Things I learned about Luke Schenn in 2008

Whenever any player is drafted in the first few picks, the commentators covering the draft really like to envision the same player five years into the future, after having righted the ship of a troubled franchise. In hindsight, it’s always nice to read old draft coverage to see which players were wildly overrated or underrated by the hockey establishment.

Like the 2008 draft for instance. Steve Stamkos went number one overall, and then four defencemen followed. 2008 is actually quite similar to 2012 in the sense that a lot of the talent at the top of the draft tended to be defensive players. The ’08 defensive class bucked a trend, because less than five years later, so many of them are already playing in the NHL: Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner, Luca Sbisa, Michael Del Zotto and John Carlson were all taken in the first round.

A couple of those names stand out, because “Hey!” they’re Toronto Maple Leafs. Schenn, unfortunately, hasn’t had a seamless transition to the NHL and it’s in question whether he’s played his last game for the Leafs or not. Don’t let Pierre McGuire, Gord Miller, Bob McKenzie et al.’s comments on Draft Day, 2008 fool you, and avoid what you hear on draft day this year. Fact is that not every player can become a superstar in the NHL.

Here’s what was said:

Gord Miller:

“They went to the Memorial Cup that year, and the Rockets billeted or put him as a roommate with Shea Weber, their outstanding young defenceman who has of course gone on to a great career with Nashville. He also billets with the same billets Weber had in Kelowna, so a lot of comparisons, different players, but we saw Luke Schenn at the World Junior, Pierre, he was dynamite.”

Pierre McGuire:

“I don’t cheer for anybody, I don’t care who wins or losses. Toronto wins big here. This is huge for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their organization going forward. This is the start of their rebuild, and you couldn’t build it on better shoulders than Luke Schenn’s.”

“When you can get a player like Luke Schenn, you just go crazy as a scout. This is a franchise player. Barring injury, what a career he will have for the Toronto Maple Leafs.”


“We travelled all over Russia last summer in the Super Series, Gord. Luke Schenn was just so great around that whole thing. He was so positive with the other young players on that team. I can’t say enough good things about Luke Schenn. Just a physical impact. This is Adam Foote. This is a one man search-and-destroy-type of a guy and you build teams around defencemen like this.”

“This is exactly what Leafs fans want. This is a start, and a major start of a solid foundation to build around right now. I am just so thrilled for Toronto and their fans because this is the start of a new beginning.”

Bob McKenzie:

“What the scouts really like about this guy is that he knows that he’s not a great offensive defenceman. He knows his limitations. He knows that he’s a defence-first guy and he doesn’t try to do too much with the puck. But what he does do with the puck is highly efficient. He makes the first pass. This guy did not have a single point in the World Junior Championship and was arguably one of the best players on the ice from start to finish in that tournament. He led Canada in plus/minus, he was a plus-five at the World Junior. This is a guy who knows his job and knows how to do it, and you’re right. He’s physically punishing, a shutdown defenceman, mean and nasty.”

What we learned, is that Luke Schenn is a comparable defenceman to Shea Weber, that Luke Schenn signaled the start of the Toronto rebuild, that Luke Schenn makes you go crazy as a scout, because THE REBUILD IS COMING TO TORONTO, that Luke Schenn is a comparable defenceman to Adam Foote, that Luke Schenn is the major start of a solid foundation, and that Luke Schenn was great in a small sample size tournament.

And if it seems like Pierre McGuire was talking an awful lot, well, he didn’t even shut up about Luke Schenn when the 2009 draft rolled around:

“You look at Luke Schenn going fifth overall last year, now you have Nazem Kadri going to the Maple Leafs with the number seven pick, and you also have Jiri Tlusty from a few years ago. So now they’re starting to build on their foundation with an explosive offensive player like Kadri, Bob.”

Now, Kadri still has an optimistic future in the NHL, but Schenn is crazy expensive right now for a pretty marginal player and the Leafs need to figure out what they can do with him. Jiri Tlusty obviously never fit into Brian Burke’s long-term plans and they shipped him out too.

In fact, the Leafs’ best players: Jake Gardiner, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Mikhail Grabovski, weren’t acquired through the draft. Of their remaining core players, Clarke MacArthur, Joffrey Lupul, Nik Kulemin and Carl Gunnarsson, only two were actually drafted by Toronto.

The Leafs will draft Alex Galchenyuk, Radek Faksa, or some defenceman at number five and they’ll be hyped up pretty hard because the Leafs haven’t had a high first round pick in a couple of years. We know how much we’re annoyed by people talking about how Burke traded “Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight” for Phil Kessel, when we know quite well that two of those guys have yet to play an NHL game.

And that’s not on the Leafs. That’s onto the outlets that overhype junior age players and expect the world of 17-and-18-year olds.

  • It’s amazing how often the WJC comes up in stuff like this. It’s a great tournament to watch and it’s nice to see the kids play against other hopefuls from other leagues, but your note on it being a short tournament with a very small sample bears repeating.

  • Danny Gray

    Luke Schenn is 22. At 22, Adam Foote recorded 8 points for the Avalanche, and was not yet Adam Foote. Did I mention Luke Schenn is 22? Do we expect a fully developed shutdown defenseman at that age? He’s among the league-leaders in defenseman hits and routinely thunders the opposition. When he learns a better positional game and grows up a little more, he’ll be a dandy. He’s 22. Did I mention that?

  • I think I’m going to echo that last comment: He’s 22. Certainly Pierre McGuire is the MONSTER OF HYPERBOLE, but Luke Schenn will still probably be a solid player. He’s young. Probably getting bailed out by better goaltending would have made him look better the last couple years, but still, I don’t think any of the mistakes he has made, or stretches of poor play, are all that surprising for a defenceman of his age in the NHL.

  • Schenn being picked over Tyler Myers suggests that Leaf scout watched the “best of” highlight reels from Kelowna Rockets games rather than attend any at all. Having said that Leafs should have realized immediately that he was neither fleet of foot(or brain- let’s face it hockey is not rocket science), and needed some degree of remediation(read summer hockey school). To the best of my knowledge his formal summer school was shinny hockey with some Nhl’ers and wannabe’s in Kelowna. Leafs failed in helping him upgrade at skating , puck handling and quickness- lots of summer, early fall hockey schools in the GTA before training camp! Apologies in great detail to Luke if he attended such a beast. Mat Duchene and John Tavares seen at Ridley College September 2011, getting what Schenn should have had(throw Kadri in there too) in late summer one on one teaching, hockey school.

    Schenn will like most decent traded defenseman from the Leafs, have a wonderful career away from the Leafs. Leafs get a player with a decent upside in JVR and they should start parlaying players and draft picks for players that fit the mold of gritty and skillful players. Kessel is talented and not terribly gritty whereas Lupul seems to have both

    We shall see what Burkie has up his sleeve next. Don’t hold your breath for Bobby Lu
    unless Gillies gets desperate. Burke needs one of more lineup change in the forwards in terms of top 6, and 1 or 2 more in the D corps