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Schenn Eager For His Third NHL Season

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Luke Schenn doesn’t put any stock in the sophomore jinx.

Problem is he reached that conclusion a little late.

Schenn enters his third season after an uneven 2009-2010 campaign and you should probably consider the comedown campaign his fault.

After all, his rookie season was a smashing success. He finished minus -12 on a defensively suspect team that finished dead last in goals against.

The statistics say last year was much better. Schenn finished plus 2 . The Leafs finished second last in goals against.

But Schenn isn’t fooled by the numbers. It’s hard to be when you're a healthy scratch three times and when your ice time is limited to less than 10 minutes on two other occasions.

As Casey Stengel used to say, 50 per cent of professional sports is mental. The rest is in a player’s head.

“Coming here, all you hear is the sophomore jinx,” he said. “I think it’s in your head more than anything. It’s not like you became a worse player going into your second season.”

Schenn said the more he struggled to ignore the jinx talk, the tougher it became to play.

“Maybe you start to believe that after a while. It kind of wears on you, but once you start to figure it out there is no such thing. It’s all mental, you can control it.”

Another element Schenn can control is his conditioning. After a long summer in the gym, Schenn is noticeably broader. GM Brian Burke says Schenn stands in at 240 pounds. That’s 35 pounds heavier than his rookie weight.

“Maybe I got a little more fit,” said Schenn, slyly.

Last year, Schenn came into camp with two newly-signed defencemen, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek ahead of him. Leafs coach Ron Wilson has said it took Schenn time to evolve to a 16-minute a night defenceman from a 22-minute a night defenceman.

Still, statistically at least, he did more than hold his own. In only 34 games, Mike Komisarek was minus nine. Tomas Kaberle ended up -16, Beauchemin -13.

Schenn’s 2009-2010 season matched the Leafs’ season. He struggled in his first 10 games while the Maple Leafs fell into a tailspin saw them win just one of their first 10.

“Obviously last year was a poor start for me and the team,” he said.  “In the second half of the year we got better as a team. I gained a little more confidence and I hope to pick up where I left off.”

Bigger and presumably wiser, Schenn should fit nicely in a defence that includes heavy hitters Mike Komisarek and Dion Phaneuf.

“For sure, defence is a strong point for us,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of other teams look at our defence and see we have a lot of big, tough guys to play against.”
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