SUN Hockey Pool

Oil give straight answer

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Apparently the process of selecting a captain of the Edmonton Oilers isn't as involved, complicated, scientific or exhaustive as it has been made out to be in the past.

"When Doug Weight left I asked him who he thought should replace him as captain and he said Jason Smith," said Oilers' coach Craig MacTavish.

"I asked Jason, when he left, and he said Ethan Moreau."

While MacTavish threw out some teasers about maybe having rotating captains and suggesting he was going to be very open-minded about the whole deal, he knew who his captain was going to be.

"It was a little bit of a no-brainer."

The Oilers coach, himself a former captain, said any thought that it might be anybody other than Moreau disappeared with the first pre-season game.

"It became very obvious in the first game behind the bench that Ethan was the guy - and just how much his absence was missed last year."

With the exception of Shayne Corson, the Oilers haven't made any mistakes in picking the leader of the pack over the years.

And they certainly haven't made one with naming Moreau the 12th player to wear the 'C' since the team joined the NHL in 1979.

He's a natural to follow the likes of Lee Fogolin, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger, Weight and Smith.

In fact, the 32-year-old left winger entering his 12th NHL season and his ninth with the Oilers, is better suited to the role with this team, right now, than the man he replaces.

The one weakness of Smith as a captain is that he doesn't have the ability to stand in the middle of the dressing room in front of the microphones and notebooks and say the things publicly that needed to be said.

With a group of veteran pros who had all sorts of respect built-in with him, the team didn't necessarily need those words. But with half this team on training wheels, it is definitely needed now.

Moreau had actually assumed the role of unofficial team spokesman for Smith until the wheels fell off last year, while Moreau was out for most of the season.

"It's his voice in our dressing room that has the most impact at the end of the day," said MacTavish.

"I don't remember anybody saying it should be anybody other than Ethan."

The Oilers have also named four alternate captains. Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff will wear A's for home games and Steve Staios and Jarret Stoll will be alternate captains for road games.

While it hardly qualifies as news, Moreau was properly honoured by the announcement in front of his team-mates and a few minutes later in front of the media and special guests at Rexall Place yesterday.

"It's a huge thrill," he said.

"I'm very aware of Oilers history and the history of leadership here.

"It's a huge honour. It means a lot to me. I like the responsibility and I accept the responsibility."

Moreau says it's going to be fun captaining a team with as much youth as this one will have this season.

"It's exciting for me. Every successful team needs to build this way.

"It's exciting to have guys like Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner, guys you know can help not just three years from now but right now.

"It's an exciting time for a player."

And as the new captain, what does he think of the team he's about to lead?

"I really like our team. I like our room right now. There's a lot of confidence.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people.

"We have good goaltending and we're going to have good special teams.

"Adding Sheldon Souray and the emergence of Ales Hemsky into a superstar, there is no reason we can't be an elite team. I really believe that."

Now it's his job to make the rest of them to believe that.


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