When you’ve lost five games in a row, sometimes you’ve gotta just do something.
Today, the Flyers did something!
The news that Samuel Morin will be joining the team is, ultimately, not that surprising. First of all, there were reports from last night’s game that Mark Alt left the Wells Fargo Center with his bags, a sign that he was likely headed back up 476 to Allentown. Second, as we discussed on Sunday night in the wake of Radko Gudas’ suspension, the lineup fit for Morin is a sensical one sans-Gudas:
Stylistically, it’d be hard for them to find a better Gudas “replacement” than Samuel Morin, who has been down in Lehigh Valley since mid-October. Morin’s a left-handed shot, so he can’t replace Gudas in that sense, but he’s a big (6’7”, to be exact), physical defensive defenseman who can skate well and play on the penalty kill. That checks off a lot of the boxes in terms of what Gudas successfully brought to the table. Plus, he has some experience playing with Travis Sanheim, who has primarly been paired up with Gudas during his brief NHL career; the two young defensemen spent a lot of time sharing the ice last season with the Phantoms.
The Flyers showed their hand a little bit in October, announcing that Morin had been called up in light of an injury to Shayne Gostisbehere. It was later revealed that Morin was never actually called up to the NHL roster, likely due to an injury that he didn’t initially disclose to the team. Still, by announcing that Morin was to be called up, the Flyers essentially revealed that they were prepared to give Morin some time at the NHL level. If they’re still comfortable with that, the Flyers’ brass may not have a better chance than it does right now, since Morin is healthy and playing hockey again.
With Alt gone (the Flyers noted that he had been sent to the Phantoms) and with Andrew MacDonald still apparently not ready to come back from injury, it appears all but certain that Morin will be in the lineup tonight against the Islanders. (Unless he’s hiding an injury from the team again. Sorry, too soon?) Where he’ll be in the lineup is a question we’ll have an answer to closer to game time — does the team put him with Sanheim and keep its other two pairs in place, or does it throw all three pairs in the blender? We’ll see.
The more interesting call-up here is that of Danick Martel. Unless there’s a mysterious injury we haven’t learned about yet, Martel’s newfound presence at the NHL level appears to be some combination of a reward to him and a wake-up call to the rest of the forwards on the roster. Martel, in his third year with the Phantoms after being signed as an overage undrafted free agent in early 2015, got off to a ridiculously hot start with the Phantoms this year, so much so that at the time of this writing he not only leads the AHL in goals with 14 (through 17 games), he’s got three more than anyone else.
Also, courtesy of Brad Keffer’s Phantoms tracking, Martel actually leads all Phantoms forwards in 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage, so while his goal-scoring numbers were likely to cool off at some point (Martel was probably not going to shoot 28 percent forever), there are signs that Martel’s on-ice successes are sustainable to at least some extent.
It’s quite a jump for Martel, who didn’t even make the cut in our 25 Under 25 this past summer and who we described back in September as “someone who may just spend his career as a good AHL player [...] that never gets a real shot at the NHL.” His selection over other options such as Oskar Lindblom, who’s getting his feet under him after a slow start to his North American career, and Mike Vecchione, who has 18 points in his first 17 professional games and has been serving up assists on many of those Martel goals, shows that the team is confident in his performance so far this year.
The move hopefully will invigorate a Flyers forward group that has been totally punchless in the last three weeks. The last time a Flyers forward scored a goal without any of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, or Sean Couturier on the ice was on November 4, when Dale Weise scored a goal against the Colorado Avalanche. Where Martel slots in to the lineup is also something we’ll likely learn closer to game time tonight.
To make room for Martel, Matt Read — who was waived on Monday — will be sent to Lehigh Valley.