In defense of Jeremy Morin
Jeremy Morin has followed a similar career path as Brandon Pirri, bouncing between the minors and big league club and never really sticking or making consistent contributions. Pirri was traded to Florida, and many thought Morin would be the next out of Rockford. Instead, he’s making his case for the playoffs, and it’s a good one. After scoring four goals in the last five games, Morin was spotted at Tuesday’s practice with a white practice jersey on- which means he’s a ‘5th line guy’ or healthy scratch. This should not happen.
Here’s why Morin deserves to be in the Game 1 lineup:
Ride the hot hand
Playoffs are all about timing and who’s hot when. The 2012 LA Kings were mediocre throughout the regular season, but they caught fire when they needed to and stomped all over their competitors en route to their first franchise Stanley Cup. Morin right now has been a bright spot in the Hawks lineup. If your bottom-6 guys are producing, then that’s a dangerous sign for opponents. Keeping Morin in while he’s playing well should play into Q’s system of rewarding guys who improve and make use of their ice time: Brandon Bollig has seen his role increase this year as his skill set has grown, whereas Viktor Stalberg saw his ice time decrease last year when his productivity was on the decline.
Youth over experience
If Morin is in, it means another Blackhawk regular is out, and it’s up to Coach Q to make that decision. With that in mind, there’s 2 likely candidates: Kris Versteeg and Michal Handzus. For me, I pick Versteeg to stay in the lineup, though it’s a close call. While Handzus provides veteran experience and a center option, Versteeg can play that center role as well, and Handzus isn't quite as young or quick as he used to be. You can't keep a guy strictly for 'leadership' or experience. This is a team filled with leaders with playoff experience from top to bottom. If anything, Morin should be raring to prove himself in his first NHL postseason, and provide a spark that may be able to get the Hawks going against a tough, physical team.
Morin is known for being a sniper in the AHL- he’s got a pretty wicked wrister and some sick hands when he gets space and times it right. But he’s also known to be physical when he needs to, and Hawks fans have seen that he’s not afraid to mix it up and drop the gloves to get the crowd going or answer for a teammate. Morin is a player who could easily play on the top line with Jonathan Toews (if the opportunity arises) but can also play comfortably on the second, third, or fourth lines as well. He brings a physical aspect to every line and can play a supporting role or create space for his linemates. Q loves to get the line-blender going whenever he thinks things aren’t going right, and Morin gives him a winger he can slot in anywhere- perfect. And hey, if things don’t work out and Morin starts to tank, he can always double-shift Patrick Kane, right?
It’s likely that we don’t see Morin in Game 1, and that’s a shame. It’s especially difficult because of the forward depth that Chicago has- Morin would likely be in a consisent lineup if he wasn’t in Chicago. But Q says he likes tough decisions, and this is a prime example of one. It’s going to be hard to sit a veteran center like Handzus, who’s been consistent and safe all year. But safe doesn’t win the games, goals do. And there’s been nobody better in that regard lately than Morin.
Here’s the lines that have been spotted at practice in the last couple of days:
Here’s how my lines would look with Morin instead of Handzus:
Andrew Shaw played between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp when Toews and Kane were out, and Morin on the top line allows Versteeg to center the third, a role he may be more comfortable in. Morin has also played with Brandon Saad in Rockford before, but if you really want to panic, we can just flip Kane and Morin- problem solved.
Morin has been deserving of a chance for a couple years now. I never thought I'd say it, but this is his time to break into the playoff scene and show the Hawks that all those years of development and waiting in the minors meant something.