Schenn ready to improve
Deep down, Brayden Schenn may know the delay to his season, courtesy of an NHL wrist slap last April, was a bit unjustified. Armed with a gleaming new contract and an accompanying new lease on his career, however, Schenn is already looking past the suspension and very much toward another growth season with the Flyers.
That season more or less gets under way Friday, the first full day of on-ice training camp drills for veterans and rookies alike at the Skate Zone.
Schenn has already been preparing in unofficial skate sessions, and can look forward to a slate of preseason games that begin Monday, with a pair of split-squad games in Brooklyn and Newark.
But then there’s that season-opening three-game road trip next month that begins in Los Angeles and extends through Phoenix and Chicago. He’ll sit that one out, courtesy of a threegame penalty for charging Washington’s T.J. Oshie in Game 6 of the playoffs last April 24.
“Obviously it’s not the (way) you want to start the regular season, but it is what it is,” Schenn said Thursday. “You learn from it and be careful out there. I don’t intend to change my style of play. I just have to be cautious and aware of how you’re hitting guys. I’ll be aware of that this year.”
Yet when Schenn laid a hit on Oshie midway through the 1-0 home loss to the Capitals that ended the Flyers’ season with a six-game loss in the first round, Schenn likely wasn’t completely aware of the implications.
He was somewhat ambivalent at the thought of a hearing with NHL Player Safety Department reps, while general manager Ron Hextall subsequently voiced the opinion that the club had a real case for an appeal.
Eventually, though, those fightin’ words died a quiet death.
“When it’s under five games it doesn’t go through an arbitrator,” Schenn said of the penalty process for illegal hits. “So you can just ... well, the NHL throws their guys in place to make the call.”
Calling out the names of department judges, which includes former Flyer Chris Pronger, Schenn added, “Obviously, the NHL trusts those guys’ opinions. For me, I didn’t want to appeal, I guess, in the long run. And now it’s up to me to be cautious and careful of how I hit guys.”
In other words, Schenn didn’t see the point of fighting something he knew he wasn’t going to be able to change. Is that about it?
“No, it’s never a waste of time if you’re going in there and try to plead your case,” he said. “But I thought, they’re giving me three games and that’s kind of where it’s going to stand . ... I guess it didn’t really make sense to me to keep on going through with it. So it’s three games and you learn from your mistakes.”
Schenn cut down on his mistakes last season, and finally blossomed with 26 goals and 59 points in 80 games. Having just turned 25 in late August, he seems to be just moving into his prime. And once that first road trip ends, he hopes to perhaps join Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek on a Flyers first line that will, of course, be asked to carry the offensive load.
It should be noted that despite Schenn’s growth, the Flyers as a team scored 211 goals last season, placing 22nd out of 30 NHL clubs. That’s two goals less than the 213 scored by the 2006-07 Flyers, the worst club in franchise history. But it was also up several notches in team standings from where the Flyers were during last season’s first half.
This is a team that clearly struggled offensively under new head coach Dave Hakstol, but got better as time wore on. That improvement, Schenn said, should continue at this season’s commencement.
“Confidence is everything,” Schenn said. “Not only for me but from a team standpoint. I think guys are more comfortable now; we all know Hak’s system. We jelled well at the end of last season, so I think everyone’s looking forward to getting it going this year and kind of starting off where we left off last year.
“When you get a new coach and he’s probably trying to get to know his players and stuff like that, it probably took a little bit longer than we wanted. But I think we made a step last year making the playoffs and we expect the team to take another step this year.”
Schenn says he has plenty of room for self-improvement after earning a fouryear, $20.5 million contract, an agreement reached just prior to the arbitration deadline in July.
“It’s not easy for some young guys coming into this league,” Schenn said. “Some guys can do it and some guys take a little bit longer. For me, year after year I’ve just tried to get better, which I think I have. I expect no less out of myself this year. I expect a big year. Now that I have four years I’m going to continue to grow as a player and grow with this team.”
NOTES >> Flyers will start training camp with a pair of on-ice sessions today at the Skate Zone . ... Still perhaps a week away from shooting pucks is defenseman Radek Gudas, who has been out since late August with a diagnosed stress fracture in his wrist. Gudas said he’s had great improvement in recent days and expects to be able to participate in at least some preseason games. “I think I’m in good condition and I’m looking forward to a good (camp),” he said. “It’s been a longer process than I thought ... but I’m getting closer and I hope I’ll be ready for a few of those preseason games.”
Flyers center Brayden Schenn, coming off a 26-goal season, in looking to improve in 2016.