Last July, the Capitals signed unrestricted free agent center Brendan Morrison to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Washington had a vacancy in the middle of its second line, and it believed Morrison might be able to find the form that made him one of the game’s most consistent pivots for the better part of the last decade.
Coming off a pair of “down” seasons and some nagging injuries, Morrison was looking to re-establish himself as a viable second-line pivot.
Morrison got off to a swift start, scoring a goal and an assist in his first home game as a Capital, a 6-4 win over Toronto in the Oct. 3 home opener at Verizon Center. The strong start continued through the season’s first half. Morrison totaled 10 goals and 25 points through his first 40 games of the campaign. His production slowed thereafter, however.
He totaled two goals and 17 points in his final 34 games of the season, although he did post a solid plus-10 during that span. Throughout the season, regardless of how he was going personally at the time, he was an exemplary player off the ice and in the room.
“I’m frustrated in the sense that I had a real good first half and then the second half wasn’t very good,” admitted Morrison after the season. “I still think I can play at a pretty high level for a couple more years. I’d like to be back if I’m in their plans. But we all know there are changes that will be made and you just have to deal with it.”
Morrison finished the season with 30 assists, reaching that plateau for the eighth time in his NHL career. He added a dozen goals to enjoy his best season since 2006-07, and his plus-23 was the best mark of his 12-year NHL career.
Morrison appeared in five of Washington’s seven postseason games, picking up one assist. Like his teammates, he found it hard to believe the Caps did not get past the Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Part of the game plan was to get as many pucks as possible to the net,” said Morrison in discussing the Caps’ series with Montreal. “We felt that there were rebounds that were available. We figured if we got shots on net, that we would be able to get guys to the net and score on rebounds. Obviously, it didn’t happen. I don’t think anybody would have guessed that we would score three goals in the last three games. It’s really disbelief, but it happened. You have to accept it, you have to learn from it, you have to reflect and move on.
“When you throw that many pucks at the net, you expect something to happen, to get a bounce here or there. Even if guys are blocking shots, sometimes guys will partially block a shot and the puck will still go in. But it seemed like every time they blocked a shot we didn’t get a secondary chance off it.
“To think that we’d lose three in a row when we averaged more than 40 shots on net is unfathomable. But it happened. It’s cruel but you’ve got to deal with it.”
Morrison becomes an unrestricted free agent as of July 1. He enjoyed his season in Washington and would like to return in 2010-11, if the Caps would like to have him back.
“I still believe in this team,” Morrison affirmed after the Capitals’ premature playoff exit. “I believe this team has the core guys to win and be a good team for a long time.”