With a much deeper roster, it may seem at first glance that inviting Brendan Morrison to Canucks training camp in Penticton this weekend is nothing more than giving a hometown, ex-Canuck an opportunity to showcase what he has left in the tank for other teams. After looking over his numbers from last year, however, I wonder now if he has a legitimate shot of making this team.
At 35, there’s no doubt that B-Mo’s best days are behind him. Once the NHL’s ironman, he’s been saddled with various injuries in recent years, though it’s worth noting he bounced back nicely by appearing in 81 games for the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks in 2008/2009 and 74 games for the Washington Capitals in 2009/2010. He showed he can still contribute too; with the Capitals, he averaged more than 15 minutes per game and recorded 42 points (12 goals – 30 assists) while playing, at times, with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.
But there are a couple of other stats that might interest the Canucks.
Morrison was one of the NHL’s better faceoff men last season. He took the 60th most faceoffs (978) in the NHL last season, and finished 36th in faceoff percentage (51.2%) and 52nd in faceoff wins (501).
He was also his usual solid self in his own end of the ice. According to Behind the Net, he was only on the ice for 28 even-strength goals against all last season or 1.82 ESGA/60 minutes – both numbers are among the lowest in the league. Granted, he didn’t play regularly against the opposing teams’ top offensive players, but he won’t either if he makes this Canucks team.
While there are a lot of bodies competing for spots on the team’s bottom-six, there isn’t one player who stands out who could potentially fill Ryan Johnson’s vacated fourth-line center spot. Certainly, Rick Rypien, Joel Perrault and Alex Bolduc would be in the mix, but you can’t tell me they’d outplay B-Mo in that role. If you subscribe to the theory that Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault want a fourth line center who can log some minutes, win faceoffs, don’t take penalties and don’t get scored on – much like Ryan Johnson was counted on to do the last couple of seasons – Morrison may, in fact, be a good fit here.
Morrison already calls Vancouver – okay, Coquitlam – his home. But after a couple of years playing in Anaheim, Dallas and Washington, wouldn’t it be something if he could come back and play here again too?