While I had begun to sour somewhat on Schenn’s potential last season, it was a little odd to wake up this morning and remember #2 was now a member of an organization not named the Toronto Maple Leafs. Schenn was celebrated as the first pillar of the Leafs‘ rebuild when Cliff Fletcher drafted him in 2008. Many a fan bought his jersey. Some said we had future captain material in Luke. Few would’ve predicted Schenn would be with a new organization before he turned 23.
I’m not going to call Schenn’s rookie season a mirage, but it was somewhat of a tease. We heard Pierre McGuire call this guy a Human Eraser and we saw it with our own eyes when he stepped onto NHL ice as an 18-year-old and tossed a 245-pound Keith Tkachuk to the ice. What seems to have happened between the Schenn we knew then and the one Burke just traded was a combination of expectations heightening and his development traveling the trajectory of a more normal young defenceman, as opposed to the beyond-his-years beast we came to know him as in junior and very early on in his NHL career.
That’s not to put the entirety of the blame on the Leafs for graduating him too early, or Leafs fans for expecting the world of Schenn (I will say this though – it’s particularly hard to be a defenseman in this market, in front of Leaf goaltending). But, considering the group the Leafs entered the season with, Luke Schennâ€™s skill set seemed like a necessity and the Leafs could have really used a reliable defensive presence on the blueline. Instead, he had his minutes reduced as an emerging rookie in Jake Gardiner passed him on the depth chart and Carl Gunnarsson became a member of the top pairing as arguably the team’s best defenceman in his own zone. Part of what we are seeing here is an adaptation from Burke in how he makes up his ‘D’ core. We’re seeing – as recently as Friday’s pick of Morgan Rielly – a enhanced emphasis on mobility and puck handling ability on the back end from a GM who, in two of his first moves in office, signed Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek to go along with Schenn as his “core pieces” of the blueline going forward.
There are some who will point fingers at Ron Wilson, and all I’ll say there is that it’s unfortunate we don’t get a chance to see if that’s a valid point. Randy Carlyle is supposedly bringing a measure of defensive accountability to what was a free-wheeling run and gun system under Wilson, one that didn’t do Schenn, struggling with bouts of low confidence and seemingly getting slower, no favours. I always thought Schenn would make the Leafs look stupid if he was dealt to a team that plays a defence-first, trappier game. But he’s not exactly going to one in Philadelphia.
In the end, Schenn saw himself go from being a member of the future core to a peripheral player with enough value left to make him a good trade chip. Facing a need to add some size and skill up front, Burke cashed in that chip yesterday for a player with the same age, pedigree and question marks, but at a position – and player type – the Leafs are lacking in. It began to make too much sense in Burke’s eyes, but there’s little doubting it was a failure of the organization and the player that it got to this point with Schenn in the first place.
As for James Van Riemsdyk, here are a few excerpts about the newest Leaf from a couple of Flyers bloggers:
“First of all, van Riemsdyk isn’t a “bust.” Not yet. Patrik Stefan was a bust. Jason Bonsignore was a bust. Pat Falloon didn’t start out as a true bust, but turned into one. JVR clearly belongs in the NHL but has struggled with inconsistency and injuries thus far in his career. He isn’t yet where the Flyers or the player himself would have wanted him to be at the end of his third NHL season, but he’s also not as far off as his harshest critics like to say he is.
By no means am I saying that JVR is a finished product. There are fair criticisms that can be levied against him. I do understand why some people within the organization became frustrated with him. There are times when he plays soft and smaller than his size. When JVR tries to be strictly a finesse player, he rarely succeeds for very long. The defensive side of his game also still needs considerable improvement.
The one criticism against JVR that I have never bought, however, is that he lacks passion for the game. Really? Is that why he spent two consecutive summers in Voorhees working out both on and off the ice? Is that why he tried to play through a torn oblique muscle this past season?
Now, I do feel like sometimes JVR has gotten into a comfort zone on the ice and needs to be pushed a little to move beyond it. But in terms of lacking passion, it’s simply not true. He’s a player who cares about his team and the progress of his career. I have always found him to be very grounded and level-headed. I’ve never personally seen him as a lackadaisical sort nor is he an excuse-maker in bad times.
If JVR is healthy, I think he can do well in Toronto. The whole injury saga this summer was bizarre, though. At first, the Flyers said JVR had a torn labrum and needed hip surgery. Then the surgery gets delayed because the player was still dealing with an infection in the foot that was operated on back in March. Then the player himself said it wasn’t actually the labrum and wasn’t a tear. Finally, the team announces that he doesn’t need surgery after all and should be fine for next season without surgery.”
From Brian Meltzer, a quality Philadelphia Flyers blogger who writes over at the site that shall not be named.
From Flyers blog Broad Street Buzz’s John LaMarra:
This was one of those trades that can be considered truly a win win for both clubs. Both players that were moved have tons of potential that their now former clubs felt could be tapped if a location change were to take place. JVRâ€˜s issues recently have been less to do with his production and more to do with his seemingly endless laundry list of injuries. At such a young age that is a big warning sign to teams looking to bring him in. His skill level has been seen at his best, which would be versus Buffalo Round 1 of the 2011 playoffs. If he can figure out a way to harness that skill and put it out on the ice on a night in and night out basis then he will be a superstar in this league. The problem is he has yet to figure it out. The other issue with JVR in Philly was that he was buried in a very high performing offense. Laviolette really gave it an effort to make him more involved with the offense by playing him on the 1st and 2nd lines mostly while he was here, but he could never really produce that break out season that everybody thought he was in for. In Toronto JVR will most likely play on the on the top line with fellow winger Phil Kessel (if he remains in Toronto through the offseason). If he can stay healthy he has a chance to really become a key cog in that offense as they are very slim at the forward position. I hope a change of scenery does prove to be the defining moment of JVRâ€™s career and he goes to be a prolific player in the league. He will still be cheered by most Flyers fans come Olympic time.
MLHS‘ own Gus Katsaros passed along a scouting report for James Van Riemsdyk from the McKeen’s yearbook.
tall lanky playmaker with slick hands and tricky 1-on-1 moves, aided by a huge wingspan .. unloads a fast, accurate snapshot at top speed .. good passer – finesses soft, accurate feeds through traffic displaying imagination .. sharp moving laterally and fast in full flight .. reaped the benefits of a strength and conditioning .. more diligent working the boards and finishing checks down low .. increasing net presence .. wavering intensity remain an issue – still learning to sustain energy .. too passive defensively and can struggle to stay involved