On Sunday, shortly after the Toronto Marlies staged a third-period comeback win at the Coca Cola Coliseum, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had hired Greg Moore to be the new head coach of the Marlies. After Sheldon Keefe was promoted to the top job with the Maple Leafs on November 20th, the Marlies were under the guidance of A. J. MacLean and Rob Davison, Keefe’s former assistants.
Who is Greg Moore?
An American born in Lisbon, Maine, the right-shot winger Moore played hockey through the US high school system before joining the USNTDP U17, U18, and USHL teams. He then joined the University of Maine for a four-year degree that included two trips to the World Junior Championships, winning gold in 2004.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames, Moore was traded to the New York Rangers with TSN broadcaster Jamie McLennan. By the end of his six year professional hockey career in North America, Moore had played for the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Philadelphia Flyers organizations, for a total of 10 NHL games and 377 AHL games.
After playing in Germany and the Czech Republic for a couple years, Moore started his coaching career in 2015-16 as an assistant for the USNTDP. He was hired to be the head coach for the Chicago Steel in 2018-19. In his first year, finished the regular season with a 37-21 record and made it to the USHL Finals before losing to the Sioux Falls Stampede. The Maple Leafs drafted Moore’s best player, Nick Abruzzese, in the fourth round last summer and invited both Abruzzese and Moore to the Rookie Development Camp. Moore was a guest coach for the week’s action.
Apart from playing with a handful of former Leafs prospects through the years in the AHL (go hunt for some of the names, it’s a real throwback), Moore and the Chicago Steel have significant connections with the Leafs organization. Darryl Belfry is a Player Development Consultant for the Maple Leafs as well as the Chicago Steel. From his staff bio:
“Belfry and his staff support Steel player development with on-ice instruction, coaching the coaches on enhanced skill-based practices, collaborating with Steel staff on individual player development plans and supporting player growth with game-based analytics and practice and game video analysis.”
Emily Jo Michele, who is a video scout for the Chicago Steel and a brilliant and professional hockey mind, spoke to me about what the USHL is like and both its similarities and differences to the AHL. “The steel has most of their kids for about normal working hours (9am-5pm) during the week,” she explained, speaking to the level of commitment the league demands. “Most of the kids don’t go to brick and mortar schools but instead work with onsite tutors. I’d say a huge chunk of what the Steel do on a weekly basis is skills development, especially with Belfry at the core of their organization.”
In my head, I’ve always assumed the USHL was like the OHL in terms of structure based on the ages of the players in the league (18-19). However, the truth is that the players are almost treated like professional AHLers. Hockey is a full-time job for them with the hours they have to put in within the professional facilities they are given.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t be shocked for [the Marlies] to feel like just a much grander version of what [Moore] is used to,” remarked Michele, speaking to the day-in-day-out nature of the job. Sounds a lot like the Marlies, eh?
Belfry, Michele, and Moore are all prime examples of the types of people the Steel bring into their organization, which now extends to the Maple Leafs and the types of people they’ve been hiring in the Kyle Dubas era.
From the press release sent by the Chicago Steel, Moore got some resounding praise from his former boss, Steel Owner Larry Robbins:
“The hallmark of a successful team is when each member elevates those around them. Our Steel team and family is proud to have contributed to Greg’s rapid ascent up the coaching ladder, and we are forever grateful for Greg’s contributions to our culture for players and coaches alike: professionalism each day, individual skill development and growth, eagerness to learn and innovate and to compete daily with passion and purpose.”
Also in the press release, Moore’s now former General Manager Ryan Hardy spoke glowingly about Moore’s “brilliant hockey mind and impeccable character,” citing that his work in just over a year will have a ripple effect on the team he manages for years down the road.
Thank you for everything you gave us. Nothing we’ve accomplished could’ve been done without your mind, your heart & your passion for development.— Ryan Hardy (@ryanphardy) December 2, 2019
I’m proud of you. I love you. I can’t wait to see what you will do in Toronto.#ForeverStartsHere #LeafsForever #MadeOfSteel https://t.co/hzWLIZmSma
Moore as a Coach
In the Toronto Maple Leafs press release, GM Kyle Dubas made clear that it was Moore’s emphasis on development and overall coaching philosophy that attracted the Leafs to him, even despite his coaching resume being so thin.
“Greg’s record in development and winning with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and the USHL’s Chicago Steel to begin his coaching career made us take great notice of him as a candidate. More importantly, it became clear in speaking with his employers at USA Hockey and the Chicago Steel that Greg was the best fit for our program in terms of development philosophy.”
Speaking abstractly about philosophy and style is all well and good, but I wanted to find some more specific evidence as to who Greg Moore the Coach is and how he manages a bench. What does he value? What system does he play?
First off, Jacqueline Taylor is one of my favourite Twitter follows because she is able to cover a wide variety of teams so she knows what’s real and what’s not. Here is her analysis of the system behind Moore.
What I've noticed about Greg Moore's coaching style from this season:— jacqueline taylor (@jxcquelineoh) December 2, 2019
Emphasis on puck movement & possession. Offense-oriented but defenseman are keyed into that too. Obviously excellent at developing young guys.
Personally, I think he fits into the Leafs system quite nicely.
Right away, you can see that what he’s been doing in Chicago fits so perfectly with what the Marlies have in Toronto. Puck movement and possession were the first things Keefe talked about with the Maple Leafs and the initial results were stark.
In offense-oriented defensemen, the Leafs currently have Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Teemu Kivihalme, Jesper Lindgren, Mac Hollowell, and Joseph Duszak on the Marlies and Newfoundland Growlers. All of these players will hopefully be able to learn and exploit their dynamic skill sets under Moore, and hopefully in the years to come, these investments will trickle up to the Maple Leafs, fixing the never-ending problem of defense on the roster.
Ryan Wagman is a McKeen’s Prospect Writer and he had these observations on Moore.
Chicago Steel head coach Greg Moore was just hired to coach the Toronto Marlies. Judging by the Steel's style of play, he will fit the Leafs' org well. Up-tempo, possession centric. Skill will play.— (((Ryan Wagman))) (@RAWagman) December 2, 2019
“Skill will play.”
Do you like what you hear?
|Calder Cup 2020 inbound||110|
|I have reservations||17|
Kyle Dubas says new Marlies coach Greg Moore will spend the next two weeks with Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs coaching staff to learn about the organization. He’ll take over the Marlies on Dec. 16.— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) December 2, 2019