He’s played second line center. He’s played first line left wing. He’s played third line right wing. He’s played on the first and second power play units. You name the role and chances are Brayden Schenn has played it. One might argue it speaks well for his versatility. But it’s time for the Flyers to figure out what role Schenn is going to play for this team and stick to it.
Schenn’s brief career with the Flyers can be described with one word: inconsistency. When he is on, you look at him and say to yourself, “This is why the Kings picked him with the fifth overall pick in the draft. This is why the Flyers traded Mike Richards for him”. He can score goals, he can make the nice assist, he plays physical and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves. But, when he’s off, he is a complete non-factor. Not only will he disappear for stretches during a game, but he will disappear for several games at a time. You barely even know that he’s on the ice or even in the lineup for that matter. As a result, he has become a source of frustration for Flyers fans.
There are several factors that contributed to Schenn being moved around so much and his inconsistent play.
First, there is the inexplicable signing of Vincent Lecavalier. Why Paul Holgrem decided to sign an aging, declining, injury-prone Lecavalier still staggers the imagination. As a result, Lecavalier was moved into the second line center role that should have been occupied by the younger Schenn and then Schenn was moved to the wing. This started the pin balling of Schenn all over the lineup. After Lecavalier was injured and Schenn was moved back in to his second line center role, he enjoyed the best season of his career, registering 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points.
Second, the Flyers’ lack of scoring depth on the wings. Ever since the trade of James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers have been looking for a left winger who can score and play with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. The Flyers decided to try Brayden Schenn in this role to start the season last year and had mixed results. Schenn got off to a slow start, picked it up for a little while but then slowed down again. As a result, Schenn was taken off of the top line and was replaced by Michael Raffl. Prospect Scott Laughton was called up from the AHL and assumed the second line center role. This started the whole process of Schenn being bounced all over the line up yet again. He played left wing wirh Laughton and Wayne Simmonds. After Laughton struggled and was sent back down to the Phantoms, Sean Couturier assumed the second line center role and Schenn was moved to right wing on his line and played well there. Once again, Schenn had an inconsistent year as he was being moved up and down the lineup.
So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Is Schenn’s inconsistent play the result of being moved around so much or has Schenn been moved around so much because of his inconsistent play? As is always the case when it comes to situations like this, it’s a little bit of both. With the hiring of new coach Dave Hakstol, Schenn will have a clean slate heading in to next year. With that being said, it’s time for the Flyers to find a definitive role for Schenn and it’s time for Schenn to develop into a consistent NHL player.