Tonight, Derek Morris will play in his 1000th NHL as the Coyotes take in the best team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are on a mission to win the President’s Cup for having the best record in the NHL and secure home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Coyotes can take command of the Pacific Division and move from 7th place to 3rd in the West.
But tonight, it is about Derek Morris. D-Mo is a fan favorite for his hard hitting play, his timely goals, his (as Tyson says) blatant disregard for his body. Derek will put his body in front of any shot and take one for his goalie. He’ll drop the gloves with anyone to protect a teammate and to defend his turf. Aside from Shane, there is no one who gives more to his fans. He’ll talk and press the flesh with anyone who says hi. Derek is beloved and is a consummate family man.
This season, Derek took a leave of absence from the team to take care of his family. As the great interview with Todd Walsh revealed, he had a family member who was struck with depression. His wife went to help care for them, resulting in Derek needing to stay with his children. Derek was willing to show what was really important in putting his family first and hockey second. A distracted player will get hurt, get you hurt, and hurt the team. This is what a man does. Puts his family first. Takes care of those who helped him get where he is, and then comes back to his job at the high level he plays.
His childhood idol is Paul Coffey. Paul, on the NHL Home Ice Channel, talked about playing defense. Coffey was talking at the trade deadline about how every team wants a puck moving defenseman. What the playoffs demand, as Coffey discussed, is defense. “What about asking your defenseman to play a little bit better defense?” The answer is that playing defense, and playing at the physical level that D-Mo does, is a player who does not seek the glory of scoring. The player who will lay down in front of the slapper from the point. The player who will move a forward from the front of the net. Who will lay out and use his body to crush an opponent. D-Mo had his best game in years against San Jose last night. Physical, shut down the Sharks, and he scored a goal. On a play that he jumped into the play and got it with less than a second remaining in the period.
We congratulate Derek on this milestone and wish him nothing but the best. To Derek and his family, thank you for sharing him with us.