Dominic Moore or Eric Fehr: Who Will Be the Maple Leafs Fourth Line Centre

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are now five games into the 2017-18 season, sitting comfortably atop the standings early on with a 4-1 record.

The fast start for this Maple Leafs team was to be expected. Last season’s top-nine forwards have largely remained intact, save for the addition of Patrick Marleau. This dropped rookie standout Connor Brown onto the fourth line. The team has shown explosive scoring power, netting 26 goals through the first five games of the season. While goaltender Frederik Andersen has struggled out of the gate, Leafs Nation is no stranger to the fluctuations in his game.

There is, however, one situation that remains unclear for this otherwise steady team. The role of the fourth-line centre remains in flux. Eric Fehr and Dominic Moore have alternated games through the first two weeks of the season. The competition for the position has brought out strong performances from both veterans.

Dominic Moore or Eric Fehr: Who Will Be the Maple Leafs Fourth Line Centre

Let’s take a look at the frontrunners for the position, and what they’ve shown thus far.

At A Glance

Story 1
HERO chart courtesy of ownthepuck.com

https://imgur.com/rqs0MQ0

Looking at Fehr and Moore’s HERO chart, they are, at a glance, two sides of the same coin when it comes to what you’re getting. The biggest difference is salary. Fehr is making twice what Moore is ($2 Million to Moore’s $1M) making to occupy the same role on the team.

Beyond that, Moore has edged out Fehr early on in this season, boasting a 61.1 CF% compared to Fehr’s 51.7 CF%. Moore is also winning draws at a whopping 68% clip compared to Fehr’s 51.9%. Five games is a small sample size to make any long-term judgements on their play. A deeper dive into the early performances of both players is needed.

Eric Fehr

Most fans would tell you that they had Eric Fehr pencilled in as “Most Likely To Be Buried” in last season’s yearbook. Yet here we are. Fehr has seen more action this season, dressing in three of the teams five games. 

Fehr made a case for the spot through his penalty-killing ability. He logged over 15 minutes of ice time according to Corsica during their opening game in Winnipeg. Much of that time was spent killing the eight penalties the Leafs took. 

The drawbacks, however, remain clear. Fehr is a notoriously slow skater on a Leafs team that can fly. He struggles to produce offensively also; he is the only player on the team who has yet to register a point. 

Dominic Moore

When Moore signed a 1-year contract with Toronto this offseason, many assumed he would slot into the fourth line centre position. And yet here we are.
Moore has impressed in the two games in which he has appeared, potting a goal in each game.

Both goals came off similar shots from Nikita Zaitsev (with the second coming with Moore inexplicably on the Power Play). Still, Moore is producing offensively so far. Goals are goals, after all, and Moore has shown up to play.

Wild Card: Miro Aaltonen

The Maple Leafs signed Finnish free-agent Miro Aaltonen in March. Aaltonen had a strong training camp with the Leafs. Some thought his impressive preseason had stolen the fourth line centre position out from underneath Fehr and Moore. Unfortunately for Aaltonen, Leafs coach Mike Babcock decided to give the veterans the first crack at the role. 

If Fehr or Moore begin to falter as the season progresses, Aaltonen could get a serious look with the Leafs. If he can see some regular season action, it adds another cog to the Leafs’ carousel of depth.

Closing Thoughts

At this point, it seems likely that the Leafs will continue to alternate Moore and Fehr until one of them falters. The possibility of burying Fehr and calling up Aaltonen also remains. It would be a cap-conscious move and provide for an opportunity to get a look at another centre on the Leafs’ depth chart.

It’s worth noting, however, that injuries are likely to occur over the course of this season. Several depth players — from Aaltonen to the press box-exiled Josh Leivo and Marlies standout Kasperi Kapanen — will likely get opportunities with the Leafs. Whether that opportunity comes at centre is up to chance, but if and when injuries do arise, the Leafs have the depth to overcome it. 

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