Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Two Lukes

If one were to make a list of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rough patches, bald spots, and felonies over the last 30+ years – an epic, masochistic list of lists – the column with the most entries would likely be the Leafs terrible record of player development.

 Quite an accomplishment for a franchise that went a decade without a single season over .500

 Thinking back over my time as a Leafs fan, I believe the Leafs have had just three players land in the top three in Calder voting in the past 30 years - Wendel Clark, Felix Potvin and Daniel Marios.

I know we as a fan base are sensitive to mentions of trophy droughts, but a Leaf hasn’t won the Calder trophy since Brit Selby won it in 1966 (the same year Toronto opened its second subway line and Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" held on to the top spot in the charts for over five weeks).

 Part of the reason for this epic drought has to be the Leafs long history of rushing young players into the NHL: Gary Nylund, Jeff Ware, Drake Berehowsky, Luke Richardson, Steve Bancroft, Todd Gill, Scott Pearson, Jiri Tlusty, etc.

 Now we can add one more name to that list: Luke Schenn.

 I have no idea if Schenn might have benefitted from another year in junior, but his teammate Tyler Myers certainly did. Another year in junior might also have reduced the expectations and pressures put upon him in hockey mad Toronto.

 From a cap management perspective, another year in junior would have given the Leafs another year of Schenn on an entry-level contract and one more year of development before Schenn signed his lucrative second contract.

 As the league and NHLPA head into CBA negotiations the one thing I would like to see changed, possibly more than any other, is the right to have 18 year old North American born skaters play in the AHL. If the Leafs had the option of sending Schenn to the Marlies instead of back to the Kelowna Rockets, I have a feeling Schenn wouldn’t have been in the NHL as an 18 year old.

 A few months ago on a Leafs podcast, I was asked what potential trade would come back to haunt the Leafs more - Kadri or Schenn. It’s a difficult question. I think Kadri has a much higher upside – he will likely have one or two seasons in the 50 to 55 point range – but I think Schenn will have the longer career.

 People often throw around Adam Foote as the best comparable for Luke Schenn, but I think the best analogy is Luke Richardson. Drafted early by the Leafs, into the NHL at 18, never lived up to his billing here, traded away at 22, went on to play over 1400 NHL games, many as a low-pairing stay at home defenceman.

 I also think many Leaf fans in my generation look back at Luke Richardson, and now Luke Schenn, and wonder what could have been.


  1. I like the Luke Richardson comparison a lot, actually.

    1. Better than my Scott Stevens-lite comparison, that's for sure.

  2. Good read. I think Schenn has much more offense now than Richardson ever did though. Schenn's offensive capabilities are often overlooked, but he's no slouch in points, especially given almost zero power play time.