Gone fishing…w/Brendan Morrison

Remember when the Canucks could score at will with that West Coast Express thing? This guy struck gold and made his name as the center for the best line in the NHL at the time. He’s the hometown boy made good who also just so happens to be the reigning Ironman not just for Vancouver (508 games) but the entire league (512 games). However, what good is that streak if you’re not actually scoring? With the final year of his contract being up this season it begs the obvious: will this 31 year old get locked up and likely finish his career at home or be a carrot on a stick to dangle at the deadline?

Welcome to the world of Brendan Morrison.

A look back
The Devils snagged Brendan in the second round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (the same draft class that mind-numbingly saw both Daigle and Gratton go in the top five) and would remain at the University of Michigan from 1993 to 1997. While at school, Brendan played like a man possessed with the Wolverines and, alongside guys like John Madden, Mike Knuble and some clown named Marty Turco, put up some fantastic numbers and helped his school win the NCAA Championship in 1996. During his final year at school, Brendan was awarded the Hobey Baker Award for the best NCAA player of that year and his future looked oh so very bright.

Bright enough that, after a year playing mostly with the Albany River Rats, he got a full time gig playing in front of Marty Brodeur (a good precursor for things to come in Canuck land). The Devils would go on to win the Cup in 1999-2000, but not with Brendan around as he was packaged with Denis Pederson and traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the last Russian headache the franchise had in Alexander Mogilny.

Pederson would stay with the team for a bit before bouncing around some other NHL teams and eventually ending up Eisbaren Berlin (again, awesome logo). Morrison, conversely, would be a welcome addition to the new squad.

In his first full season with the club, Brendan finished fourth in points (54) and played the first of what would be six straight NHL seasons in which he missed no regular season games. The following season is when the WCE kicked into high gear and Brendan helped reap the rewards of playing along side one of the best snipers (Naslund) and power forwards (Bertuzzi) in the league: in 2001-02, Brendan notched a career-high 67 points and improved on that total in the following year with 71 points (in addition to adding 11 points in 14 playoff games). His totals would dip to 60 during the 2003-04 season, but that was still good enough for second best on the team and, although the Flames dispatched the Canucks in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs, Brendan scored quite possibly the most memorable goal of his career during a triple OT game six.

Things Get Ugly
Following the lockout - during which he played with college buddy Knuble again in the Linköpings HC of the Swedish Elitserien - Brendan would return to Vancouver and signed a new three year deal with the club. During the dark 2005-06 season,
Brendan's production dipped down to 56 points as the final year of the WCE/Crawford era came to an end. In the offseason leading up to the 2006-07 season, it was revealed Morrison played much of the season with a hip injury that required surgery. Despite the injury, he once again did not miss a regular season game.

The same old Brendan didn't fare as well on the new-defensive minded Canucks the following season, getting only 51 points which was his worst statistical season yet with the club.

2007-08 and B-mo



Brendan will enter this year as he left last year: the center piece of the second line alongside WCE-chum Naslund and (insert player name here). Much of the reason both Naslund and Morrison's numbers dipped last year was due in part to both Vigneault's style and the lack of a consistent third linemate (at different times Brendan was alongside Pyatt, Bulis, Kesler and Cooke). Not surprinsingly, Brendan will be under likely the same exact scrutiny that Naslund will be: both players have been replaced as the go-to guys by the Sedins and arguably by Luongo as the team's primary identity (in lieu of the now dead WCE). As more teams get grittier and Nonis is sitting on quite a few prospects waiting in the wings, Brendan will need to justify not only his icetime by having a far better season and but the $3-$4 million price tag that he comes with.

I argued last time that Naslund should be retained if possible because I think, if given the proper support, he is still a top six guy. I do not think the same about Morrison; the main knock against him for some time has been his style of play and size do not make him a #1 center. The WCE years allowed him to skirt that and the Canucks lack of offensive depth since then allow him to be ranked much higher then usual. I can see where, on other teams, Morrison would drop to the third line. If nothing else, he's much more a second or third line center rather then a first or second. Put another way: if Kesler had a breakout year at center, guess who's moving down a peg?

If Brendan's production comes up a bit and can be resigned before becoming a UFA next summer to a comparable $3 million deal (or less, it's his hometown after all) then I don't see a problem. But, if not, then I don't think another poor season statistically that allows him to continue his Ironman streak warrants the ice time, especially if those behind him on the depth chart have good seasons.

I don't mean to downplay his good seasons because he had one or two bad ones; I mean to draw attention to the reality of Vancouver's cap and how this team will go to the next level in the forseeable future. If this summer is any indication, Morrison will not be back if he's allowed to see the numbers a 32 year old UFA with his past production will warrant from other teams. So if he's sticking around with the other Orcas, I don't see how committing too much of the cap to a 40-50 point center benefits this team unless he rebounds this season in a substantial way (and, ideally, helps bring Naslund along in the process or vice versa).


Knotwurth Mentioning said...

No matter how zealously I defend Nazzy, I will not do the same for Morrison. As you said, Naslund is still a top-6 player, and to boot is one of the better captains in the game today if you ask me. Morrison, on the other hand, should be on the third line. The way he is playing right now, he's not even a second-to-third line centre. He is simply a third-liner. And you can't give a third-liner as much of your cap space as the Canucks are giving Morrison.

If he isn't traded, then he shouldn't be signed for anything more than a couple mil, barring a breakout season. And, unlike Naslund, Morrison has never been a truly dominant force out on the ice, so to expect him to somehow begin producing at an 80-point pace is kind of ridiculous. If you can net some prospect for him, do so. Otherwise, let him slide into obscurity as a UFA, or as a low-ranked Canucks centre.

It's time for the likes of Kesler to shine. Morrison's days are past, and because he's not the leader or potential dominant force that Naslund represents, he's not worth keeping around with hopes of greatness.

Mike said...

it really depends if mo rebounds this year. no sense trading him is kesler continues to disappoint and we are left with henrik at center and....ritchie! mo has a lot to prove, maybe even more so then naslund. My two cents, I'm willing to bet there are a million fans who disagree...

Anonymous said...

MORRISON SHOULD STAYYY hes so nice and awesome. He should still be Assitant Captain. After he recovers he will prove he deserves to stay I BET!