EL SEGUNDO, CA — Although center Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn have only been in town for twelve days after being acquired by the Los Angeles Kings in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Kings are already reaping the benefits of the deal.
Lecavalier has given the Kings all that they’ve asked for, and to top it off, he has scored a goal in each of the last two games.
On the other side of the red line, Schenn has also made an impact for the Kings, despite his -2 plus/minus rating in those five games.
“I think he was a difference maker in two of the games [he’s played in], for sure,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “He’s made really good plays [leading to us scoring] goals, not get noticed, get pucks back, and knock guys on their [rear ends] to get pucks back. Last night (January 17), say what you want, but that [fight against Anaheim Ducks forward Chris Stewart] was a big difference.”
“He fits our defense because of the mobility of [Alec Martinez], [Jake] Muzzin, Drew [Doughty],” added Sutter. “Probably him and Brayden [McNabb] are a lot alike.”
The Kings have asked Schenn to play a tough, physical brand of defense, filling the role that defenseman Matt Greene played.
Greene is out for the season due to an upper body injury that required surgery.
“It hasn’t even been a couple of weeks yet, but I’m definitely getting more comfortable here as we go,” said Schenn. “I’m getting familiar with guys on the team, trainers and coaches, and everything.”
“It’s a bit of an adjustment to get traded mid-season, but I’m really enjoying it so far,” added Schenn. “It’s a great bunch of guys, and the organization is unbelievable. The whole set-up here is second to none. I’m honored to be here.”
“We’re just trying to come in here and be a piece of the puzzle, I guess you could say. They’ve obviously had a great foundation here for the last [few] years. We’ve got a good core group, and [Vinny and I] are just trying to help fill a role.”
So far, Schenn and Lecavalier are filling their respective roles admirably.
“They were playing great hockey before we got here,” he noted. “We just came here—whatever role is asked of us, we’re just trying to come in and help in any way we can. Fortunately, the guys have played decently. It’s fun to be a part of, and you want to keep that winning feeling going.”
“Whomever you’re playing with, and whatever the opportunity is, you just go out there and try to fill a role,” he added. “When you’ve got a team and an organization like this, you just try to help any way you can.”
Schenn credited his new teammates and the coaching staff for helping him make the transition so smoothly.
“I think the credit goes to the guys trying to make me feel comfortable, and the coaches are doing a good job in talking and [I’m watching] a lot of video with [associate head coach] John [Stevens],” said Schenn. “It’s been a good transition, a smooth transition. It’s always easier when there’s a lot of communication.”
“That’s one thing everyone’s done a great job at,” added Schenn. “There’s no gray area. It’s all black and white. Also, you get put in some good situations, and you’re [given opportunities] by the coaches. That’s just going to help things along.”
The transition has not been without its challenges, however, especially off the ice.
“I’ve been traded before, but it was in the off-season,” Schenn noted. “My brother was already in Philadelphia, and I knew a lot of guys there. Here, I knew, maybe, three or four guys, so trying to get to know the guys on the fly [has been tough].”
“We flew in and played three games in four or five days, so you just try to adjust as quickly as you can,” Schenn added. “Then it was trying to get your whole life packed up, dealing with moving companies, getting your car shipped out [here]—all things you don’t [normally] think about that goes into a trade. You think it’s just playing hockey, but it’s also packing up your whole life, and trying to get settled in as quickly as possible so you can get that home feeling, rather than living out of a suitcase in a hotel.”
Being new to Southern California, Schenn spoke rather glowingly about living in Manhattan Beach, and about having just about anything one might want available in the area.
“I guess the one thing, from an outsider perspective, when you get traded to Los Angeles, you think that everyone is going to be living all over the place and spread out, dealing with traffic,” he said. “But we’re fortunate to live here in this little bubble (Manhattan Beach). You don’t have to deal with too much traffic. You live close to the beach and a great practice facility. You’re close to the airport, and games—you always get to play at Staples Center. You get the best of every world around here, for sure.”
“It’s unbelievable,” he added. “Once you leave the rink, you want to get away from hockey, and you can’t believe that you live so close to the ocean. [I was also surprised at] how quiet things are in the area, yet you’ve got access to everything you want, if you want to drive a little. That’s pretty unbelievable.”
There were also surprises on the ice.
“Team-wise, the commitment and dedication to winning—that’s the number one thing that was kind of an eye-opener for me,” Schenn noted. “There’s no egos here. No one’s looking at what they’re doing, individually. It’s all about a collective, team effort. Everyone plays the right way, trying to get wins. That comes from the top players, and everyone follows. They’ve had a lot of success in the last handful of years. You can see that there’s a great culture here and tradition.”
“I played in Toronto for four years and we didn’t make the playoffs,” Schenn added. “They’ve been in rebuild mode for awhile. Then, in Philly—in the playoffs once in the past few years, too. It’s totally different coming to a team where you’re expected to win [as opposed to] just trying to make the playoffs. Here, that’s unacceptable. You have some big goals in mind here. It’s all about winning, and whatever it takes.”
“Playing in Toronto, when I was there, we were trying to get to that level. Here, they’re at that level, trying to sustain it, and get better.”
While Schenn was talking about his transition from the Flyers to the Kings, and from the City of Brotherly Love to the City of Angels, Sutter was almost rolling his eyes at the mere mention of the subject.
“Overall, in a general sense, it would be tougher [for a defenseman to learn the Kings’ system],” said Sutter. “But it’s not the system. Defending is a lot harder than [playing with the puck on offense]. Too much gets made of it here because a lot of us talked about Christian [Ehrhoff] and the adjustment. Either you can or you can’t.”
“It’s not about X’s and O’s,” added Sutter. “A lot of it is about compete [level]. It doesn’t matter where you play. The league is still about the best competitors. It’s not specific or special to us, who our opponent is, or the position, or anything. Luke’s walked in and just stepped right in. It’s not an issue for him.”
“We’ve seen that with lots of guys we’ve brought in. Every year, we’ve had to bring defensemen in. We’ve used lots of guys, so I think the adjustment is way blown out of proportion. The adjustment is playing on a good team.”
As one of Southern California’s newest residents, Schenn is still learning about the area’s traditions and institutions.
For those wondering, no, he hasn’t had a Double-Double at In ‘n Out Burger yet.
“No, I haven’t, but that’s another thing I’ve been told that’s a [Southern] California staple,” he said. “Guys have been saying that even if you’re not a fast food guy, it’s kinda like the one treat that you [have] to get.”
“I haven’t been [there] yet, but there’s a lot of hockey left, so you have to try to keep on top of things,” he added. “But when the time is right, I’m going to have to give her a try.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings newly-acquired defenseman Luke Schenn spoke with the local media for the first time on January 7, 2016. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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