Toronto Maple Leafs: Just How Much Will They Miss Luke Schenn?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1:  Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs fires a hard pass up ice in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 1, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Penguins 1-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Luke Schenn was supposed to be the future for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they selected him with the No. 5 pick in the 2008 draft.

After four years with the Leafs, he was traded for an even higher pick in former Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk (second pick in 2007) during the summer.

The Leafs certainly need more scoring depth and offensive talent, so acquiring a player like van Riemsdyk helps make the Leafs a more dangerous offensive team.

When the Leafs brought Schenn into the fold, they thought he was going to be an elite-level blue liner. The Flyers obviously believe he can still get there. They certainly have a big need for him to get there, because they have no idea whether stalwart defenseman Chris Pronger will ever be able to play again in the NHL.

It seems quite likely that Pronger won't come back (via Schenn, 23, has the size and strength at 6'3" and 229 pounds to become a dominant defenseman. He had his moments with the Leafs, but consistency eluded him during his four years with the Leafs.

The Leafs have to take much of the blame for Schenn's inconsistency. In 2008, the Leafs traded up to get the No. 5 pick in the draft. Schenn probably was not worthy of a pick in that range.

When you are the No. 5 pick and you are selected by a team that has not won a Stanley Cup or even been to the Finals since 1967, you are expected to be a savior. That's not exactly fair when you are an 18-year-old player.

Schenn almost certainly would have benefited from a year or two in the minors before he was brought up (source: Toronto Star). He had to learn on the fly, and it's not like the Leafs had a Zdeno Chara or Nicklas Lidstrom to show him the ropes.

He was learning blind.

After a couple of years, there was palpable disappointment that he had not developed into a star. That discontent did not do Schenn any favors.

Getting shipped out of town may be the best thing that ever happened to him. He gets a chance to turn the page while working for a strong coach like Peter Laviolette, who will also be able to work with him on his technique.

Schenn has scored 75 points in his four-year NHL career, and he has not scored more than five goals in any season. He does not appear to be a major offensive threat, but he is a big hitter who can carry the puck out of his own zone and make plays.

He has every chance to develop into an excellent player, even though he may never be a superstar.

The Leafs may have not handled Schenn's development correctly, but they have several young defenseman who can mitigate that mistake. Jake Gardiner made the all-rookie team on the blue line last year and should be a fixture for Toronto.

They also have 2011 first-round draft pick Stuart Percy and 2012 first-rounder Morgan Rielly as blue-line prospects. They also drafted Matt Finn to play defense, and he clearly has plenty of ability as well.

If van Riemsdyk can produce 25 to 30 goals per year and the Maple Leafs don't mess up the development of Gardiner, Percy, Rielly and Finn, they may not miss him that much

However, if Schenn turns out to be the star they thought he was when they drafted him in 2008, it will be another burden for this franchise that has not made the postseason since 2003-04