last penalty in the game until the final buzzer.

      The team record for those games 7 Wins, 11 losses, 1 OT loss

      When Moreau took his penalties the Oilers were leading the game 5 times, losing 10 and tied 4 times.

      As I said, I don’t believe that there is direct causation but it is strange that for the most part the Oilers seem to perform better after Moreau takes a penalty.

    9. mc79hockey
      March 31, 2009 at

      I’ve got some evidence suggesting that the trailing team will likely do better than the leading team moving forward because of the playing to the scoreboard effect. I’d suggest that it’s that or chance.

    10. Rick
      March 31, 2009 at

      I agree that is most likely the case but in looking at the before and after scores I do question if those penalties actually handicapped the Oilers by limiting their chances to score.

      There are obviously a few key moments that standout, such as the OT loss to Colorado and the Dallas game but those moments aren’t exactly unique to Moreau. Alot of different guys have worn the goat horns this year.

      What does their GF/60 only after the penalties were taken look like? If it’s better than average then it’s probably safe to conclude that his time in the box didn’t really affect the goal scoring as one of you points contends.

    11. March 31, 2009 at

      I’d do the math just because it’s my lunch break and I think it’d be interesting, but replicating the spreadsheet by hand is an irritating solution and I hate working with time in Excel.

      I’d just say that the logic you’re suggesting is that Moreau taking a penalty increases the offensive output of the team or, Moreau takes good penalties that fire up the team.

      I think it’s a fair point to argue if we’re talking about him crushing someone after they hit Gagner or Hemsky. A fair point that I disagree with, but it’s at least an interesting avenue.

      However, I don’t think that a stick penalty in the offensive zone would have any rational positive impact on offense or effort put forth by the total team, and that’s a good majority of what Moreau brings to the table.

      I think a lot more guys would like the full Moreau package if it was 15 minors a year for actual aggressive intimidation-type penalties, but when it’s just a lot of hooks, holds, and selfish roughing penalties it’s intolerable.

    12. Rick
      March 31, 2009 at

      To be clear I am not suggesting that Moreau taking penalties helps increase the offence because I can’t reconcile the logic behind it.

      It just doesn’t make sense.

      Maybe the odd agressive message sending penalty could help ramp up the intensity but I can’t actually even recall one of those.

      More than trying to find a link between the penalties Moreau took and what would appear to be better play by the team afterwards I am just suggesting that the penalties haven’t been as debilitating to the team as guys tend to suggest.

    13. March 31, 2009 at

      What does their GF/60 only after the penalties were taken look like? If it’s better than average then it’s probably safe to conclude that his time in the box didn’t really affect the goal scoring as one of you points contends.

      That line confused me then.

      Another way to look at the results of the games, rather than outscoring after the penalty, is whether the score changed for the positive or negative after he took the penalty. Going from a winning cause to a tied game, or a tied game to a loss is a negative event, the opposite is a positive event. In the case of a two penalty game, I took the change in score from the first to the second for that event.

      In the end, his penalties have prefaced six positive changes and eight negative changes in score. I don’t think that means anything beyond the fact that the Oilers aren’t very good, but I think it does a better job showing the ‘impact’ than outscoring does, which has a slight bias against teams who have solid leads.

    14. March 31, 2009 at

      I may have just provided really crappy statistical support to the idea of momentum in hockey games. I’m so sorry.

    15. Lord Bob
      March 31, 2009 at

      I notice that you fail to account for the fact that, as we all know, aggressive penalties are easier to kill!

    16. Bruce
      March 31, 2009 at

      Last night’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota.

      That one is a clearcut example of the bad guys not scoring on the PP itself, but 3 seconds after it ended so the effect is the same.

    17. March 31, 2009 at

      I think we all forget to include the fact that MacTavish is forced to play noted loser and chump Shawn Horcoff for 98% of the penalty kill. If Ethan Moreau were on a good team, actually worthy of his talents, the amount of goals against would be much lower!

    18. April 1, 2009 at

      When I last checked, the league was averaging about 2.5 GF/60 at ES and about 0.9 GF/60 on the PK. At that rate, a two minute penalty costs you 0.053 goals for. Moreau’s put the Oilers down a man 31 times this year; it seems fair to argue that this has cost them a goal, somewhere.

      You mean other than the eight that have already been scored with him in the box?

      And the funny thing is, this doesn’t even include some of the rally-killing penalties he’s taken. In the three-penalty Dallas game, he took a double-minor shortly after they’d tied the game at two after starting down 2-0 (Dallas didn’t score, but the Oilers didn’t look dangerous the rest of the period, though I can’t back that up, because that was the one game where there was no schedule of scoring chances, just a ), and then his ridiculously unnecessary one-man fight turned a two-minute PP while down by one late into a three-minute PK while down by one late. I know the concept of momentum is frowned upon in these circles but I think it’s pretty clear that that’s precisely what happened on that given night.

    19. April 1, 2009 at

      just a )

      That should be a link to the Feb. 19 scoring chances post on the word “summation.” I must’ve missed a > or something.

      Take two.

    20. April 6, 2009 at

      Great read – I’m glad someone finally looked into this.

      Perhaps the worst “lead by example” captain ever.

      And to think, MacT said Moreau “takes the type of penalties you just have to kill.” Incredible.

    21. Pingback: Maybe we've all been a bit hard on Ethan Moreau | Edmonton Journal

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