Schenn shows why he shouldn’t be on the trade block
STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
|Luke Schenn. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)
Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn usually plays a quietly effective game, and perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been a big fuss in Leafs Nation over reports that Schenn may be traded this season.
But if the Leafs do swap their former fifth-overall pick from 2008, even if it’s for a big, talented forward, a player like James Van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers, they’ll still miss Schenn, big time. The Saskatoon native has had an up-and-down season, but when he’s on his game, he’s a top-line defensive defenceman and is always among the league leaders in hits.
Schenn played a strong game on Saturday night in Toronto’s 5-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Not flashy, but solid. He scored his second goal of the season, was physical, leading the team with four hits, and was a powerhouse on the penalty kill. Schenn is expendable (apparently) because the Leafs have a plethora of talent on the blue line, including youngsters Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and Keith Aulie. And team captain Dion Phaneuf is only 26. But Schenn would be a top-four defenceman on many teams in the NHL.
PUSHING RIGHT BUTTONS
Give Leafs coach Ron Wilson his due for going with goaltender James Reimer again. Wilson gave Reimer his second consecutive start after he shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, 1-0. Wilson wants to ride a hot hand, but starting Reimer, who has been inconsistent for most of the season, was a gamble nevertheless. Yes, he had the shutout against the Pens, but Pittsburgh also hit the cross bar or goal post at least three times. Even more suspect was the fact that, heading into Saturday‚s game, Reimer was 1-4 on the road this season, compared to 7-1 at home (not including OT games). Against the Sens, Reimer played the angles spectacularly and stopped 49 shots for his second shutout in as many games. It’s reaching the point for Wilson where Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson are a toss-up as far as who will play. Both have demonstrated an ability to get red-hot, though both have also gone into slumps. The key for Wilson, as his team fights for a playoff spot, is finding the goalie who will stay hot in the home stretch. Right now, Reimer holds the upper hand, but that will likely change before the season is over, two or three times.
The Leafs caught the Senators at the right time. Ottawa had lost five in a row leading and played on Friday night. They looked weary against the Leafs ... With the Leafs holding a 5-0 lead late in the third, Wilson started the power play with the fourth line ... The Leafs penalty kill continues to sparkle. A perfect 20-for-20 in 14 games, Toronto went 3-for-3 against the Sens ... Third-line centre Tim Connolly disappears far too often ... Joffrey Lupul’s assist on Leafs’ second goal was his 53rd point of the season — tying a career high from when he was with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005-06. He now has 54 points, the most in his NHL career ... Second-line centre Mikhail Grabovski continued his hot hand, making a beautiful pass to Franson on the Leafs‚ fifth goal. Grabovski now has three goals and six assists in the last five games. His linemate Clarke MacArthur, who also got an assist against the Sens, has four goals and three assists in four games.
AWAY FROM THE ICE
Don Cherry wore a Wiarton Willie tie during his Coach’s Corner segment, one can only assume in honour of Sun hockey writer Terry Koshan. Maybe one day he’ll wear a Mimico Mike tie. Cherry knocked unnamed hockey reporters during both his HNIC appearances, basically for hating fighting and eating too much in the media room. Scandalous ... Good HNIC interview with legendary Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes about her fight to bring awareness to mental health issues.
Bill Watters might not have his own radio show anymore, and he doesn’t tweet every time a Leaf picks his nose, but his insight on the game is second to none, as was the case on Andy Frost’s pre-game show on 640 radio. Watters knows the game like few others ... Nice pre-game piece on HNIC on Brian McGrattan and Jordin Tootoo and their fight against their former self-destructive lifestyle.