2011-2012 was a season that Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow would like to forget.
Plagued by shoulder and back injuries all year long, the pain that Stars fans felt watching Morrow must have been only a fraction of the pain that he was feeling.
Having made a celebrated career by being physical, tough-as-nails, and relentless when attacking the opposition, traits that made him a beloved captain to Stars supporters, Morrow was often none of these things in the 57 games that he suited up for, most of these games in which he played injured.
The Morrow of 2011-2012 was slower and more timid than normal. His 11 goals and 26 points were career worsts, not counting 2008-2009 when he only played 18 games. His 88 shots and 130 hits were a far cry from what he normally produced. You could watch entire games and not even notice that Morrow was playing.
It was not the same Old Morrow that Stars fans knew, a player that would plow through opposing defenders and crash the other team’s net with the ferocity of a raging bull, as well as out-muscle the biggest, toughest defencemen in the NHL to bang home rebounds. It was not the same Morrow that scored 74 points in 2007-2008, and then 15 more in 18 playoff games as he carried his team to upsets over the defending-champion Anaheim Ducks and the powerhouse San Jose Sharks before falling in the Western Conference finals to the eventual Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings.
Injuries were nothing new to him, considering he only played 40 games in 2006-2007 due to severed tendons in his wrist, and the aforementioned 18 games in 2008-2009 due to an ACL tear in his knee. But it appeared that years of hitting and fighting, along absorbing punches, slashes and cross-checks in opponent’s creases, had finally caught up to the battle-scarred Old Morrow, a player that epitomized the definition of the word “warrior.”
Now 33 years old (although certainly much more than that in hockey years, considering his style of play), Morrow is faced with uncertainty in his near future. Going beyond concerns about his health, he only has one year remaining on his contract. Regardless of whether he plays in the NHL, Europe, or not at all, due to ongoing CBA negotiations, Morrow will have to decide if he’ll call it a career once his contract is up and let his body get some much-needed recovery time, or play through the pain and continue trying to win the Stanley Cup, a reward that has eluded him so far.
But Morrow has never been known for taking the easy route. He’s battled through injuries before and returned to being a dominant player, even as recently as 2010-2011, when he scored a career high in goals at 33. It would be a surprise to no one that’s followed Morrow’s history if next season wont be his last.
The Stars, as an organization, have continued to build their team through the best and worst of their grizzled leader. They now boast an impressive and deep crop of young forwards, and made a huge splash this offseason with the acquisitions of Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy. Dallas can now ice a Top 6 without Morrow, leaving him less exposed to the pressure of the enemy’s top shutdown specialists and less sorely missed if injuries again befall him.
After years of tough rebuilding the team feels that they are on the cusp of something great, and a season of Old Morrow, through offensive production and leadership both on and off the ice, would certainly give the Stars the extra push that they need to take things to the next level. And for a player that’s worked and willed his way to a series of impressive accomplishments, including an Olympic Gold Medal, it would only be fitting to have him fight through the pain again to once more be a part of something great.