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Meltzer's Musings: Morin Update, Revisiting Weber

February 17, 2014, 2:10 PM ET [308 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Samuel Morin, the Flyers' first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, is having an up-and-down third season for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He is developing at an encouraging pace overall but there have been bumps along the path this season. There is still a long way for the 6-foot-7 defenseman to go before he'll be ready to be a minutes-eater in the NHL much less a potential franchise defenseman.

I have seen the "hype bubble" inflate and then break young first-round defensemen too many times over the years. The expectations are built too high and when the player almost inevitably hits the wall and struggles, the over-hype quickly turns into a rush to judge the player as a bust.

In the Philadelphia market especially -- where patience for a young player's growing pains is virtually non-existent among the ravenous fan base -- the 18-year-old Morin is at risk of being a casualty of "hype cycle" if he's rushed to the NHL too fast and if no one puts the brakes on expectations being too high.

Do you want to know the number one reason why the Flyers have historically developed few homegrown defensemen? It's because a) the development cycle simply takes too long for this market's tastes, b) the development is rarely a linear upward arrow and c) there are absolutely no guarantees that the years of time, energy and coaching poured into the young defenseman will result in him reaching the maximum potential projected in his draft year.

When a team goes into every season in "win now" mode, it's tough to oversee from beginning to end a process that routinely takes three to five years from a player's draft year. Even multi-talented teenage defensemen who come directly to the NHL have to go through their own learning curve at the pro level. For instance, Seth Jones is experiencing firsthand this season in Nashville that dominating junior hockey is something quite different from doing it against adults who are the best players in the world.

Morin's game in the Q this season has taken forward steps in several areas. I have seen nine of his QMJHL games this season via webcasts as well as the Super Series games he participated in, and I think he's coming along well. I also think he's still very much a work in progress and it could take time -- as is multiple years from now -- to see if he can become a dominant NHL player.

Three key areas:

1) Morin has begun the process of smoothing out some of the rough patches in his footwork, but this is not going to happen overnight. He's a good skater for such a big play, but there are still times where he looks awkward as he's crossing over. He'll end up sometimes on the wrong side of the dots and, unless he can use his long reach to break up the play, he'll get beaten.

2) Morin's first-pass ability and confidence in his shot continue to grow. While his seven goals, 18 assists and 25 points in 42 games this season are nothing special, Morin's season-to-season improvements in these areas are significant. He's a decided better now in these parts of his game than he was last season. There is a chance that Morin could be among the small minority of players who actually becomes a more productive offensive player at the pro level than he was as junior.

I think the comparisons to Chris Pronger are a pipedream right now from an offensive standpoint. Morin has never shown even half of Pronger's offensive pedigree at the same age.

Then again, who would predicted how much Zdeno Chara would develop offensively (or all-around) in his 20s? Based on his WHL play with Prince George and early pro years, Chara was as raw as could be before he put everything together in Ottawa and Boston. The New York Islanders got to experience all the growing pains and none of the later benefits.

3) Morin has dealt with his share of adversity of this season. This could actually be a blessing in disguise in the long term.

He's had a couple of suspensions from the Quebec League this season; most recently for breaking his stick in frustration and then throwing it in the stands at the end of a game. Morin has also had his share of plays where he's been a little too overeager to make plays with the puck or deliver big hits and pucks have ended up in the Rimouski net because of turnovers or Morin getting out position.

While these are not positive things in the short term, any hockey scout or coach will tell you that it's easier to calm an overzealous young player down -- he should mature over time anyway -- than it is to instill "compete level" in a player. Morin competes hard; every game, every shift. Even if he gets beaten, he does not give up on plays (a criticism that sometimes gets levied at second-round pick Robert Hägg in the Swedish Hockey League).

No one likes to sit out games or to hurt their team. Morin has the opportunity to take the adversity from these situations and make them into learning experiences. Again, it won't be an overnight process but the player has the right attitude and disposition to go along with his size and raw athleticism.

Lastly, it should be noted that Morin dealt with a hand injury early this season that kept him out of the lineup for awhile. He had a shoulder injury last season that kept him out for a prolonged period of time. Nevertheless, he's kept right on developing as a player.

Could Morin make the Flyers' NHL roster next season? It's possible. He's already under entry level contract and he made a good accounting of himself at the Flyers' training camp in September.

Personally speaking, though, I am in favor of being very conservative in the nurturing of a young defenseman. I'd be fine with the Flyers giving Morin one additional season in junior hockey and letting him take his shot at a spot on Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championships (he was not a serious WJC candidate this year). At age 20, I'd let his NHL entry-level contract start and bring him along slowly over his rookie and second pro seasons.

I would only want to see that process expedited if it's clear-cut that Morin is ready to handle the demands of the NHL game on a full-time basis. In truth, he's going to develop at his own pace. Rushing him to the Flyers won't make the desired end result come about sooner -- but it could hinder him.

Patience is in order with Morin. Over the long term, I think he's going to be a good NHL defenseman with some leadership potential. In the meantime, temper the short-term expectations.



Over on CSN Philly, Tim Panaccio tackled the often-asked question of whether the Flyers might be able to trade for Nashville Predators superstar defenseman Shea Weber now that he is two seasons into the 14-year, $110 million contract triggered by Nashville matching the Flyers' offer sheet to Weber when he was a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012.

I get asked that question frequently, too. My take on it is different than Tim's.

First of all, I think the chances of Nashville trading Weber this summer are very, very slim. By this summer, the Preds will have already knocked off $41 million of the $110 million contract. When they matched the Flyers' front-loaded offer (with the lockout looming and the signing bonus portion owed regardless), they did so with the intention of keeping their franchise player for the long haul.

My view on Weber is that the Flyers took their best shot at getting him. They put together an offer sheet that required the Predators' owners to go outside the team's budget and use their personal wealth -- with the understanding they wouldn't recoup it but also knowing that NOT matching the offer would be akin to admitting their franchise can't compete.

Once the offer was matched, the Weber ship sailed. I think the chances of the Predators trading him now are very slim. Yes, they have some other good defensemen. Roman Josi is a very good player in his own right. Seth Jones is just in the infancy of a career with enormous potential. It's also true that the Predators lack scoring forwards. However, that is probably NOT going to come at the expense of trading Weber.

Now, let's suppose I'm reading the situation all wrong. Let's say that David Poile actually would entertain offers for Weber this summer. He has the single hardest commodity to get in hockey -- a bonafide franchise defenseman in his prime, and the player is signed for 12 years to come with an increasingly manageable real-dollar salary in the years to come. With the salary cap ceiling about to shoot up in seasons to come, the cap hit isn't even as much of an issue (actually, the floor is a bigger issue).

If Poile were to be willing to trade Weber, he could just about name his price. The Flyers would be just one of the teams with major interest. While I don't think Poile would avoid trading Weber to Philly "on principle" because of the offer sheet of two years ago, he's certainly not going to take a lesser offer from Philly than he would from other teams.

Personally, there is no one player on the Flyers -- and that includes Claude Giroux -- whom I would consider absolutely untouchable if I were a general manager with the chance to land Weber. That does not mean I WOULD trade Giroux. It means I'd talk about it depending on the structure of the trade.

If it's basically a straight one-for-one trade, I'd have to give it some serious thought (and not because I'm eager to trade my team's best forward). If the Predators want more, the answer would be no. However, as a frame of reference, when the Flyers acquired Mark Howe, they had to part with their top scoring forward, Ken Linseman along with other components.

As far as putting together a trade package for Weber, I disagree with Tim that Morin should be an untouchable in all discussions. Again, it depends on what other pieces would be moving around in the theoretical trade.


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