DALLAS — LW Brenden Morrow announced his retirement Thursday in Dallas, where it all started for him nearly two decades ago.
And it was fitting that the Lightning was in town for the announcement. Tampa Bay was where Morrow's impressive career ended last season, two wins shy of his elusive first Stanley Cup.
"It wasn't the Peyton Manning finish. I got close," Morrow, 37, said, smiling. "The game has changed so much. It's gotten so fast. But I really did enjoy my time with those young kids."
Morrow said his biggest disappointment in his 15-season career — 13-plus spent with Dallas, which drafted him in the first round in 1997, — is never winning a Cup, saying it'll "eat at me for a while." But during an emotional 10-minute speech, Morrow thanked all the people who helped him go from a farm boy from Saskatchewan to an NHL star. His best line was about his wife, Ann-Marie, saying she's so tough, "I wish she were my winger."
Morrow got to catch up with some former Lightning teammates, who presented him with a replica Prince of Wales Trophy, given to the Eastern Conference champions, in the dressing room before the game. Tampa Bay lauded Morrow's impact, albeit in just one season, with captain Steven Stamkos saying the veteran helped him become a better leader, teaching him how to pick his spots to speak up.
"He just brought that veteran presence, a great leader, just a great person," Stamkos said. "We got to go on a great playoff run with him. To see what he brought, that calmness, that character, competitiveness. You knew what you were going to get from him. It was even extra motivation having him on the team going through that stretch trying to win a championship."
STEPPING UP: C Cedric Paquette (lower body) returned to the lineup in the 4-3 loss to the Stars after missing two games. But RW Mike Blunden, called up when Paquette got hurt, remained with the team and in the lineup. With C Valtteri Filppula (upper body) out until at least next week, Blunden continues to get opportunities to play, even over RW Jonathan Marchessault, who was scratched along with D Matt Carle.
"He's having a positive impact on our team," coach Jon Cooper said of Blunden. "And I think if you look at some of the things we've needed is a little bit more size up front, a little grit, especially when you have some of these injuries go down. We've kind of wanted to bulk up a little up front. And when Blunden has been in there in the past, he's given us that extra little burst in the offensive zone, and the way he's competed, taking bodies, (he has) just kind of generally been a pain in the (butt). When you can have a few of those guys mixed into your lineup, especially our team, it's kind of a fit."
DRYING UP: With the Lightning power play entering Thursday in an 0-for-19 slump, Cooper quipped that it was drying up like the desert. In one of its new wrinkles, 6-foot-7 C Brian Boyle was inserted to give a net front presence. "He's got a really good stick. He's really skilled and can tip pucks," Cooper said. "As we try to generate more shots, we are hoping his presence down there can help."