Former Leaf talks about his time in Toronto and reveals how he feels about their chances of winning a Cup

Dean Chaudhry
September 16, 2023  (1:13 PM)

Luke Schenn is part of a rare group of hockey players that has gotten better with age and a lot better since he turned 30 years old. The physical, defensive defenseman, now 33, struggled for a brief period of time between 2015-16 to 2020-21 until he was able to revive his career, which in turn, earned him a 3-year pact with Nashville this summer.

From 2015-16 to 2019-20, Schenn had spent time in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Arizona, Anaheim, Vancouver and Tampa Bay. Schenn was losing his footing in the league, which explains his 2018-19 season, which was primarily spent in the AHL as he played for Anaheim's affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks that same season, but was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets.
"Well, when I first got down to San Diego (in the AHL in 2018), I thought like, yeah, this very well could be the end of the road. But then I started finding my game again and feeling better about my game. Dallas Eakins really helped me."

After a brief stint with the Canucks, Schenn signed with Tampa Bay the following summer in 2019 but was once again placed on waivers and assigned to the minors - this time due to salary cap restraints. He didn't last in Syracuse for too long as he earned himself a call-up and remained on the team for the rest of the season and for parts of 2020-21, where he won 2 Stanley Cups.
His hard work did not go unnoticed as Schenn became a focal point in his return to Vancouver in 2021-22 and 2022-23, before being traded to Toronto at last year's deadline. His game had changed so much over the years and everyone started to take notice. He would work on his puck skills during practice, after practice, and that's what truly helped in his revival.
"I still do it every day, work on it all summer and even in Nashville, too. Ryan O'Reilly, he's sort of the same thing. My brother used to tell me about it every day, what he did in St. Louis. How he was the first guy on, last guy off. And you're not going a million miles per hour before and after practice. You're just constantly touching the puck.

The one thing I notice about NHL practices is you could go through four practices in a row as a defenseman and not even touch the puck. And then all of a sudden you get into a game situation and you're supposed to make plays under pressure. So then I was like, well, the only way to figure this out is before and after practice (to) keep getting puck touches in. So that's what I think has helped. And then in the summer, create a bit of a routine that is good."

By the time he returned back to Toronto, Schenn was a lot more polished and in control. Working and playing with Quinn Hughes helped him achieve greater heights and he instantly became a hot commodity ahead of the trade deadline. His confidence had returned and we saw that on full display during the playoffs.
"I felt more confident. Sometimes you play heavier minutes, but coaches are not exactly looking for matchups (with you). But in Toronto in the playoffs, me and (Morgan Rielly), we were playing against Tampa's top lines, we were playing big minutes in the third period, tight games. Same thing against Florida."

On his second stint with the Leafs, filled with confidence and a much different player this time around:
"As far as closure, I mean, I don't even know if I look at it as closure. I look at it as I'm really happy I got the opportunity. I always kind of dreamt of coming back and playing in Toronto and obviously, you know, I didn't think that would be a possibility, especially when you're going through waivers and you're looking at it and you're like, 'Well, they passed on me again. I think that they could use a physical defenceman, but they passed on me again. So it's probably never going to happen.' And when it finally happened, I was just really grateful for the opportunity."

From a veteran who has been around the league for quite some time, as well as a two-time champion, he sees what the Leafs have going for them and is a big believer in their chances moving forward. That has to count for something:
"I think they've got a great culture [in Toronto] and I think that the guys that they're building around are only getting better and those experiences only help. You look at Tampa when they won. They lost out in the playoffs a bunch of times — in the finals, in the semifinals, in the first round — and eventually they got over the hump. You need the experience to eventually get there.

Auston Matthews is a total pro. Mitch Marner, I know he takes heat at times, but he puts up 100 points, plays at both ends. I'd put him on my team all day. He's an unbelievable guy. Morgan Rielly, he's a true No. 1 [defenseman]. You've got (William) Nylander. You've got John Tavares. He's a great captain and puts in the work; like, it's an unmatched sort of thing. So they got all the right pieces and they've got some good depth guys, too. It's obviously a tough market, but the guys in the room, they want it more or as much as anyone in the league. They obviously have a great group of guys there, and I was impressed with the culture that they've built there since my first go around."

The Leafs were reportedly interested in bringing Schenn back all summer, but unfortunately for Brad Treliving and company, Nashville presented him with a better offer for more years and at a higher AAV. For a player in Schenn's position and at his age, you certainly can't turn down the type of contract he was offered by the Preds.
In the end, Schenn was very grateful for the time he was able to spend in Toronto on his second tour, and was very complementary of the group the Leafs have build under Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas. Now, we'll just have to wait and see whether Schenn is right about the Leafs getting over that hump.
Former Leaf talks about his time in Toronto and reveals how he feels about their chances of winning a Cup

Should the Leafs have given Luke Schenn the same contract that Nashville offered him ($2.75M x3)?

No way7530.4 %
Yes, Schenner was a solid fit here13353.8 %
It's better than the Klingberg deal3915.8 %
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