A veteran of 15 NHL seasons and seven NHL franchises, many across the hockey world have come to know the elements that Luke Schenn brings to the ice. The prospect of a hulking, physical right shot defenceman was once nice enough to see Schenn as the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
These days, 33-year-old Schenn finds himself overextended, playing as a stylistic counterweight to the dynamic offensive qualities of Quinn Hughes on the top pair for the floundering Vancouver Canucks. His physicality and defensive disposition allow him to succeed best during in-zone defence, blocking shots, battling at the net front, and breaking up cycles. These qualities allow Schenn to be an effective penalty kill option, where he has been a contributor for the Canucks this season.
Schenn is not, however, an adept offensive option, lacking some agility, puck control, and passing skills. He is best served with a defenceman who thrives in handling these responsibilities, as Hughes has been doing this season.
Would Schenn fit into the Oilers’ lineup?
With a clear and well-defined skillset, there is little doubt where Schenn would fit in the Oilers’ lineup. With both Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard on the right side, the Oilers are severely lacking in a true penalty killing option behind Cody Ceci, or at least until Bouchard proves capable. By this reasoning we have seen Vincent Desharnais occupy the exact role that Schenn would be thrust into.
At 5v5 there is not a huge need for either Schenn or Desharnais, except perhaps in late game defensive situations. The Oilers left side is more robust and multi dimensional than their right side. Brett Kulak has some puck moving abilities, but not nearly enough to support Schenn. Both Darnell Nurse and Philip Broberg represent the Oilers most well rounded defencemen, and both might appreciate a pairing with Schenn circumstantially, but at this point their respective partners, Ceci and Bouchard, outclass contributions from Schenn.
At best, Schenn would feature as a penalty kill specialist with an occasional shift at 5v5, best used as a seventh defenceman when the Oilers opt for 11 forwards.
Canucks may want to keep Schenn during this time
Although not the NHL’s worst team, the Canucks are easily the most tragic, if not dysfunctional, across the league this season. The Rutherford era began with some optimism, garnering some legitimate positivity from the back half of last season and into the offseason. What has unfolded since this summer has been anything but positive.
Turmoil surrounds every level of the franchise, ownership, management, coaching, and players. Descriptions of their future have included the need for “major surgery”, as president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford, loosely detailed a plan to acquire young players instead of draft picks. This might mean targeting players in uncertain situations with their current teams, perhaps like the Oilers own Jesse Puljujarvi.
Meanwhile, with the Canucks recent coaching change there will be a power vacuum for icetime. Schenn might well keep his current role, but as a veteran UFA this summer he is an obvious trade candidate for a return of any substance.
Despite this, the Canucks might find it more valuable to keep Schenn as part of their retooling. He is of the few positive forces in the room, and with bigger moves on the horizon, as well as the Canucks lack of defensive depth, the slight returns on a Schenn deal might not be top of mind for the club.
From an Oilers perspective, the emergence of Desharnais as a legitimate option on the right side might make the addition of Schenn a tad redundant. Blueline depth is crucial for a Cup run, and there could always be more, but Schenn would likely remain outside of the Oilers top six at full health.
The foremost team that Schenn is being linked to is the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom he won two Stanley Cups as the third pairing (or lower) right defenceman.