Thursday, July 24, 2008

Morrisonn Testing The Arbitration Waters

Shaone Morrisonn's arbitration hearing is scheduled for today. It basically will decide one of two things for both Morrisonn and the Caps. Either his salary for the '08 - '09 season or if he will become an unrestricted free agent.

These hearings can be tough to take for players to go through. Basically you have to sell yourself to the arbitrator while your team tears you down. Some players will come out of a hearing with hurt feelings or bad attitude toward management. So let's take a closer look at Shaone's contributions and his weaknesses.

The positives: Shaone's play has been, if anything, consistent. While his offensive numbers are at the bottom of the Caps list of talent, it's really his defensive play that keeps him in the top four defensemen, if not the top 2. He finished the last three years in the + column (+7 in '06, +3 in '07, +4 in '08). Morrisonn had pluses on a team that finished last in the division in the last two seasons.

Morrisonn has played 76+ games in each of last three seasons, which makes him dependable. He has been able to avoid the injury bug missing a combined total of 12 games in the last three years. Which means very rarely is Shaone a healthy scratch. That makes him coachable and trustworthy of the coaching staff to make the line up just about every night. He was third this season for ice time behind Mike Green and Tom Poti.

The most important positive, I think, would be his chemistry with Green. Being a solid stay-at-home defenseman has allowed Green to play more offensively. A good part of Green's success is attributed to Morrisonn's play in covering him.

The negatives: It's easy to point to the score card and see that his production total isn't that great. Shaone's point totals have declined in each of his last three seasons with just 10 points recorded last season. Clearly he isn't breaking any records for goals or assists, which is troubling since Morrisonn does see his fair share of powerplay time. His playoff stats where not very good either. Zero points and a -3 for the series.

I would like to see Morrisonn use his size and speed a bit more. There are times when Morrisonn is caught looking at the play and not covering his man. He is also quick to ice or dump the puck instead of head manning it. His ice awareness has to improve he wants to continue to be lined up against the league's number one lines. That increase in awarness would also help his point totals out.

The most important negative, the Caps just might not need him anymore. With Karl Alzner in the fold, they have a far more sound defensemen that will be going through training camp this fall. While Morrisonn may have the experience, Alzner could also fill in that chemistry role with Green and frankly his ice awareness and defensive positioning is much more impressive than Morrisonn's.

Katie Cerrera explains a bit about the process on Tarik's blog:
Things that are brought into consideration according to the CBA: pure statistical performance, injuries, "leadership qualities" and "public appeal." Both sides typically use player comparisons as a significant portion of their argument. The arbitrators aren't allowed to consider the financial situation of the team, the team's salary cap room or lack thereof or newspaper columns.

Brooks Laich went through arbitration last year which awarded the forward a bit of a raise. My feelings are Morrisonn will be awarded somewhere around a $1 - $1.5 million for a year. He earned $900,000 last season.

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