Not much to report concerning the Ducks this past week, or even the league in general, so this entry will focus more on speculation than hard news.
GM Brian Burke joined Wild founding owner Bob Naegele, Jr., former NHL defenseman Phil Housley, and Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay as recipients of this year's Lester Patrick Trophy. The award, named after the former Ranger player/coach/GM, is presented annually to those who perform "outstanding service to hockey in the United States." While Ducks fans know BB best for being one of the main architects (along with predecessor Bryan Murray, amongst others) of the team that brought the first Cup to both Anaheim and the West Coast in general, his hockey career has actually spanned almost four decades.
Born in New England, Burke represented his home region at both the collegiate and minor pro levels, before also obtaining a degree and starting his legal career with a stint as a player representative in the area. From 1993-98, the Harvard Law School graduate held the post of Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, playing the same disciplinary role as current Senior VP Colin Campbell. Burke has also managed the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes), the Vancouver Canucks, and will be the main man assembling Team USA's roster for the 2010 Olympics.
Teemu, Where Are You?
Was that Big Foot, or was that just Teemu Selanne? While obviously a bit of an exaggeration, a question like this is becoming less far-fetched as the days pile-up with no real word on Teemu's playing future.
The latest Teemu sighting occurred a little over a week ago, at the wedding of former Stars defenseman Janne Niinimaa (Finnish video with Teemu interview
). The always-smiling Selanne is staying in shape and plans to return to California in September. Don't overread into that last part, however, as his children are enrolled in local schools, so he was already returning to his OC home, contract or not (Special thanks to "zippo" at the official Duck boards for the video and corresponding info!).
One positive sign for Duck fans is that Eklund, who has been reporting the serious possibility of Selanne joining another club (mainly Montreal) all summer long, is now speculating that the only thing holding up a return to Ducks digs is an issue involving the deferral of bonus money for older players (more on that at his blog
). This is of course excluding the obvious fact that Anaheim is already over the cap, which I will assume that an astute GM like Burke already has several plans to remedy before the season begins.
Joining the Flock
This week we'll take a look at the biggest piece added to the Ducks' 2008-09 puzzle so far...
C #7? - Brendan Morrison
Born in Pitt Meadows, BC | Age 33
5'11" | 181 lbs. | Shoots Left
Originally drafted by NJ in 1993 (2/39)
Signed to a one-year contract on 7/8/08
08-09 Salary Cap Hit: $2,750,000
When this summer's free agency period began, some Duck fans hoped that Burke would bring aboard Brendan Morrison to not only fill the gaping hole at second-line center, but also reunite him with one of his West Coast Express wingers and revitalize the duo's careers. While the surprising buyout of Todd Bertuzzi ended the possibility of the latter, Morrison may still be part of the answer to the Ducks' offensive woes.
The main knock against Morrison (and the other members of that famous Canuck line, for that matter) in recent years is that he is becoming a shadow of his former self. In the three seasons since the lockout, the pivot has seen his production drop from 56 to 51 to a career-low 25 points (excluding his 11-game rookie season, of course). However, a closer look at the numbers shows that he has averaged almost 0.65 PPG in that time span. For comparison, Alexander Semin, Peter Mueller (both 0.67), Ryan Malone (0.66), Antoine Vermette, Brian Gionta, Patrick O'Sullivan and Jeff Carter (all 0.65) averaged slightly more or equal PPG last year. To put further perspective on that stat, all seven of those players averaged more TOI/G than Morrison's 15:22, from Semin's 16:54 to Carter's 18:50. Clearly, the former Canuck was not always amongst Vancouver's top six last year, yet still managed to produce like a top six forward.
Another aspect of Morrison's capabilities that has been scrutinized is his ability to stay healthy, after he missed 43 games with wrist and knee injuries last season. The man himself claims he is good to go, as his passing of the Ducks' physical prior to signing him indicates is the case. Many people are forgetting that prior to 2007-08, Morrison hadn't missed a single match in his six full seasons with Vancouver, for a whopping 542 consecutive-game ironman streak - good for eleventh all time in NHL history. While injuries can be tricky, this stat should at least provide some comfort to Duck fans worried about their newest center's health.
Skill-wise, Morrison is an underrated and versatile player. He is best known for his playmaking abilities and above-average speed, but the Hobey Baker winner is also no slouch when it comes to playing the other side of the puck. Last year, he averaged over a minute of ice time per-game killing penalties and only three Canucks won more face-offs. While his size is somewhat of a concern, we all saw first-hand with Andy McDonald how superior skating ability and hockey sense can make up for deficiencies in stature.
Another positive note to keep in mind regarding Morrison is that he is quite possibly the most motivated he has ever been in his career. Not only does he want to prove to his new team and the rest of the league that he still has what it takes to be an impact player, but he also wants to prove that notion to himself. In case the negative suggestions of his detractors weren't enough, Brendan purposefully signed up for only one guaranteed year of pay, knowing that this way everything would be on the line.
All of this is not to say that Morrison could seamlessly sub in as a first-line center if need be, but rather shows that he is still very capable of handling second-line duties, which he will more-than-likely have with Anaheim. If he and his linemates can stay healthy, expect at least 50 points from Morrison and possibly up to 70 if Selanne does indeed return to ride shotgun.
As always, unless any major news breaks between now and next Sunday, I'll see you at the same Duck time, same Duck blog.
Keep on quacking!
(Please make comments in the forum thread!)