Struggling a bit in his sophomore season, 21-year-old Luke Schenn has without a doubt shown that the slump was a learning curve, as he has developed into the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best all around defenseman.
With the departure of Francois Beauchemin and the expected departure of Tomas Kaberle, the blue line will be in need of an offensive defenseman, which they hope will be Jake Gardiner. For now though, they’ll have to make due.
Many might think that Dion Phaneuf is the best blue-liner, but it’s evident the Leafs’ captain has struggled since coming to Toronto, and without a doubt, underachieved.
Luke Schenn, on the other hand, has done nothing but flourish. Just two points behind Phaneuf with two goals, 11 assists and 13 points, Schenn is also ahead of the captain in plus/minus with a +3 rating, while Phaneuf has a shocking -8.
Over the summer, Schenn clearly showed his work-ethic and determination to get better as he not only improved his skating, but bulked up from last season’s weigh-in of 215 pounds. He is now 229 pounds. The growth has only make him that much more dangerous and his hitting has picked up immensely this year. He always manages to finish his checks, while having the ability to remain in position and not allow his physical play to become a risk.
While watching Leaf games, I find that I notice Schenn a lot more than Phaneuf. He rarely makes mistakes on the ice, and he shows spurts of offensive potential as we have seen a few times this season with Schenn making some exceptional break-out passes.
His attitude both on and off the ice is tremendous aswell, and as we can see when doing interviews and features, he is a true team player and has the characteristics of a leader.
Last season, Schenn had four fighting majors, and although this season he has just two, he has proven he is more than willing to stick up for teammates should someone more suited for the job not be on the ice.
To go along with the aforementioned traits, Schenn only costs Toronto just under $3 million a year, which is a steal when you compare it to the $4.5 million Mike Komisarek makes. Although that may not last long, Schenn is definitely a player that gives the Leafs their money’s worth.
Along with Schenn, the Leafs have a bright future in the defensive department with young guns such as Carl Gunnarsson, Keith Aulie, and now Gardiner who could crack the lineup within the next two years should he continue to improve. This makes it pretty clear that Brian Burke will not be using his newly acquired picks on a defenseman.
With Schenn head-manning the shut-down, hard-nosed side of the defensive squad, the Leafs will be okay in that department. Burke just needs to make the best of the trade bait he has left, and build some more depth in the offense. To reiterate what a fellow colleague recently wrote, “the Leafs are not doomed…”
Photo used under creative commons, courtesy of Bridget Samuels.