The start of the season has been a dream for the League-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, but a nightmare for fourth-year defenseman Luke Schenn. The 22-year-old has slipped down the depth chart -- his normally strong defensive game plagued by a mix of poor decisions, turnovers, and bad breaks.
He will watch from the press box Saturday night as a healthy scratch for the first time since Dec 9, 2009. The 5th selection in the 2008 Entry Draft has an even plus-minus rating this season, below par on a team with the third-best offense and second-best 5-on-5 ratio in the League.
Schenn’s slow start is in contrast to other Leafs blueliners led by captain Dion Phaneuf. A resurgent Mike Komisarek has taken Schenn’s spot in the top four, while Schenn’s ice time has steadily decreased from 22:06 on opening night against Montreal to just 9:13 in Thursday’s 4-1 win against Columbus. Coach Ron Wilson addressed Schenn’s situation following that game.
“It’s a struggle for Luke right now, he’s got to fight through this and not get frustrated,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to figure out the best approach with Luke.”
For his part, Schenn has maintained a positive outlook, commenting on his slump earlier in the week,
"I know my opportunity will come.” Schenn said. “We've got four defensemen right now who are playing great – obviously ahead of me – and they're playing big minutes right now and obviously deservingly so.
"I'm not going to get too rattled or frustrated about it. It's part of the game. Every player goes through this, probably every year, and definitely throughout their career. You just learn how to deal with it and at the end of the day it's not a worry because I know that this isn't going to last forever."
Now banished to the press box, Schenn will need to maintain that positive attitude while Cody Franson, another promising young defenseman who has underachieved this season, enters the lineup against the Bruins. Franson, acquired in the off-season from Nashville, now has his chance to earn the trust of Wilson. Schenn meanwhile, can only sit and wait for an opportunity to get his game back on track and do the same.