That quote is more than 2,500 years old, from the Greek epic poet, Hesiod. Sometimes, it seems that long since Shaone Morrisonn was traded to Washington, along with a first round pick (which became Jeff Schultz) and a second round pick (Mikhail Yunkov) in 2004 for Sergei Gonchar. In fact, in terms of service to the franchise, Morrisonn is the longest tenured Capitals defenseman in time spent with the team and games played with Washington. He was obtained in trade on March 3, 2004 and has played 309 regular season games as a Cap.
As the ten-game segments suggest, though, Morrisonn did not improve on his consistency with maturity…
He did not string together two consecutive “plus” segments, which is probably not a good thing for the defenseman who might best pass for a “shutdown” type on this team. He had spikes of penalty minutes and three times had at least three consecutive games with penalties taken. On the other hand, the Caps were 17-8-3 in games in which Morrisonn was sent to the box.
One ten-game segment stands out, Morrisonn’s sixth. In those ten games, dating from February 1st through February 22nd, Morrisonn registered his highest point total of any segment (2-2-4), his best plus-minus (plus-5), the most hits (22), the most shots on goal (nine), and the most penalty minutes (29, including 15 minutes – for a boarding major and a game misconduct – in a 3-1 win over Florida on February 7th). Perhaps not coincidentally, the Caps posted their second best ten game win-loss record of any ten-game segment (7-2-1, including a pair of 5-2 wins over New Jersey and Pittsburgh). It suggests that a more energetic Morrisonn is a more productive one, or at least it seems to go along with more success for the team.
More than most Caps (and there were plenty in this category), Morrisonn suffered in his efforts against Western Conference teams, against which he registered a single point (an assist) and went minus-5 in 17 games. In 55 games against Eastern Conference opponents, he was 3-9-12, plus-9. However, that plus-9 was earned in its entirety from Southeast Division teams in 22 games, not the strongest division in the East. Against the rest of the East, he was 2-3-5, even, in 33 games.
But on the defensive side, and this is where Morrisonn earns his keep, there were some numbers not so good. He was 69th in the league among defensemen playing at least 50 games in blocked shots per 60 minutes (by way of comparison, Tom Poti was 36th). He was tied for 76th in goals scored against-per-60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, despite being tied for 108th in quality of competition.
For a defenseman who makes most of his contribution at the defensive end, he wasn’t getting a lot of opportunity to make that contribution. He was sixth on the team among those playing at least 50 games in even strength ice time per game (if we include Karl Alzner in the mix, who played 30 games, Morrisonn would be seventh), and he was third (fourth, if you include Alzner) in shorthanded time on ice per game. He also had the shortest shifts, on average, of any defenseman for the Caps this season (ok, Staffan Kronwall had shorter shifts, but he played in only three games).
Here is another set of numbers that have a somewhat disturbing air about them. Morrisonn was 3-10-13, +3 in 2006-2007. He was 3-10-13, +4 this past year. The difference is that he recorded that first set of numbers on a team that finished the year with 70 points, 14th in the Eastern Conference. This year, he recorded almost exactly the same numbers on a team that finished with 108 points, 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The first instance was that of a standout on a poor-performing team, the second that of, well, something else on a very good team.
Last year, Morrisonn had a decent year that earned him a contract of $1.975 million through arbitration. This year was a contract year for him, and while he improved his numbers marginally over last year, his timing doesn’t appear to have been fortunate in terms of suggesting a large increase in pay. In fact, his numbers suggested those of a 4/5/6 defenseman, one who could provide 18 minutes a night (he was sixth on the team in average total ice time), occasionally – if not consistently – provide a bit of a physical edge, and generally finish on the plus side of the ledger (if not overwhelmingly so). It suggests that he, too, is not irreplaceable, although he can be useful. The trouble for Morrisonn here is that his minutes could be Karl Alzner’s next year.
This year, Morrisonn ended up in the usual place, as far as his career numbers go, but he took a rather meandering route to get there. Given his consistent regular season numbers with the Caps, one might be forgiven wondering if this is as good as he will be. Not bad, to be sure, but not a cornerstone, either.