VOORHEES, N.J. – Luke Schenn knows how fickle hockey fanatics can be.
After all, he played in the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe in Toronto for four seasons and his time there was, well, like the four seasons.
There were times when he was a hot prospect on the Maple Leafs Blue line, like the summer sun pounding against the tarmac.
There were times when he was a ray of hope, like Spring, for a franchise that hasn’t wont the Stanley Cup since before the Flyers even existed.
There were times when he was cool like Autumn, leaving fans to wonder if he would live up to the hype of being the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft.
And there were times when things were an icy Winter for Schenn, being labeled a bust by the impatient Toronto media who shape the feelings of a fan base more than in any other hockey city in North America.
“You can’t hide from anything, whether it’s on or off the ice you are always being watched over,” said Schenn, who arrived for his first informal, on-ice workout with his new Flyers teammates Wednesday. “Everything that goes on, whether it’s a game or a practice is going to be a story. Every little play, whether it’s good or bad is going to be critiqued.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a great experience being there for four years. You go through a lot of ups and downs there. People can pump you up pretty good when your playing well and come down on you when you’re not. In the end it’s going to make you stronger mentally.”
And that’s one of the good things about Schenn. He was able to take the ups and the downs with a pretty even demeanor.
“Every guy is different with how much they can take mentally,” Schenn said. “For me it was great. There were times when it was unbelievable and people praise you. You pretty much get treated like royalty. But a lot is based on team success and when things aren’t going well there’s a lot more finger pointing at individuals. That’s just the way it goes. From the top to the bottom of the roster.”
However, Toronto, known for it’s hockey impatience, gave up on Schenn at the age of 22 and traded him to the Flyers last summer in exchange for James van Riemsdyk, who was a bit of a first round disappointment himself.
The Flyers are banking on Schenn still reaching his potential and think he will thrive in Peter Laviolette’s system.
Couple that with the fact that he’ll be playing with his little brother Brayden Schenn, and he won’t be the focal point of the Flyers defense and he may have the opportunity to thrive in Philadelphia.
And as excited as he is to be here, he also understands that hockey in Philadelphia is not all that different than hockey is in Toronto, but he feels he’s fully prepared to tackle his new environment.
“It’s definitely one of the top hockey markets in the league and the fans are pretty passionate and very knowledgeable,” Luke Schenn said. “I haven’t experienced too much, but it’s one of the best buildings to play at in the league and just being out here today and seeing all the fans at practice and all the media, it’s a lot like Toronto for sure.”
The Flyers like him enough that he likely will be considered a top four rearguard and it wouldn’t surprise if he was teamed up with veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
Timonen was integral in the rapid growth of Braydon Coburn into a top flight defenseman, so it makes sense that he would be paired with Schenn to provide the same savvy presence that gives him room to grow.
For the record, Schenn led all NHL defensemen in hits in 2011-12 with 270. That total also ranked seventh in the NHL. By comparison, the Flyers leader in hits last season was Scott Hartnell with 188 hits (35th in the NHL) and their best defensemen were Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossman, who tied for 60th in the league with 164 hits.
“I’m just going to try to be steady back there, get the puck quickly to the forwards and be physical and be solid defensively,” Schenn said. “The simpler the better. I just want to be a hard defenseman to play against.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37