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Travis Moen, Brenden Morrow More Similar Than You Think

Reading Erin’s piece Sunday, I was very much impressed by the realization that Morrow’s only trips to the Cup Final in his career may well be his first and last seasons played. Certainly we don’t know that yet, but when you look at Morrow’s average ice time (and periodic healthy scratches) in the past couple of seasons, it’s not a stretch to say that he won’t be pulling a Jagr/Superman and reversing the earth’s rotation to extend the latter days of his playing career well into his forties. We all know the platitudes/value statements made about aging players such as MiniMo, but whatever my feelings about “locker room presence” and “glue guy” terminology, it would be great to see him hoist the cup at least once, even if Morrow isn’t the 30-goal scorer he twice was. If the Lightning could hook up Dave Andreychuk with his first cup in 2004–and prepare to hear the comparison a lot during the Final–it seems only fair that they do the same for Morrow this time around.

This got me thinking about which player on the Stars next year will be filling a similar role to the current one of their dearly deported captain. Certainly Shawn Horcoff was recently the most analogous to the Morrow/Andeychuk type, a veteran leader who had never won it all being asked to step up for a team ripe to burgeon. After two years though, Horcoff’s fading speed and decreasing points totals likely spell the end of his time in Dallas, brief synergy with C-Mac and Britches notwithstanding. But speaking of “veteranocity,” do you know the player with the most playoff experience on the entire Dallas Stars hockey club? Of course you do, because you are reading an article with Travis Moen’s name in the title, presumably on purpose.

Yes, he of the “Gone-char” trade actually holds 77 games of postseason action in his quiver, and that leads the entire roster. Partly this whole spiel is nothing more than a reminder that yes, Travis Moen will be a part of the Stars’ next season unless he gets traded, and that seems rather unlikely unless Randy Carlyle becomes the next Leafs GM and tries to get the ol’ gang back together.

Speaking of the Carlyle era, you may (if you are my brain) have first heard of Travis Moen during the Ducks‘ 2007 cup run, a string of games in which Anaheim’s Ultimate Checking Line of Sami Pahlsson, Moen and Rob Niedermayer set a gold standard for 3rd-liners (in terms of narrative, at least) that few non-Patrice Bergeron lines would ever attain, although fan-favorite Steve Begin certainly did his darndest when he was in Dallas, yes, that happened. (And here’s another reminder that while it’s not totally clear how repeatable most checking line’s efforts can be from year to year, it is manifest that the Stars had no such trio this year in Eakin/Roussel/Garbutt.) So that’s the first thing I thought of when Moen came to town last year: a defensive 3rd/4th-liner who can’t really skate all that quickly anymore. This is how you really pull people into an article.

Travis Moen’s pedigree has always been that of a one-way forward, and I am not talking about the offensive direction, despite his two “goals” in the Ducks’ cup-clinching performance (you’ll see why I put that in quotes):

Moen sports 59 career tallies in the regular season, but his 11 playoff goals suggest an opportunistic bent in the akin to what we saw in Horcoff last year. Maybe veterans really just know how to rack up the cookies when it counts. That’s probably a tenable hypothesis.

So, back to the comparison. As disparate as Moen and Morrow’s career arcs have been in terms of role and production, they hold stark similarities to each other in terms of their play this year. Both players got 4th-line ice time of just over 9:00 per game, and both scored only three goals in the season, which their coaches will immediately scream is just fine, that’s not their role. Interestingly, both forwards have gotten some token Selke recognition over the years–albeit moreso for Morrow–so the perception seems to match their recent utilization for whatever that’s worth.

Individual scoring chances align in that Morrow had 42 to Moen’s 40, but Morrow also played in 26 more games. Moen had worse shot attempt/CF/SAT numbers, but he also had fewer offensive zone starts, so you would expect that from a fourth-liner. Morrow wasn’t used on the penalty kill, and as Taylor mentioned in her player grade for Moen, he was also virtually ignored when the Stars were shorthanded despite his being used for such purposes quite extensively with Montreal. This sort of makes me wonder how valuable a fourth-liner can actually be when his role is not to score goals but also not to be on the ice when your team’s efforts are 95% focused on preventing goals.

So you have Brenden Morrow, the cabin counselor of the Tampa locker room who is managing to carve out a small niche for himself in a role most commonly found on high-skilled teams whose depth affords them the ability to forfeit production for the sake of sagacity and “presence”; then you have Travis Moen, a player whose usefulness is also rather narrow in its way, slated to play a full (and hopefully healthy this time) season for the Stars after their annual summer reload starring Jim Nill. Will Moen play 70 games next year like Morrow did? Certainly that doesn’t seem like an attractive proposition on its face, given the depth the Stars seem to have knocking on the door. That said, if the Lightning are choosing to scratch Jonathan Drouin (and others) in favor of Morrow during a playoff run, surely there is going to be ice time out there for Travis Moen to grab next year even on a Stars club that will be in no mood to repeat their early summer vacation. I have a tough time being okay with that, but then again, I have a tough time loving all three players on most any team’s fourth line, so why not use the ones you’ve already had for a season, I guess?

Look, no one is generally ecstatic to have a Travis Moen on their team aside from maybe Brian Hayward. The quid pro quo nature of the Gonchar deal certainly implies, at best, a tolerance of the winger’s contract rather than an eagerness to add it to the books. But given the fact that Dallas probably won’t be able to find a trade partner for him this year without adding some departing value, and given the assurance of wicked, nasty injuries that will likely plague lower-line forwards at some point, Moen is going to get some ice time. So with a minimum of persiflage, here are my humble suggestions for Moen if he hopes to avoid too many free press box snacks during the season. I am not saying these will work, but definitely Travis Moen will say that after they work. Morrow can testify to a couple of these right now and hopefully to the last one after this year:

First, beg to kill penalties, as that at least soaks up ice time, a vital component of a fourth-liner’s job.

Second, don’t get hurt. Coaches–all coaches, not just Lindy Ruff–love to give ice time to veterans over “inconsistent” young guys, so just being able to play is like 60% of the battle right there.

Third, find two really good young guys to play with who make it look like you’re mentoring them into awesomeness or something. Maybe Sceviour and Dickinson/Shore? Just a suggestion.

Finally, ‘accidentally’ drop your Stanley Cup ring in the locker room every time Ruff walks in. “Oh, sorry guys, I was just remembering all those playoff games I’ve experienced and I guess I dropped this. Tyler can explain what it is.”