On Saturday night Luke Schenn was a healthy scratch for the first time since coming to Philadelphia. He missed one game last year due to the flu but has been a fixture in the Flyers’ line-up since his arrival. He spent most of last season paired with Kimmo Timonen and averaged 21:52 TOI per game. He was one of the few bright spots on a beat up Flyers blue line last season. This season, his ice time was drastically reduced by new head coach Craig Berube. Through 12 games, Schenn has averaged 15:36 TOI per game and requested extra skating following practice on multiple occasions.
Reports surfaced yesterday afternoon that the Dallas Stars have been calling the Flyers concerning the availability of Luke Schenn. Based upon practice today, it looks as if Schenn is slated to be a healthy scratch again on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes, only fueling the fire of those calling for a trade. There are a few reasons, however, not to move Schenn just yet.
First, being a healthy scratch can mean many things. When new Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins made Nail Yakupov a healthy scratch the rumors began to swirl. However, it looks more and more like Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish did not have any real intention of trading away the former #1 overall pick. When a young player, such as Yakupov or Schenn, is benched it is usually to send him a message. The message is this: you need to play better and your youth is no longer an excuse. Luke Schenn is a good player and it is likely that he will get that message. His play will be better next time he is out on the ice. It would be a shame if that good play is for another team.
Second, Schenn is right-handed. I know that many people do not think this is a big deal, but hear me out. Right now, seven out of the eight Flyers defensemen are left-handed. On Saturday, the Flyers started six lefties. When a defenseman is going to retrieve a dump-in on the goalies right side, a left-handed player must either play the puck behind the net, or pass it blindly up the boards. Because it is unwise to throw around blind passes, most of the Flyers defenseman on the right side just end up passing the puck to their defense partner behind the net. This gives the opposing forward more time to get up on the fore-check and disrupt the Flyers breakout. Not only is Schenn the only right-handed defenseman on the Flyers line-up right now, but he is also one of the few in the Flyers system. Prospect Mark Alt is right-handed, but Samuel Morin, Oliver Lauridsen, Robert Hagg, and Shayne Gostisbehere are all left-handed. It would be wise to keep a young righty around.
Third, Schenn is still only 24 years old. Many defenseman are only getting into the NHL at his age. Schenn is in his sixth full NHL season while 24 year old Erik Gustafsson is still struggling to hold down a spot. Schenn’s physical, stay-at-home style is also something that takes time to develop. Many players of his style do not com into their own until their late twenties. As a 24 year old who was rushed into the NHL, it may take some time for Schenn to find his game, but he has shown that he can be a reliable second-pairing defenseman.
Finally, the trade return for Schenn would not be high right now. As a player who has had only modest success in his career, the Flyers would be dealing from a position of weakness. A possible trading partner is going to know that Schenn is in Berube’s dog house and use that to get Schenn at a low price. This makes any trade involving Schenn a high risk proposition. Dealing a player when he is going through a rough spot in his career rarely works out well for the team that traded him.
The Flyers have plenty of problems right now. Trading Luke Schenn may bring them a quick fix, but it would cripple their long-term defensive development. Schenn can still become a solid NHL player and should be given the chance to get himself out of his current funk.