CHICAGO -- OK, so he’s not a 25-year-old, $4-million center in the prime of his career but right now new Chicago Blackhawks’ middle man Brendan Morrison is better than nothing. And he could be more than that.
Credit general manager Stan Bowman for one thing, he jumped the gun on Morrison before someone else did. Morrison is the kind of guy many teams would take a flyer on considering it’s a low-risk, high-reward deal. Now Brian Connelly, whom the Hawks gave up in the deal, turns into a 15-year NHL player and Morrison flames out as a Hawk, the risk was much higher than it looks.
But at this moment, for this team, it’s all hands on deck. He’s a veteran. Check. He plays center. Check. He’s a leader. Check. And he’s defensively responsible. Check.
But you might not be able to put a check next to “healthy” until he plays a few games. He’s played in only 28 this year. He says he’s ready but what else would he say, right?
“I needed a little bit more time to work on some explosiveness,” Morrison said on a conference call Friday night of coming back too soon from knee surgery. “I know it’s fine. There are no issues at all. Skating is getting back to where it’s always been.”
It better be fine if he’s going to keep up with the likes of Marian Hossa or any other top-6 winger. His addition gives Joel Quenneville options, and the Hawks need those options at center. His 50 percent face-off winning percentage over the last couple seasons makes him attractive for that reason alone. After Jonathan Toews the Hawks don’t have a reliable face-off man though Dave Bolland did fill in nicely (85%) in the last game before the all-star break.
If Morrison can hack it he’ll play on the second line and Marcus Kruger will move down. General manager Stan Bowman certainly made it sound like that was in play considering Morrison’s past history of playing with skilled forwards.
If he can’t handle it in the top 6 he’s a depth guy that probably moves Jamal Mayers back to wing as he could settle in on the fourth line and kill penalties as well.
The storylines Morrison brings with him are juicy. He’s a former Vancouver Canuck who was a leader on that team as the Sedin twins were just coming up. He knows what Chicago and Vancouver means these days.
“Very aware of it,” Morrison said of the rivalry. “I don’t think you could ask for a better first game really. It’s going to be a playoff style game.”
You could hear the smile through the phone. His first game as a Hawk comes against the team he made his name in the NHL with. Then there is the irony of being knocked out for the year last season after Niklas Hjalmarsson checked him into the boards in March. And then he had words with players on the Hawks bench as he limped off.
But that’s history when it comes to trying to win a Cup. Morrison isn’t the sexy name many want or expected but it’s a start. And just think how many people might be saying “we could have used him” if he had been gobbled up by another team. Depth at center. It’s what the Hawks said they wanted and they got some. Before someone else did.
Now let’s see if he can play. And stay healthy.