Monday, July 20, 2009

Brief Introduction: Travis Moen

The Reputation: Absolutely glowing. Some people seem to mildly dislike him, a few find him overrated, but the prevailing attitude seems to be deep affection tinged with a platonic desire to have his babies. He’s tough, he’s ethical, he’s defensively responsible, he works hard in the regular season and harder in the playoffs, he accepts his role, he stands up for his teammates, he’s as good as Good Canadian Boys come. He played a disproportionate role in the Ducks’ 2007 playoff extravaganza, a textbook case of having one’s freakish luck allotment kick in at exactly the right moment, but impressive nevertheless. Also, once he was on Corner Gas.

The Evidence: Evidence? Evidence, you say? Travis Moen laughs nefariously. Travis Moen spits on your ‘evidence’. For Travis Moen, he lives in a land beyond evidence, a dimly-lit, damp, mildewy netherworld beneath the surface of statistics, in which no quantifiable data can survive. We call this place The Black Pit of Defensive Forwards. Look upon the gloom, and despair of ever being able to make an objective judgment. Fact is, Moen’s numbers are shit. Worse, even- fetid, putrefying shit clogging the drain of a public toilet. His statistical profile is uglier by far than Tom Kostopolous, uglier even than Laraque in some ways. But the thing about Moen is this: he’s a checker. By definition, that means he plays most of his minutes with weaker teammates against opponents far better than himself. The boy sees a lot of hard ice time; it’s his role in hockey to valiantly fight a losing battle, night after night after night. Of course his Corsi is bad (-12.9), his on/off goal differential is bad (-1.12 per 60), that’s more or less expected. What’s particularly bizarre about Moen is that, last season, somehow his quality of teammates is abominable (-.64), which is not only the worst on his team but the 3rd worst in the entire League. That’s so bad that you’d have to assume he was playing with Lurch on the right wing and some sort of poorly trained poodle at center.

Highest Hopes: Moen has shown he can be part of a superlative shut-down line, capable of holding their ground defensively and still chipping in a smattering of scoring. If he has a good year, if we have the right linemates for him, he could open up a whole new strategic world for the Canadiens.

Reasonable Expectations:
Live by the subjective, die by the subjective: if he’s anything like what they say, dude should be able to hold his own against the heavy-duty offensive weaponry of the East Coast. Realistically, he’s not going to be judged by his numbers, but by how frequently he’s on the ice for goals by big-time opposing scorers. Ovechkin’s frustration is Moen’s meal ticket.

Risks: The worst that can happen is he turns out to be exactly as awful as his underlying stats make him look, and we’ll end up pining for the days of Kostopolous. Riddle me this: how, objectively, do you tell a good defensive forward from a bad one? Is anyone aware of a reputable ‘goals prevented’ metric?

Conclusion: Even people who liked Moen out in the wilds of California think that $4.5 million over 3 years is an overpayment, by half a million or so per year. He’s proportionally expensive, but virtually all UFAs are expensive- so he’s not a great deal, but this isn’t likely to be the contract you’re cursing and lamenting in 2011. His signing strikes me, in some ways, as Gainey’s Theory of Average Size in operation, his role is to return the team bigness and thwackiness quotients to Komisarek-era levels. I have no doubt he will succeed in those areas: he cannot help but be big, and by all accounts the boy is industrious and indifferent to pain. Beyond that, though, I must admit ignorance. I believe he was what he was on the strength of anecdotal evidence from credible witnesses. Whether he can be that here, I have no idea. But I have hope.


saskhab said...

The important thing about Moen is this: he's a guy to call my own. I'm completely and utterly biased for him, because of where he's from. His hometown has 100 people in it, he lives just south of Saskatchewan's Great Fake Lake, and he spends his offseason on a tractor. His family helps feed the world in exchange for a place in it. There's no more perfect metaphor than that for what Travis Moen will do for his team.

About being a defensive forward... here's the thing... he isn't what you'd call a defensive stalwart. His job is more to get aggressive on the opposition's D, make them wary of playing the puck to his side of the ice. He's there to get in the opposing forwards' faces just when they think they are having their way with his teammates. His game is nothing if it's not physical. He's not skilled enough to strip the puck away from Malkin... that would've been Pahlsson's job. Well, that will have to now be one of Lapierre's, Metropolit's, or Chipchura's job.

Moen is the best that we hope Stewart could be.

E said...

i'm entirely with you as far as liking the guy- pretty much every ducks fan i know of loved him, and although that's not many, it's enough for me.

the caveat, with that style of game, is (obviously) that it needs a good line- probably a stable line- to work. otherwise it's all sound and fury and a terrible gaa. aggressive, physical defensive forwarding is a wonderful thing, so long as you don't let it's flashy and lovable qualities get in the way of evaluating whether or not it's working. but again: how do we tell if it's working?

JLikens said...

As touched upon in your post, his underlying numbers aren't that bad if given the proper context -- his minutes have been among the toughest in the league over the last three seasons.

Also, when a player plays on an above average team and is consistenly relied by his coach to play against the other team's best players and to take defensive zone faceoffs, then that generally means the player is pretty good.

The price is reasonable, too.

I think this signing could work out well for the Habs.

saskhab said...

but again: how do we tell if it's working?

I think the easiest measurement will be the answer to this question: Are we protecting leads more successfully than before? His less than league average salary shouldn't put him up to too much criticism if he as an individual if his stats are bad but the team is doing well.