Leafs should return Schenn to junior
For the Maple Leafs, history is something to be packaged and sold, never something to learn by.
They like to talk about the team's status as a famous, ancient franchise, but not about the 41 years without a Stanley Cup. They forgot why, after four Stanley Cups in the 1960s, they got rid of Punch Imlach, and were then stunned when Imlach didn't do a great job when he was hired again.
We've run into this dichotomy again at Leaf camp this year with the Luke Schenn debate, and we in the media are as much at fault as anyone else. Schenn is fresh and new, and thus a good story, and any mistakes he has been making have thus been papered over to serve the story.
The very same people that continually slam the Leafs for failing to draft and develop effectively are now suggesting the right move is to keep this teenage defenceman with the big club this season.
It's as though Jim Benning, Fred Boimistruck, Bob McGill, Gary Nylund, Luke Richardson, Al Iafrate, Drake Berehowsky and Jeff Ware, among others, never happened.
The Leafs only have one blue-chip prospect, and that's Schenn. Why would you risk anything with this young man? There's no risk sending him back to junior and having him lead the national junior team, and all kinds of risks inherent in keeping him in the NHL.
Why risk anything for a team that's not going to be very good at all this season? Marc Staal played four full years of junior and look how good he was in his first season last year with the Rangers. Look at the impact Dion Phaneuf made after four years of junior.
Then remember Rostislav Klesla, the fourth pick in 2000, rushed to the NHL by Columbus at age 18 after only one junior season in Brampton.
Ever hear people talk about Klesla as an impact defenceman anymore? And he was just as highly-touted as Schenn.
But Schenn is a lot more interesting than, say, Mike Van Ryn or Jonas Frogren. Moreover, the Leafs are going to say only positive things publicly about Schenn, so that gets turned into a story about how the kid is wonderfully ready.
Folks - reality check time. It doesn't matter how good Schenn is now. It matters only how good he is by age 24 or 25 when the team, possibly, is back to contender status.
It just shouldn't matter whether he's capable of playing in the NHL right now. The young man could be a treasure, and that needs to be handled with care.
To be fair, neither Ron Wilson nor Cliff Fletcher has committed either way on Schenn, so perhaps there's still time for common sense to prevail.
Having seen this exact same episode played over and over with the Leafs, however, it seems common sense always ends up losing.
It's always going to be different this time with this kid. This kid's more mature. This kid can handle playing against men.
We've heard the same thing so many, many times.
Leaf fans should rejoice in the fact that the team, it would appear, has drafted a bona fide stud to build the blueline around. If it all pans out, he'll be a fixture for a decade or more.
Which means letting him to continue to develop in junior hockey for one more year is the right thing to do.