Now that the dust has settled on the Brian Burke front and the Maple Leafs are operating at or around where they were expected to be in the standings before the season began, I thought it would be prudent to put the spotlight on a player who has really been one of the unheralded members of the Buds: Dominic Moore.
Though he’ll never find himself atop the scoring leaderboard, Moore is one of those quintessential role players who provides spark with his dogged work ethic and danger with his speed. And lately, Moore has been feistier than ever, too.
Sure, not everyone can see the positives in Moore dropping the gloves with defenseman and teammate Jeff Finger during practice recently, but there is some interesting logic to it; the tussle showed how engaged the two were. Finger, ironically, has been another solid performer for the Leafs this season, a rock-hard, physical blueliner who has dealt some monstrous hits to opponents, most recently Los Angeles Kings rookie Oscar Moller.
But to see that both Moore and Finger were so intense in a practice that they would actually chuck fists at each other is often heartening to coaches – assuming there isn’t some sort of personal aspect to it (which there wasn’t to my knowledge in this case).
Perhaps it was no coincidence that shortly after his practice fight, Moore went out and had a taste of the real thing when he sparred with hardened Ottawa Senators defenseman Jason Smith. It was the first official fight for Moore in his otherwise gentlemanly career, and while it may not have been a classic, it showed that little bit of venom many hockey players thrive on.
As the newly minted GM of the Leafs, Burke has already spoken of having enough muscle on hand, so players such as rookie blueliner Luke Schenn don’t need to spend five minutes in the penalty box for defending themselves or their teammates by fighting, but again; I can’t imagine it hurt Burke’s opinion of Moore to see him take on a much more experienced fighter in Ottawa’s Smith.
And while the current Toronto roster isn’t exactly laden with managerial steals, the acquisition of Moore is a bright spot. Picked up on waivers from Minnesota last January, the Leafs literally got Moore for nothing. In return, the crafty pivot put up 14 points in the last 38 games of the 2007-08 season, just four points shy of his best NHL result to date, which he achieved as a member of the New York Rangers in ’05-06.
This season, along with the pseudo-mean streak, Moore is on pace for his best NHL season yet. With 11 points through 25 games, he’ll smash that career high in no time.
Moore is also proving himself to be quite proficient in the faceoff circle, which dovetails nicely with his role as one of the Leafs’ key penalty-killers. Thanks to the new NHL rule that sees the faceoff automatically moved to the offending team’s zone after a penalty is called, skill at the dot is more crucial than ever. At 54.6 percent, Moore’s faceoff win percentage is the best on the team (his 53.6 percent rate when shorthanded is also a bonus).
While Moore may be expendable this season – he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer – it’s not always easy to find someone who can do so many little things right and Brian Burke would do himself a favor by paying close attention to No. 19.
This article also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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