It’s safe to say that a large majority of the fan base was pleased when the Vancouver Canucks signed Luke Schenn to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $850,000 this past offseason. Schenn was fresh off winning the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years and decided that a near NHL-minimum contract with a team that finished last in the Canadian Division was his preferred landing spot.
Perhaps it was because Schenn knew that he was going to get the chance to play with Quinn Hughes.
And here’s the thing…
Luke Schenn likes playing with Quinn Hughes.
“He’s got a natural ability to skate the puck out and he’s obviously an unbelievable puck-mover,” said Schenn when asked about what it’s like skating with Hughes as a partner.
Schenn was the partner that helped Quinn Hughes make his debut into the NHL after signing out of Michigan. Now, two full seasons later, Schenn is the trusty right-shot defenceman who is growing chemistry as Hughes’ defensive half on the back-end.
The pairing has had success throughout the season but both players believe that they are in a bit of a funk of late.
“As far as how we’ve been playing lately, the last couple of games have been a low point,” said Hughes. “I don’t think we’ve been bad but we’re not where we both want to be. It’s a long season, we’ve just got to keep going and we’ve got 25 games left and hopefully more. We’re just trying to play our best, talk, and that’s all it is.”
It may not be as bad as Hughes believes.
The Canucks have gotten some of the best five-on-five goaltending in the league with Bruce Boudreau as their coach. The goaltending has been even better when the Hughes-Schenn pairing is not on the ice. In the 32 games under Boudreau, the Canucks have a 0.934% save percentage when any pairing but the Hughes-Schenn pairing is on the ice.
Hughes and Schenn’s pairing has a five-on-five on-ice save percentage of 0.890% in the 32 games with Boudreau.
The pairing has not had good goaltending behind them as a pairing but still holds some strong analytic numbers aside from what the goaltending is doing behind them. The duo has averaged just over 10 minutes of five-on-five ice time together with Boudreau as their coach.
The pairing is beginning to build more chemistry as the season goes on and both players speak very highly of each other in the media.
“I just like that you know what you’re getting from him defensively,” said Hughes on the fit with Schenn. “He’s not worried about getting up in the play or anything, he just wants to be solid. I think he’s got a good brain for the game too. He’s smart, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that. He’s really been working on his game the last couple of years and I can see that.
“For me, I mean, he helps me just as much as I’d like to think I help him and like I said, we haven’t been as good as we want — as good as we were in the first 20 games maybe — but we haven’t been bad either. And we just want to find that consistency in the last 25 here.”
When it comes to Schenn’s game, he just tries to make it simple and let Quinn cook.
“My job is just trying to get the puck to him as much as possible. A lot of times, he’s in the right position, so you just give [the puck] to him. He makes all the passes, he skates out of trouble, and still, we’ve still got a long way to go. We can still get a lot better for sure. Looking at our last few games, I still think that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Schenn is definitely playing above his cap hit and with the Canucks having him locked down for this season and next, it would be a mistake to move on from Schenn at the trade deadline. In an age where every blog, podcast and radio show is talking about trading someone new on a weekly basis — it’s nice to have Luke Schenn.
Schenn has already earned his total contract value and we are just a third of the way into his two-year deal. Maybe there’s a new partner for Hughes if the Canucks can find a better right-shot defenceman in a Brock Boeser or J.T. Miller trade.
But for the time being, Schenn is doing a fine job as Hughes’ partner and would still be valuable if moved into a seventh defenceman spot.
The hope is that the Canucks can find the perfect partner to play with Hughes for the remainder of his six-year contract but with the backup plan of Schenn working so well, there isn’t a massive rush to address the position.
We’re not saying the Canucks don’t need to make moves for a right-shot defenceman. Rather, because of Luke Schenn — there isn’t a massive rush to make a move for someone at this current deadline. There’s a lot of time in the offseason for Patrik Allvin and his management group to get to work.
In the meantime, Schenn will hold down the Hughes’ fort.