With forward T.J. Oshie returning to the St. Louis Blues’ lineup Saturday, the club made a somewhat surprising decision to scratch veteran winger Brenden Morrow. The 35-year-old was dealing with a foot injury sustained last week and saw 16:36 of ice time on Thursday, so the move could have been strictly injury-related, particularly considering that he did not even come onto the ice for pregame warmups.
With that said, it would not have been overly surprising if Morrow was removed for performance reasons, either. Though he is a trusted veteran and goes way back with coach Ken Hitchcock, who coached him with the Dallas Stars from 1999-2002, Morrow had the least productive full season of his NHL career this year and has not done a whole lot to separate himself from the pack. He certainly hasn’t been bad, finishing with a positive plus-minus rating and 13 goals, but with him often being relegated to third and fourth line checking roles this season, he does not always bring as much to the fold as bigger, quicker and younger players like Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi, and Dmitrij Jaskin can.
It would be a bit coldhearted for the Blues to continue to sit Morrow throughout the playoffs, particularly since he stayed strong for 71 games during the regular season. With that said, the Blues will have to take another player out of the lineup soon if David Backes is not hurt too severely and center Patrik Berglund is cleared to return. The team has gotten significant contributions from third and fourth line players like Porter, Ryan Reaves, Maxim Lapierre and Adam Cracknell recently, and it would be difficult to take one of them out of the lineup. Veteran center Derek Roy has not done a whole lot, but he is an established veteran and made a few positive contributions on Saturday. Morrow, on the other hand, was rather nondescript in Game 1, taking just one shot and registering four hits in limited ice time. As usual, he saw some time on the power play, but he did not really make any visible impact on that unit.
It very well could be beneficial to stick Morrow back into the lineup, particularly in the pressure situations provided by playoff games on the road. However, it might be sensible for the Blues to have a serious conversation about continuing to limit Morrow’s time this postseason and make sure that they are putting the most competitive lineup out there on a game-to-game basis.