Brenden Morrow may have actually proved his value to the team more last season than he did the year before.
Yes, Morrow was the mule on which the Stars rode to the Western Conference finals in 2008 (and, to be honest, that's where he showed just how much he means to the team), but the Stars seemed completely lost with him out of the lineup last season.
Morrow's leadership and dogged determination seem to affect everything that surrounds him, and that was never more clear than last season. When he went out with a knee injury in November, the team just seemed to be missing its heart. Yes, there were other injuries, and yes the remaining players had nice runs of success at times, but the Stars don't seem to be the Stars right now unless Morrow is on the ice.
So what can we expect from him this year after he tore the ACL in his right knee on Nov. 20? That's a tricky question. Brendan Morrison had similar knee surgery and said he didn't feel normal for more than a year. Still, Morrow has been rehabbing hard, was close to being ready to play again in April if the Stars made the playoffs and has the carrot of the Team Canada Olympic Orientation camp in August hanging in front of him.
In addition, I think he is as hungry as he has ever been to get off to a good start and lead the Stars back to a place of prominence.
Morrow was indeed part of the problem in the team's slow start last season. He seemed over-affected by the signing of Sean Avery and was probably trying too hard. His scoring was fine, with five goals among 15 points in 18 games, but he was back to taking too many penalties and was on the wrong side of the competitive edge. His 49 penalty minutes were on pace for more than 200 in a full season. In 2007-08, he made an effort to control the penalties and finished with 105 minutes (he also had 32 goals and 42 assists that season in 82 games).
His problems also were compounded by the fact his good friend Marty Turco was struggling. The two seem to follow each other's lead on the ice, so it's important that both get off to a good start this season _ and it would be helpful to both if one isn't worrying about the other.
Morrow's other key relationship is with center Mike Ribeiro, and the two have obvious chemistry. Ribeiro is proving to be a reliable scorer, as he followed his career-best 83-point season in 2007-08 with 78 points last season, but he still needs to refine his game and play within the team concept. If the Stars are going to get Brad Richards up and running, then Ribeiro has to take shorter shifts and let the lines flow.
Morrow can help him do that.
So, all the captain has to really worry about is: Helping Marty Turco off to a good start, keeping Mike Ribeiro on page, motivating Mike Modano, leading a ton of young kids, keeping his penalty minutes down, and making sure the room reacts properly to the new coach and administration. Oh yeah, and do that on an injured knee that he really hasn't tested yet.
That's a bit of sarcasm, but I really think Morrow can have a positive effect on all of those areas. What he needs to do, though, is simply concentrate on his game _ and the rest will take care of itself.
I know ACL surgery is tough to overcome, but Morrow has worked really hard and might be in the best shape of his life. I really see similarities between he and Joe Nieuwendyk (Nieuwendyk came back from double ACL surgery in 1998-99), and I think Morrow could be in for a very big season.