Monday, February 11, 2013

Luke Schenn's return to Toronto brings back a lot of memories

The original "Feels Like '93" logo
Tonight marks the first time that Luke Schenn will play against his former club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, after being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers last June in exchange for James van Riemsdyk. During his time in Toronto, Schenn was drafted 5th overall in 2008 NHL Draft, and made the team coming out of training camp. He had a strong rookie season, impressing fans and analysts alike with his physical play and leadership qualities. There were moments during that 08-09 year that he looked, not like a rookie, but a seasoned veteran who was just punching in on the clock and opponents faces.

Hell, a lot of people would have pegged Schenn to be the franchises future captain, including myself. It was this fight against Chris Neil in 2008 that sealed the deal for me.

I don't even care if you don't like fighting, I will always give a round of applause to an 18-year-old first-rounder who takes on a noted heavyweight after seeing his teammate even if it was Matt Stajan get cheap-shotted like that. No one is expecting him to do that, and there wasn't a moment of hesitation. It was the first time in my hockey fandom that I really had a favourite player since Darcy Tucker and Gary Roberts, pre-lockout. It felt like we were watching the beginning of something special.

But reality kicked in (don't you hate when that happens?) and Schenn's fortune turned downward. He struggled in the following three seasons, becoming a healthy scratch a handful of times, and appeared to get slower each and every year. There were times where he would get beaten so badly in his own zone, or look completely out of place, that all you could do was shake your head. Don't get me wrong, he had a few moments of brilliance while wearing the blue and white. Another favourite of mine (again, from that 08-09 rookie campaign) was him laying Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, followed by scraping Tyler Kennedy.

Ah, memories.

But they wash away quickly. And in the past off-season, the Luke Schenn-era in Toronto ended.

Even though he plays for the Flyers now, I will always hold Schenn in high-regard. Despite him never playing up to the standard that fans and media set for him, he still had moments where he gave us optimism. And when it comes to being a Leafs fan, that's asking a hell of a lot from a guy. I genuinely hope he does well for the remainder of his career, as I'm sure he'll probably be an All-Star at some point. Who knows, a change of sceneary could do some good for the 23-year-old.

It seems to be working for van Riemsdyk.

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