Chicago Blackhawks: Jeremy Morin Needs a Spot in the Playoff Lineup

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IApril 13, 2014

Jeremy Morin has responded to an increase in playing time recently. Has he impressed enough to earn a spot in Joel Quenneville's playoff lineup?
Jeremy Morin has responded to an increase in playing time recently. Has he impressed enough to earn a spot in Joel Quenneville's playoff lineup?USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks have some decisions to make concerning their lineup for the playoffs. Coach Joel Quenneville should be thinking long and hard about making Jeremy Morin part of Chicago's attempt to defend the Stanley Cup.

The 'Hawks will be squaring off with someone when the playoffs start this week. The opponent won't be determined until Sunday's action is over.

Be it Colorado or St. Louis in the first round, Morin needs a spot in the lineup.

The 22-year-old forward has made the most of his call up late in March. Once he began getting some steady minutes, Morin has displayed the talent that made him one of the AHL's hottest players in Rockford during the second half of the season.

Morin was tethered to a pretty short leash for the bulk of his 24 NHL games this season.

Over the past two weeks, injuries have left Quenneville with no choice but to give his role players expanded ice time. Morin is among the players who have responded positively.

Morin's third-period goal in Saturday's regular-season finale in Nashville should have been credited to Andrew Shaw. However, the kind of work in the corner Morin put into getting the puck to the front of the net is a prime example of the kind of dynamic he could bring to a playoff series.

Possessing the skills needed to finish scoring plays, Morin isn't afraid to push the physical side of the game when necessary. He's no fighter by any means, but he'll stick his nose into trouble and stand up for a teammate.

Morin has four goals in his last six games with the 'Hawks.
Morin has four goals in his last six games with the 'Hawks.Charles Cherney

Morin burst onto the scene the season after the 'Hawks picked the former second-round pick from the Jets in the trade that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta.

Morin played in nine games for Chicago in the 2010-11 season before going to play for the U.S. in that year's World Junior Championships.

He was injured in January of that season while in Rockford and missed nearly a year with concussion symptoms. Morin saw very limited action in each of the last two seasons.

The acquisition of Kris Versteeg back in November has made it difficult for Morin to find steady work in Chicago. In 47 games with the IceHogs, Morin totaled 47 points (24 G, 23 A). This included 18 goals and 16 helpers in 29 games since the start of 2014.

Morin has five goals and six assists in 24 games with the Blackhawks this season while doing the I-90 shuffle. He has been up and down three times before this most recent call-up, which has seen him tally four goals and a pair of assists in the last six games.

With injured stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane expected to return for the playoffs, there is a lot of competition for ice time. If Morin cracks the lineup, who sits?

Well, how about Versteeg, for starters? Quenneville has a certain comfort level with Versteeg and I doubt we'll see him in the press box in the postseason.

Brandon Bollig is a player who Quenneville has used all season. It wouldn't be the first time a player who has had a regular spot takes a seat in the playoffs. Queeneville might favor Bollig in a physical encounter should the Blues lose Sunday and become Chicago's first-round opponent.

Morin brings an edge to his game and far more puck skills than Bollig. Regardless of the opponent, Morin has a hot hand as the regular season ends. He could inject some energy into a squad searching for the fabled "on" switch as the games take on added importance.

A number of players have stepped up with Kane and Toews on the mend. Ben Smith is another player who has impressed, though it would appear that he has a definite role in the 'Hawks' plans in the playoffs.

It remains to be seen if Morin will have a part to play in the team's Stanley Cup defense. What is evident is that he has played well enough to merit a shot.