Bag of Pucks: The Brenden Morrow Edition

On Sunday, Brenden Morrow was traded to Pittsburgh, and in many ways a door was closed on a Stars era that was a lot of fun for many of us.

Morrow was the last player connection to the Stars teams of greatness as he played on the 2000 Stanley Cup Finalist that fell finally to New Jersey at Reunion Arena when Jason Arnott beat Ed Belfour in Game 6 in overtime.  He then grew up in front of our eyes and eventually ran through nearly the entire life-cycle of a player until he was dealt a few days ago as a reminder that the clock ticks for every man.

It is very odd to realize how fast a player’s career goes.  It is something that never crossed my mind when I was younger, but now that I have been lucky enough to have covered the Stars for 15 seasons, I have managed to outlive everyone but Ralph and Razor it seems.  These players have a short amount of time to be all that they can be down on the ice, and then in the blink of an eye, they go from being the kid in the room to the old man.

Seldom do we see that entire life-cycle before our very eyes, but with Brenden Morrow, it seems that we saw most of it.  Now, I think I speak for all of Dallas in wishing him the very best as he moves forward and attempts to put on a show this spring that will allow him to play several more years in the National Hockey League.  If he does what he can do, he will set himself up for a 2nd act of his career that could be pretty special.

But, from a Dallas standpoint, when his former team-mate and now general manager Joe Nieuwendyk pulled the trigger, it absolutely was the right move to make.  They had another month on his contract at an amount that had no longer paid him the market value for his contributions.  Players all have expiration dates, and for this job in this place, Morrow looked like a guy who had asked a lot of his body and couldn’t give what he once could.  He deserves full credit for rebuilding his value by getting his body right, because this trade would not have been available a year ago.

The Stars did what they had to do, which is to take an expiring asset in which they may not have a desire to keep long-term and flip it for a young player with a chance of being something nice.  In return, they take a 1st round pick from the 2011 draft in the form of Joe Morrow.  If Joe Morrow gives them anything at the NHL level, it will be more than they would have received in return for Brenden when he was scheduled to leave in July.  It was just good business for both parties.  The Stars for securing a piece in return for an expiring contract, and Brenden for lifting his no-trade clause to play for the Stanley Cup and his next contract this spring in Pittsburgh.

I like the move and I can’t wait to watch Morrow go deep into the playoffs, while the Stars try to simply make the playoffs without him.  But, they, unlike Pittsburgh, are in no position to “go for broke” this spring.  They are playing for the big picture.  And maybe Joe Morrow can be in that picture.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, as I reflect on turning the page on the Brenden Morrow book, it does allow one to enjoy some playoff memories – back to days when Morrow was a baby-faced bull in a china shop, earning his captaincy and playing meaningful hockey deep in the spring.  He was a proper team leader who had his team follow him into battle.

Below, please see the 3 moments (in chronological order) that would be the top 3 memories I would have from Brenden’s run here (aside from all of the reversals) as captain and all-around stud for the Stars in the last decade plus of hockey:

1. 2007 Playoffs – Skating to the Canucks bench and challenging whoever was up for it to a battle on one leg.  Here is what I wrote the next morning about that exchange:

Brenden Morrow is my new hockey hero. He rises to the occasion like a captain should. He gets mad. He gets even. He plays like this is the only thing that matters to him. He is perfect for this role. To see him skate over to the Canucks bench on one leg, after that punk Burrows offered a cheap shot, was the stuff of legend – considering his Game 5 OT goal that kept the series moving. There can be no further questions about his capability to be this team’s captain.

Seeing the video makes me want to watch this fantastic series again.  The 2007 Canucks series was one in which the Stars dropped a Game 7 up in Canada (as Tom Hicks watched on a television from a Rangers game, as I recall).  Both goalies were stars, but so was Brenden Morrow.  Morrow had been given the “C” not too long before that time from mate and legend Mike Modano.  There was question at that point whether that made any sense.  And I think this was one of the moments that took that question away.

Here is the video:

2.  Morrow sends a hit at the end of regulation in 2008 Game 6 against the Sharks that rocks the Arena.
I can tell you specifically where I was when this hit happened.  It was a fantastic moment in an amazing series in which Brenden was there over and over again.  Again, here is what I wrote in this space the morning after:

Morrow’s hit on Milan Michalek was so thunderous that the arena exploded. But, when Michalek stayed down on the ice, it got quiet really fast. I have been unable to find any reports on his health this morning, but we sure hope he is fine. The impact of that hit was felt the rest of the night. From the Shark’s standpoint, they lost one of their best players. And from the Stars’ side, it seemed like the captain making a statement that the Stars were not going to be denied. 

The video:

3.  Morrow scores the goal to win the series in the 4th Overtime of that 2008 Game 6 and push the Stars to the Western Conference Finals.  It was the early morning of Cinco De Mayo and it was a moment to scream at.  Once again, from the next morning:

And then there is the captain. O Captain, Our Captain. What in the heck could you say about Brenden Morrow? Somehow, he was credited with 19 hits. Somehow, he never looked tired. And somehow, Morrow put the game out of its misery at 1:24am. And for the second consecutive Game 6, the pure joy on the battered face of the Stars’ captain shows that the paychecks are nice – but you can’t buy the feeling of winning in the playoffs. Razor was comparing his performance in these playoffs to Mark Messier’s legendary runs. I will defer to Razor since they were mates back in the day, but allow me to say I have never seen anyone will his team to a new level like Brenden is right now. 

I would call that the single biggest goal scored since Belfour, Hitchcock, and company did their thing back in the golden era.  Morrow was front and center and put the Sharks to the sword.

It is tough to see a player lose a little of their ability and then to say goodbye altogether.  I think everyone wants to see him rally in a big spot now that he has moved on.

He will always have his place in Dallas hockey lore and was an absolute fantastic captain who did everything asked of him while squeezing everything he could out of his abilities.  In doing so, he has put the bar nice and high for whoever successes him as captain of the Dallas Stars.

Good luck, Mini-Mo.  And thanks for all you did.