Ever since the 2013 NHL Draft, the Flyers thought they had the next Chris Pronger in their pipeline. The hulking 6 foot 7 inch, 225 pound Samuel Morin of Lac-Beauport, Quebec, Canada came in with expectations as high as the sky, but was soon grounded by injuries.
It’s been the story of his career thus far, missing Almost all of last year due to two separate injuries. Morin made his NHL debut on April 3rd, 2016 against the New Jersey Devils. A day later, he was loaned back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Midway through that same season, Morin had minor surgery to repair both of his wrists, but missed little to no games. He registered no points with the Flyers, but tallied 3 goals and 13 assists in 74 games with the Phantoms.
Training camp came along, and Morin, along with Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg, made the Flyers roster. After a handful of games being watched from the press box, Morin was sent back down to Lehigh Valley. Morin looked to be called up towards the end of October, but another nagging injury prevented the call up, and Mark Alt took his spot.
Morin finally got his second crack at the NHL, being called up on November 22, and playing in two games. Five days after his last game, he was sent back down to Lehigh Valley, where about a month and a half later, he was injured playing against Hershey in their outdoor game. Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post reported that he missed most of his time that year due to a “recurring groin issue.” Upon his return, Morin played in three Calder Cup playoff games, injuring himself once again during the third game. He has been rehabbing ever since.
Samuel Morin is an interesting case, but not a case of what could have been, yet. He’s only 23, and has two years remaining on a three year deal worth $700,000 per year. He is expected to be healthy by February of 2019, but it may be best to keep him on the shelf until the 2019-20 season, and here’s why.
So far this year, the Flyers have been absolutely underwhelming. Standing at 12-13-3 on the season, they’re sitting at 7th in a Metropolitan division that is heating up, and 15th out of 16 Eastern Conference teams. While most of the Eastern Conference is trending up, the Flyers are stuck in neutral, winning just about every other game and going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Why bring in a defender that has missed almost a whole year and risk him getting hurt again before next season, when realistically, he may crack the lineup as a regular on the blue line?
If the Flyers continue playing the way they currently are, there’s no point in rushing Morin back, especially to the NHL. It may be a greater benefit to send him down to the AHL, let him ease back into the lineup when he is comfortable, and get back up to game speed so he will be ready for the 2019-20 training camp.
New GM, New Plan
As many have speculated, new Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is looking to make improvements to the team right now, and that may include a top 4 defenseman to pair with young stud Ivan Provorov.
Yeah the Flyers will be on the hunt for a top-four defenseman. Fletcher hinted that yesterday.
— Jamey Baskow (@JameyBaskow) December 5, 2018
If Fletcher is in the hunt for said defenseman, it may make even less sense to bring back Morin. If they acquire a defenseman, the Flyers will have Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Andrew MacDonald, Christian Folin, Radko Gudas, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg. There’s no more room for another defenseman on the roster if that were the case.
AHL’ers Waiting in the Wings
There are no shortage of prospects in the Flyers’ system that are ready to make prove they belong in the NHL. Philippe Myers, most notably, is at the point where a call up to the NHL isn’t too farfetched. Mark Friedman is another candidate for a call-up who could be a serviceable plug-and-play type of defenseman. Seasoned veteran T.J. Brennan and Reece Willcox are also two names to keep an eye on if the Flyers sustain some injuries to the blue line.
The Flyers have the luxury of having some players waiting in the wings if they need to fill a hole on the defensive side of the puck. There’s no need to rush Morin back if they have players readily available to slot in when needed.
Some extra time for Morin may be better than getting him up to speed as soon as possible. With a return date of mid February, Morin could see the ice as soon as then. However, we learned the hard way last year that if rushed back too soon, the giant blue liner could sustain another injury that would stunt his development even more than it already has been.
Time will tell what the Flyers and Chuck Fletcher will do with the 23 year old defender, but it may be in their best interest to keep him up in the press box for the time being, ensuring that he is 100% and ready to go at the beginning of next season, when the Flyers may be ready to welcome him to their club in a more permanent role. And hey, if you don’t believe me, just give this article that I wrote last season a read.
If you check the date, this article was published a few days before Morin took the ice, and tore his ACL, ending his AHL season and keeping him on the sidelines for the foreseeable future. I’m not saying I was write last time, but this time, heeding this warning may benefit the club this time around.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports