Leafs Nation round table – Are we too hard on Luke Schenn?

This may be an extended offseason, so to break up the time, some of the writers on TLN are exchanging emails to each other, discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL hockey as whole. Today’s topic is whether we were too hard on Luke Schenn.

From: Cam Charron
To: Danny Gray, Gus Katsaros, Steve Dangle, Ryan Fancey, Steve Dangle
Subj: Luke Schenn

After having listened to JP’s interview with Brandon Convery this week…

I have to ask, are we too hard on Luke Schenn?

From: Ryan Fancey
To: Cam Charron, Danny Gray, Gus Katsaros, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Luke Schenn

Who cares. He’s Philly’s problem now. Woooo

From: Danny Gray
To: Ryan Fancey, Cam Charron, Gus Katsaros, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Luke Schenn

And he sucks.

From: Cam Charron
To: Danny Gray, Ryan Fancey, Gus Katsaros, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

But seriously. Convery’s claim is that the media creates an environment where prospects are doomed to fail if they don’t meet unrealistic expectations. We know, because we’ve all done the research, that not every first round pick turns into a superstar, that many of them simply become depth players on these teams.

Yet when Luke Schenn shows up and becomes a depth player, well, is that on him as a player? Is that on the scouting staff who failed to recognize key aspects of Schenn’s game that wouldn’t translate to the NHL? We’re just a humble blog, but, yes, we’re media as well. So are fans who call into talk radio and fans who post on HF Boards. This is all media, this is all a common discussion, and player’s abilities are emphasized more than their drawbacks.

And when the drawbacks overtake the abilities, well, it’s looked as a knock on the players’ ability, and that big markets tend to focus on what hockey players can’t do as opposed to what they can do.

From: Danny Gray
To: Cam Charron, Ryan Fancey, Gus Katsaros, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

Sure, but are the same expectations not placed on ALL first round picks. I mean it’s not as though first round picks in smaller markets pan out any better than those in larger markets, right? I mean on one hand Schenn was a victim of circumstance in that he was rushed into too large of a roll too soon. And I’ll grant that the expectations in Toronto are generally higher than other markets, but look at guys like Toews and Kane, I imagine they had a great deal of pressure on them in Chicago and they’ve developed well. 

Looking at it objectively I can see the roll that anchoring plays when evaluating Top-10 or even 1st round picks. I’ve used it to defend Kadri’s development. But the fan side of me has been disappointed by Schenn’s stagnation. He was falling down the depth chart and clearly needed a change of scenery. Perception obviously has a lot to do with it, but it’s not as though Schenn was above average and we were expecting elite. I think it’s a combination of both, but at the end of the day if your play speaks for itself people will adjust their expectations.

From: Gus Katsaros
To: Danny Gray, Cam Charron, Ryan Fancey, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

A couple of things Convery inferred that didn’t sit right.

It’s obvious he felt that he wasn’t treated fairly and not given the chance to play, or he lost his spot after getting injured. He used Nazem Kadri as an example – after qualifying it with saying he hadn’t watched him enough to make a proper decision – saying that the Leafs should just let him play. This was qualified with the paintbrush statement that the Leafs hadn’t developed a first round pick in 30 years. How is that insightful? What did it have to do with this regime and the measure enacted off the ice to begin to churn out homegrown players, trying to somehow duplicate the Detroit model after Jim Devellano took over in the early 80’s. Well, the Red Wings were just as bad as the Leafs were since Burke took over, making some similar moves, signing free agents, giving players other outlets to get into the NHL. Jimmy D didn’t have the ability to get free agents in their prime, so they had to develop develop develop ..

Most important, Leafs brass has begun to slowly implement designer developental models for their draft picks and players still not established in the NHL.

Convery doesn’t refer to this, he just spouts the similar sentiment of ‘oh, they can’t develop players’ without looking at any of the improvements in systems and philosophy implemented by this regime.

Luke Schenn was an inherited piece, a high draft pick that didn’t have anything else to prove and wouldn’t improve at the junior level, yet this was regarded as a mistake to bring him on too early. The same issues that were circled as question marks, first-step acceleration or lack thereof, solid positioning and aggression to the point of sacrificing position were never ironed out. Those wrinkles ended up painting him as a ‘bust’, as yet another player that wouldn’t develop into more than the sum of his individual skills. The reality behind Schenn is that he hasn’t improved those little issues circled at draft time, and teams keyed in on it. Yes, he hit everything that moved, and hard, but he abandoned his positioning in order to do so. It wasn’t the media that drove Schenn out, and it wasn’t fan sentiment, it was the limitations that weren’t improving that cost him a roster spot. He couldn’t pivot. He was too slow to react to plays, lacking explosiveness in his first few strides and then acting as if everyone had to be knocked into the third row of the platinums.

However, from an asset management perspective, the return of James van Riemsdyk is not a parallel move, but an upgrade. Management recognized the deficiency that Phildadelphia recognized as an opportunity. Also, they were somewhat desperate, with a decimated blueline and plenty of offensive firepower to move an offensive player for a defensive defenceman.

Perhaps there were unrealistic expectations from fans and media, but those aren’t the reasons Schenn was moved.

Sorry for the long response.

From: Ryan Fancey
To: Gus Katsaros, Danny Gray, Cam Charron, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

I haven’t heard the interview yet, but will listen when I get home. It’s pretty easy to identify what was said though, for the most part.

As for Schenn, Gus basically knocked it out of the park. He just wasn’t good enough. I mean, I find it surprising when I see an NHL player on the ice that’s obviously a step or two behind most others. It’s pretty rare.

Obviously some players are faster than others, but for the most part you get the idea that there’s a level of skating required – both speed and craftiness – to play at the top level. Schenn doesn’t have it.

I don’t know if it’s the wrong type of practice, the wrong work out routine, genetics, whatever. But even Komisarek has made pretty major improvements to his skating since joining the Leafs, and Schenn seems the same or maybe even slower than when he started. 

It wasn’t media or the fans that drove him out of town. I’m a fan of Luke Schenn, always liked him, but he just wasn’t good at hockey… or isn’t yet.

From: Danny Gray
To: Ryan Fancey, Gus Katsaros, Cam Charron, JP Nikota, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

Great stuff, just wanted to add a footnote to what Ryan and Gus said; the fans didn’t trade Schenn, or reduce his ice time. I think that obviously fan and media sentiment play a role in how player’s are perceived, but do we know that Burke would never make a decision based on who the fans boo the most. I think if anything people’s opinion of Schenn has worsened since the trade. I’m interested to see what happens to him next season. 

From: JP Nikota
To: Danny Gray, Ryan Fancey, Gus Katsaros, Cam Charron, Steve Dangle
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

I think we should be clear that Convery never said anything about Schenn’s development, only that he felt that Leafs hadn’t developed a 1st round pick into a superstar in a long time, and he felt it was (partially) because media pressure can influence managers toward rash decisions, and that the player doesn’t see any stability in their development. I don’t think it’s fair to paint 30 years worth of Leafs’ GMs with the same brush, but I guess I understand why that doesn’t really make a difference to someone who has personal experience with something like this. I haven’t been upset with many decisions from the Burkian regime with regards to development, so it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue now. 

For example, to say that a guy like Kadri has been yo-yo’d is perhaps fair, but the Marlies play in the same city, so it’s not like it really uproots him, and since both the Leafs and the Marlies implement synchronized coaching systems, there is perhaps less adjustment than with other AHL-NHL transitions – not that it isn’t difficult all the same. I still have faith that Kadri can be an effective offensive contributor.

Returning to the initial question about Schenn, and whether or not we’re too hard on him, I think you guys have hit the nail on the head. We weren’t unhappy with his first year of play, but the more he’s played, the less growth we’ve seen. As fans, we expect more from young veteran players, and I don’t think pointing out the shortcomings in Schenn’s game was unfair by the end. The fact that this whole team was devastatingly awful defensively just added to the frustration that one of our top picks didn’t pan out the way we’d all hoped. It’ll be interesting to see if Philadelphia can deploy him in a way that better utilizes his skill set, but I rather doubt it.

From: Steve Dangle
To: JP Nikota, Danny Gray, Ryan Fancey, Gus Katsaros, Cam Charron
Subj: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Luke Schenn

This point always seems to get brought up, but I don’t think being a first round pick makes you any different from being a first round pick anywhere else.

Let’s go back:

2009: Nazem Kadri hasn’t really been given a shot yet, and whether or not he should have been given one is up for debate.

2008: Luke Schenn didn’t really work out. Did he suck? No. He made a lot of very young mistakes, but he was thrusted into a pretty unideal situation. He’ll probably do well in Philly. Will he do 5th overall well? We’ll see.

2007: LOL

2006: Jiri Tlusty was considered a bit of a steal at 13th in 2006. It’s looking pretty clear that he wasn’t. Is that because he was a first round pick in Toronto? I highly doubt that. I will say this however: If he was drafted as a Carolina Hurricane nobody would have even heard about the naked pics. Furthermore, Claude Giroux was picked 22nd that draft. Pretty sure he’d still be Claude friggin’ Giroux. 

2005: Tuukka Rask. *chugs rubbing alcohol*

2004: No first round pick, but hey, they got Justin Pogge 99th overall! *eats knife*

2003: No first round pick, but hey, they got John Doherty in the second round. Who? Exactly. *sets self on fire*

Wait a second! Do we even have a big enough sample size of recent first round picks by the Leafs to have an opinion on them? They traded them all away!

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