Saturday, September 06, 2008

2008-2009 Previews: Shaone Morrisonn

Having recovered from the major party political conventions, we are now ready to take up the next in our series of looks ahead with…

Shaone Morrisonn

Last year: 76 games, 1-9-10, +4
Career average (per-82 games): 2-11-13, +7

Fearless’ Take: Morrisonn has played in parts of five NHL seasons; he has never had a minus campaign. He’s had 80 minus games in his entire career. OK, that might not sound impressive, except Nicklas Lidstrom has had 71 minus games in his last 278 regular season games. Lidstrom is 38 years old and has won the Norris Trophy every year since 1743, doing so for one of the league’s elite teams. Morrisonn is 25 years old and has played on teams in Washington (until the last half of last year) that struggled with the defensive aspects of the game.

I know, I know, Morrisonn is no Lidstrom, but he ain’t chopped squid, either. He’s been consistent, he’s been steady, and he’s been just about the perfect partner for a guy like Mike Green, who can do his rush up ice around all five guys thing. Morrisonn is also playing for his next contract, too. He was awarded a $1.975 million deal in arbitration this year, and a soild year could earn him something more for 2009-2010. He is not going to light the lamp much, and his role as “the steady guy” will carve into what offense he does provide. But he’s been a solid, if unspectacular performer with the Caps who generally gets the shut down assignments. That would appear to be his role again this year.

Cheerless’ Take: Cuz…Morrisonn was +24 in his first 278 games. Nicklas Lidstrom was +27 in his last 49 games last year. Yeah, Lidstrom plays on a team that contends every year; Morrisonn has played, well, for the Caps. But still…Lidstrom is a 1787 Chateau Lafitte, Morrisonn is a decent bottle of wine from the Safeway (Fearless: cuz, you drink from the toilet with the dog...what do you know from wine?). Nathan Paetsch was 2-7-9, +3, in 59 games, if you're looking for another comparison. According to the Globe and Mail, Morrisonn’s comparables in arbitration were: Milan Jurcina, Josh Gorges, Lukas Krajicek, Mark Stuart, Garnet Exelby and Mike Komisarek (by the Caps); Trevor Daley, Tim Gleason, Fedor Tyutin, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Komisarek (by the player’s representative). Some good players in there, but that many comparables on both sides seems to suggest he’s hardly irreplaceable, or even uncommon in his performance.

The Peerless’ Take…Morrisonn is not a star -- he's not a Nicklas Lidstrom knock off -- chances are he will never be an all-star, especially given how defensemen are selected these days. He is, though, a solid performer in his own end. That doesn’t lend itself to a lot of ready statistical analysis of the usual sort. One place where this sort of look is taken is at , where Alan Ryder looked at a variety of defensive elements from last year. Although he admits it is difficult to separate the work of a defensive pair (in this instance Morrisonn being paired mostly with Mike Green), Morrison ranked in the top 25 among defensemen at even strength by Ryder’s measure. What’s more, Morrisonn – like a lot of Caps – had a much better time of it in the last 60 games. The difference in his game was perhaps more stark than others. Whereas he was 0-3-3, -10 before the coaching change last November (with only three “plus” games), he was 1-6-7, +14 after the change.

What does that mean for this year? For the moment, Morrisonn is probably the anchor of this defense. He won’t be stunning in either his offense or his physical play, but he won’t make many obvious gaffes, either. He’s going to have a lot of even or plus-one games. To the extent he does this, it will provide openings for Mike Green to build on the year he had last year, and that is a plus-plus for the Caps. If he has that kind of solid year, it will make for an interesting summer next year. But in the meantime…

Projected: 2-9-11, +11