Albeit briefly, Luke Schenn’s hit milestone overshadows some of the decision making the Canucks will have to make moving forward.
Schenn became the all-time NHL leader in hits for a defenceman with 2,947. He had six on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes to reach the mark, passing Brooks Orpik.
“The cool thing is, not necessarily the number, but the guys at the top of that list are all honest guys,” Schenn said postgame. “For me I played against a lot of them and I recognize when they’re on the ice and it’s usually a hard night, a hard shift. So to be up there with those guys, it’s an honour.”
A refreshing bit of old school, Schenn’s mere presence reiterates his value as a leader, a professional, and as one who prioritizes physicality.
The problem is, at age 33, he’s more valuable to other NHL teams, ones that would be considered Stanley Cup contenders. They’ll line up to get him. Especially considering he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and he’s cheap, playing some excellent hockey for the bargain basement price of $850,000.
“Lot of guys seem to fall off into their thirties especially, but my mindset is try to get better with age,” Schenn said Saturday night, “so that’s kind of one thing I’m focused on, trying to work at different part of my game and try to evolve a little bit as the game evolves. Try to be steady and work with the puck a little bit. There’s some guys you do see get better in their thirties and that’s kind of the group I’d rather be associated with rather than the guys who drop off.”
His efforts and abilities will wane eventually, just not yet, which means he’s probably more valuable to the Canucks as an ex-Canuck. Do they keep him around for a playoff push, one that might end up in some level of desperation, or do they open up the bidding in an effort to secure a younger asset or two? He won’t be as effective in say, two to three years, when the Canucks may or may not be ready to take the next step.
Therein lies one of the many quandaries facing Canucks management as it deals with a line-up lacking depth. Their repeated goal is to get younger, to build out a core in its mid-twenties. That’s not Schenn.
Schenn is what you want your young players to be in their aspirations. Tough, high character guys who are playoff ready, because ultimately that’s what it comes down to … the playoffs. Real hockey, and Luke Schenn is a real hockey player.