Captain's return to ice sparks Dallas
Brenden Morrow's leadership style isn't suited to a suit.
Not that he didn't look good, dressed fashionably in a coat and tie as he watched most of the Dallas Stars' 2008-09 season from the press box after tearing his ACL last November.
But Morrow isn't the type of leader who gives a speech like Knute Rockne and then watches the boys charge out of the dressing room and onto the ice.
"Ranting and raving isn't really my style," Morrow said.
Nope. It's why having the captain back on the ice, helping to win hockey games by fearlessly going into those tough areas of the rink, is so critical for the Stars. All of that was on display Wednesday. Morrow charged the net, fought for loose pucks against the boards, punished opposing skaters against the boards and scored two goals in the Stars' 6-0 wipeout of Nashville.
"We need him on the ice, where he can show the young guys, even me, how to do it," forward Mike Ribeiro said. "He just shows us how to work out there. He's hungry for winning. He doesn't like it when we make a bad play and he gets rattled about it. That's good. He's a great example for everyone."
Perched above the ice at American Airlines Center, Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk watched Morrow put in the work on Wednesday. Nieuwendyk, a captain in Calgary for four seasons, sees the difference Morrow makes.
"Every team would love to have a guy that will lead you into the fight," Nieuwendyk said. "He does that. It's infectious to see him drive to the net and dig for pucks. When you don't have him out there, it's noticeable."
Morrow got tired of not being out there last season. He had 15 points in the first 18 games, and then his season ended before Thanksgiving. Morrow tore his ACL on a non-descript play against Chicago on Nov. 20. He even had a goal in the game.
The injury, which abruptly ended Morrow's season, made the Stars' 6-9-3 start seem even worse. Dallas tried to climb back in the playoff picture, but too many injuries and too many points to make up led to an early summer.
"It was a frustrating year," Morrow said. "It was a long time watching hockey, riding a bike, not really being able to have anything to do with the outcome of the game. To be able to be out there competing is what I missed and what I needed to be back doing."
Morrow rehabbed and returned for training camp this season, only to deal with nagging injuries as a result of not skating regularly for so long. But as soon as the season started Oct. 3, Morrow was ready. He has a team-leading four goals already and is tied for second in points with seven. The 30-year-old shows up on nearly every other good part of the scoresheet.
On Wednesday he had two hits, a takeaway, a blocked shot and a faceoff win (in his only faceoff of the game).
Asked to describe Morrow's game, defenseman Stephane Robidas began ticking off all facets of the game like a checklist.
"He's gritty, he's physical, he plays well defensively, score some big goals, makes some big hits and if he has to drop the gloves, he'll do it," Robidas said.
What isn't Morrow willing to do?
"He'll do it all," Robidas said. "That's why he's our captain."
Leading, as he prefers to do, on the ice.
Richard Durrett covers the Dallas Stars for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.