When the Leafs traded Luke Schenn to the Flyers for James van Riemsdyk, a Flyers fan asked me for my thoughts. I gave them. Doing Leafs videos for the last few seasons, I’ve obviously seen quite a bit of Luke Schenn. I even interviewed the guy a few times. Since getting drafted in 2008, we saw him at his best, and his worst.
James van Riemsdyk on the other hand? I have to admit, I haven’t watched JVR play very much, and whenever I get asked about how he’ll improve the Leafs’ lineup, I’m not sure what to say. That very same guy who tweeted me however, Jordan Kuhns, happens to have quite the in-depth opinion about James van Riemsdyk.
Jordan (aka @jckuhns) was kind enough to give TLN a writeup on his thoughts regardings JVR. Jordan’s young, but has been working in sports for several years now, including a gig as a video production intern for the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate Reading Royals.
Now let’s look at James van Rimesdyk:
GUEST POST — By Jordan Kuhns:
Flyers fans and hockey fans alike knew that at some point, forward James van Riemsdyk was on his way out of Philadelphia. After all, the Flyers have been stacked with quality forwards that have found roles and ways to produce consistently. JVR turned out to be the odd man out, and on the surface, he turned out to be a bust for his draft status. That said, who could Paul Holmgren try to steal with a blue chip prospect in his hands?
Fans in Philly hoped that he would be a part of a package deal that would bring in a legitimate defenseman such as Shea Weber when trading for Weber seemed feasible, or maybe even Keith Yandle. As we all know by this point, it ended up being a swap for defenseman Luke Schenn.
The swap makes sense, because clearly, both players needed a change of scenery. Both have underachieved for their pedigrees. Some believe JVR should have fetched a prettier return, but the trade addressed needs on both squads: The Leafs acquired a top six forward, and the Flyers acquired a strong and physical defenseman.
JVR is a bit of a strange case. You can’t just peg a 23-year old as an archetype of any player type. He’s a 6’2”, 200-lb mass of humanity that does not do what it takes to be a power forward. Instead, he most frequently plays a perimeter finesse game that revolves around his very accurate shot. His wrist shot rivals some of the best in the league, but if you possess the assets to bully your way to the net, do it!
This isn’t to say that JVR is useless. The hockey world came to know what JVR was made of, especially in the Boston series in 2011. JVR proved his skill as an excellent puck protector off the wing. He has the ability to absolutely blow by defensemen off the rush by driving wide and creating opportunities with wraparound chances.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t always do that. In fact, he rarely ever does that. Shame.
The Flyers rewarded him a huge contract because their brass thought that what they saw in the 2011 playoffs could be the real JVR. Injuries plagued the man last season, but even when he was supposedly healthy, he rarely ever did any of the things that made him successful the year prior.
Watching game two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals provides curious minds the greatest example of what earned him that contract. Want proof? Be sure to watch at 0:25, 2:42, 8:26, 9:08, 10:04 13:00, 13:42, 13:50 and 14:10,
Convinced? You have just seen James van Riemsdyk’s potential. Pure domination. In that game, he scored two goals on eight shots and logged 28:18 of ice time. But after that game, you never saw that kind of dominance from him ever again.
Leafs Nation will be severely disappointed if JVR continues his lackadaisical path as an underachieving forward. Likewise, Flyers fans will inevitably rage if Luke Schenn doesn’t pan out as the next Chris Pronger.
In any case, have faith in the man. He still has time to develop as a prime forward. For all we know, next year he will break out like Joffrey Lupul did in Toronto last season. It will be up to his linemates to get him the puck, because as you experienced above, he has the ability to do some pretty special things with the biscuit on his twig. He may never live up to being a 2nd overall pick in his career. With a fresh start, now is as good of a time as ever to do just that.