Jeremy Morin just wants to play. Just needs to play.
And it’s becoming increasingly likely that won’t happen in Chicago.
Two sources told the Sun-Times that Morin is unhappy with his situation with the Blackhawks and is asking to be traded if there’s no spot for him in the lineup. Morin has been a healthy scratch for eight straight games, and with Patrick Sharp expected to return to a deep and crowded lineup on Tuesday in New Jersey, there’s little hope for Morin to get back on the ice anytime soon.
A source said Morin’s camp has made his position known to Hawks general manager Stan Bowman.
Morin, a 23-year-old 2009 second-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers who was acquired by the Hawks in the 2010 trade that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to Atlanta, has spent parts of each of the last five seasons with the Hawks, but has been unable to entrench himself in the lineup.
After making cameos in each of his first three seasons, Morin had five goals and six assists in 24 games last season with the Hawks, but appeared in just two playoff games. In 15 games this season, he has yet to register a point despite strong possession numbers in limited minutes. A skilled offensive player with a physical edge, Morin has never managed to gain Hawks coach Joel Quenneville’s trust on the ice.
“It’s not easy, for sure, but at the same time there’s nothing positive or good coming from being frustrated and getting down on yourself,” Morin told the Sun-Times last month. “It doesn’t help anybody out, it doesn’t help yourself out, and you’re not going to get where you want to be. I want to be here every night, and to do that, I need to work through it and just work through all those times when I’m not playing, and make the most of when I am.”
It hasn’t been easy for Hawks prospects — even highly regarded ones such as Morin — to crack the NHL lineup in recent seasons. For every Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad and Ben Smith, there’s a Brandon Pirri (now in Florida), Jimmy Hayes (Florida), Dylan Olsen (Florida) and Ryan Stanton (Vancouver). The lack of NHL opportunities, particularly for forwards, is believed to be a big reason why touted prospect Kevin Hayes (Jimmy’s younger brother) spurned the Hawks for the New York Rangers after wrapping up his stellar career at Boston College.
Morin signed a two-year, one-way contract worth an average of $800,000 a year over the summer. So he would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the American Hockey League, and likely would be picked up by another team with the Hawks getting nothing in return. So shuttling him back and forth from Rockford — as he has been for the past few years, and as other forwards such as Joakim Nordstrom and Peter Regin have been, as well — isn’t an option, either.
“I think he wants to play,” Quenneville said on Friday. “We’re telling him you’ve got to treat your practices like games and get everything you can out of those skates and get ready kind of like in that backup role, where you could be pressed in there. Then when you’re in, you don’t want to come out.”
Getting in is the hard part, though. And he might have to get out of town to do so.