The Philadelphia Flyers have a problem on their blue line. Only this time, it’s a good problem to have.
They’ve had eight defensemen on their NHL roster for the first four games of the season, including three rookies. Robert Hagg has played in every game thus far, Travis Sanheim has played in all but one, and Sam Morin has yet to crack the lineup.
Ahead of them are Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Radko Gudas, who undoubtedly belong in the lineup, and then veterans Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning, who should be on the bubble.
It’s a tough situation for the Flyers to be in. Sure, it’s easy to say that the three rookies should be in the lineup, and that’s not necessarily wrong. However, Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol, and the rest of the decision makers on the Flyers, and around the league as well, put stock into veterans with experience.
Morin is more talented than Andrew MacDonald, and definitely Brandon Manning, but the veteran status of MacDonald keeps him in the lineup, and it’d be better suited for Morin to be sent to the AHL (if they eventually decide that) than stay as the seventh defenseman over Manning.
The hulking defenseman isn’t happy with the situation, but he’s doing his best to remain positive and use it as a learning tool.
“It’s my first time in my career I am a healthy scratch,” Morin said. He’s not going to sugarcoat it. “It’s been hard. What else I can do? My preseason was pretty good. I didn’t play on this road trip, I think it’s normal I’m pretty upset.”
But Morin isn’t going to dwell on this past week. He’s only going to use it as motivation.
“I just need to keep working hard and see what’s gonna happen. There’s not much I can do right now, honestly. It’s out of my control. I try to stay positive, but it’s hard because you don’t play, but I try to stay positive and work hard.”
Morin expressed that, like every other player, he wants to be in the lineup. And he has a good way of looking at it.
“As a player you always want to be out there. I think it’s normal. If I would be happy with my situation right now I think it’s not normal,” he said.
But he knows that all he can do is keep working hard.
“Those things are out of my control a bit. It’s the last game of the road trip then we go home, so we’re going to see what happens. But I just want to play hockey, it’s my passion, so being out of the lineup is tough.”
Positivity is key for Morin. And although he’s frustrated that he’s not in the lineup, he’s doing everything he can to stay positive.
“I try to just stay positive and learn from those guys up here. Guys are being great with me. It’s hard to be out of the lineup but they’re being very nice with me.”
If the Flyers opt to send Morin down after tonight’s road trip finale, this won’t be a lost week for Morin. Sure, he didn’t play in a game, but he learned about the NHL experience. From practicing, to traveling with the team, and everything in between.
“I got a couple NHL experience for sure. I want to play in the NHL and I think with the camp I showed that I could play in this league.”
If he goes back to the Phantoms, he’s just going to keep doing what he’s best at
“If I go back in the AHL I just gotta work my ass off like I do all the time,” Morin said. “I just wanna play in the NHL. That’s my only expectation.”
It’s clear to some that Morin may be one of the top six defensemen on the roster, but it’s a matter of fit and a bit of a numbers game. Morin knows that the lineup is out of his control, but he’s using the scratches as a learning tool.
“It’s so tough to say. It’s out of my control honestly and I just need to try to stay positive. It’s really hard because it’s my first time being a healthy scratch,” he said.
He can learn from watching both the Flyers, but perhaps more importantly their opposition as well.
“But every time I’m in the stands I try to learn from those guys. For example in my first game I was watching [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic play, those defensive defensemen what they’re doing on the ice and everything. So I try to get the most of that experience.”
Vlasic is a pretty good defenseman to watch. He isn’t nearly as tall as Morin, then again who is, but he really burst onto the scene at the 2014 Olympics and has been well-respected around the league ever since.
Learning from the stands is good, but of course Morin wants to play.
“I want to play like every player. If I was happy with my situation right now, I don’t think it’d be normal. I really want to be in the lineup and I just gotta wait for my chance. And when I get it i’m going to prove to those guys that I deserve to play in the NHL.”
It’s tough to watch Morin struggle through these morning skates and you can see the frustration inside of him. He’ll never overly show it, as he went through the whole interview with a smile on his face, but his words said it all.
Morin wants to be in the lineup, and he should be in the lineup. However, since he isn’t in the lineup he can either use it as motivation and light a fire inside of him, or he can dwell on it and let it bring him down.
All signs point to Morin only using this a motivational tool and if he gets sent back down it won’t be for long. He’ll get top-pair minutes with the Phantoms and force his way into the Flyers lineup.
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