The number of Ethan Moreau’s former teammates still with the Oilers is shrinking, a sign of the changing times in Edmonton, but the ones who remember the former captain remember him well.
“You talk to everyone in here and he’s a guy that everyone got along with,” said Sam Gagner, on the eve of Moreau’s return visit with the Columbus Blue Jackets. “What he brought to this team every night, he’s a guy you could really look up to.”
Moreau started out his Oilers career in 1999 as a tough, hard-working, team-first fan favourite. He ended it that way, too, except for the fan-favourite part. Instead, he left wearing the scars of organizational flaws that led to four straight years out of the playoffs, and a rock bottom 30th-place finish last year.
“The way last year ended didn’t really do any guys any favours and Ethan was kind of one of them,” said Gagner. “The way the last couple of seasons went, you look at the leadership group first, and the captain, but he’s a guy who, if you look back to the playoff run, he’s a guy who plays with a lot of heart and soul.”
Gagner recalls his rookie year when Moreau, who had just built a new house in Edmonton, let the rookies move into his old one rather than sell it.
“That’s something he didn’t have to do,” said Gagner. “It just makes it so much easier in your first year, not having to look for a house or for furniture. He made it really easy for us.”
If he left after 2006, Moreau departs as a hero. Instead, he’s placed on waivers and picked up by GM Scott Howson’s Jackets, who were seven points ahead of the Oilers Wednesday morning.
“Ethan takes a lot of blame for what happened, and that’s probably not right considering the kind of guy he is and the kind of work ethic he puts in the game and the professional that he is,” said Gagner. “He kind of gets a bad rap for the way the last couple of seasons ended but everyone in here has a lot of respect for him and the way he approaches the game and the work ethic he brings. I’m sure the guys in Columbus feel the same way.
“It should be fun to see him back on the ice here.”
“He always played hard here,” said Ryan Whitney, who only passed by Moreau for a few weeks after arriving at the trade deadline. “I’m sure he played though a lot of injuries, he’s a guy who’s respected in here by everyone. I’m sure it’ll be cool for him, but a little weird to come back and play in this building on the visiting team.”