Whenever any player is drafted in the first few picks, the commentators covering the draft really like to envision the same player five years into the future, after having righted the ship of a troubled franchise. In hindsight, it’s always nice to read old draft coverage to see which players were wildly overrated or underrated by the hockey establishment.
Like the 2008 draft for instance. Steve Stamkos went number one overall, and then four defencemen followed. 2008 is actually quite similar to 2012 in the sense that a lot of the talent at the top of the draft tended to be defensive players. The ’08 defensive class bucked a trend, because less than five years later, so many of them are already playing in the NHL: Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner, Luca Sbisa, Michael Del Zotto and John Carlson were all taken in the first round.
A couple of those names stand out, because “Hey!” they’re Toronto Maple Leafs. Schenn, unfortunately, hasn’t had a seamless transition to the NHL and it’s in question whether he’s played his last game for the Leafs or not. Don’t let Pierre McGuire, Gord Miller, Bob McKenzie et al.’s comments on Draft Day, 2008 fool you, and avoid what you hear on draft day this year. Fact is that not every player can become a superstar in the NHL.
“They went to the Memorial Cup that year, and the Rockets billeted or put him as a roommate with Shea Weber, their outstanding young defenceman who has of course gone on to a great career with Nashville. He also billets with the same billets Weber had in Kelowna, so a lot of comparisons, different players, but we saw Luke Schenn at the World Junior, Pierre, he was dynamite.”
“I don’t cheer for anybody, I don’t care who wins or losses. Toronto wins big here. This is huge for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their organization going forward. This is the start of their rebuild, and you couldn’t build it on better shoulders than Luke Schenn’s.”
“When you can get a player like Luke Schenn, you just go crazy as a scout. This is a franchise player. Barring injury, what a career he will have for the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
“LET THE REBUILD BEGIN BECAUSE NOW IT’S COMING TO TORONTO!”
“We travelled all over Russia last summer in the Super Series, Gord. Luke Schenn was just so great around that whole thing. He was so positive with the other young players on that team. I can’t say enough good things about Luke Schenn. Just a physical impact. This is Adam Foote. This is a one man search-and-destroy-type of a guy and you build teams around defencemen like this.”“This is exactly what Leafs fans want. This is a start, and a major start of a solid foundation to build around right now. I am just so thrilled for Toronto and their fans because this is the start of a new beginning.”
“What the scouts really like about this guy is that he knows that he’s not a great offensive defenceman. He knows his limitations. He knows that he’s a defence-first guy and he doesn’t try to do too much with the puck. But what he does do with the puck is highly efficient. He makes the first pass. This guy did not have a single point in the World Junior Championship and was arguably one of the best players on the ice from start to finish in that tournament. He led Canada in plus/minus, he was a plus-five at the World Junior. This is a guy who knows his job and knows how to do it, and you’re right. He’s physically punishing, a shutdown defenceman, mean and nasty.”
What we learned, is that Luke Schenn is a comparable defenceman to Shea Weber, that Luke Schenn signaled the start of the Toronto rebuild, that Luke Schenn makes you go crazy as a scout, because THE REBUILD IS COMING TO TORONTO, that Luke Schenn is a comparable defenceman to Adam Foote, that Luke Schenn is the major start of a solid foundation, and that Luke Schenn was great in a small sample size tournament.
And if it seems like Pierre McGuire was talking an awful lot, well, he didn’t even shut up about Luke Schenn when the 2009 draft rolled around:
“You look at Luke Schenn going fifth overall last year, now you have Nazem Kadri going to the Maple Leafs with the number seven pick, and you also have Jiri Tlusty from a few years ago. So now they’re starting to build on their foundation with an explosive offensive player like Kadri, Bob.”
Now, Kadri still has an optimistic future in the NHL, but Schenn is crazy expensive right now for a pretty marginal player and the Leafs need to figure out what they can do with him. Jiri Tlusty obviously never fit into Brian Burke’s long-term plans and they shipped him out too.
In fact, the Leafs’ best players: Jake Gardiner, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Mikhail Grabovski, weren’t acquired through the draft. Of their remaining core players, Clarke MacArthur, Joffrey Lupul, Nik Kulemin and Carl Gunnarsson, only two were actually drafted by Toronto.
The Leafs will draft Alex Galchenyuk, Radek Faksa, or some defenceman at number five and they’ll be hyped up pretty hard because the Leafs haven’t had a high first round pick in a couple of years. We know how much we’re annoyed by people talking about how Burke traded “Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight” for Phil Kessel, when we know quite well that two of those guys have yet to play an NHL game.
And that’s not on the Leafs. That’s onto the outlets that overhype junior age players and expect the world of 17-and-18-year olds.