How Luke Schenn Saved His NHL Career: “The Coaches Asked Me: Are You Retiring?”

The boos were deafening at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa as the Senators’ biggest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, took to the podium in the 2008 NHL Draft. Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher completed a trade with the New York Islanders just minutes before moving up to fifth place. .

With chants of “Leafs suck” echoing throughout the arena, Toronto player personnel director Mike Penney announced their selection of Luke Shinn from the Kelowna Rockets.

Boos turned to cheers and applause as fans recognized a young man on the cusp of his NHL dreams. Eighteen-year-old Shane, already broad-shouldered, confident and playful, stepped onto the stage and donned a Leafs jersey and ball cap.

That’s when Its weight is among the top five in the pressure cooker market in Toronto, the first Schenn to be blinded.

“I remember I was wearing the jersey on stage and I went out for a (TV) interview in the back and the first thing I was asked was: ‘The Leafs haven’t won a cup since ’67,'” Shane said.

Immediately I was like, Holy, what am I all of a sudden? I haven’t worn this shirt for more than five minutes. Then it kind of hit me that there was pressure in the market.

“I really don’t think at the time I was drafted I knew what I was going to be involved with.”

Shane pulled the Leaf out of training camp at the age of 18 and was promptly thrown into the fire.

“When he got there, he was kind of a fan favorite,” Shane’s father Jeff recalled. “It’s not just that he was drafted (high) but his personality never changed. Oh my God, I remember in his rookie year he fought Chris Neal twice and that’s what he always did.”

Schenn was solid as a first-year pro. There were ups and downs but he averaged 21:32 per game and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.

“Being 18 and being a shutout defender isn’t the easiest thing in the league,” Jeff said with a laugh. “I don’t take anything away from anyone, but it’s a natural ability for attack-minded guys to take the puck and go, and a lot of his game has been fighting guys, lining up back in the day when he was 18 against Alex Ovechkin.”

Unfortunately, Shane’s game is starting to stagnate. The expectations of him becoming a franchise defenseman were understandable given his draft pedigree but may not have been fair given his track record.

“I got out of the WHL and I didn’t even play in the power play, I didn’t even have 30 points in the WHL,” Shinn explained. Right when you got into the NHL, I think there was an expectation that you wanted to be more complete and rounded and put up a few more points. That kind of goes along with the high-choice tag.

“It took a lot of me knowing who I was and what made me successful. You look around at the guys that are recruiting around you and I think in my year it was Doughty (No. 2) and Pietrangelo (No. 4). You get compared to guys like that, and so I’m thinking in my head, ‘Maybe I should play more offensively,’ and I kind of strayed from my identity.”

Things turned sour when Randy Carlisle replaced Ron Wilson as the Leafs’ coach during Shinn’s fourth NHL season. Shinn, who played 22:24 per game the previous season, averaged just 15:17 under Carlisle. Carlisle even scratched Shane once, Weirdly asking the young defender to play lightly Despite the fact that he was ranked in the top 10 in the NHL in terms of hits plus he had already made six major league tackles.

Shinn was traded off-season to the Flyers for James Van Riemsdyk.

What happened in Toronto? Jeff Shin made it clear that he was ready for a change. “I don’t think from the point of view of the coach (Luke) he was the right guy.

“He was really good for the first two years and then some things changed a little bit and maybe they expected more than he was.”

Luke loved his time in Toronto but it was time for a fresh start.


Playing in Philadelphia for the next three and a half seasons gave Luke a special experience playing with his brother, Brayden. They lived in the same apartment complex and drove to practices and games together.

Luke’s performance on the ice was full of ups and downs. Once again, he did not live up to lofty expectations and was eventually dealt alongside Vincent Lecavalier in 2016 to the Los Angeles Kings. Luke signed a two-year contract that summer with the Arizona Coyotes, but he was still struggling.

“I’ve had some coaches along the way where they don’t want you to get the puck,” said Luke Schenn. “Just get it and they say don’t hold it, just move it, just push, just push.

“That’s what you have in your head and all of a sudden the game changes and players puck and play around you and I’m still about that situation where you’re told not to puck and it looks like you can ‘I’m going to make plays because that’s what you’ve been told six to seven years’.”

The game seems to be getting too fast and skillful for Shin. Now in his late twenties, having exhausted second and third chances, Shinn’s NHL career was in jeopardy. Nadir came the following year in 2018-19, when the Ducks waived him and demoted him to the minors. He was pushed to consider retirement.

“I’m not going to lie, at this time it’s bad,” Shen said. “You think this is the end. You just cleared waivers and all 30 teams are missing out.

“I remember the coaches asking me, ‘Are you going to the minors? Are you going to retire?’ Because at the time I was 10 and I’d never been to the minors. That’s when you rely on your support system, which for me is my wife and my brother and my parents and my family and then on top of that Dallas Eakins (head coach of AHL affiliate Anaheim at the time) was unbelievable to me when I got off there.

He basically said, ‘Help us win a few games here and we’ll help you get back into the NHL. “

Luke had a young family and was now driving two cars 2 hours to AHL practices and games in San Diego. Brayden encouraged Locke to consider working with special trainer Adam Oates. So Luke made the call.

“I figured I had to kind of evolve, and a lot of it was about paddling, having more confidence skating, trying to put yourself into game thinking and putting yourself in better positions on the ice,” Sheen said.

Schenn was traded to the Canucks two months later. He started in Utica and after talking to Rian Johnson and Trent Cole he got permission to bring in Oates to continue their work together.

Called in mid February and the rest is history. Resuscitating his NHL career, Shinn became a fan favorite in Vancouver and then signed to Tampa; He won two consecutive Stanley Cups with the Lightning.

Along the way, Shane had a lightening moment with his off-the-cuff training.

“After a season you don’t like, you’re always told you need to have a great summer in the gym,” Shin explained. “(You were told) you need to get back up and pick up the pace in the gym. You beat yourself up in the gym and it doesn’t translate on the ice, and that was the first thing I realized I was skating in the summer but it wasn’t to a purpose.

“It was more like skating because I’m a hockey player and I have to skate instead of working on puck handling or different ways of defending or different ways of reading a play. I spend a lot more time in the off-season on the ice now than I did in the past and you want to be strong in the gym.” Athletics, but at my age, strength isn’t the focus – it’s more rowing.”

During one conversation in early 2022, Jeff reverses that nightmarish day in 2018 when Luke was demoted.

“I said, ‘Do you have any regrets about talking to that guy who probably said it was time to retire?'” And his command was, “Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Jeff said: I learned a lot about myself.

He continued, “You can take it and say it spoils you, whatever, or you can take the best of it and that’s what I was really proud of.” “Luke could have quit easily but that’s not the man he is. He’d always say, ‘I’ve got five more years in me.'”


The attraction to join Lightning in 2019 was strong. Luke was a close friend of Stephen Stamkos and there was a clear path to his championship chance. But once those boxes were ticked, Locke set his eyes on returning to Vancouver.

Shane’s return to the Canucks last season came as a shock. He was a healthy scratch in six of his first nine games and was a second guess on his return.

“Last year was a strange start,” Shin said. “I didn’t get back from Tampa until August, and then I turned around and it’s just right here, and training camp really wasn’t what I thought it was as much as a lot of different things.


Shinn’s move back to the Canucks after his stint in Tampa — where he won two back-to-back Cups — came as a shock. (Kim Clement / USA Today)

“It took me a while to kind of figure out what my role was, where they saw me, trust in the decision that you made to come back here — you’re considering other options you might have outgrown to come back here — and a lot of it was also: ‘Did I make the right decision? “

Shane was just as resilient as ever and it paid off. He found his step alongside Quinn Hughes and was not just an everyday defender but now a top four finisher. Off the ice, he was a leader and an important man for getting men together for the big dinner.

“I always tell guys at the end of my career, ‘That’s probably the number one thing for me that I didn’t stay[at]room service,'” Sheen said with a smile. “A lot of guys always get room service, but for me the best part of the NHL besides winning is getting out with your teammates, getting to know them, and telling stories.

“I look back and have played with some great players. I don’t remember 95 percent of the plays they made, the games they made or the good or the bad. I remember them as people and the stories that were told and the laughs we had.”

Shane’s senior role in organizing the dinner dates back to his time in Tampa Bay.

“In Tampa for the playoffs, the team always made dinner the night before at whatever restaurant the guys wanted,” said Shinn. “The most important thing was (Ryan) McDonagh and I were always organizing the menus. We were making the menus for the service guy to send out and there was a lot of pressure from all the players on what to go to.

“The guys always trusted me and that always mattered the night before a game, how excited the boys were to eat a meal, to come in and enjoy each other’s company, have a few laughs and feel good, not even thinking about a playoff the next day whether it’s a cup final Or the semi-finals, she’s always trying to keep the guys light.”

Rule #1 of dinner with Lock Shin? Single meals are not allowed.

“I always make the boys go family style, we put everything on the table and so we order a bunch of things for the table and the guys always die laughing like, ‘I want my own meal’ and saying, ‘Not with me. “We all share tonight, have a glass of wine, tell stories, and just enjoy a few laughs,” Shane said.


Shane, who turns 33 this month, continues to play some of the best hockey of his career. He found a clear role and identity as a player, worked tirelessly with Oates to improve his balance with the puck and short first passes and learned how to develop his off-season coaching to continue honing the defense.

“It’s interesting because a lot of guys regress when they get into their late 20s and 30s. I actually feel the opposite as I discover different ways to improve things and keep working,” Shen said.

Could the 18-year-old Shane who wore a Leafs jersey on stage in Ottawa imagine a top five that this was the roller coaster ride he was on?

“Never in a million years,” Shen said. “When you get into the league, you always think your career is going to be a straight arrow and you retire exactly as you envisioned your career, which I’ve learned is definitely not the case.

“I’ve had the lows where I was in the palace for the first time in 10 years and the highs where I had the cup above your head and everything in between. I’m lucky every step of the way.

“Saying that, I don’t feel like I’m nearly finished yet. I feel like I have a long way to go. It’s funny, (I was) the oldest person in training camp and on the team but I definitely don’t feel that way.”

(Top photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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