UFA Profile: Brendan Morrison

As weird as it was watching former Canucks forward, and Flames killer, Brendan Morrison suit up in Calgary colours this past season, you can’t deny one thing: Morrison gave the Flames very good value on the bargain basement contract they signed him to.  Finishing with 43 points in 66 games, Calgary really did get great return on their $725,000 investment; the problem is, there might not logically be room for them to invest in Morrison again this season.

Morrison joined the Flames while training camp was already underway, as the team had suffered some injuries and were in need of a capable NHL forward.  He had been on a tryout contract with the Vancouver Canucks, but the eventual Western Conference champions were unable to find any room for him, sending him back into the free agency pool.  Right away, Morrison put up numbers, and he was on a very nice streak early on in the season, even if some nice percentages played into it.

His best run came when playing between Calgary’s two top scorers in Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, which he did for a bulk of the season, especially as the team went on their outstanding run in the first two months of 2011.  While he didn’t provide anything outstanding, Morrison was a steady, comfortable centre for the top line wingers, as they new exactly what they were going to get from him.  As such, Morrison was probably the benefactor of playing with those two, seeing his numbers pumped up a little bit.

I won’t say he had a great season, as the underlying numbers paint an okay but not overly complimentary picture.  His 50.7% offensive zone start was lowest among regular Flames centres and forwards, mostly because Head Coach Brent Sutter felt comfortable with him taking defensive zone draws.  Morrison wasn’t the best faceoff man on the team, but you can’t blame Sutter for feeling more at ease with Morrison in the D zone than Matt Stajan, who was Calgary’s top centre in the circle.  He was underwater on Corsi, but so was Tanguay with a higher zone start, and the top line did not routinely play against top flight competition on the other end.  That said, even with average underlying numbers, you can’t deny the good value Calgary got on a very inexpensive contract.

The other thing I will say positively about Morrison will probably have some rolling their eyes, as I go into typical mainstream media talk, but he really was "good in the room".  Quite honestly, when the Flames were going through their worst stretches from late October to mid December, Morrison was one of the only guys beating the belief drum in earnest.  He’s a veteran player with a very even keel personality, and I think he was very helpful on this team when things were at their highest and lowest, even though that can’t be quantified in numbers.

All of that said, resigning Morrison early on this summer just doesn’t make sense.  He turns 36 in August and the team is already flush with bodies down the middle, when you account Mikael Backlund, Daymond Langkow, Olli Jokinen and Stajan, not to mention David Moss who took shifts at centre last season as well.  He was brought in an as an injury replacement initially, and earned himself a regular spot through his play; but even though he won’t command a top dollar contract this season, the Flames have centres and it’s probably a good idea to give roster spots to players on their way up, as opposed to a serviceable, really nice guy coming down the other side of the mountain.

  • wattree

    I’m with you Pat. He was the safety net for the big line, let them feel comfortable enough to go out and do their thing. But I think resigning him this year will end up slowing the progression of Backlund another year. Watching Backlund at the end of last year, he’s not ready for the top line yet, but I think you need to hand him the keys to the car anyway. He’s at that point where he has to play and if you plan on him being you #1 centre then that’s the position he needs to learn

  • Flames rolled a “7” with Morrison last year. He played well enough given his ticket, but he also got he bounces – his PDO was a team high 102.7.

    At 36-years old, it doesn’t make sense to roll the dice with Morrison again, even if he’ll be cheap.

    • I agree, but if it weren’t for all our centers, I think he’d be a good third or fourth line center.

      I want to see Backlund at least get off the fourth line for the majority of the season.

  • The one thing about Morrison is that he can play LW/C/RW on lines 1 through 4. He is a pretty great utility guy that you can plug into almost any situation. Given his numbers from last year, I would be surprised if he doesn’t find a NHL employer this year.

    Having said that, I would prefer to have somebody from Abbotsford playing his minutes.

  • Greg

    I had already dismissed the possibilty of resigning Morrison, but looking at it again, I wouldn’t mind at all actually. If you’re just looking to shore up on some depth with “transitional” players, why fork out a couple million on an upshall or vrbata when Morrison put up similar numbers, killed penalties, can play any forward position, and will probably come on a cheap, 1 year deal again? I think I’d rather see the flames sign him and save the cap space for a second pairing defenceman.

  • MC Hockey

    I agree with Greg, he is good value and can play anywhere, not just at centre. However, if you sign him, even cheaply, he may work himself up to 1st line or 2nd line again. And if that happens…it continues to sends a bad message to our increasing crop of new prospects…which is “Well the old guy is more reliable so you just stay in Abbotsford or be one of the 3 guys on 23-man active roster who is sitting half the time” (because teams can dress 20/game as you all know). We need progression for forward so Nemisz, Bouma, Byron and others see they have hope and stay with Flames.

  • RKD

    You dont even consider it unless you can find a sucker to take Stajan off your hands. Then it might not be a bad decision to have somebody like Morrison to pinch hit at times.
    I am pushing for the Flames to give Byron a chance this year, which is going to clog up the center ice as well. I think that if you remove Stajan from the equation and shuffle Jokinen to the wing that Morrison might have a place.

  • RKD

    I was quite pleasantly surprised with Morrison last year. Again, he provided some outside leadership on this team. I’d thank him for what he provided, but a 36 year old who had a bump season due mainly to playing on the top line and has a history of injuries? I’d rather pay that $800,000 to a 19 or 20 year old who’s got nothing to loose than to a 36 year old who may blow a knee out and never be able to play with his kids again. You only get so many lucky picks. My problem is i think the Flames only have 1 centreman who could logically and legitimately play on the top line, that’s Backlund. Jokinen, has good and bad nights and has no chemistry with Iginla. Im skeptical on Langkow if hes going to have even half of what he was. Stajan, is really a 4th liner. Moss, shouldnt be playing centre.

  • RKD

    I liked Morrison, the fact he came to Calgary just days after the Canucks only motivated him more to play better.

    I thought he was one of the more consistent players on the Flames. He played well with Tangs and Iggy. 43 points in 66 games, means he was average 1.5ppg. At 35, that’s nothing to shake off.

    His injury really hurt the Flames. Maybe coming back will motivate him more or maybe the leg injury will hamper him. I would bring him back at a low price if he’s willing to sign for less.