TORONTO - Mike Komisarek has some fairly plain advice for Luke Schenn.
“Simplify,” the veteran Maple Leafs defenceman said on Monday at the MasterCard Centre, a few stalls down in the dressing room from where Schenn was talking to reporters about being a healthy scratch on Saturday night.
“Don’t try to do too much. I have been a perfect example of that, to go out there and try to do too much. Less is more. (But) it’s easier said than done.”
Komisarek knows from recent experience. After struggling through the Leafs’ first five games, Komisarek watched from the press box on Oct. 20 in Boston when the Leafs were hammered 6-2 by the Bruins.
Since that benching, Komisarek, who some Leafs fans still love to hate, is plus-7, and overall his mark of plus-6 leads all Toronto defencemen. Komisarek’s 35 blocked shots are also a team-high.
Schenn’s struggles were evident from the drop of the puck in the season opener a month ago and carried over into November, with coach Ron Wilson and his staff seeing fit to let his equipment hang dry for a 7-0 loss to the Bruins on Saturday. Wilson indicated that Schenn will be back in the lineup on Tuesday night when the Florida Panthers visit, which means Cody Franson likely will be a healthy scratch for the 11th time this season.
It’s hard to say what Schenn could have learned in bearing witness to his teammates’ worst effort of 2011-12 against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
But in the least, it gave the 22-year-old Schenn — the only Leafs defenceman to play in all 82 games last season — a chance to clear his head.
“It was not a good feeling to sit out, but I’m not going to look too much into it,” Schenn said. “I’m not going to worry about what has gone on so far, just about what is going to go on.
“I’m not going to take it as a negative thing and put my head down and be discouraged at all. Take it as a positive and hit the refresh button, like (Komisarek) was saying.”
In the eyes of Wilson, and many thousands of other people watching the Leafs play through the first five weeks, Schenn was uptight and not overly confident to move the puck when it was on his stick. If Schenn gets anything out of the benching, it’s Wilson’s hope that the Saskatoon native doesn’t get caught up in every little thing that is expected of him.
“You have to be relaxed when you go into the game and, seeing it from a different perspective, it will allow him to prepare himself mentally a little bit differently than he has been,” Wilson said. “Don’t worry about making mistakes or what is going to go wrong next.”
Where Franson ruffled feathers in the organization after complaining about his lot in life when he didn’t crack the Leafs’ opening-night roster, Schenn didn’t give in to that temptation, and impressed his teammates.
Captain Dion Phaneuf, not a guy who just wears the ‘C’, has sat down with Schenn a couple of times.
“I’ve been talking to him a lot this year,” Phaneuf said. “I know he was not happy with not being in the lineup, but he has handled it like a professional. You look at the way he has been working, on and off the ice, and I have a lot of respect for him. He is a big part of our team and he will be ready to go when he gets back in. I know that.”
Just don’t figure on watching Schenn, who signed a five-year contract in September, try to carve the Panthers defence on an end-to-end rush.
“He’s a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders,” Komisarek said. “It’s easy to get discouraged when you hit a little speed bump, but Schenny has played well for a couple of years and this is a minor setback.”