The Total Implosion of Justin Schultz

Jonathan Willis
April 24 2013 11:24PM

Justin Schultz is a very good young defenceman, and he’s likely to be a superb offensive defenceman at the NHL level for a long time.

But he's been awful lately.

Chicago

Counting scoring chances for the Oilers’ latest embarrassing loss (this one to the Chicago Blackhawks, who clinched the Presidents’ Trophy in the win), Schultz led the team, managing to be on the ice for 10 scoring chances against at even-strength and none for. In fact, by my count, it was a totally different game for the Oilers depending on whether Schultz was on the ice or not:

  • Even-strength scoring chances with Schultz on the ice: +0/-10
  • Even-strength scoring chances with Schultz off the ice: +8/-10

Even-strength shots tell a similar story. With Schultz on the ice, the Oilers were +0/-14; with him off they were +17/-14. Including missed shots, the totals with Schultz rise to +1/-22, without him to +25/-16. Those are remarkable totals.

The Trend

In his first eight NHL games, Justin Schultz went plus-2. He was on the ice for 46 even-strength Oilers scoring chances and 42 chances for the other team. Since then he’s been on the ice for 165 Oilers chances, and 239 opposition chances; unsurprisingly he’s also gone minus-19 over that stretch.

It probably isn’t a trend worth worrying about in the long term. Justin Schultz was the best player in a very strong lockout AHL this fall. He was an excellent college defenceman for three seasons before that. There’s a jump from that level of hockey to the NHL, but there’s very little doubt in my mind that Schultz is a better player than we’ve seen lately. Watching him in the AHL, it wasn’t just his offensive gifts that stood out – he was never physical defensively but he was highly intelligent. He didn’t get caught out of position very often – and a play like Chicago’s game winning goal, where Patrick Kane snuck behind him and took off for a breakaway just didn’t happen. Granted there’s a big difference between Patrick Kane and even a very good AHL’er, that was an example of a completely unforced error on Schultz’s part.

I don’t know if he’s run down from playing way more games than he’s used to, or if he’s playing through injury or what’s going on. But of late he hasn’t been the player he was in the AHL, or the player who climbed to the top of Edmonton’s depth chart in the early going.

He’ll need to be much better next season. I think he will be.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 DSF
April 25 2013, 10:54AM
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@The Soup Fascist

Where do you think MacT will find a #1D between now and September?

I would think that is all but impossible,

Also, Shattenkirk does not normally play with Pietrangelo, who himself is only a few months older than Junior. he plays second pairing minutes.

ESTOI/G

(Bouwmeester - 20:07)

Pietrangelo - 19:24

Cole - 17:14

Shattenkirk - 16:54

Jackman - 16:30

Pollack - 16:25

Jake Gardiner scored 7G 23A 30P, pretty similar numbers to Schultz this season and has spent most of the season in the AHL or as a healthy scratch in the NHL.

While I am sure Schultz would fare better if he had a true #1D covering his ass when he makes mistakes, you can say that about any young defenseman.

At this point, Schultz is a PP specialist who isn't even scoring on the PP. (1G in his last 10 games and that was against the horrid Avalanche)

During that same 10 game stretch, he has been -9 at even strength.

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#52 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
April 25 2013, 11:02AM
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@ DSF

At the beginning of the season we asked you for your prospect ranking list. The first had yak at #5 and j schultz was no where to be found. The second list, about ten games into the season you had schultz ranked #1 and Yak still #5.

Where would you rank Schultz and Yak on that same list now? Also please update your top ten again.

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#53 DSF
April 25 2013, 11:07AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Krueger's system needs to be reevaluated.........I'm not buying that our players suddenly all got really bad, or they are tired, or they need more help.

At some point people need to question Krueger and his system of play.........it is not working, and most importantly he needs to question his system.

Actually, if you look more closely at last season, the Oilers were actually lucky to be as "successful" as they were.

They were 29th in the league in shots SF/G but finished 20th in G/G.

This season, they are 26th in SF/G and 24th in G/G.

So this season is likely a better reflection of their true ability.

What is more disturbing is the Oilers are giving up an average of 2 more shots against per game than they were last season.

Doesn't sound like much until you pro-rate that over an 82 game season and you get an extra 164 shots against which like translates to about an extra 12 goals against at league average shooting percentage.

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#54 Curcro
April 25 2013, 02:51PM
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@DSF

Actually you can demonstrate that Kruger's system isn't working. His system overuses the Centres in the defensive zone.

The wingers remain more or less motionless at the point waiting for the breakout.

On most NHL teams the wingers play a "soft zone" which means the pull down to help when needed, there by minimizing any weakness at centre or defense when it comes to coverage. It is more fluid than Ralph's system.

Further you acknowledge this, "What is more disturbing is the Oilers are giving up an average of 2 more shots against per game than they were last season."

The Oilers are a better team this year, than last year in terms of talent and ability. Which indicates that the difference - coaching is the problem.

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#55 Rama Lama
April 25 2013, 04:01PM
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DSF wrote:

Actually, if you look more closely at last season, the Oilers were actually lucky to be as "successful" as they were.

They were 29th in the league in shots SF/G but finished 20th in G/G.

This season, they are 26th in SF/G and 24th in G/G.

So this season is likely a better reflection of their true ability.

What is more disturbing is the Oilers are giving up an average of 2 more shots against per game than they were last season.

Doesn't sound like much until you pro-rate that over an 82 game season and you get an extra 164 shots against which like translates to about an extra 12 goals against at league average shooting percentage.

I just want a normal coach, not a motivational speaker, not a John Tortorella, not a Ron Wilson..........just give me a Brent Sutter type.

A coach that can communicate to players as required, and play no favourites. Let the system adapt to the type of players you have in your team and not jam a system down the throats of players that does not play to their strengths.

I all for a attack type of game, modified to fit our personnel. RK's attack in all three zones is clearly NOT working and the players have tuned him out.

The results speak for themselves.

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#56 DSF
April 25 2013, 06:14PM
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Max Powers - Team HME Evans wrote:

Dee Ess Efffffffffff! You ranked Justin Schultz your number 1 prospect less than two months ago...

you conceded that he was the best prospect in the NHL. You don't believe in your number one ranked prospect anymore?

When the facts change so does my opinion.

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#57 DSF
April 25 2013, 06:16PM
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Curcro wrote:

Actually you can demonstrate that Kruger's system isn't working. His system overuses the Centres in the defensive zone.

The wingers remain more or less motionless at the point waiting for the breakout.

On most NHL teams the wingers play a "soft zone" which means the pull down to help when needed, there by minimizing any weakness at centre or defense when it comes to coverage. It is more fluid than Ralph's system.

Further you acknowledge this, "What is more disturbing is the Oilers are giving up an average of 2 more shots against per game than they were last season."

The Oilers are a better team this year, than last year in terms of talent and ability. Which indicates that the difference - coaching is the problem.

Easy to blame the system.

As I pointed out earlier, theOilers last season were not as good as their record....as bad as that was.

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