Centers of Attention

photo: Getty Images

If newly acquired center Brendan Morrison truly "has a clean bill of health" and "will be back and be skating well and feeling strong" next season, the 2009-10 Capitals may have something they haven't had in quite some time - a pair of legitimate goal-scoring threats at center. After all, Morrison averaged 21.8 goals for the five seasons leading up to his injury-riddled 2007-08 campaign, and scored at a 26-goal pace after he was traded to Dallas three-quarters of the way through last season (his return to form was not surprising, either, given that Morrison noted on Friday, "I felt the last 20 games of the season my legs started to come back").

Add a healthy Morrison to the ever-improving Nicklas Backstrom (who lit the lamp 22 times a season ago) and the Caps should have pretty decent fire power down the middle, a rarity in Washington for nearly two decades. To wit, back in 1992-93, the Caps had a trio of 20-goal-scoring pivots: Mike Ridley (who had 26 tallies), Michal Pivonka (21) and Dale Hunter (20). Since then, however, the team has only had a half-dozen individual 20-goal seasons from centers (no matter how he's listed, Brooks Laich is a wing in our book), and no two in the same campaign. Here's the list, chronologically:


Season Player Goals
1993-94 Mike Ridley
26
2000-01 Jeff Halpern
21
2002-03 Robert Lang
22
2003-04 Robert Lang
30
2005-06 Dainius Zubrus
23
2008-09 Nicklas Backstrom
22

(Note: Twenty-nine of Lang's goals in 2003-04 were scored prior to being traded from Washington to Detroit. Additionally, Adam Oates' 22-goal 1996-97 season isn't included here, as only four of those goals were scored as a Cap.)

Of course, the Caps have had plenty of productive playmaking pivots over that 15-season span, but a 20-goal center every 2.5 seasons, on average? Not impressive, and even less impressive when compared to the rest of the League - since 1992-93, there have been 548 individual 20-goal seasons by centers (at least nominally), and Caps have accounted for just 1.09% of those (and there weren't many near misses by Caps pivots, either - one 19-goal season, a couple of 18's and so on).

Morrison may or may not be "the answer," but in a Conference featuring teams with impressive trios of centers (Crosby, Malkin and Staal in Pittsburgh; Richards, Carter and Briere in Philly; Savard, Krecji and Bergeron in Boston; etc.), it's nice to have at least a second scoring center in D.C. Then again, we all thought the Caps were sitting pretty with Backstrom, Michael Nylander and Sergei Fedorov down the middle last year, so perhaps we'll hold off counting those chickens for a little longer.

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