Oiler fans haven’t had much to celebrate since their joyous run in the spring of 2006, but on Saturday Justin Schultz gave them a reason to believe that the days of players shunning Edmonton or walking away might be a thing of the past.
Schultz chose the Oilers instead of the Canucks, Senators, Leafs, Rangers and Wild, and ultimately chose them instead of any of the other 29 franchises.
Schultz was clear that Canada was where he wanted to play, and considering Ryan Suter, an American, has stated he wants to play in the US, I don’t have a big problem if a player is passionate about playing in his home country.
Many have wondered why he didn’t sign with the Ducks after they drafted him 43rd overall in 2008. “Nothing against them. I really enjoyed my time with them, and going to their camps. Lots of good people there. But it came down to me having the option to choose where I wanted to play. To play in Canada was a huge thing for me,” said Schultz.
Schultz’s situation was very rare, which is why he was such a big story leading up to July 1st. I understand the Ducks’ frustration in losing a young, talented player for nothing, but unless they change the wording in the CBA they have no legal arguement. Schultz had a loophole and he used it to his advantage, and the Oilers and their fans couldn’t be happier.
Some seemed to think that because Schultz’s signing was garnering so much interest across the NHL, and especially on twitter, that he was being overhyped and overrated.
I went back and looked through most of the coverage on Schultz, and there was a wide array of coverage, but I didn’t see anything written that suggested his play was being overhyped. Was his saga overhyped, of course, but in the world of Internet, twitter, facebook, TV and radio that’s just how stories unfold today.
Schultz was the only UFA in North America who was allowed to speak to all 30 teams prior to July 1st, so his situation, not his skill level, garnered all of the attention.
What would be a realistic rookie season for Schultz? Here are the fifteen other D-men from his 2008 draft class who have played at least one NHL season, and here’s a breakdown of their first year.
PLAYER Drafted AGE OF 1ST YR GP G A PTS +/-
D. Droughty #2 18 81 6 21 27 -17
Z. Bogosian #3 18 47 9 10 19 11
A. Pietrangelo #4 20 79 11 32 43 18
L. Schenn #5 18 70 2 12 14 -12
T. Myers #12 19 82 11 37 48 13
E. Karlsson #15 20 75 13 32 45 -30
J. Gardiner #17 21 75 7 23 30 -2
*L. Sbisa #19 20 68 2 9 11 -11
M. Del Zotto #20 19 80 9 28 37 -20
J. Carlson #27 20 82 7 30 37 21
V. Voynov #32 21 54 8 12 20 12
J. Schultz #43 22 ?? ? ? ? ?
T. Hamonic #53 20 62 5 21 26 4
M. Scandella #55 21 63 3 9 12 -22
J. Spurgeon #156 21 53 4 8 12 -1
**J. Demers #183 21 51 4 17 21 5
*Sbisa played 39 games as an 18-year-old in Philly, but I used his 20-year-old year as his first full NHL season.
**Demers was drafted as a 20-year-old, and his first year was in 2009 with the Sharks.
What is a realistic number for Schultz, it is hard to say.
Gardiner might be the closest comparison considering they both came from Wisconsin, but Schultz has the advantage of being one year stronger. If Schultz produces 30-35 points and is an even player the Oilers and their fans should be ecstatic. Remember that only 43 defenders produced 30+ points last year, while 46 did it in 2011 and 52 in 2010.
Sadly, like most offensive statistics, scoring by D-men across the league is slowly going down, so fans and the Oilers should keep their expectations realistic.
- Many feel the Ryan Smyth signing means Magnus Paajarvi is destined to start the season in OKC. That’s a possibility, but right now it seems that there is an opening for the 2nd line LW. Hall is the first liner, and Smyth is the 3rd. I’d argue that Magnus Paajarvi will battle Teemu Hartikainen for that spot. You want competition in camp, and you want players to earn their spot.
Signing Smyth makes sense. The Oilers would be foolish to start the season with Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Paajarvi and Hartikainen as five of their top-six wingers. You need some veteran experience, and Smyth brings that.
- I still believe that if they can find a trading partner the Oilers will deal one of their forwards, not a 4th liner, for a veteran D-man. I haven’t heard any realistic options, but if a team is willing to offer a proven top-four defender I suspect the Oilers will listen. The four kids are untouchable at this point, but 83, 91 and 89 could be moved for the right price.
- Interesting trade between the Stars and Sabres. The Stars get the most productive player, Derek Roy, but the Sabres get a much needed mixture of grit and skill in Steve Ott along with Adam Pardy. I look at the deal this way. The Sabres dealt Zack Kassian and Derek Roy for Ott, Pardy and Cody Hodgson. The Hodgson move allowed them to move Roy. They have too many small forwards, and I could see the Oilers making a similar type move in a few years.
- Cam Charron tweeted the following video that was on a Canucks blog after the Canucks lost out on Schultz, but managed to sign Jason Garrison. If you can’t laugh at this then you take sports way too seriously. This is pretty good, but I suspect an Oiler fan could come up with something better. If you do, send it to me and I’ll gladly post it here.
- Huge shout out to all the competitors and volunteers who were part of the Great White North Triathlon in Stony Plain over the weekend. It was a great event, and it was inspiring to see the amount of dedication it takes to swim 2Km, bike 90KM and run 21KM. All the volunteers were great, and it was nice to see how much the competitors appreciated those who volunteered their time.