At the Maple Leafs’ end-of-season media availability, Luke Schenn discussed his time in Toronto since the trade deadline and his desire to remain a Maple Leaf ahead of free agency.
You seemed to enjoy returning to Toronto and representing the Leafs again. How much would you like to play here against next season?
Schenn: Toronto has always felt like home in a lot of ways. I got a chance to get started here. I was pretty naive at the time in terms of what it meant to wear this jersey and the expectations at that time. You are just trying to make the NHL, figure out what your role would be, and become comfortable.
In the second time around, I loved it — every minute of it. Coming back all of these years later, it kind of felt surreal a lot of the time that I got this opportunity again. To play in the playoffs here was a dream come true. I never dreamt of it that I would get that opportunity. I never thought it would become a reality.
I love it here. I am grateful for the opportunity.
You have been to the top of the mountain with the Lightning twice. What does this team need to do to get closer?
Schenn: It is such a fine line. That is what I have realized. It comes down to breaks here or there. Obviously, you create your own breaks a lot of the time.
There is a really good culture and a really good foundation here. I have been a part of a lot of organizations. I have played in some places where you thought there is no hope to win with this group with the way things are run.
Truthfully speaking, the culture here is as good as anywhere I have played with the way you are taken care of on the personal side with your family, the way they take care of things on the training level, nutrition, the development side, the details, and the systems — everything is really well thought out here and really well ran.
The people here deserve a chance to get a crack at growing and getting the chance to win. There are decisions to be made, but everything is run so well. You are looking at internal growth for players. Guys have to get better. It doesn’t matter if you are someone my age who has been around a long time. You have to figure out ways to improve. That is top-to-bottom across the lineup.
What kind of impression has Kyle Dubas made on you?
Schenn: He is honestly awesome from the day he got traded here. My situation was kind of out there with my wife being due in a couple of weeks. It was not the most ideal time to be traded. You are experiencing a hectic time on the home front, and the way he took care of things on a personal side… I could not have gone to a better spot. That falls on his shoulders. I am very appreciative of that.
On top of that, as I said, there are decisions to be made — we all understand that — but I think if you look around the room, a lot of people would have taken our team after the deadline. People had a lot of belief and faith in the group. That is a compliment to him, his staff, the assistant GMs, and the scouting staff. Being able to pull the trigger on some trades, everyone did a great job.
From top to bottom, they did a good job. A lot of the share of [blame for] not making it past the second round is that we have to get better in this room.
Do you think the organization needs to import more toughness?
Schenn: Toughness is a broad term. It could be fighting. It could be physical with running into guys. Sometimes, it’s mental toughness.
It comes from growth. You have to go to the hard areas. You have to win battles in front of the net and get to the front of their net. It is the same thing I talked about all playoffs.
Sometimes, mentally — in some circumstances and parts of games, whether it is finding that extra gear or extra level — guys can use this experience and it translates into more positive and better things ahead.
Do you think you proved something in the playoffs with the minutes you played and how well you handled those minutes?
Schenn: At the end of the day, I have felt like this opportunity and this situation was kind of something I have been working toward over the past four or five years. I have had some great experiences in some depth roles, but my mindset over the last four or five years was to try to get better with age and work on things to achieve that.
Did I surprise myself? No. I have been working toward this. I don’t know what the aging curve is on all of that kind of stuff, but guys [usually] don’t get better after the age of 30 or whatever. 95% don’t, and 5% do. I have tried to be in the minority on that.
I feel like I can still get better. There are always things to work on. Upon reflection, there are some things I did well and some things I can improve on. That should be the mindset of every guy in this room.
Considering your options for next season in free agency, what is your top priority?
Schenn: Honestly, as I said, I have loved playing in Toronto all along. You have to have discussions with family and all of that sort of thing. As I said, this has always been a place where I have really enjoyed playing. Those discussions haven’t taken place yet from an organizational standpoint or a personal standpoint.
In saying that, I love the group in here. That is part of it, too: getting the opportunity to win and being a part of a great group — a group that has high expectations as part of it, too. I have been on a side of it, too, where expectations maybe aren’t the highest heading into the season. At this point in your career, that is one of the top things for sure: continuing to get the opportunity to have a chance to win.