<press panic button>
I’m already preparing myself for the barrage of comments along the lines of “it’s way too early to come to that conclusion about a not even 22 year old, three games into his second season”. There is plenty of validity in that statement.
I think a doubter might combat that with the idea that that is what a homer would say. It’s easy to dismiss mediocre or even poor play by playing the “young” card.
During the Devils game, Ryan Bright tweeted the following, which sparked the question in my own head:
At what point do the Flyers become legitimately concerned that Brayden Schenn isn’t the player they hoped?
— Ryan Bright (@philabright) January 23, 2013
This coming only four days after this great article by Steve Burtch of Pension Plan Puppets. I strongly suggest you give it a read, but the premise of the article is questioning why is Nazem Kadri considered a struggling, borderline failed, prospect, and yet Brayden Schenn considered one of the best prospects in all of hockey? The two players actually compare quite similarly as far as their limited NHL time goes. Not every prospect is either a “stud”, or a “bust”. Some prospects are just good players.
The Flyers have invested a lot into Brayden Schenn (and some other young players).Through 57 games in orange and black, however, he has yet to live up the big billing he had as a (nay, the) top-flight prospect. I’m a numbers guy, so I understand that 57 games is anything but statistically relevant. But…what if Schenn is “just” a good player?
This revelation, and statistical comparison, was a punch to the gut for me. Afterall, eww, it’s Nazem Kadri. I have this totally irrational distaste for Toronto Maple Leafs players and prospects, and Kadri was no exception. I viewed him as having minimal value (incorrectly, and irrationally so). Whereas Schenn, well…he’s Brayden Schenn. The former number one prospect in all of hockey. The centerpiece of the package for Mike Richards. The prospect that everybody in the NHL was desperate to acquire. The guy many fans were refusing to give up even in exchange for Shea Weber.
I fear he’s starting to go the way of James Van Riemsdyk, a player I was highly critical of for some time. I frequently lambasted JVR for being a “ghost” and being invisible for long periods of time. He’d then have a string of a couple games in which he was so dominant, it showed us all what he was capable of and had us drooling over the possibilities. This was never more evident than after JVR’s 2011-2012 playoffs, for which he was rewarded with a big contract extension. These brief glimpses of dominance actually served to frustrate me even further when he’d return to long stretches of invisibility.
I now find myself weary of falling into the same type of hype as many experienced with JVR. When do I stop giving Schenn a pass for being 21 and in only his second season? When do I start holding him accountable for his play in the here and now? I was critical of JVR for not showing me enough, and I think I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t do the same for Brayden Schenn.
An 18 point season in an injury filled rookie year of 54 games, equating to a 27 point 82 game season. His best month was January in which he garnered 6 points in 13 games. He appears to be just as prone to long stretches of invisibility as JVR was. If Schenn is going to be counted on as a key cog in the Flyers offense, he needs to be more consistent. You can label me as officially being worried about Schenn’s ability to transfer his game to the NHL level; at least in the manner many have expected. I hope that my worry is unwarranted though, being that he has only had a single, injury-filled year to date. I still would have expected more elite glimpses from Schenn in the time he did have.
To Schenn’s credit, I don’t view him as being the same type of “invisible” that I criticized JVR as being. Schenn frequently, and consistently, takes the body. He is an aggressive player that takes advantage of his size. In that regard, he is effective. Whereas when JVR wasn’t producing offensively, he wasn’t bringing anything else to the table.
If anything, this is merely my way of wondering aloud…when do top prospects shed their prospect label, and have to start being held accountable for their play as NHL players and no longer top-flight NHL prospects? How does one weigh potential versus production? Where is that line in the sand? And where does that leave the Flyers if Schenn turns out to “just” be a quality NHL player, rather than a first liner?
The, at one point, consensus best prospect not in the NHL should have demonstrated more elite ability than he has at this point; and if he’s tracking along the lines of Nazem Kadri, what does that do to our expectations? If he doesn’t turn out elite, what does that mean for him, and for the Flyers?
Our friends at Broad Street Hockey took a crack at Schenn’s projections, a mere few minutes ago. Definitely give it a read, as they conclude projections anywhere from a 45 point to 75 point per season player.