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Maple Leafs Watch: Don’t give up on Schenn

One year ago, Luke Schenn was on top of the NHL world – and on the cover of The Hockey News’ annual rookie report issue.

Today, he wouldn’t likely even merit consideration to be one of the answers in our magazine’s crossword section.

Things can change quickly for young players. That said, does Schenn’s reversal of fortune officially make him the latest in a long line of failed, high-profile Maple Leafs blueliner prospects?

Hardly. He’s simply going through the kind of second-year struggles most NHLers endure, only he’s doing so in the biggest fishbowl pro hockey has to offer.

Always billed as a stay-at-home defenseman, Schenn is the type of player who’ll never work himself into the good graces of fans with dazzling offensive maneuvers. However, any time he makes a mistake, millions of people will notice, because more likely than not  – especially with the sub-standard goaltending the Leafs have received this year - Schenn’s error will lead to a goal from the opposition.

It’s understandable, then, why the 20-year-old is sticking out for the wrong reasons, as well as why coach Ron Wilson has scaled back Schenn’s ice time (from an average of 21:32 minutes per game last year to 14:47 this year) as he battles the sophomore jinx.

But if you’re training your vocal chords to boo the kid for the rest of his days in a Leafs uniform, look at the career of Avs defenseman Adam Foote, a player people liken to Schenn, before you commit to the catcalls.

When Foote played his first NHL game in 1991, he was a 20-year-old on an awful Quebec Nordiques squad and finished the year with a minus-4 plus/minus rating in 46 games.

Four years after that – and once the Nords franchise developed its young talent after relocating to Colorado to become the Avalanche – Foote was a plus-27 on a Stanley Cup championship team.

There’s no assurance Schenn will follow the same career path. But assuming he is a bust of a high draft pick ignores the history before him – and the potential he still has.

This article also appeared in the Toronto Metro newspaper.

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