Friday 3 February 2012

Paddy Moran - the Wandering Goalie

I wrote about Paddy Moran in the last post, and promised to give him a proper profile. Here it is.

Patrick Joseph Alexander "Paddy' Moran was born in Quebec City on March 11, 1877. By 1900 he was playing intermediate hockey, the level just below senior, with the Quebec Crescents. In the 1901/02 season he began his long career with the Quebec Athletics/Bulldogs, playing with them until 1916/17, with the exception of a single season. As discussed last time, Moran is a Hall-of-Famer with some numbers that are, at times, decidedly unimpressive.

However, when we look at his Point Allocation results, we can see that his numbers can quite reasonably be made to fit a Hall-of-Fame career, and that's what we do. Whenever possible, we assume that contemporary accounts and those who witnessed a player's play at a high level are correct in their assessments of that player's ability. If we had to break, rather than bend, the Point Allocation system to make Moran look like a high-quality netminder, that would be one thing, but although he certainly had a few down seasons, he certainly produced some very good years:

1901Quebec AthleticsCAHLG7142240.
1902Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1903Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8047660.03.7-
1904Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1905Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1906Quebec BulldogsECAHAG8047770.
1907Quebec BulldogsECAHAG4828620.0-0.80.0-0.8-0.28
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHAG8047760.017.5-
1909Quebec BulldogsECHAG8048000.
1910Haileybury MinersNHAG6740070.
1910Montreal All-MontrealsCHAG148000.
1910Montreal Allis-ChambersMMHLG84800.
1911Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1912Quebec BulldogsNHAG8047780.021.4-
1913Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1914Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1915Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1916Quebec BulldogsNHAG7444190.
1917Quebec BulldogsNHAG2112480.

But here at Hockey Historysis, we're interested in more than just numbers and results. It's fine to say that Moran was an outstanding goaltenders. The question is: why? What made him unique?

First, Moran was not afraid to use his stick for more than just playing the puck. According to Without Fear: Hockey's 50 greatest goaltenders (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2002), Moran was very aggressive in defending the goal area, gladly using his stick to dissuade opponents from getting too close, his play being described as attempts to "slash [opposing players'] heads off with lightning strokes of his blade." Legends of Hockey agrees, noting that "Moran played in the days prior to a goal crease being painted in front of the net and guarded his area like a stray dog with a bone. His quick stick was used for more than just deflecting shots and opposition players soon developed a healthy respect for Paddy's self-created 'crease.'" 

But Moran's playing style was notable for more than his willingness to use his stick on his opponents. He was also noted for leaving the goal area, and even rushing opposing players to prevent scoring chances: 
Moran in goal was really wonderful. Time and again he stopped what seemed impossible shots, and not only stopped the shots, but stopped those terrible rushes for which the Victoria players are noted...The way Moran met some of the individual rushes of a maroon shirted player, with one of his own rushes, was a caution and Paddy wasn't always underneath. (Quebec Chronicle, 4 Feb 1904)
For Quebec, Moran gave an exception exhibition of goal-keeping. He was steady and sure, and he saved many a possible score. On one occasion, he gave a really sensational display, when he ran out and blocked two Shamrock men who had got inside the defence and were apparently bound to deliver the goods. (Quebec Chronicle, 14 Feb 1908)
We need to reconcile some of Moran's poor performances, especially early in his career, with his contemporary reputation of being an outstanding netminder:
The irrepressible Paddy Moran, in goals, gave an exhibition that was worth the whole price of admissions to witness. Paddy has acquired a well-deserved reputation for performing sensational stunts, and last evening he treated the crowd to a number that were well-worth seeing and he saved the situation on several occasions by his quick-wit in realizing the situation. (Quebec Chronicle, 7 Jan 1909)
You might think that perhaps Moran was too reckless in his wanderings. Although many times he might be able to intercept an incoming attacker, being too far away from his posts could leave him out of position as well. This play certainly didn't always work out for him:
In endeavoring to save a score Moran made a spectacular rush out of goals and fell on the puck, necessitating a face right in front of Quebec's poles, Ward batting the rubber in and giving the visitors their second tally. (Quebec Chronicle, 7 Jan 1909)
So perhaps he just reigned in his proclivity for rushing the attackers himself later in his career, and that's what allowed him and his team to capture league championships in 1912 and 1913. But I don't think so; even in those championship years he was still leaving his posts with regularity:
The hero of the match was undoubtedly Paddy Moran, who never played a better game in his life than he did last night. Time after time when the visitors' forwards had penetrated the Quebec defence Paddy sailed out and robbed them. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Feb 1913)
So I think with Moran, you had to take the bad with the good. Surely he did put himself out of position at times when he left the goals. However, I think this tendency also gives us a clue as to why he was as good as he was. Check out this quote from 1908:
“Paddy” almost impregnable against a shot from fair range...and the Vics only rolled up a big score by taking the rubber disc right to the mouth of the cage. (Quebec Chronicle, 13 Jan 1908)
So we have a goalie who is especially good at handling longer-range shots, and who is known for charging out of the crease. To me, this indicates a goaltender who cut down the angles better than anyone of his time. I suspect that was Moran's biggest advantage: his natural aggressiveness resulted not only in his being able to block the attackers himself, but give them less room to shoot at should they get a shot away before he got to them. Modern goalies can be aggressive by coming out of their nets to cut down a shooter's angle, and I suspect Moran did the same. He didn't just leave his post to challenge the shooter directly, he did so to make their shot more difficult as well.

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