The grand plight of the Calgary Flames is perfectly embodied by their No. 1 center; there’s no assurance today’s success is a harbinger of a bright future, but the ride sure is fun right now.
That man in the middle, of course, is Brendan Morrison, who is providing about the best value of any free agent who signed last summer. Actually, it was early fall when former Flames GM Darryl Sutter inked Morrison, one day after he was released from a training camp invite by the team he once starred for, the Vancouver Canucks.
The opportunity existed in Calgary because that team has been in search of a No. 1 center for about a decade now. I doubt anybody – including Sutter and Morrison – expected that’s what the Flames were getting when Morrison signed, but then again, exactly what part of Calgary’s season has been predictable?
Morrison, who’s playing between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the top trio, has been a huge factor in Calgary resurrecting its season. When the Flames woke up Jan. 21, they sat 14th in the Western Conference standings and eight points out of the final playoff spot. Since then they are 13-2-3 and appear as good a bet as anyone to nab one of the five post-season seeds not occupied by Vancouver, Detroit or San Jose in the West. Morrison had 21 points over that season-altering 18-game stretch, putting him on pace for 54 this year. That’s a far cry from the kind of high-end total you need from a top pivot, but considering Sutter (give the man some credit here) signed him to a one-year, $725,000 deal just three days before the season started, it’s fair to say things have worked out well.
To give you an idea of the value Calgary is getting from Morrison, consider the fact that if he does finish with 54 points, the Flames will have paid him about $13,425 per point. Calgary’s Heritage Classic adversary, the Montreal Canadiens, are paying Scott Gomez $8 million in actual salary this season and, given he’s on pace for 40 points, that means the Habs shell out $200,000 for every point they get from Gomez. That figure represents just more than one-quarter of Morrison’s total salary.
Getting back to the original point, the Flames have invigorated their fan base with this great run and the club’s first playoff round victory since losing in the 2004 final could be within reach. Still, there’s major concerns about where the team is headed long-term given its true difference-makers - Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff - are creeping up in age and the fact Calgary ranked 27th in our annual and soon-to-be-released Future Watch issue, which ranks teams based on the strength of their 21-and-under prospects.
Morrison is a huge part of the solution right now, but a knee injury incurred Wednesday night could derail that solution if the setback proves to be of the serious nature, so don’t expect the Flames to call off that mission to find a stud middleman just yet. As for Morrison, who knows what the summer will bring for him as a 35-year-old UFA coming off quite a bounce-back season?
Just one more reason for all involved to enjoy the moment.
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