Countdown to camp: Joe Morrow
Countdown to camp: Joe Morrow
From now until the beginning of training camp, CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Joe Morrow.
There will be no shortage of opportunities for young defensemen this season for the Bruins. That should bode well for Joe Morrow and Colin Miller. It’s make-or-break time for the 23-year-old Morrow with the Bruins: he’s on his third organization as a former first-round pick and Morrow has yet to really put together a dominant pro season in the AHL or NHL, despite showing plenty of the requisite skill needed. This will be his fourth season with the Bruins and now is the time to step up and become the puck-moving defenseman for all situations that he was projected to be five years ago.
What happened last year
Morrow had his best NHL season with a goal and seven points in 33 games, but he was also a minus-7 while averaging just 15:54 of ice time as a bottom pairing candidate on most nights. Morrow has all the tools from a skating, shooting, passing and size/strength perspective, and certainly looks like a former first-round pick when you watch him skating in practice. But the young D-man is still prone to costly mistakes that end with the puck in the back of his own net. He hasn’t found a way to translate his solid skill level into a positive impact. Simply stated, Morrow seems to disappear quite a bit when he’s on the ice rather than taking control of situations while letting his varied skills help the Bruins. Morrow is less than what he can become in the NHL at this point. That needs to change if he wants to stay in the league. It’s also something that can be common with young D-men that are slow to develop.
Questions to be answered this season
Morrow has plenty to answer. He needs to show that his game is about more than flashes, glimpses and potential. He'll get a greater chance to perform than he did last season in just 33 games for the Black and Gold, but he also needs to seize it in a way that he hasn't been able to the past two seasons. The Bruins need Morrow to step up in a subpar defenseman corps, but there are a number of young D-men that are about to pass him on the organizational depth chart this season if he can’t step up. Morrow may have been holding back a bit in order to play the safe, responsible system that coach Claude Julien prefers, but the young D-man needs to play more to his offensive strengths if he’s going to stick with Boston.
What they're saying
“Both [Joe Morrow and Colin Miller] were key contributors last season. Joe Morrow is a former first-round pick with good size, and good strength. He’ll be challenged to continue that development, and also earn the opportunity to prove that he can do more. Colin just had an outstanding year two years ago in Manchester in the AHL. He was a key piece of a trade and he came in and demonstrated during his duty in the NHL that he can contribute offensively. He’s a tremendous skater, and he’s really competitive with a good shot. We think there’s really big upside for both players, and they’re going to get a chance to earn more ice time than they got last year. It will be available to the, and we’re certainly really happy to get those deals done. Sometimes goalies and defensemen can take a little more time. I’ve seen a lot of players spend too little time in the American Hockey League, but I haven’t seen too many that have spent too much time developing there. They continue to get better as pros. The main thing is that they’re ready when their opportunity comes, and that they earn it.” –Bruins Executive Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr.
Morrow has clear offensive talent and all the skills needed to move the puck. That’s why he’s still with the Bruins. He also has the size and strength to win battles in the defensive zone and play in pretty much all situations. But Morrow needs to put it all together, improve his focus and attention to detail in all zones and play more like a young man who is taking advantage of one of his last, best chances to establish himself in the NHL. Everything is there for the Edmonton native to grab a job with a Bruins team that desperately needs a young player or two to step up, but that’s exactly the same situation they were in with Morrow and Miller last season. The Bruins opted to bring Morrow back this season after so-so results last year, but that isn’t going to happen again if he can’t show major signs of improvement in his second full NHL season. It’s mind-blowing to imagine that Morrow is the last player still in the Bruins organization remaining from the Tyler Seguin deal in 2013. He needs to start playing more like the player they thought they were getting in that trade.