Drafted fifth overall in 2008 Luke Schenn was Toronto's first big name first round draft pick in a long time. His arrival was a ray of hope for Leafs fans wondering when their playoff drought would end (spoiler: not for a while). Schenn stepped into the lineup immediately as a 19 year old as part of a defensive group that incluced Pavel Kubina, Ian White, Jeff Finger, Tomas Kaberle, Anton Stralman, Jonas Frogren and Mike Van Ryn.
That season the future of the Leafs was only Schenn, Justin Pogge and Jiri Tlusty.
Schenn's arrival made him an instant fan favorite. He promised to be a bruising stay at home defenseman. People have written at length about how fans of the Leafs want a tough lunchpail player like Wendel Clark over a flashy guy like Pavel Bure and Toronto was ready for "The Human Eraser".
Now in his fourth season Luke Schenn is the local whipping boy. "He's had four full seasons to learn the game" people say. "He hasn't developed" others say. This article isn't about defending Luke Schenn from all of his criticism, I think there's valid points that his footspeed may not be up to par which can cause his positioning problems.
I'd just like to urge a little bit of caution. We're all well aware that defensive contributions aren't generally made by young players. Young forwards can score a lot but generally are high event players: the puck ends up in the back of their net a lot.
Want some examples? Think about Steve Yzerman who figured out playing defense to become one of the best players in the game. Chris Pronger joined the Hartford Whalers under Brian Burke as a 19 year old. His seasons in Hartford were disappointing, his footspeed wasn't there, he was traded to St. Louis when he turned 21.
Defense can take time to develop. Pull comps if you don't believe me. It's hard to evaluate shutdown D on counting stats but using ice time as a proxy we see some good comps are Eric Brewer, Bryan McCabe, Robyn Regehr and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Then there's the offense. If Luke Schenn isn't an offensive contributor (no power play time) it's worth pointing out that as a 22 year old Duncan Keith scored 22 points. This season as a 22 year old Luke Schenn is on pace for 25. Zdeno Chara at 22? 11 points.
Keep your pants on, I'm not saying Luke Schenn turns into a premier offensive defenseman, but what I am saying is that regardless of NHL service he's a 22 year old kid and you don't see many 22 year olds who are good at playing defense.
Give Schenn time. This is that patience thing.