Everyone that is at least paying a passing interest in the Chicago Blackhawks this season knows that young Jeremy Morin, aged 19, who was acquired in the Great Salary Dump to Atlanta this off-season, is a young budding flower in the organization’s depth chart. Morin impressed greatly at training camp and even more so in preseason action, even to the point that some *coughcough*ME*coughcough* were calling for him to make the big squad. In the end, young Jeremy was unable to make the starting roster for opening night. However, the Blackhawks have been pretty smitten with the injury bug this season and have called upon Mr. Morin to come fill in when needed, mostly replacing Marian Hossa on the second line.
And therein lies the problem. Jeremy Morin is signed to a paltry 3-year contract in which his cap hit is only $916,666 when at the NHL level. As a rookie, Morin contract only loses that first year if he plays 10 games at the NHL level. So you can see (right?) that it is in the Blackhawk’s best interest, as a constantly dry humping the salary cap team to keep Morin’s cap hit low, meaning they don’t want to burn that first year off the contract until Morin is an everyday NHL player.
We aren’t yet thirty games into the season and Jeremy Morin has already played six games and the injuries don’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. You might ask at this point, why don’t the Blackhawks just call someone else up? At this point, for the role that Morin fills (think Marian Hossa lite), there’s no one else in the system that can do it at the NHL level for even a game or two. Many will yell out the name of Igor Makarov, but it’s been well documented that his complete lack of defensive IQ far outweighs his scoring prowess. Makarov certainly couldn’t fit a Marian Hossa type role.
So the question that’s already being asked, at least around the Blackhawks’ corner of the Twitterverse, is what do the Blackhawks do with Jeremy Morin? Do we let him burn that first year of his contract for most likely less than twenty games played? Do we try to call up others to fill that role when needed?
The answer is, in my humble opinion, you use Morin as much as he’s needed and if you burn that first year of the contract, so be it. The Blackhawks are already chasing points in the muddled Western Conference, and that shows no signs of changing anytime soon. As it currently stands, your defending Stanley Cup Champions would finish tenth in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs. (Note: That is based on percentage of points earned and extrapolating that out.) Paying attention now?
The Blackhawks have been playing better of late, but they’re already chasing points. The slow start to the season coupled with a massive slate of games to open the season just killed them off the bat. Clearly, Coach Q already knows this as well, demonstrating the desperation for points by continually starting Corey Crawford solely based on the fact that he’s winning hockey games. Marty Turco didn’t start against his former team on Wednesday night, that’s how much Q is looking at every point. Even Antti Niemi got the start against the Blackhawks when we played the Sharks despite his woeful start to the season. Crawford is your starter until he loses a game, mark my words.
It’s because of that desperation that the Blackhawks need Jeremy Morin to play. If this was last year’s team, we had all kinds of people to fill in on the second line. Kris Versteeg. Dustin Byfuglien. Hell, even Andrew Ladd could step up there. Right now, there are not as many options.
However, we could also find out what the Blackhawks as an organization thinks of the team in its current form. If the organization truly feels the Hawks are ready and primed to make a Cup run, they’ll continue to call up Morin to ensure they’re putting the best team forward. If, on the other hand, the organization feels that there is no chance for a run at the Cup this year, they’ll save that year on Jeremy Morin’s contract.
So what say you, Chicago Blackhawks brass? Are you prepared to burn a contract year in order to put your best team out on the ice? I’m afraid seeing both Jordan Hendry and John Scott dressing as forwards earlier this season against the Devils has already answered this question.