Monday, July 14, 2008

08-09 Defensive Pairings

I grew up in Hartford, CT (go Whale!). In 1992 I got to see a young defenseman come into the league at age 19, Chris Pronger.

I've heard Luke Schenn compared to Chris Pronger without much offense. Schenn's potential is a top pairing defenseman who hits hard but doesn't play a lot of offense which works for Toronto since the Leafs have plenty of slick puck moving defensemen but no one who can really rough it up.

However, when Pronger came into the league, he took a lot of flack for being a poor defenseman in Hartford. This was because he was a 19 year old kid playing on a terrible team. Does that sound familiar? It should. Luke Schenn will be 19 when the season starts this October, and the Leafs are going to be gunning for a lottery pick.

Toronto's list of defenders under contract so far is: Bryan McCabe ($5.75), Pavel Kubina ($5), Tomas Kaberle ($4.25), Finger ($3.5), Colaiacovo ($1.28), White ($0.85), and Stralman ($0.75). That's seven guys, and there are only three defensive pairings. We should admit off the bat that the top four salaried guys are going to be playing full time; McCabe, Kubina, Kaberle, Finger. (Ed. note: In the comments ninja pointed out that I forgot Frogren. Oops.) That leaves two spots. I'm looking at these two spots from the following angle. Which of these players are good enough to warrant keeping Schenn from seeing NHL ice time?

Anton Stralman showed flashes of brilliance last year. I think he deserves the fifth spot.

Ian White sucks, and anyone who disagrees should let me know so that I don't ever bother talking to you about hockey.

I really want to like Carlo Colaiacovo, but he's made of glass. Collectively Leafs fans have been holding their breath waiting for him to mature and I think it's time we admit that he's not going to. He seems like a nice guy, he's a great player when he's healthy, but he's not healthy. He won't ever be healthy. However this might work this season. I want Schenn to get some NHL time, but if he's not quite ripe yet Colaicovo is ready to play. If Colaiacovo stays healthy this year maybe he becomes enticing trade bait for more picks in next year's draft.

The more I think about it, perhaps the thing to do is to use Schenn, Stralman, and Colaicovo on a rotating carousel to get all of them NHL time, and lots of ice time when they're down in the AHL, with the exception of Carlo who could probably use time off here and there.

We'll wait for the season to start to see what happens, but just remember: becoming a good NHL player takes time. Luke Schenn will not be the best defender we have for two, three, or maybe even four years. Patience. If it takes him four years to become the beast we know he can be, he'll still only be 23.


ninja said...

This would be my three pairs as of now


I forget what side Stralman prefers, but by default Frog plays the other side.

Chemmy said...

Oh fuck, Frogren.

eyebleaf said...

carlo may be made of glass, but he's got to play this season.


white as the 7th
schenn as the main man down on the farm

all this, of course, pending a mccabe trade.

otherwise, i don't see frogren getting ice time. stralman and colaiacovo both need to play, and a lot, this season

bkblades said...

To be honest, Schenn should only get a nine game tryout with the Leafs at the absolute most this season. There are just too many defencemen under one-way contracts with the Leafs to risk Schenn losing a year under Leafs property. Especially since there's a carousel of d-men vying for the 6th position even without Schenn in the mix.

Going from junior to the NHL, even the AHL, is a huge step. I just don't want a Luke Richardson or Tom Kurvers 2.0, a Tuke Kurchardson of sorts, by rushing Schenn to the big time when he still has junior eligibility left.

Of course, all bets are off if and when Schenn takes out McCabe at training camp. After all, someone has to stop him for scoring in his own net. I'm also assuming Colaiacovo hurts himself clapping in glee when McCabe goes down. Of course, White is nowhere to be found since no one under 5 feet tall is allowed to be with the Leafs.

Chemmy said...

bkblades: That's a good point. Maybe we let Schenn hit some clowns in the A so as not to use up a year of eligibility.

The Marlies seem really poorly run from a player development standpoint though, see: Justin Pogge. That's what makes me nervous.

bkblades said...

Chemmy, I agree with the Marlies iffy developmental system right now, too. So unless Schenn absolutely dominates in training camp and has absolutely nothing to learn in juniors, I say the Leafs should just keep Schenn in Kelowna and finish out his WHL eligibility.

Plus, I want to see if a chunk of Canada goes missing when Schenn bodychecks into Cowen. I expect both of them to be standing, while the entire rink is destroyed.