Bittersweet exit for Schenn
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Luke Schenn says leaving the Leafs won't be easy, but is looking forward to playing with his younger brother Brayden in Philly. (QMI AGENCY)
TORONTO - Knowing Luke Schenn would be sad to leave four years’ worth of friends and memories in Toronto, pal Clarke MacArthur tried a little humour when Saturday’s trade to the Flyers was announced.
“He said he’s glad he won’t have to get up and stand every third period for Luke’s Troops,” Schenn laughed in a phone interview Sunday night from Kelowna, B.C. “He told me he’s tired of seeing my ugly face on the screen at the ACC.”
But Schenn said his sponsorship of the game-night tribute to the Canadian Forces was one of the things that made it so special in this market, even though his play and the team’s were both under a giant microscope all 82 games. Not making the playoffs in four years only made it harder.
“This was a great place for a young guy to come and start his career,” Schenn countered. “Everyone on the team did everything to help me out.”
Schenn included coach Ron Wilson in that group, the only coach he had until Randy Carlyle took over the job for the final 18 games of the season. It bothered Schenn that some suggest Wilson was an impediment to his development.
“He’s the guy who gave me the chance (at age 18) to play in this league,” Schenn said. “I was able to come in and have that extra year and learn so much.”
Schenn broke in with the Leafs much the same way another Western Hockey League kid named Wendel Clark did 20 years earlier, hitting hard and fighting the battles of older or less-aggressive players. When Brian Burke replaced Cliff Fletcher as general manager (Fletcher drafted Schenn fifth overall), the boss quickly picked up some experienced ruffians to take that pressure off of the kid.
By his third year, Schenn felt confident enough in his station to call out the team on occasion when he sensed they were talking a good game, but not being accountable. There were predictions he could become captain, a job given to Dion Phaneuf.
As far as his day job went, Schenn had two really good years out of four, his rookie campaign and the one that netted him a five-year, $18-million US deal in the summer of 2011.
But another dip in his play this season and the addition of more defencemen through trades put him on the block fairly early in the year. The one-for-one deal for winger James van Riemsdyk idled for months but was resurrected on the weekend.
“You’re going to have ups and downs in the course of your career,” Schenn said. “I leave with no regrets. You find that four years can fly by pretty quickly in this league.
“I’m going to a team that’s been competitive every year and has made the playoffs. I’m looking forward to that.
“I think Toronto is going to be there, too. I think they have the players to do it.”
Schenn is also joining younger brother Brayden in Philadelphia. Just a couple of years earlier, parents Jeff and Rita were paying airfare from Saskatoon to Los Angeles to watch Brayden and then to Toronto to see Luke. Then came Brayden’s move to the Flyers last year, which meant four annual meetings. And now what Brayden called “a dream come true”, both boys on the same club. Jeff coached his sons in minor hockey, though his double-dipping on the teams’ Father’s Day road trips is now done.
“That’s been the great part about this, the chance to play with my brother,” Luke said. “You hate to leave Toronto, but this is a great opportunity. I just hope they find someone to take over Luke’s Troops.”