MONCTON N.B. - A couple of hours after he and his partner, Tessa Virtue, captured their fourth Canadian ice dance title, Scott Moir was asked what more their free dance program needed heading towards the world championships in March.
But the Ilderton, Ont., native wasn't particularly interested in dissecting their George Gershwin-inspired free dance again. He did enough of that at the media conference Saturday night, shortly after they won the nationals at the Moncton Coliseum Complex.
What the former Elgin-Middlesex AAA Chief -- "I could skate, obviously, but I had hands of stone" Moir lamented -- wanted to talk about was the Toronto Maple Leafs' latest swoon, and what GM Brian Burke needs to do to keep the club in playoff contention. Moir, 24, is definitely a believer that the Leafs need to trade for some size and scoring.
A life-long fan, he also optimistic that they'll make it into the post season for the first time since 2004.
"They have to get in," he said.
As far as their skating, what the pair did tell the assembled media was that they were actually pleased with their free dance, despite the fact that, when the scores were flashed on the scoreboard, neither looked particularly thrilled. They were awarded marks of 111.61 for the free, for an overall score of 180.02.
Good enough for their fourth national title, but nothing to get overly excited about. The skaters explained they weren't upset or disappointed with the marks because, as they've pointed out all season, their programs this season are a work in progress.
Following the ISU Grand Prix last month in Quebec City, where they finished second to their arch-rivals, Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., the London skaters continued to tweak both programs, adding even more difficult elements. The duo insisted that they are happy with where their programs are now.
They're not perfect, but they're getting there. They just have to be patient and confident in their ability.
"We expect a lot from ourselves, and this point of the season we want almost perfection, and we're always striving for that," said Virtue, who is healthy again after a couple of years of dealing with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. "Given the last few seasons we've had, we're back in the position where we have a lot more expectations, and we're putting a lot more pressure on ourselves. So it's not just getting through the programs, it's not just hoping that we make it to the end. We want perfection."
There have been suggestions that the ISU judges have yet to embrace the Canadian team's programs this season, and that no matter how well they skate, they will be hard-pressed to win their second world title in March in Nice, France. But Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk doesn't buy into such talk.
After their free dance performance on Saturday, Slipchuk said he firmly believes that Virtue and Moir's new programs are exactly the vehicles they need to recapture the world title from Davis and White.
"The difficulty you get into when you're dealing with Tess and Scott is, they make things look so easy, sometimes you don't appreciate or see the difficulty in it," he said. "You look back to Patrick Chan's short on Saturday, it looked effortless. And with Tessa and Scott, that's what makes them great. They show that effortlessness. The feedback from their program is good, but they've set such a high level for themselves in 2010, and every year they've competed, that people are always looking for them to just to keep going and going. And they are, but sometimes the programs just take some time to find the perfect format and the inclusion of all elements to make it work the best.
"It's a work in progress, it's a great vehicle, it's a great program," Slipchuk added. "The versatility of Tessa and Scott, very few teams can pull that off. I think both their programs are what they need at this level. With this free dance, it's different than everyone else's out there. It's another different departure for them. But as far as building for worlds, it's right there."
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, who are also medal hopefuls for the worlds, finished second at the Canadians with an overall score of 174.53.