After an emotional and outstanding return to the New York Rangers after signing with the club as a UFA in the 2013 offseason, Dominic Moore signed a two-year deal to stay with the hockey club that drafted him out of Harvard 95th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft. In Moore's first season after returning to hockey after the death of his wife Katie Moore he was simply outstanding for the Rangers and was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy. Needless to say, he had his work cut out for him in 2014-15 after how high he set the bar in his first season back in New York.
Moore, despite being 34 years of age, did not fail to impress in his second season back on Broadway. The defensive center was an ironman for the Rangers, skating in all 82 games and having the fewest offensive zone starts out of any Rangers' forward for the second straight season (just 27.4%). The last time he did that? Back in 2002-03 with the Rangers.
Despite having Tanner Glass (the hockey equivalent of an anchor) on his wing more often than not, Dom Moore managed to improve on his offensive production from last season by 9 points. Being in the lineup for 9 more games than the 2013-14 campaign certainly helped and a nice 2.3% bump in Moore's shooting percentage also had something to do with it. A 10 goal season from a defensive center that had just 4 seconds fewer SH TOI/G than defensive defenseman Marc Staal is a pretty big deal. No Rangers' forward was on the ice shorthanded more than Dominic Moore and Moore's 2 seconds of PP TOI/G should paint a very clear picture of what his role on the Rangers was and has been since his return. So the fact that he sometimes manages to do things like this is more or less amazing.
The Rangers did a lot of line juggling this season due to injuries, experimental players (looking at you Ryan Malone), and young players that were in, out, and all around the lineup. Moore was sometimes asked to step up into the middle six forward group and when he had those opportunities he displayed another layer of his value to his hockey club. At a cap hit of $1.5 million Moore is a very well-paid 4th liner, but there aren't many 4th liners that are as crucial to their team's success as Dominic Moore is. Moore's TOI/G jumped up from 11:42 to 13:48 this past season which should illustrate the trust that the coaches had in him and how his workload had increased significantly with the departure of fellow defensive center Brian Boyle.
Moore was faced with a new challenge in his second season back in New York thanks to a much weaker Rangers' 4th line. Instead of having Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett as his most frequent linemates like he did in 2013-14 Moore was most frequently on the ice with Tanner Glass, Jesper Fast, and Lee Stempniak. As exceptional as Jesper Fast was in his own zone, it was tough sledding this season for Moore with the Corsi and possession black hole that is Tanner Glass on his wing more often than any other Rangers' forward. This is one of the reasons why his metrics appeared to have taken a dip from where they were back in November when Adam wrote a piece on just how good Moore was compared to other defensive centers in the league. Moore also took 5 more minors than he did two seasons ago (primarily stick penalties) which should not come as much of a surprise considering his style of play and the situations where the Rangers' coaching staff used him.
Dominic Moore's 54.5% faceoff success rate was alarmingly higher than the other regular New York Rangers' centers from last season's roster. Now, we all know that faceoffs are often assigned either too much or too little value, but we've all watched enough hockey to know just how important a big faceoff in the defensive zone or offensive zone draw can be when the clock is eager to get to 0:00 and when the Rangers needed to win a draw they frequently turned to Dominic Moore. This means that a lot of those faceoff wins over the course of the season came against dangerous players who were exceptionally good at faceoffs. Moore's excellence on the faceoff dot is just one of those intangibles that makes him a fan favorite and a superlative bottom six forward. It's understandable why he is often talked about as a dark horse for the Selke Trophy and as one of the best 4th line players in the league.
Moore will never be the biggest, fastest, or strongest player on the ice, but he is without a doubt among the smartest and hardest working. Although not everyone is a big fan of Dominic Moore, the attention he gets by hockey analysts and fans is certainly well deserved. Perhaps it's a little too easy to sing Moore's praises and slap an "A" on him for his play last season, but you would be hard pressed to think of many Rangers that played better in their role than Moore did last season. The Backhand Professor is that rare mix of a role player that is just as valuable on the ice as he is off the ice and even with a harder job to accomplish this past season than he had back in 2012-13 he remained a successful, productive, and crucial part of the Rangers' roster.
As always, thank you all for reading and let's go Rangers. What grade would you give Dominic Moore for his play last season? What were some of your favorite Dom Moore moments from last season and the 2015 Playoffs?