Monday, October 27, 2008

Luke Schenn

Got an email asking for an opinion on the Leafs keeping Luke Schenn up with the big club this year.

I have to say I really have no idea and I'd question anyone that has an ironclad opinion on any of this. Unless you're in charge of player development, how do you know what's right for each player? And if any blogger, journalist, member of the message board commentariat is so certain about what's right then I would advise them to polish up their CVs as there's huge demand with 28 or so NHL clubs for people that can identify NHL ready talent and the best path for development with that much certainty.

The men in the coaching offices and executive suites should be ideally placed and trained to have far more insight into this sort of things then a guy procrastinating in his office on a Monday afternoon, but then again, these are the same suits that signed Raycroft and Budaj to "anchor" the Avalanche nets, Jason Blake to a five year $20M deal and DiPietro to a 27 year three billion dollar contract, so there's certainly room to question the collective wisdom of sports executives.

In terms of precedence, I'm sure that for every success story of 18 year old d-men prospering (Stevens, Pronger) there's two or three times more busts, but that may be a bigger statement on the variables of drafting kids (how many 1st rounders turn out to be busts no matter where or how they're developed?) than it is an informed look at how to best develop NHL talent.

I guess I look at it this way:

If you were Ron Wilson, and you had his ego and his pride, and you had a diamond like Schenn would you want him to go back to junior to be coached by Ryan Huska or would you rather take a hands-on approach in helping him develop into a prime NHL defenceman?

If you were Cliff Fletcher, would you care about losing a single year of contract value in 2012 or '13. Most likely a season or two into a new collective bargaining agreement?

If you were a big-shot at MLSE and were focused maintaining profits and interest in your team, would you keep the young phenom in your line-up, or push to send him 4000Km west?

If you were Luke Schenn or his agent, where would you rather play?

If you were Matt Stajan (and we're going to go all the way back to 1980 for this tepid pop culture reference) would you want your bodyguard heading back to Kelowna while the Matt Dillon's of the league keep shaking you down for lunch money?

And I'm happy to see that the media coverage on this has shown the sports writers propensity for hard work, use of insider access and seeking out the ideal source by offering extensive quotes from the directors of player development at teams around the league, oh wait...

So there's my waffling - what's your take?


  1. Anonymous9:18 pm

    It kills me all of the "Schenn should go back to junior" talk. If the guy was massively inconsistent this season -- fine -- then send him back. But when he holds his own and demonstrates enough poise to show that he can handle the big leagues, then there's no turning back. The guy is ready. Not every kid is, but he is. Good decision, especially in the face of the flurry of criticism that's bound to unfold.

  2. Anonymous7:17 am

    he has demonstrated the skills to stay and so Schenn should. that's it in a nutshell. u've nailed the points that make it a no brainer. any1 saying otherwise is just hoping for the worst so they can say "i told ya so". hindsight is the perfect science!

  3. Anonymous5:09 am

    I'd have to be sold on it negatively affecting his development. If it doesn't, then this is an insane move. Like every other NHL team, the Leafs are in an efficiency contest. The goal is to get the best possible performance for $56.7MM. Schenn could be Bobby Orr this year and it wouldn't matter. Keeping him now means that the Leafs get less value from his rights, with virtually nothing in the way of reward.

  4. Anonymous1:52 pm

    Perhaps its because I suffered through the Ballard years, but the idea of keeping an 18 year old defenceman with the team scares me. He's shown poise, ability, and desire this season, no doubt. He's shown that he will eventually be a solid, perhaps even dominant defender in years to come, no doubt. If we're just talking about his ability to play the game, I'm confident that Schenn can survive with the Leafs, and will certainly learn more about playing the game here than back in Kelowna.

    Despite this, however, I worry that when a long losing streak hits, which I expect will happen at some point this season, and the brutal Toronto media inevitably starts beating up on the team and individual players, how will that affect his psyche? It's Schenn's mental ability to handle that stress and attention that I worry about more than what he actually does on the ice. Will he handle it or will he crack under the pressure? I can't answer that because I don't know Luke Schenn, have never met him, and have no idea of his maturity level.

    If he can truly handle that aspect of being an NHL player in Toronto, then there is no question the Leafs made the right decision. Otherwise, it would have been better to send him back and allow him time to mature as a person, even if his hockey skills wouldn't improve much.