Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 4 (OT-SO): You Know Who’s Not Good? Luke Schenn

Didn’t have time to write a proper recap for this game, but just wanted to raise one quick point before this game disappears into the ether:

Luke Schenn is not a good NHL defenseman.

I don’t scout the Leafs or anything (nor do I scout anyone, but I registered a free WordPress blog so listen to my thoughts dammit!!!), but every time I watch Toronto play, against the Penguins or someone else, Luke Schenn is constantly exposed on defense in repeatedly noticeable ways, and offers little in the way of offensive contributions. And yet, every broadcaster for every team, especially the Hockey Night In Canada dudes, will point out what a good young up-and-coming defenseman Schenn is, essentially just repeating the mantra because he is a young defenseman and is in the NHL and on a high-profile team and has a cool name that’s easy to say.

Last night, Schenn was painfully out of position on both Sidney Crosby goals, covering an invisible phantom player on the opposite post instead of the leading freaking goal scorer in the NHL wide open in the slot twice. That’s not the stuff of up-and-coming young defenseman and growing pains, it’s just unambiguously terrible. Granted, maybe I just happen to keep catching Schenn on isolated bad games, but still, the discrepancy between the constant praise of Schenn and his actual on-ice play is consistently jarring.

Every team in the NHL has a Luke Schenn, often multiple Luke Schenns or better Luke Schenns — would you trade Alex Goligoski for Schenn straight-up? Maybe? It’s not a no-brainer, though, cause they’re comparable players, which is my point. But any discussion of the best young defensemen in the NHL begins with Drew Doughty of L.A., along with Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, Mike Green, and Tyler Myers, and yet, Schenn seems to get mentioned with the regularity of the aforementioned players, despite not only not being in their class, but also by barely playing as an impactful NHL defenseman.

Schenn is 20 and some of those guys are 22-24, which is an important distinction, and Schenn does have an impressive +4 rating on Toronto somehow (though just 6 goals the past two seasons, tying him with Mark “Sniper” Eaton in that span), but his profile continues to be disproportionately bolstered by the visibility of playing for Toronto, much as the profiles of average MLB players like Melky Cabrera or A- prospects like Austin Jackson become extra well-known because they’re constantly mentioned in Yankee trade rumors, even though every team in baseball has those guys.

Perhaps Schenn will develop into a force, but that’s not my point; he’s still a liability on defense at this current point in time and hasn’t shown much offensive skill, which is totally acceptable for a 20-year-old, but can we please stop saying what a great young defenseman he is as he’s costing his team a game with multiple high-school-caliber mental lapses? He’s like the Emperor’s New Defenseman, where no one in the kingdom has the guts to shout out the obvious about how not-great he is. Consider me that a-hole kid.

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