Schenn ready to im­prove

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

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.”

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fly­ers cen­ter Bray­den Schenn, com­ing off a 26-goal sea­son, in look­ing to im­prove in 2016.

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