Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brendan Morrison's Outside Shot

Earlier this week, Skeeter wrote a sobering piece regarding Brendan Morrison's tryout with the Vancouver Canucks in which he contended that there's really no room for him. Skeeter's argument? As a center, Morrison would have to slot in on the top three lines, because the fourth-line is not suited to his style of play:

On a tertiary scoring line, Morrison fits. On a fourth-line that plays under 10 minutes a night, is expected to bang and crash, and might slot into penalty killing duty, Morrison doesn't come even close to fitting. Morrison doesn't hit often enough (he had 33 hits last season), doesn't kill penalties (he averaged a whopping 34 seconds of shorthanded ice-time per game last season), and he obviously doesn't fight. He's a playmaker who would have no one to pass to (a situation Kyle Wellwood faced constantly). His skills would be wasted and his role would require skills that he simply doesn't have.

Unfortunately, this is a valid argument, and I mostly agree with Skeeter. Morrison is a smallish, offensive center and he's not the permanent answer on a crashy, bangy, hands-free sort of line. The Ryan Johnson experiment and his subsequent crumminess (apart from shot-blocking) got us wanting a center with some size and some grit, and sadly, Morrison is not that. In this, Skeeter is correct.

There are, however, other considerations. First, Brendan Morrison is really nice. I forgot how much I missed his good-natured repartee with the press and his innate Vancouverism. It's hard to be analytical, sobering and dispassionate when I am so, so biased in favour of B-Mo. I love this guy. A friend of mine used to be his nanny. He scored this goal (also above). He played his heart out for this city. He's got no friggin' teeth and he lost them for you, Vancouver.

Okay, so that's not really a reason. Here's one though: Morrison's can play the wing.

From the mouth of Morrison himself, on Ben Kuzma's Twitter: "I will bring depth and versatility. I have played the wing with Backstrom and Ovechkin. I can fit on any line, any role." Morrison is a smart, smart guy, and here is a soundbite that sounds straight from a job interview. Way to sell yourself.

Looking outside, there are spots aplenty on the wing, especially to start the season. Alex Burrows is hurt, which means Mikael Samuelsson likely moves up, leaving a spot next to Raymond and Kesler. Who takes that? Hodgson? Schroeder? Tambellini? Shirokov? Hansen? Morrison? The spot that Canucks fans had reserved for Cody Hodgson on the third line is even more wide open now that Hodgson's skating injured. The same guys are vying for that.

More sobering than Skeeter's initital article is that even the Canucks' depth down the center is one injury away from real trouble. We have our top-three centres, yes, but they're all healthy now. What about in February? Consider that an injury to Kesler or Sedin last season would have made Kyle Wellwood our second-line center with absolutely no wiggle room. Injuries are a part of the game, and the Canucks prospects might not be ready to help absorb them just yet. As Jason Botchford pointed out, it's fairly likely that none of the Canucks' kids are ready for full-time duty.

It takes time, especially on good teams. Shouldn't be revealing. Patience has been reaping rewards for some teams for a long time. 
Few are better than the Detroit Red Wings. Many around the league, including the Canucks, idolize their player development and how slowly they bring in their talent.

We've all seen, by now, how Mike Gillis loves a convertible center, and we know about his search for depth. Is it possible that Brendan Morrison is the ultimate depth player? If I were Jannik Hansen, the everyman who, in the past has been slotted in wherever needed in the short-term without ever nailing down a permanent spot, I'd be wringing my hands at the thought of a Morrison contract. Not only can Morrison do Hansen's job on the wing, but he can step in at center in a pinch. Effectively, Morrison affords the Canucks a backup for any forward spot, 1 through 12, and Vigneault doesn't have to worry about intermittent rookie mistakes. The fact is that Jannik Hansen is inconsistent. Personally? He's not my favourite player. He tends to show great offensive flair and couple it with poor defensive play, or shine defensively only to disappear on offense. Hansen isn't really a two-way player; he's an inconsistent one-way player. Morrison, on the other hand, is a little more predictable.

I agree with Skeeter that Brendan Morrison might not be the best fit as a fourth-line center, but he might be the best fit as a thirteenth forward. And, considering that injuries have been all too common with this team, the thirteen forward is going to play.


  1. I did mention in my original post that Morrison would have to play wing in order to make this team, but I'm just not sure that he can actually play the wing. I'm assuming that's where he'll play throughout training camp and the pre-season to prove to the Canucks staff that he can be a fit there.

    Good point about Gillis liking convertible centres, though. Demitra and Wellwood are prime examples of that. I just don't think Morrison is a convertible centre. Hopefully he'll prove me wrong.

  2. Then again...he's instead skating in the first training camp practice session as a centre between Daniel and Oreskovich.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...