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.