The Dallas teenagers, bless their skates, didn't give Brenden Morrow
and his surgically repaired right knee quite the challenge he and it needed.
The 44 other skaters at Canada's Men's Olympic Team Orientation Camp last month certainly did -- and fortunately, the Dallas Stars
' captain left Calgary with renewed confidence in his game and his knee.
Morrow, who figured the season-ending injury he had suffered last Nov. 20 would have precluded him from being invited to the most prestigious summer camp in Canada, skated with his country's best for four days. It was everything he needed.
Healthy? Check. Confident? Check. Ready for a new beginning? Check.
"I was playing some shinny hockey with people in Dallas, some teenagers, but this was something I hadn't done in eight months to have that competition," Morrow told NHL.com. "I feel healthy."
Morrow's promising 2008-09 season got spiked in game No. 18 when he tore the ACL in his right knee during a 6-3 loss to Chicago. He finished with 5 goals, 10 assists and 49 penalty minutes. He was on his way to another career season after scoring 74 points in 82 games during a scintillating 2007-08 campaign.
As the months passed, Morrow watched the Stars fall farther down the Western Conference standings. He was hoping that somehow they would crack the top eight because he felt just maybe he could return in the playoffs.
It never happened. The Stars finished 12th with 83 points, eight behind the eighth-place Anaheim Ducks
. Defenseman Stephane Robidas
thinks he knows why.
"He's the heart and soul of our team, and it showed last year," Robidas said of Morrow. "He's one of the reasons we didn't make the playoffs; he wasn't there."
Morrow plans on being there this year, and he has a lot to prove.
, who will pick the 23-man roster that's expected to win gold in Vancouver, said Morrow was invited to Canada's Olympic camp because of the type of player he has proven to be. Still, Yzerman said Morrow will have to show by mid-December that he is, in fact, still that same dogged, aggressive, willing player.
"He's the heart and soul of our team, and it showed last year. He's one of the reasons we didn't make the playoffs; he wasn't there."
-- Stephane Robidas, on Brenden Morrow
Morrow fully understands the challenge.
"Coming off the year I had, I never really expected an invitation, but I have a lot to prove," he said. "It was a disappointing season. I want to have a good start to the season and try to make them have a tough decision."
First and foremost, though, Morrow plans on lifting the Stars back into the Western Conference's elite. He'll do it without the security blanket of coach Dave Tippett
, who was let go following the playoff-less spring as the Stars had a major executive overhaul.
, one of Morrow's former teammates, is now the GM, and he replaced Tippett with veteran coach Marc Crawford
. Morrow had a special relationship with Tippett, who gave him the "C" he currently wears on his sweater -- but it's time to build something with Crawford now, too.
"We had started building things in Dallas and we had some success a couple of years ago, but last year was a disappointment," Morrow said. "No one likes to see change happen and I was a big fan of Tip. Now there are some big changes with (Nieuwendyk) leading the way and putting together his team. It's a new start, and it's going to be an exciting year."
Morrow appears to have done his part. He says he's "healthy and stronger than I've been in the past." Robidas, who started skating with Morrow a week before they both headed to Calgary for Canada's camp, marveled at the shape Morrow has gotten himself in.
"He looked pretty good," Robidas said. "He trained hard. He's real serious about the whole thing. He wants to have a strong year and bring our team back to the playoffs. That's our main goal."
Morrow isn't worried about the stability of his knee, but admits he still has to get over the mental hurdle associated with such a debilitating injury.
"Everyone, thankfully, is coming off a summer and they haven't been going at it hard for four months," he said. "We're all kind of in the same boat, but I haven't been in the physical battles yet."
He will be soon. That much you can count on.
"Just having Brenden back on the ice makes our team tenfold better," goalie Marty Turco
told the Dallas Morning News recently. "You can just see his intensity already."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org