Flyers Need Luke Schenn on the Ice, Not in the Press Box


The math is quite simple. When defenseman Luke Schenn dresses and plays, the Flyers win more hockey games than when he doesn’t. So if the Flyers need the 25-year-old blue liner so badly, why has he been out of action of late?

Berube’s Call

After Philadelphia’s 11th loss in their last 13 games, Craig Berube gazed ahead while speaking with the media in Columbus on Tuesday night as if he were out of answers. His soft voice was just loud enough to where you could barely hear it. And although he was greeted with questions about his team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets, it didn’t take long for the elephant in the room to rear it’s mammoth trunk.

Since the weapon of the “healthy scratch” has been unveiled, who could be next? After all, the “message” has now been sent to a handful of players, with established veterans receiving no exemption.

“It’s not about scratching guys, or anything else,” Berube declared as he he shook his head while looking away. “If they can play, they can play. If they can do it, they just got to understand that they have to do it for 60 minutes.”

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Tuesday’s bout with division rival Columbus was yet another effort that didn’t reflect the 60 minute threshold Berube was speaking of. Vinny Lecavalier was scratched from the lineup for the fourth straight game, while Luke Schenn joined Lecavalier’s idle status for the third time this season.

Are there any other options? Everyone is well aware of Philadelphia’s limitations, especially on the defensive side of the ice. But even with Berube’s hands tied to some degree, does Luke Schenn belong on the ice instead of the press box?

The Numbers Game

Since keeping healthy starters out of the lineup is essentially a performance based action, what do the numbers say about the Flyers’ defense? Here is a breakdown of the team’s record with and without Luke Schenn, along with basic and advanced analytics.

With the 6-2 blue liner, the Flyers are 8-8-4. Without Schenn, Philly’s results in the win/loss column plummets to 1-5-1.

Sure, but what are the chances that the Flyers’ record with or without him are indicative to the presence of a defenseman who has only a goal and an assist to show for through 20 games played? After all, isn’t his average ice time hovering around 16 minutes per game?

Those are viable questions to ask. However, it’s widely known that a defeseman is seldom judged on his offensive numbers. The ones who are, are clearly logging more ice time than a third pairing defenseman. But be that as it may, Schenn’s usage and ability are, in fact, a direct match to the results of most of the games he’s appeared in.

Flyers defensemen Corsi statistics through the team’s first 27 games. (War on Ice)

While the advanced analytics show Nicklas Grossmann to be the most ineffective defenseman on the active team, his six points through 27 games are more than both R.J. Umberger and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – although that’s another problem that deserves its own discussion.

The fact remains, however, that Schenn’s possession numbers do not warrant a healthy scratch, let alone in three games and counting.


Without Kimmo Timonen’s presence on both the top five-on-five pairing, and power play unit, the Flyers did all they could to fill the void left behind. GM Ron Hextall signed offensive defenseman Michael Del Zotto, which gives the Flyers a second power play unit quarterback, but comes nowhere close to equalling Timonen’s defensive attributes.

Keying in on the perfect balance of offensive and defensive defensemen explains Grossmann’s presence, despite his lacking analytics. Grossmann’s 6-4, 235-pound frame gives Berube the size needed to fight for pucks down low, as well as the foundation for sustaining his 38 blocked shots.

Another component of balance includes chemistry, as well as role. While Coburn was out for a month earlier in the season, the Flyers flourished. Del Zotto saw his role increase, upping his offensive output to seven points and a plus-one rating. Since Coburn’s return on Nov. 8th, Del Zotto’s production has dipped, scoring just a single point to go along with a minus-seven rating.

In Coburn’s month-long absence, the Flyers would go 6-4-2. With the 29-year-old dressed, their record has now dropped to 3-10-3 after Tuesday’s loss to Columbus.

An argument can be made that Coburn’s average ice time of 20:14 plays a heavy part of the unimpressive evidence. But what it truly shows is that the Flyers are glaringly missing a top tier defenseman who’s capable of producing under such a heavy workload.

Nonetheless, none of this gives us an indication as to why Luke Schenn has been scratched. Not even the slightest idea.