EDMONTON - If Wednesday was his last game at Rexall Place, and youíll get better odds that it was than it wasnít, Ethan Moreau is glad it ended the way it did.
Thereís no erasing all of the bad this season heaped upon the 30th place Oilers and their besieged captain, but being able to close it out with a couple of wins at home, on a line with longtime friends and teammates Shawn Horcoff and Fernando Pisani, was pretty good.
ďIf it was my last game it was fun to play with Horc and Fernando the last few games, and we had a good home record the last month,Ē said Moreau, who had two goals and an assist in the final two-game homestand. ďIt was fun. The fans are great; we got a great ovation last game. If it was the end it was a good way to end, with a couple of wins. Weíll see what happens.Ē
Moreau knows as much as you do: The Oilers want to go in a newer, younger direction and he, being neither new nor young, isnít the same fit he was four or five years ago. Thatís why every time he turns around somebody is asking him about the end of his era in copper and blue.
ďThereís no secret this team wants to get young and rebuild,Ē said Moreau, in his 11th season with the Oilers and fourth as team captain. ďIíve had conversations with (GM Steve Tambellini) and heís been really honest. Heíll try to improve his hockey team and move in the direction that he wants to.Ē
Moreau is equally receptive to change.
ďIím never going to be a guy whoís going to demand a trade or show lack of respect to the organization. Iíve been here for 11 years. Iím going to handle it properly and so is he. If I still have an opportunity to come back Iíll play well and play hard and if Iím not, then itíll be amicable.Ē
Like a depression era prime minister, itís hard to get a fair read on Moreauís legacy as captain of the depression-era Oilers. They missed the playoffs all four years under his watch, but thatís hardly his fault. You have go a lot higher up the food chain if youíre looking to pin the tail on the real culprits.
Still, his leadership came under heavy scrutiny this last season. He sometimes made himself scarce after losses, he was usually one of the first players off the ice after practice, he wasnít playing very well and some thought he didnít do enough to bridge a generation gap in the dressing room.
But in a year when everything went impossibly wrong from top to bottom, start to finish, this was not an easy team to be the captain of. The room could have turned ugly in a hurry, but never did.
ďIím proud of the way I handled it, proud of the way our leadership group kept things together. There wasnít finger pointing. We didnít blow up internally. We maintained a level of professionalism. We tried our best every day to get guys ready to play. We practised hard, we worked out hard.
ďItís easy to be a leader on a great team. When we went to the Cup final I had a large leadership role with Jason (Smith). Everybody thinks youíre the best leader in the world when that happens.
ďWhen youíre on a bad team you get a lot of criticism. But in a lot of aspects itís a lot harder. You have to deal with a lot more mentally. You try to be a good teammate and help people out, you try to get your own game going.
ďIn the long run it probably helped me with my mental toughness and leadership ... wherever I am.Ē