VOORHEES, N.J. — Robert Hagg now has a room all to himself following the demotion of Samuel Morin.
The two rookie defensemen roomed together throughout the Flyers' nine-day road trip and Hagg probably got to know Morin’s innermost thoughts and feelings more than anyone.
“I didn’t talk to him [Wednesday],” Hagg said Thursday. “Of course I felt for him. We’ve been teammates for two years now. We’ve known each other for at least four. Of course, I’m feeling for him. There’s not much I can do. I’m just playing my game, but I know he’s going to be up here somehow.”
As expected, the Flyers made the decision Wednesday afternoon to reassign Morin to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he will begin his third year of professional hockey (see story). Morin, along with fellow defenseman Brandon Manning, was a healthy scratch over the final three games of the season-opening four-game road trip. Eight healthy defensemen was simply one too many for the Flyers moving forward.
“It’s tough to go with a group of eight and really get any rhythm and start to define roles — have players feeling comfortable and confident in those roles,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “When there’s two guys not playing, that’s a little more difficult. When there’s one guy, that’s competition. This is a good group of seven that we can grow with.”
The battle for the two roster spots on the blue line, involving Hagg, Morin and Travis Sanheim, was one of the most highly-contested competitions throughout training camp and the preseason. While Hakstol reaffirmed his defensive pairings were “all about a mix, a mix of different abilities,” he’ll be keeping close tabs on Morin down in the AHL.
“There were some specific things that we’re going to ask him to go back and really concentrate at working on and improving,” Hakstol said. “He’s got to do his part to show us he’s the most ready to come in and help us when called upon. When that is, I can’t answer that for you.”
While Morin firmly believed he performed well enough to earn a place in the lineup, he never let it affect his relationship with his roommate.
“Sam is happy for me,” Hagg said. “Every time we were in the room, he said, 'You played really good. Keep doing that,’ or, ‘Good luck tonight. Keep playing like you did.’
“If you’re getting pissed off at each other, it’s not going to help you. I can tell you that. Of course, everyone wants to play, and it’s not up to us. The only thing we can do is perform as good as we can, and then it’s up to the coaches and the staff to decide who’s going to play or not.”
Hagg knows it’s not a bad idea to stay on Morin’s good side. The Phantoms' opponents won’t have that luxury.