It wasn’t long ago when Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison were the talk of the league. They were arguably the best line in hockey during the 2002-03 season as the trio not only set career highs, but collectively posted 119 goals and 133 assists for 252 points. Not bad for one line. But since the lockout and the Steve Moore incident, every single one of their careers began to go downhill with a heap of steam.
Today, Todd Bertuzzi is still searching for a team to sign with for the upcoming season, Markus Naslund has announced his retirement, and Brendan Morrison is signed up to play for his fourth team since the start of the 2007-08 season after finding his way through trades and waiver claims. It’s difficult to imagine the 34 year olds career to start elevating once again at this stage.
The main critical assement of the trios abilities on and off the ice start and end with the Steve Moore incident. It took place on February 16th of 2004, and following the lockout, none could return to their previous dominance on the ice. Bertuzzi was shipped off to Florida, hoping for a change of scenery, but constant injury problems plagued his career in the Sunshine State. He was then dealt to the Red Wings for a cup run, in which he posted 3 goals in 16 games. Bertuzzi was considered washed out and past his prime. A free agency signing with Anaheim watched the veteran power forward hit a 40 point season, followed by a year with the Calgary Flames with a 15 goal and 44 point campaign.
Naslund’s goal totals continued to drop on a year to year basis after the Moore incident. He fell out of the 40+ goal plateau, into a legitimate 30 goal man, but only 2 years after the unfortunate occurance, Naslund watched his performance dip to a high of 25 goals and no more than 60 points. After one season into his two year deal with the Rangers, Naslund had enough and retired from the game in North America.
Brendan Morrison has found it difficult discovering any sort of chemistry with any team he’s played for, including the Canucks, the very team he thrived under after that night on February 16th of 2004. Only once in the last four years has he broken the 20 goal plateau, and while he’s known for his playmaking abilities, he’s only mustered up 56 assists in his last 120 games. But many believe he still has a chance to be an effective second line player in the NHL. After being claimed on waivers by the Dallas Stars at the deadline, Morrison posted 6 goals and 3 assists in his final 19 games, nearly matching his 10 goal performance throughout his 62 games playing for Anaheim.
The Washington Capitals and their fans know it won’t be the 2002-03 Morrison that will be showing up to play on their 2nd line, but they sure would be pleased if he could get a few more years out of his career by breaking out of his 4 year rut. Morrison still has the touch, it’s just a matter of his lack of confidence over shadowing his talent.
Micheal A. Aldred