RALEIGH, N.C. – Long after the bus had left bringing the Flyers back to their hotel for their afternoon naps in anticipation of the night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, three Flyers and one assistant coach remain behind in the PNC Arena.
The coach, Ian Laperriere, is a bit of a task master. He pushes the envelope a bit with the three players, all who will not play in the game that night.
Just when they think they are going to do one particular skating drill twice, they do it four times. Then, when they think they are done, they switch sides of the ice and do it again – four more times.
There is more… a lot more. They stay on the ice almost a full hour after everyone else finished their morning routine. So much so that they are winded, trying to catch their breath as they ake their way to the locker room.
On this day, the threesome consists of forward Jay Rosehill and defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Luke Schenn.
While this is nothing new to Rosehill or Gustafsson, who have seen their share of healthy scratches, for Schenn, it’s not a common theme.
Before this season he had only missed six games as a healthy player since entering the league as a 19-year-old in 2008-09.
Now, with Flyers coach Crag Berube looking to change things up and unafraid to sit players making bigger money in favor of those making less, He has decided to sit Schenn for not one, but two games – so far – and replace him with journeyman veteran Hal Gill.
He did the same earlier with Andrej Meszaros, but he has made his way back into the lineup.
As for Schenn, for now he sits, and waits.
“It doesn’t get easier [sitting out],” Schenn said. “But I don’t let it affect me as much. [In Toronto] I used to get pretty revved up. As a player, you’re not happy, but at the end of the day you realize it’s out of your control so there’s no sense getting worked up about it. It’s not going to change my attitude.”
Schenn is sitting because of a string of mental mistakes when he has the puck, but while Berube would like him to think quicker, he’d also like him to play quicker.
“It’s tough to scratch any player but it’s one of those decisions that every coach has to make,” Berube said. “He needs to move his feet a little quicker. He needs to close quicker and get up on people quicker.”
There has also been a belief that Schenn is not in good enough skating shape – which is why he has been taking extra skating drills after practices for a couple weeks now, but both Berube and Schenn say that’s not the case – and it probably isn’t.
Schenn actually had a much different take on what has been cluttering up his game.
“I think my skating is fine,” he said. “Maybe it’s more mental decision-making. More ‘read-and-react.’ Maybe you’re more hesitant at times and seem slower. It’s definitely not nerves. At times, maybe instead of being aggressive, you step back a little bit and you hesitate.
“The old saying is, ‘the more you think out there, the more you are going to get yourself in trouble. Instead of going out there and thinking yo should just go out there and play.”
The problem for Schenn has been his inconsistent usage.
Last season, in 47 games with the Flyers, Schenn average more than 21 minutes per game taking a regular shift and being used on the penalty kill.
So far this season, Schenn is averaging less than 16 minutes of ice time per game, and feels a little out of sync with the flow.
Schenn said that it’s definitely easier to forget about a bad play or a mistake when you get a lot of minutes because you’re basically going to be headed right back on the ice for the next shift.
But when there’s some uncertainty about playing time, there remains a tendency to dwell on a flaw for too long and throw off the rhythm of the game.
That’s not to say he believes he would be better with more playing time. Nor does it mean he’s lobbying for more time on ice. Instead, he’s just trying to rationalize how easy it is to get lost in the mental part of the game, especially when everyone is focused on the physical part of it.
“I still have lots of work to do and there’s no question that I want to be the best I can be,” said Schenn, who also admitted that he's reached out again to Chris Pronger for advice. “But I’m actually glad I went through this before [in Toronto] so I know better how to handle it this time around. I know there’s no external pressure. The only pressure I feel would be coming from me.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers