Confidence. When you have it, you’re walking on air and everything seems great. When you’re lacking it, it can be tough to persevere. If anyone knows this, it’s Sabres winger Matt Moulson.
The 32-year-old can’t pinpoint what exactly caused his career-worst year last year. Some suggested that his five-year, $25 million contract played in his head. Others mentioned the lofty expectations that accompany scoring 30 goals three straight years were weighing on him. Whatever the case, even he can’t deny he was downright awful. Underperforming doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Often times, lack of success compounds itself. Slumps worsen. “Sometimes it’s a tough thing to get out of because the more pressure you put on yourself, the more you want to do well, the worse you play. That was definitely the case with me,” said Moulson.
Last year, he went 44 games without lighting the lamp and notched just one goal in a span of 63 games. At times he looked lost and out of place, which was reflected in his ice time dropping below 10 minutes per game for several stretches while being demoted to the fourth line.
Having handed Moulson a hefty contract and seen little results, General Manager Tim Murray has been tough on him.
“We’ve talked with his agent, we’ve talked with him, we’ve talked with our strength and conditioning staff, and he doesn’t miss an optional skate anymore. He doesn’t miss a post-game workout anymore. He’s taking this real seriously, he doesn’t want to just go away,” Murray said.
So, the North York, Ontario native put a plan in place this summer to re-dedicate himself to get back on track. He’s got a lot to prove to his naysayers.
“I have my trainer, skating coach, my family and maybe a couple close friends that still truly believe in me. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder coming in to prove a lot of people wrong that maybe lost a little belief.” –Matt Moulson
He worked with his trainer to analyze his game and to focus on areas of improvement to get his game back where he wants it to be. With the goal of being in the best possible physical and mental shape to help the team, he skated three or four days a week over the summer and put time in weight training. He knows he has to earn his ice time, especially on a team continually adding talent to its roster.
New Sabre Kyle Okposo is also holding Moulson accountable. The two played several seasons together on the New York Islanders and are godparents to each other’s kids.
“Just having him there… to have someone to be an extra person to talk to and ask their opinions and get their true, true feelings – he’s not going to sugarcoat it,” Okposo said.
After finishing last season with eight goals in 81 games. Moulson is halfway to that total already, leading the team with four goals through five games. With all of them being power play tallies, he’s leading the league in that category.
No one is realistically expecting another 30-goal season from Moulson, but a 40-point season would be a welcome sight. It certainly seems like his renewed work ethic is paying off and he’s turning things around.