We're going to get the player profiles fired up again for the summer.
It's been a staple the last few off-seasons to give us something to talk about during the dullest part of the summer.
I'll probably tackle 30 players and do them five a week on weekdays. That would take us through the start of September and get us close to the Traverse City prospects tournament (Sept. 11-15).
Then, training camp starts on Sept. 17 and we're off and running.
Today, let's go with the captain Brenden Morrow.
There's a great line in Tim Burton's summer take on Alice in Wonderland. Alice returns to Wonderland as a 19-year-old and is told she must slay the Jabberwocky. She responds by telling the Hatter that she doesn't slay, ``so just put it out of your mind.'' To which the Hatter replies: You're not the same as you were before. You were much more..."muchier" You've lost your "muchness"
That line almost instantly reminded me of Brenden Morrow's 2009-10 season.
It fits him perfectly. The guy who tried to fight Alex Burrows on one leg in the 2007 playoffs or the guy who put the Stars on his back in 2008 and pushed them through Anaheim and San Jose en route to the Western Conference finals just wasn't around last year. A lot of that was due to having major knee surgery to replace the ACL in his left knee. A lot of it was due to the distraction of playing for Canada at the Olympics. A lot of it was due to a new coach and a new system that threw off some interlocking parts in Morrow's world.
Marc Crawford runs a system that pushes short shifts and high energy. Mike Ribeiro has had his most success when he is able to wade into a shift, float on the ice and lurk around like a shark looking for a proper time to attack. Ribeiro is Morrow's soulmate on the ice, and when he was adjusting to the new game, it affected Morrow. Yes, Morrow got off to a quick start with 10 points in the first nine games, but it was clear that he and Ribeiro were moved to the ``second line'' behind James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson, and it was clear they missed the defensive elements of Jere Lehtinen, who got hurt in the second game of the season.
Off the ice, the struggles of good friend Marty Turco also affected Morrow. There were significant growing pains with Crawford's system, and the defense struggled at times. Turco started out with a 1-2-3 record and allowed 15 goals in his first six games (and that was with a shutout in his only win), and Morrow had to deal with that as both a friend and the captain. There were some transition issues, so Morrow was not even allowed to enjoy his early scoring success.
Mix that with the hype for the 2010 Olympics and the fact Morrow was going to get a chance to play for his country in his country, and there was certainly a lot going on in his head. To be fair to Morrow, this really was a once in a lifetime chance. To make Team Canada when half of the NHL is Canadian is a tremendous honor. The fact that it might be his only time to play for Canada in the Olympics had to be in the back of Morrow's mind. And then when you consider how much it meant to the Canadians to win the gold in Vancouver, it was a huge distraction.
Morrow confirmed that when he said in an interview with BaD Radio on The Ticket that he thought about fighting Sean Avery when Avery was having a five-point night against the Stars in January, but that he was worried about hurting his hand and missing the Olympics. Morrow shouldn't have to fight Avery. Someone else could have done that. But the fact that he told all of us that the thought was in his head made you wonder if he was holding back in other areas.
Nobody besides Morrow will ever know if he was, but he planted the seed of doubt in the mind of the fan.
So when Morrow played outstanding in the Olympics, everyone had to wonder if he was ``saving himself.''
Again, to be fair to Morrow, he was on an outstanding team that had high energy and was given a simple job in the Olympics. He was overachieving. Anything he did positive was magnified because of the stage. In Dallas, he is expected to be a leader and high scorer every game, so the pressure became higher. In addition, this Stars team was not nearly as well constructed as the Canadian Olympic team, and it didn't have the same energy, drive or focus.
But those are things that fall under Morrow's job description, and when Morrow had just a goal and an assist while the team went 1-5-1 coming out of the Olympic break, he became a symbol of the Stars' problems.
He's the captain, so that's part of the gig.
What he has to do this summer is move on mentally, as much as anything else. Turco has been let go and is looking for a new home. The same with Mike Modano, who also is good friends with Morrow. Crawford is in his second year and has a new associate coach in Willie Desjardins. There is much to digest as far as changes behind the scenes. Morrow will likely play beside Ribeiro once again, and the two will have to see if they can fit better into this high energy system. They will also have to try to find chemistry with a right wing.
Lehtinen has not yet decided if he wants to retire. That could open up a spot for a player like Fabian Brunnstrom, Adam Burish, Steve Ott or even Tomas Vincour. In fact, there could be a rotation or even an audition period. Who knows, maybe Jamie Benn will end up on the right wing if all of the centers are playing well. Even more difficult in terms of adjustment, Crawford could decide to split up Morrow and Ribeiro and see if there is chemistry in other areas.
And Morrow has to be able to deal with anything and everything.
It's not an easy job, but he has done it before. He has ascended the ladder in becoming a top-level scorer and a top-level leader, and he has to do it again. Just like with Alice's return to Wonderland (in the movie version), Morrow has to get back in there and remember just what kind of warrior he once was.
He has to regain his muchness.
It's a huge part of whether or not the Stars can be successful in 2010-11.