There are a couple of fan bases around the NHL that I have nothing but respect for. One of them is the Montreal Canadiens and the other is the Philadelphia Flyers. While I really hate these two teams, when it comes to arguing hockey they (for the most part) are always knowledgeable and respectful. So, when the Flyers go through a day like they did on Monday you sort of feel bad for their die hard supporters. As a Leaf fan I’ve been through my fair share of difficult days and yesterday was certainly one of those for the orange and black.
While the Flyer faithful were enduring a difficult Monday I was really at a loss for any Leaf topics to write about. However, just as I was finishing dinner, this popped up on my twitter timeline:
So @darrendreger just told us on TSN Radio that a Philly source openly wondered whether Luke Schenn can even play anymore. Hoo boy.
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) October 7, 2013
My how the mighty have fallen. Miscast as the cornerstone of the Leafs rebuild, Schenn was shockingly traded to the Flyers straight up for star winger James Van Riemsdyk at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (here is what I wrote at the time of the deal). I have no intention on piling on Schenn in this post. The former Leaf is a solid defenseman and I don’t agree at all with that Dreger comment or his Flyers source. Schenn is now what many have always thought he could (hopefully) become: a solid bottom pairing blueliner, incapable of providing offense and who will have trouble with fast forwards. The Leafs were able to replace Schenn (and his awful $3.5 million dollar cap hit) with Mark Fraser last season and probably with Andrew MacWilliam in the future. He’s not terrible, but he’s nothing special.
In return for Schenn though the Leafs have something very special. JVR has gotten better and better since the moment he first put on the blue and white sweater. In his first season he recorded 18 goals and 32 points (pro rated to 30 goals and 55 points over a full campaign). While JVR’s net presence, speed, hands and shot were all on display in the 48 game season his play in the post season was the most impressive. In the Leafs 7 game series against the Boston Bruins the former 2nd overall pick in 2007 had 2 goals and 5 assists. Of course being a point per game player in the post season is something special, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. JVR was an absolute force in that series and elevated his play in a way that is rare. In my opinion he was the best Leaf player in that series and his willingness to battle Zdeno Chara and the Bruins was a big reason that linemate Phil Kessel enjoyed as much success as he did.
JVR burst onto the scene during the 2010-11 playoffs when he recorded 7 goals in 11 games and was the most dominant player on the ice. That post season earned him a 6 year $25.5 million dollar deal ($4.25 cap hit), yet less than a year after signing him to that deal the Flyers decided to part ways with the future star for Schenn. The Leafs are the beneficiaries as that JVR deal is one of the best values currently in the NHL.
This season JVR has continued to progress as he had a great training camp and has already scored two goals in the Leafs’ opening three games. All signs point to the 6′ 3″ 200 pound winger having a career season. A lock for the American Olympic Team, JVR has become an impact forward in the NHL who doesn’t hurt his team in the defensive zone. Players like #21 in blue and white are hard to find. The player he was traded for on the other hand, is a dime a dozen defenseman. I said above that I respect Flyer fans and I empathize with what they are currently going through. However, as much as I respect them, I have no problem rubbing a little salt in the wound: