If Scott Gordon said it once while Flyers coach, he said it a dozen times. Wayne Simmonds made "everybody play braver’’ when he wore the Flyers sweater. And when he left via a deadline trade, some of that intimidation factor went with him.
"The energy he brings, whether it’s a hit or a fight or whatever it might be, his enthusiasm on the bench,’’ Gordon said after Simmonds’ final Flyers game, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field. "He provides us with a lot. And whatever appreciation I had for him before I got the job here, I have more now.’’
There’s another guy who has done that for Gordon. And if 6-6, 230-pound Samuel Morin could have stayed healthy, maybe the swagger would have stayed after Simmonds left last season.
"I would think so,’’ said Kjell Samuelsson, the former Flyers defenseman who now serves as their development coach. "He’s pretty tough.’’
Morin, who will turn 24 on July 12, played a total of 150 games for Gordon in his first two seasons at Lehigh Valley, amassing 247 penalty minutes and recording hits and fights that are still worthwhile YouTube views.
One takeaway is this: Those fights often follow a clean but echoing hit along the boards.
Even in the precious few games he has played as a Flyer, there is an undeniably unique sound to a Morin hit along the boards, discernible even in the Wells Fargo Center rafters.
"I think in this game there is still room for a meaner defenseman,’’ said Samuelsson. "To make the forwards you play against pay the price in front of the net. So it hurts to come in there.
"And he can protect some of [our] guys from that happening to them.’’
That is, if he can stay healthy enough to establish that. Including playoffs, Morin has played a combined 27 games over the last two seasons, mostly for the Flyers’ farm team in the Lehigh Valley. A string of injuries ended with an ACL tear during the 2017-18 AHL playoffs, and Morin spent all but the last few weeks of last season watching hockey from the press box.
"Every time I was in a position to prove myself, I got injured,’’ said Morin. "But I know my game. I’m a defensive defenseman, maybe a bottom five or six. But a really good one. I know what my job is. And I know I can do it really well. Obviously from watching last year, I know I can find a role here.’’
Amid a league in which the most recent Stanley Cup champions battered their way to the title, the Flyers could use his physicality, which is one reason they signed him to a three-year deal last June – after he tore his ACL.
The departure of Radko Gudas would have only increased that need if the player he was traded for, Matt Niskanen wasn’t also known for his physicality. But Niskanen, and the anticipated elevation of 6-5 blue-liner Phil Myers, could help the Flyers win more of those one-on-one battles in their own end, and keep the crease a little cleaner.
"The way hockey is going, you have to do it right,’’ Morin said. "But I think you can still leave reminders to be careful about what you do to our players.’’
The good news, for Morin and Flyers fans, is that he is completely healthy. He’s been training in Voorhees with a handful of Flyers regulars.
"Yesterday, I was doing sprints for the first time in a year and a half,’’ he said. "Instead of being on the bike. Competing against guys, it’s way more fun. No restrictions anymore. So fun.