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Luke Schenn— the most relieved guy in Leafland

Hey, no athlete (at any level, from pee-wee to the professional ranks) will ever admit it publicly, but you can go to the bank on this one: if they are pulled, benched or replaced in some fashion, they may say publicly that they hope the team does well and that they’re pulling for their teammates.

However privately, they are at the very least hoping that the guy who replaced them falls on his face.

Don’t think that’s so?  I will respect your opinion, but to cite just one example:  do you remember the interview Ron Wilson gave this past summer?  He talked openly about his feelings, about him actively pulling against the Sharks—the organization that fired him.  Check out the post (click here) that refers to that radio interview I heard with Wilson.  It was great stuff.  We got to see a side of Wilson that I really enjoyed,  one that made him “more human”—if I can borrow that sometimes over-used phrase.

In any event, I have no doubt that athletes, prideful and competitive creatures that they are, want to play.  In fact, they love to play, to compete, to perform.  But they don’t love watching someone else play in their place.  That’s something entirely different.

So while we somehow expect guys to play the “good soldier” and click their heels and say “no problem” when they are yanked from the line-up, or go from a starting position to a back-up role, we know they are—and usually understandably so—burning inside.

Which brings us to Luke Schenn and this past Saturday night's game.

Whether we agreed with the move or not, many Leaf fans saw it as inevitable that Schenn might be next on the “bump list”.  That is, the guy who sits as Wilson tries to figure out how to please 7 (with more waiting down on the farm) healthy, NHL-ready defensemen when he has only six spots to fill on a nightly basis.

We’ve all seen Luke not quite playing like he can through the opening games of the new season, so a seat upstairs was not a shock—despite the healthy new contract he signed just as training camp was kicking off in September.

Franson and Gardiner have already taken their turns watching from upstairs.  And if the organization wants to showcase the frustrated Franson, he needs to play some games to attract potential suitors, one would think.  The Leafs want to get as much as they can in return.

But from Schenn’s perspective, what a great night it was to be “watching” and not be part of the debacle that was the 7-0 loss against the defending Cup champion (but at the time still struggling) Bruins at the ACC.  What did young Luke observe?  Teammate Ben Scrivens, so excited about playing his first NHL game in goal in Toronto, being left alone at times and on the receiving end of a night filled with Leaf turnovers, lackluster play, sloppy passes and poor clearing attempts.

It’s not that the Bruins hammered him with 50 shots, but the ones they took managed to find a home at the back of the Maple Leaf net.

As I write this, I’m not sure if Luke will slide back into the line-up on Tuesday night against the incoming Florida Panthers, but word from Monday's practise was that he would.  I suspect that, for all his apparent struggles so far this season, he can at least breathe a sigh of relief that he wasn’t a part of that mess against the Bruins.

Sitting that one out won’t necessarily cure his on-ice ills, but being part of it probably wouldn’t have helped, either.

We will never hear Schenn, a good team guy, say that he was glad his teammates wet the bed on Saturday night.  But somewhere, in that naughty but very “human” part of the brain that we all have, he had to be thinking:  “Better those guys than me…”

8 comments:

  1. Long suffering Leaf fanNovember 8, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Well said Mike,...no team guy wants to see his teammates lose a game, but, at the same time they don't like to be sitting in the press box either. Mr. Wilson was correct when he said that Saturdays loss had started in Ottawa, New Jersey and Columbus. In fact the Leafs have been, in my mind, been playing with fire since game two with their sloppy play in the neutral zone! To many teams are taking advantage of the forwards stretching out and the D leaving their post to quickly! And not too mention the D getting caught napping in the neutral zone...and it is not just Luke Schenn being the goat! Someone name Dion has been getting caught out of position too often as well. Here hoping that Luke's night stay in the press box will have a positive effect. One thing Luke better do tonight is have his head on a swivel, because you know for a fact that our old friend Kris Versteeg will be looking to sneak behind the D for a juicy breakaway pass.

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  2. Thanks Long Suffering. Indeed, Luke is not alone in some defensive zone coverage issues.

    And I like your point about Versteeg. He had an un-satisfying time here and would no doubt like to have a good game against one of his (now many!) former clubs.

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  3. I'm not sure Luke can be happy either way. His own play has been sub-par, and led directly to the press box. Watching his mates get whupped can't be fun either, of course. I think you're right about the "human side" - it's just that in this case, the conclusion is" they're just as bad with me as without me"!
    Tonight will be the test for me. If the team shows up flat again, buckle your seat belts for the rest of the season. (Have you ever noticed how often over the past few years the Leafs are flat for an important game, usually at home?). Haven't heard who's coming up from the Marlies, but it's time to see Colborne, isn't it?

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  4. Hi Gerund O'...Yes, early-week home games have often been an issue for the Leafs in recent seasons, for whatever reason!

    I believe Frattin has been re-called, as apparently Colborne (if he even was considered) is now injured...

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  5. Long suffering Leaf fanNovember 8, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Thanks Mike...by the way, enjoy your piece from yesterday. Can you imagine what the Leafs would have been if Mr. Gregory did not listen to Mr. George Armstrong and picked Mike Bossy and Ron Duguay instead of Trevor Johansen and John Anderson. No disrespect to those gentlemen (Johansen was solid in the 78 playoffs beside Trunbull. And Anderson had 4 yrs of scoring thirty on more for the Leafs), but having two lines of say, Sittler, Bossy and Ellis, and Duguay, McDonald, Wiiliams would have been exciting to watch!

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  6. Funny you raise the point about the '78 draft, Long Suffering. I really liked Johansen, tough little fire-hydrant of a defenseman, and of course the popular John Anderson. But yes, Bossy surely would have looked good in blue and white.

    I just wonder, given what then transpired with Leaf upper management around and just after that time, would Bossy have thrived here? I don't imagine he would have won all those Cups! I guess we'll never know...

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  7. Mike After watching Luke being interviewed prior to tonight's game I was concerned that I detected a "smirk" when he replied to the obligatory questions re how did you feel and what did you learn, etc. He gave the stock replies but was not convincing.
    After tonight's game, he may wish he got to sit out another one!

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  8. Hi Ed, Luke hit some guys against the Panthers and that might be a good sign. I just sense confidence remains an issue. As I just mentioned in a new post, I'd like to see him paired regularly with Gunnarsson...

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