Saturday, April 30, 2016

Impressions of, and questions concerning--LW, Matt Moulson

Reprinted with permission from

Left Wing--Matt Moulson
DOB:  November 1, 1983 (age, 32)
Draft:  2003, PIT, 9th round (263rd overall)
How acquired:  Free agent signee (MIN,) 2014
Last contract signed:  2014--5yr./$25M
Final year of contract:  2018-19

2015-16 Stats:  81 games played, 8 goals, 13 assists, 21 points, -5

What we wrote preseason:  The well-travelled, Cornell university graduate mentored 2009 first-overall pick John Tavares with the NY Islanders. It was a beneficial situation on and off the ice for both players. "I don't think Matt's ever gotten the credit he's deserved for the success I've had," Tavares said at the time Moulson was shipped to Buffalo in 2013. "Words can't really describe how much he was there for me."

Moulson and his wife Alicia took a liking to the Buffalo area after the trade. When free agency hit in 2014 he signed a 5yr./$25M contract with the Sabres and settled in. After the Sabres selected Jack Eichel with the 2nd overall pick in 2015, Moulson offered his home to the 18 yr. old, just as he did with Tavares. Expectations were lowered with the influx of talent like Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane and Jamie McGinn and the third line looked like a good slot for him. "There's plenty of skill down the middle [in Buffalo] to get Moulson the puck where he's at his best. At the age of 31 Moulson can still snipe and with that ability perhaps we'll see yet another 30-goal-season."

What we wrote mid-season:  "Would you believe he's tied for sixth on the team in points? Me neither. Moulson has struggled mightily and now finds himself on the fourth line thanks to the emergence of Reinhart and McGinn on the top line. A scorer on the fourth line could mean a banishment to King Moonracer's press-box island for a game or two.

Impressions on his play this year:  Moulson finished ninth on the team in scoring and had the fourth highest cap-hit. Not a good combination. And he did find himself in the press box as a healthy scratch after going 24 games without a goal. That dubious streak would continue for another 20 games despite head coach Dan Bylsma giving him ample powerplay time and numerous opportunities playing in the top-six. But nothing worked, and early season predictions of solid production soon gave way to questions of, what happened?

Sabres GM Tim Murray openly stated that Moulson may not have been in the best possible shape to handle Bylsma's up-tempo system and it sure looked like it most of the time. Perhaps there were other pressures for a genuine good-guy like Moulson and the confluence of organizational changes with those pressures were just too much. With words like "buy-out" and "unmovable salary" entering into the equation this past season, and with the team looking to add even more talent, Moulson will need to be better, plain and simple.

Questions moving forward:  How can he get his confidence back? What will his off season workout program entail and could lack of conditioning have been the problem all along? Can he slot into a third-line/second powerplay unit role and produce enough to make his salary bearable in the very near-term? Can his 31.8% rate in the shootout to help the Sabres that way? Has age caught up with him or was his NY success more a product of being wingman for Tavares? These are a lot of questions for a 31 yr. old, and for the organization the big question would be, is he worth it?

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