Nick Schultz has played the most games in Minnesota Wild history, 743, so he should be well-versed in how to play solid defence. He’s also likely not used to playing up-tempo hockey either, but the Oilers are hoping he can bring a solid foundation in his own zone to help lower their goals against.
Who won yesterday’s trade? Depends how you look at it, but I don’t see a clear winner on either side. I see two teams who made a trade to try and shore up a weakness within their respective lineups.
Schultz is better in his own zone that Tom Gilbert, while Gilbert offers more in both zones. The Oilers surrendered some offence, but I don’t mind this trade.
I think it looks like they are trying to improve one specific area. Gilbert will put up more numbers than Schultz, because he’ll play the PP in Minnesota, but this trade wasn’t about offensive numbers in my mind. Like most trades, there is a risk, but the Oilers have finished 30th, 30th and are currently 29th, while consistently being near the bottom of goals against. They they weren’t going to add a legit top-four via free agency. They gave up a solid player to get one with a different skill-set.
The risk is if Ryan Whitney gets injured or if Jeff Petry has peaked, but like in life, if you never take a risk you never become successful. I thought Gilbert had turned a corner this year, but I don’t think he’ll ever be as good defensively as Schultz, just like Schultz is never going to be as creative as Gilbert.
I see it as a lateral move in the way of proven players, but the Oilers need to be better defensively and the Wild need more offence. I’m curious to see who it works out better for.
Until the Oilers lower their giveaways, goals against and the opposition’s scoring chances they won’t win. Offence won’t be an issue moving forward as Jordan Eberle Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins mature, but the Oilers are stil a bottom-ten team in goals against, and that needs to improve.
Gilbert was very steady this year. He focused on being more competitive every night, and we saw him become more physical, and most importantly he cut down his turnovers. I think this 50-game stretch might have been his best in the NHL, especially in his own zone, but Schultz has been solid defensively for a many years.
Will the Oilers miss Gilbert’s offence?
It always hurts to lose a guy who can move the puck, but Gilbert wasn’t on the 1st or 2nd unit PP anymore, when the Oilers were healthy, so his offensive numbers were likely going to drop moving forward. Now that the Oilers finally have some legit skill, it is time to start finding players who are very good in one specific area, and I think that’s what they were thinking by bringing in Schultz. Time will tell if they were correct.
"When the moment becomes important, you need poise on the ice to allow the organization to grow. You need that confidence and belief that things are still under control even when there is great pressure on, and I think he brings that," said Steve Tambellini on why he acquired Schultz.
Schultz has played in many one goal games in his career with the Wild, and he played a lot in the final minute of periods and games, and Tambellini feels poise is an element Schultz possesses and one the Oilers desperately need.
"Good players always find time to make the right decision, and we are hoping that his (Schultz) experience and the type of player he is can help further develop our group," continued Tambellini.
HE KNOWS DEFENCE
Schultz learned how to play defence from Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire was an incredible teacher, and while many didn’t like his defensive style, it was successful.
I asked Schultz What made Lemaire so good?
"He was one of the guys who was truly a teacher. I don’t know if there is a lot of guys left like that. He focused on the little things that made a big difference, like stick positioning, where you stand, how you stand, different situation on killing a penalty and other little things that he continually reminded you about to help you grow. In games now it is the little things that make the difference, and he was very specific with that. I think that was good as a young player to learn little things like that, becaue they make you a better player.
"I learned how to play the game from the backend out and that’s how I’ve molded my play since then. It will be fun to come here to get up in the play a bit more, but my focus will be my strong defensive game. They have great young players here, and I will just need to move the puck up to them."
Yesterday on my show Tambellini talked about needing players to be reliable in crunch time, but he also mentioned how they needed to inject a new attitude. I asked Schultz about bringing that attitude that Lemaire installed in Minnesota. They needed to out work and out execute teams to win. They weren’t going to out-skill anyone.
"In the NHL it is a long, tough season and you have to be ready to perform every night. I try to be consistent with my work ethic and go out and be reliable for the coaching staff and be counted on in situations to get the job done. Jacques taught me that."
Gilbert like most of his ex-teammates have only experienced losing at the NHL level. I’ve said for years that at times it seemed like losing was almost becoming acceptable. Not in the way that players were okay with it, but that many of them didn’t know what it took to win tight games. That becomes an attitude, and the Oilers haven’t had a winning one for years.
I’m not saying Gilbert was the problem, far from it in fact, but the Oilers needed to look at finding guys who have been through that. Schultz isn’t a better player than Gilbert, but he has played in tighter situations, and excelled for the past few years. The Oilers need more guys who know can match the intensity and work ethic of the opposition on a nightly basis.
We’ve seen them do it for games here and there, but they haven’t been able to do it for a 20-game stretch for a long, long time.
I think this trade was as much about bringing in a new attitude as it was about skill-set.
"If you are coming out to see something flashy it won’t come from me," said Schultz. "What makes good teams is players come in and they understand their role and what they bring to the team. Management has to figure out what the pieces are to bring in and do that, and you need all types of players. I just want to integrate into the team and hopefully they need what I bring."
We’ll find out starting tomorrow v. the Blues.
One thing that concerned me about the trade was they shipped out another right shooting D-man. They only have Jeff Petry and Corey Potter, neither with an abundance of experience, and that is concerning. Schultz shoots left and the majority of defenders play the same side as how they shoot.
"I think most guys are more comfortable playing your strong side (left), but this year I’ve played both. It is an adjustment period for a few games to play your off side, but I think you have to be capable to play both sides depending on what shots you have on the backend," Schultz explained when I asked him about which side he prefers.
I’d put Schultz with Ryan Whitney and drop Potter down with Andy Sutton.