In an offseason that saw a number of incumbent Rangers leave for greener ($$$) pastures, the 2013-2014 fourth line -- vital to the Rangers' postseason success -- was particularly dismantled. Faced with a cap crunch, Derek Dorsett was shipped to Vancouver, while Brian Boyle signed with
Rangers South Tampa Bay for a cool $2M cap hit over the next three years. Dorsett is certainly holding his own in Vancouver, while Brian Boyle somehow has scored five goals in 16 games for the Lightning. There is little chance he sustains that, but he's still a solid, contributing member to what is the best team in the NHL.
Dominic Moore was the one player from that line to remain in New York, and the early results indicate that Glen Sather kept the right one. His zero goals and five assists in 16 games so far this season don't portray that narrative. A deeper look makes it clear just how valuable Moore has been, however.
The loss of Brad Richards plus Derek Stepan's injury meant a whole lot of questions and instability at the center position. Add in all the other drama fom elsewhere in the lineup, and Moore has been one of the few sources of stability. His 53. 3faceoff percentage, good for 28th among NHL Centers, is impressive when accounting for the fact that he's being thrown out against every team's top center, and it's helped to contribute to his 52.4 Corsi Percentage (53.6% in close-game situations). That in itself is indicative of a quality season. Adding context to those numbers makes it even that much more special.
Here's a chart (via War-On-Ice) of Dominic Moore at 5v5 in comparison to a number of centers who have a reputation as either Selke-caliber centers or as a successful checking-line center.
Let's break this down piece-by-piece. The x-axis depicts Zone Start Percentage. To translate that part of the graph, Toews, Crosby, and Datsyuk are deployed for offensive zone faceoffs a lot more than defensive zone faceoffs. In contrast, Dominic Moore is sent out for defensive zone faceoffs more than anyone else on this chart. The y-axis depicts Corsi Teammate Percentage. To simplify; how good in possession are linemates a given player is deployed with? Toews is usually with two of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp. Thus, it's unsurprising that he's so high on the chart. It's pretty clear from the chart that Dominic Moore is not receiving any favors from Alain Vigneault in that department. Finally, we have the colors, which represent Corsi Rel %. In other words, how good in possession is a given player in comparison to his teammates? As the chart depicts, red is bad and blue is good.
For the most part, those who are good in possession are aided greatly by quality linemates and/or convenient deployment. Those in the red are understandably so, due to playing in such rough conditions.
And then there's Dominic Moore in a category of his own. He is the only player on this graph - a graph of players specifically chosen as the best shutdown centers in the NHL - who comes away as a positive in Corsi Rel % in true shutdown minutes. Would Bergeron, Crosby, or Datsyuk outperform Moore in a similar role? Likely so. But they're not in a similar role, and thus they're not actually burdened with the defensive responsibilities that Moore is.
Somehow, despite Moore playing well, both in terms of the numbers and in terms of how he looks visually, we likely haven't even seen the best of him yet. Part of the low point totals for Moore can be attributed to random chance. His 97.76 PDO is not drastically low, but it is the second-worst among Rangers' forwards; Tanner Glass at 89.33 ranks last. It seems unlikely that his PDO won't raise a bit, and that he's going to continue to carry that donut in the goal column.
Based on the chart above, it's hard to argue against Dominic Moore as a Selke candidate. Obviously, players like Bergeron and Datsyuk are superior as a total package, but if the award stays true to its meaning, and players are evaluated purely on defensive merits, then Dominic Moore should be an early runaway for the trophy.
If he's (ridiculously) not in the Selke discussion, then at the very least it's evident that Dominic Moore is as good of a bottom-six center as there is in the NHL. The Rangers let him get into the open market on July 1st, and it's scary to wonder how close he might have been to leaving. Everything did work out in the end, however, and at a $1.5M cap hit for the next two seasons he's an absolute steal. Dominic Moore is not going to show up on the scoresheet very much. He's not going to make many highlight reels or earn any endorsement deals. Nevertheless, he is an integral player to the Rangers and does so much to make life easier for his teammates and Alain Vigneault.