This isn’t exactly news. I think everyone kind of assumed this was going to happen. As of right now, it sounds like all of Team USA’s hopefuls have checked in at camp. Everyone, but Jeremy Morin.
Alex Clark, the PR manager for the U.S. National Junior Team tweeted an update tonight:
@USAH_AlexClark Jeremy Morin not currently at camp, but will still be considered for a spot on Team USA. Coaching staff remains in contact with Blackhawks.
So basically, starting tonight, the clock on Jeremy Morin’s availability starts. The initial hope was to be able to announce the team by Dec. 22, but that’s flexible, kind of. Team USA has until December 25 to finalize its roster. After that, the 22 names you hand in on the 25th are the 22 you play with. However, I can’t see the U.S. holding Morin’s spot until the 25th. I wouldn’t be surprised if they finalize the roster on Dec. 22 or 23, after all. Team USA plays its final exhibition on Dec. 23, against Norway. I’m certain they’ll want to have their final 22 in place for that game.
The main factor currently at play is that the Blackhawks have had some serious injury troubles. Neither Viktor Stalberg nor Marian Hossa will play against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, which means Morin is likely in the lineup for the Hawks. The somewhat bright side is that Patrick Kane is questionable, even after potentially aggravating his ankle injury in practice today, and Hossa is supposedly going to skate on Friday at some point. If either of those two are healthy enough to play, and Stalberg is back in action by next week, Morin likely comes to the U.S. Sounds simple, right?
So Morin’s seat will likely be kept warm, but if he’s not going to be part of Team USA, there are a host of guys that could fill his spot (just maybe not his production). It also makes Team USA’s plans potentially a little more flexible, so to speak.
The defensive corps is so deep at this camp, so does head coach Keith Allain want to go with eight defensemen? I kind of doubt it, but its an option if Morin’s out.
More than likely Team USA will go with seven D and 13 forwards. Morin’s lack of availability could be good news for Matt Nieto or Nick Bjugstad, guys that I would think are on the bubble. I also think that without Morin, Rocco Grimaldi is a stone cold lock. It also means increased roles on the team for returnees like Ryan Bourque or Jason Zucker.
Morin is the most natural goal scorer among Team USA’s 29 invitees. There’s no denying that. So Team USA will need at least one or two players to pick up the slack, like Bourque and/or Zucker. It also puts a bigger burden on the back of Jerry D’Amigo who had six goals during last year’s gold medal campaign. Kyle Palmieri will have to be at his best offensively as well.
Losing Morin would hurt, but it’s certainly not anywhere close to a death sentence something like this would have been four or five years ago. Team USA has the luxury of having a camp where any one of these players could make the team and provide something completely different from the rest.
Still, we can’t completely rule out the possibility of Morin being on this team. So if you’re a fan of Team USA, make sure to keep an eye on Blackhawks injury reports. The clock is ticking…