Maple Leafs Look Ahead: Luke Schenn and the Sophomore Slump That Wasn't

Jon NeelyAnalyst IApril 27, 2010

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 15:  Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs handles the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on January 15, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Coming off a rookie season in Toronto when he stood out as one of the team's best, Luke Schenn came into this year looking to prove that a sophomore slump would not be something he'd have any part of.

But right off the bat it seemed that his season was doomed by the slump that plagues so many second-year players in the NHL.

He was a healthy scratch three times and due to the new defenders on the team, he saw his ice time dip dramatically from the previous year. It was clear that he didn't have the same role as last year and he would have to fight for minutes.

He was continually criticized for his declining play as the season progressed. His physicality was lacking, he sometimes seemed to be lost on the ice, and he was repeatedly caught out of position as the Leafs' tough season continued.

Heck, he went from being the one player Brian Burke would never trade to being rumored as a part of more than one deal shipping him out of town.

The season wasn't all for naught, he did visibly improve as the year went on, but largely it was felt that he could of, and should of, had a much more productive year for the Leafs.

But it might actually surprise you when you look at the stats he finished the season with. Despite the majority of people feeling his year was a bust, he improved in almost every statistical category from his rookie year.

He had five goals and 17 points—three more than last season—while appearing in nine more games (79). He finished the year as a plus two, a drastic improvement from his minus 12 at the end of last year.

And he did all that while playing less every night.

A sophomore slump that might not have actually been one, or at least not to the extent that some had made it out to be.

Sure, he had his fair share of struggles, but by the end of the year he had his game at a respectable place and for whatever they're worth, had his stats at a better place than his rookie season.

But the most important thing for Schenn is to build off his last two seasons and find his place on this suddenly very talented Leaf blue line.

His job is hardly in danger, but ice time will be highly contested for next season, and if he plans on playing any sort of significant role, he'll have to show the coaching staff he can hang with the big boys.

With Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, and Tomas Kaberle (probably) already locked in the top four spots, and Carl Gunnarsson almost assuredly being awarded one as well, Schenn is going to need to play well consistently all season if he plans on avoiding watching any more games from the press box.

Fewer mistakes are key.

If he can find the confidence to perform at a high level every night, it should be a season to remember for the 20-year-old Schenn, who is looking for a breakout season in the NHL.

It will be his play this season that he can look back on as a stepping stone to where he will be at the end of next year—to look back on the sophomore slump that might not have actually been one.