Earlier today I had submitted a post on our blog's Facebook page stating that the Flyers are still without a solid lower line center who specializes in winning faceoffs. This was actually a repeating point of mine from an article I wrote just over two months ago. In that article I had gone over how Philadelphia was 26th in the League at faceoff percentage (FO%) by the end of the 2011-12 regular season. In fact, the only center on our roster with a percentage over 50 was Claude Giroux.
As I elaborated my point and backed it up with more statistical figures, I finally came to the end where I suggested the Flyers going after Paul Gaustad who (at the time) was a UFA, now re-signed with the Nashville Predators.
The problem with our organization advancing on Gaustad was that Paul's not a lower line forward. He's worth much more than that, and seeing as how we're well off down the middle, stacked with talent and youth, Gaustad just wouldn't fit the bill.
But I felt I was in the right ballpark. Gaustad is an enormous, physical player with an outstanding faceoff percentage. He's a defensive-minded forward who would certainly take some of the onus off our blue liners who currently are still without a true #1 dynamo.
Just a week ago --after all the Weber drama had passed over-- I published an article stating that it'd behoove our organization NOT to go out and try to trade for a second-best option on the blue line. My example given was Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes. At this point, we had already made a valiant effort at acquiring Shea Weber, but that effort tanked and, I fear, so did our chances at gaining a shutdown defenseman this offseason. At least not likely without giving up more talent than we'd be getting in return. It's just not worth it.
My feeling has not changed.
So again, this is what's lead me to think that the Flyers should test free agency for a center who gets the majority of his starts in the defensive zone, wins 55% of his faceoffs (or more), and serves as an economical, provisional role player from the 4th line.
There were some decent suggestions, but one of our fans (Daniel Blanchard) replied with Dominic Moore. I was immediately intrigued and decided to research the 31yr old veteran's stats.
Coming off last season with the San Jose Sharks (after being traded mid-season from Tampa Bay), Dominic finished the schedule with a 55 FO%. He's currently an unrestricted free agent center who earned $2.2-Million over 2yrs ($1.1mm AAV) on his last contract.
Dom turns 32 this August (tomorrow, Aug 3rd in fact), and has played with nine Clubs over his eight year NHL career. Throughout his journey Moore's worn the sweater of an Eastern Conference team the majority of the time, including the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006-07 and the New York Blueshirts in 2003-04, 2005-06.
Last season Dominic potted 4-goals, assisting on 21 others in 79-games played, but his lackluster points total is not what we're after. It's his skill in the faceoff circle.
Though you may cringe at his plus-minus rating of negative 18 from last season, this should tell you he's gotten his ice time in the defensive zones. His TOI/G is 15:05, and averages 20.7 shifts per game. To give you some perspective, Claude Giroux's totals in these categories are 21:32, and 25.3.
So Moore is definitely your prototypical lower-line mule in the faceoff circle.
Aside from needing him to set possession, Dom comes with a package of comely defensive attributes. For being a player who starts a large majority of his shifts in his own end, Moore only tallied 54 penalty minutes last season. Meanwhile he threw 52-hits and stood in front of 23-shots on his netminder's pipes. Sure, that may not be too many for a player who averages 10 more minutes of ice time, but those are respectable tallies for a 4th line role player.
As far as worth among the remaining UFA's, NHL.com published a column yesterday, titled "A look at 30 of the top remaining free agents" and had our man ranked at #13 among forwards --
Veteran center turns 32 in August; could be headed for 10th NHL team. He's still useful as a role player in the right situation.
Dominic can immediately step in and change a multitude of elements that go on within our defensive zone. I can only imagine the number of goals against us last season that came from losing the faceoff battle in our end. Moore's success will only strengthen the longevity of our defensemen, who would otherwise be spending an uncomfortable amount of time trying to eliminate the opposition's chances behind our blue line. If Dominic were to chew into that poor FO% from last year by just a small margin, it could tally 3 - 5 more wins. And considering how tightly our division is in competition, those wins may likely matter (see the points totals between the Devils & Flyers in the 2011-12 standings).
Your next question may be; "Where are we going to fit him?" The Flyers are currently stabling 23 players on their roster -- we just re-signed Sestito to a 1yr extension and with no guarantee that we've got our sixth defenseman locked up...our openings should be reserved for any one of Marc-Andre Bourdon, Bruno Gervais and Erik Gustafsson.
Well, this is where the situation gets gritty. The cut list comes down to only one name I can think of, and that's Jody Shelley.
Stuffed Shells demands a $1.1mm cap hit against our salary books, which matches Dominic Moore's AAV should the Flyers mirror his last contract. Philadelphia has more than enough room to sign Dom on-board, and considering we already dish that kind of salary to an enforcer we barely dress....the Flyers can platoon Moore throughout the season with Rinaldo or Sestito as much or as little as they want.
Depending on the caliber of firepower we're up against each night, Moore could enter when possession is a key issue against a powerhouse offense, or remain scratched so that Sestito or Rinaldo introduce their wave of energy against the lesser scoring Clubs.
The way I see it, it's a perfect "either or" stopgap solution while some of our younger centers like Couturier, Schenn, and even Giroux strengthen their faceoff performances over the next season or two.
"But what about Shelley's leadership that the Flyers love so much?"
I don't need to remind you that this Flyers team has its leaders; Briere, Timonen, Giroux, Hartnell, Talbot, to name a few. And Moore's illustrated his own leadership qualities as a journeyman through the last decade.
Leadership is not my concern. Our faceoff percentage definitely is.
It has just now come to my attention that back in early June, Dominic Moore released saddening news that his wife is suffering from a rare case of liver cancer. He had taken time away from the ice, which explains his absence with the San Jose Sharks in the Playoffs, and it could turn out that he stays with his family full-time, missing the 2012-13 season completely.
I was unaware of this troublesome issue for Moore and his family, so I'd like to extend an apology for my ignorance. If he does take a hiatus from hockey, that is totally understandable and honorable.
Prayers go out to him, his wife and those closest to them.
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