Philadelphia Flyers: Cross-training Samuel Morin is ‘forward’-thinking

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Samuel Morin could pull double-duty for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2021.

On New Year’s Eve, news broke that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Samuel Morin was undergoing a position change of sorts, shifting his services to the offensive side of the ice to try his hand at left wing.

In theory, this is a weird move.

The 11th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Morin was selected to become the Flyers’ next big-bodied defenseman, but after suffering a pair of season-ending ACL-tears, that career path quickly became derailed. With six defensemen basically locked on to not only make Philly’s roster but fill out their defensive rotation in 2021, Morin rapidly found himself the odd man out on a team that was originally supposed to be ‘his’ one day.

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That sort of unfortunate string of events could sink the career of any 25-year-old,  But for the Flyers, the team instead tried to turn garbage into gold – to paraphrase their Wells Fargo Center neighbors – and give their former first-round pick a new lease on life as a born again left-winger.

That’s right, 2021 is the year to just get weird with it.

So yeah, on paper, this is a weird move but not one solely made out of desperation.

According to the man himself, Chuck Fletcher, the Flyers have been looking for some sandpaper in their bottom-six for some time, telling The Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi, “… to have Sam as part of our group and with that size and that physicality, [this is the best option]. He’s been working for a couple (of) months on this transition and working at it, and we think there’s a realistic chance he can positively impact our team in that role.”

Fletcher also compared Morin to Islanders left wing Matt Martin, whom the 25-year-old former defenseman has been studying during the offseason. Like Morin, Martin is a big-bodied hitter who’s more than willing to lay down his shoulder and spent roughly 12 percent of his ATOI in the penalty box.

If Morin can average 250-plus hits a game over the next decade, I imagine he’ll develop a similar cult status to Martin in the City of Brotherly Love.

To make matters all the more intriguing, the idea of carrying a combo defender/winger on the Flyers’ active roster could be a deceptively big advantage. If, hockey gods forbid, the Flyers suffer a string of illnesses that sends half of their defensemen on short-term IR or a COVID-exempt list (however the NHL opts to handle things), Morin could surely provide decent minutes on the blueline if his number gets called – an advantage few other teams can boast.

Whether Morin lands on the Flyers’ active roster or has to pass through waivers to land on the team’s Taxi Squad, that’s still valuable.

But as Fletcher put it in his media availability, this move is about Morin helping the Flyers right now, an opportunity I imagine he’ll be fully afforded over the team’s training camp. If Morin can beat out Michael Raffl for the Flyers’ fourth line left wing, great. If he struggles and is instead sent to the Taxi Squad to continue to work on his new position and patiently await an emergency call up, that’s great too. Objectively speaking, this move has very little downside no matter how you slice it.

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Is transforming a former top-15 pick into a fourth-line power forward great value? Goodness no, but at this point, thinking about Samuel Morin as a former first-round pick is the wrong way to look at things. Morin’s value is sunk whether he plays one more game or 100 in a Philadelphia Flyers jersey. What the team needs to do, however, is try to put their players in the best position to succeed moving forward. If they firmly believe Morin can thrive in a fourth-line forward role, why not see if it can get the oft-injury 25-year-old back on the ice?