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…”