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Luke Schenn could benefit from the Rod Langway approach

During the 1978-’79 NHL season, I was working in the broadcast industry in Montreal and consequently attended a lot of games at the Forum.

I remember watching a then very young Rod Langway work his way into the Canadiens line-up. Now, keep in mind that, ahead of him on the depth chart were superstars like Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson, not to mention other solid defenders such as Brian Engblom.

Early on in Montreal Langway lacked confidence, was nervous handling the puck and not adept at moving it quickly. But it was clear he had talent. I seem to recall he went back to play for a few weeks in the AHL in Nova Scotia, and when he re-joined the Habs, he was a different player: confident, a good puck-handler and decisive moving the puck.

He was good enough by the end of the season to play in some playoff games that spring as Montreal won their fourth Cup in a row. He ultimately became a Norris Trophy- winning defenseman with Washington, one of the best defensemen in the ‘80s.

I bring this up simply to say that sophomore defenseman Luke Schenn may benefit from spending time with the Leafs’ AHL team. Schenn is clearly a talented young defenseman, but if his confidence is indeed slipping, having his every move watched intently by a frustrated Leaf fan base and a nervous coaching staff may not be the best way to fight through a tough time.

The young man has a shot at a long career in the NHL, hopefully in Toronto. Whether it was indeed the right move to keep him last season (when he could have played another year in junior) is a moot point now, I realize. Most players in my view benefit from playing out their junior careers, then spending some time in the minors. It’s too late to take that exact approach with Schenn now.

But the future is more important than the present in Toronto, and if management really sees Schenn as a cornerstone-type player, then working effectively with him and ensuring his confidence is where it needs to be should be a priority.

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