It's a tale of two careers for the Blackhawks' newly-acquired Brendan Morrison. At one time he was an upper-echelon center in the NHL, but those glory days have passed.
During the prime of his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Morrison centered one of hockey's most lethal line combinations called the "West Coast Express" from 2002-2004. He played between Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. During that three-year span, he scored 70 goals with 128 assists. However, in the last two seasons (94 games) he has just 13 goals and 41 assists.
But the scoring and top-notch playmaking ability has passed him by. At 36, Morrison adds depth at a critical position, and brings plenty of playoff experience.
A healthy Morrison assures that Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp can settle into their natural wing positions and not have to worry about playing center anymore. Morrison could immediately slide into the No. 2 role in between Sharp and Marian Hossa, and see a rise in his assists playing in between two elite snipers once again. That likely pushes Marcus Kruger to a fourth-line role in between some combination of Jamal Mayers, Michael Frolik, Andrew Brunette and Bryan Bickell while Dave Bolland resumes his regular spot on the third line, likely between Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes.
Morrison is also strong on faceoffs, winning them at a 50.3 percent clip -- now second on the team behind the league-leading Toews.
At best, Morrison flashes some of the play-making ability he once had and wins critical faceoffs. At worst, he is another Sami Pahlsson circa 2009. It's a low-risk, high-reward move as defenseman Brian Connelly -- while putting up nice numbers for Rockford -- was likely never going to crack the Hawks' defense corps.
Morrison won't put the Blackhawks over the top in the tough Central Division and isn't going to be the difference-maker in the run to a Stanley Cup. He'll help, sure, but he's just one more piece to a puzzle that's still incomplete -- likely the first of two or three moves between now and the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
The Blackhawks' coaching staff will be intact for the 2016-17 season.
Two weeks after Patrick Roy abruptly resigned as head coach, the Colorado Avalanche officially picked Jared Bednar to be his replacement over Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who was among the favorites for the coaching vacancy.
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Bednar has no National Hockey League coaching experience, but did guide the Columbus Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate to a 15-2 postseason record last season en route to the franchise's first Calder Cup championship.
Retaining Dineen is good news for the Blackhawks, who start training camp next month, but it goes without saying that Dineen is certainly deserving of a second crack at a head coaching position in the near future.
Dineen, Mike Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville will enter their third season together after helping the Blackhawks capture a Stanley Cup in their first year as a group in 2015.
Jonathan Toews was named alternate captain of Team Canada on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
Sidney Crosby was named Team Canada’s captain. Crosby, who claimed his second Stanley Cup in June, was also Team Canada’s captain en route to the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
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Toews, who has been the Blackhawks’ captain since the 2008-09 season, was also alternate captain of Canada’s 2014 Olympic squad. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens will serve as Team Canada’s other alternate captain.
Duncan Keith will not be part of the Blackhawks’ World Cup of Hockey contingent after all.
Keith will focus on improving his health rather than play for Team Canada in the tournament, which takes place next month in Toronto. The Blackhawks released a statement regarding Keith on Wednesday afternoon.
"As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey," team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in the statement. "We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury."
Keith had surgery on that knee last October and was sidelined about one month.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will take Keith’s place.