WEEKEND WRAP

After the nicest weekend of the year many of you woke up this morning with a bad farmer tan, a burnt face or visions of sun dresses and bikinis. Hopefully it was the latter, but as we gear up for an awesome week of patio weather we’ll recap a conversation with Justin Schultz, who he should play with next season, dominant athletes and the Esks woeful offence.

I chatted with Schultz on Friday and my first impression is that he’s a very humble young man. He consistently mentioned "If I make the team," in many of his replies. He wants to get stronger before camp, and feels that his ability to move the puck will be his best asset in the NHL. He also saw the Oilers youth, Ralph Krueger’s vision and Edmonton’s geographic location as major reasons why he choose the Oilers.

"I felt it was the best fit for me, if I ultimately make the team. There is a bunch of young players I’ll be able to play with, the coach Ralph Krueger was a huge influence on me and just playing in Canada is going to be pretty cool. I grew up around the game in Canada, I know what it is like and it’s going to be fun," said Schultz.

What about the pressure of playing in Canada?

"My buddy Jake Gardiner plays for the Leafs and he loves it. He loves that it is hockey all the time, and he did say there is pressure with it (playing in Canada), but he said it takes time to get used, so I’ll see how it goes for me. I’m really looking forward to it.

What did Krueger say that influenced your decision?

"We had a pretty good conversation and he actually showed me a video clip of when he was at a Stanley Cup final game in Edmonton in 2006. He told me it will be like that there again when we start winning, and I’m excited to be a piece that can hopefully help us get there."

Did you know he was a motivational speaker, and did he motivate you during your meeting?

"He definitely fired me up. I didn’t know he was a motivational speaker until after. I could have figured it out based on what he said, but he was very inspirational when he spoke to me."

What did Taylor Hall tell you about Edmonton from a player’s perspective?

"Just how the fans in Edmonton love their team and how great it is to play there. He talked about the teammates and how close of a group there are. You could see his passion for his team and that was great."

Did Hall sell you on how much this team needed a young right-handed D-man?

"That was definitely part of the conversations I had with him and the Oilers. I haven’t made the team yet, but if I did that was definitely an area they saw me fitting in to. That was a big factor in my decision."

What is the best attribute of your game right now?

 "I think my poise and vision on the ice. I think what really helped me in my second and third years in College was seeing the ice and making plays. Hopefully I can bring that to the Oilers."

Your former coach Mike Eaves said you are exceptional on the powerplay. What is your philosophy with the man advantage?

"Just being patient and having poise, seeing lanes, passing lanes and shot lanes. I learned a lot my first year playing with guys like Brandon Smith and Derek Stepan. Definitely my second and third year I improved a lot on the powerplay. Having the confidence to be patient leads to the most success I think."

Schultz currently weighs 190 and he said he’ll be focusing on getting stronger not just gaining weight. He’ll come to camp between 190 and 195 pounds.

WHO SHOULD BE PLAY WITH

There is no guarantee that Schultz will make the team, but I’d say there is a very good chance he’ll be on the opening night roster, but who he plays with isn’t a guarantee. There are a few options.

I’d be surprised if Krueger didn’t keep Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry as a pair to start the year, so I won’t include Smid as a viable option. I think Smid is the Oilers best shut down D-man and he’ll face the best players on most nights, so it wouldn’t make much sense to play him with a rookie.

OPTIONS

If Ryan Whitney is healthy, and he says his off-season training is going very well, then he will log a lot of minutes. When Whitney was healthy at the start of the 2010 season, he made every partner look better. He has been powerskating this summer for the first time in three years, and if he can get his footspeed back to where it was in 2012, he could be an option for Schultz.

I think Nick Schultz might be the best option if they are looking for a mentor.

He’s incredibly smart, rarely makes a mistake, doesn’t get caught out of position and would be a great on-ice tutor for the younger Schultz. Kevin Quinn and Jack Michaels might be the only guys who wouldn’t approve of this pairing.

The only concern about playing Schultz with Schultz is that would leave Whitney to play with Corey Potter, Sutton or Peckham, unless they find a way to acquire another top-four D-man via trade or free agency. I know some fans, bloggers and media have written off Whitney and feel he is destined to be a 3rd pairing D-man. I’m not one of those guys.

Suggesting that Whitney is done is just as ridiculous as suggesting that J. Schultz is automatically ready to be a top-four D-man without playing one game. If Whitney is healthy he is still a top-four D-man, and I suspect J. Schultz will be a top-four defender, but he doesn’t have to be one on opening night.

The Oilers could start Schultz on the 3rd pairing with Andy Sutton or Theo Peckham. Krueger could shelter him from facing top-six forwards for the first few months of the season and possibly make his transition to the NHL a bit easier.

I’d lean towards starting him in your 3rd pairing, while having him on the 1st or 2nd PP units.

Who do you think they should play J. Schultz with?

GREATNESS

Is Roger Federer the most dominant athlete in the last 20 years? Some will say it was Tiger Woods, but when you look at their numbers, it is hard to argue that Federer hasn’t been more dominant.

  • He’s won 17 majors after winning Wimbledon for the 7th time yesterday. He’s won 17 majors in 10 years.
  • He’s the first man to win the Wimbledon-US Open double four years in a row.
  • He’s the only man to win five consecutive titles at two different Grand Slams, Wimbledon 2003-2007 and US Open 2004-2008.
  • He reached 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, meaning he was top-four in majors for almost six straight years. Many tennis pundits feel this is his greatest record.
  • Between 2005 and 2006 he went 173-9.
  • Unlike Woods, who played minimal no-major tournaments, Federer played in more tournaments yet still won the Majors.
  • And the athleticism and endurance necessary to be a top tennis player far exceeds that of a great golfer.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • I like that J. Schultz wants to play in a Canadian market, and I wonder if Rick Nash really is a superstar if he only wants to play in the States. I could understand if Nash was like Roberto Luongo and spent years in a hockey hotbed, but Nash has played his entire career in Columbus, and now the only teams on his short list include Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose and New York with the Rangers. Those teams are contenders, but Ottawa was very interested and the Sens have lots of talent as well. I think Nash is very good, but he still has some "junior" tendencies in his game. He tries to beat guys one-on-one all over the ice, and while that works in junior it doesn’t in the NHL. I’m guessing his new coach will remove that element from his game.
     
  • The Oilers would be better served to wait until late August to sign any of the remaining UFA defenders. The longer they wait the cheaper those players become. They could look at Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brett Clark, Pavel Kubina or Scott Hannan if they really want to add another veteran.
     
  • They currently have seven D-men signed: Whitney, Schultz, Schultz, Smid, Petry, Potter and Sutton while they’ve qualified Peckham and they have Colten Tuebert. They likely need another experienced guy, in case of injury, but I don’t see any need to rush out and sign him this week.
     
  • Speaking of greatness, Anderson Silva is the most dominant MMA fighter. He’s yet to lose in the UFC, and he crushed the #1 contender. Sonnen took Silva down early in the first round, but he didn’t inflict any damage because Silva’s ground defence was superior. In the 2nd round Silva showed great takedown defence, and when Sonnen slipped, Silva pounced and finished him. True champions know how to finish.
     
  • Don’t be surprised if Vince McMahon goes after Sonnen. Sonnen is a great wrestler, and he’d be unreal on the WWE microphone. He is good buddies with Steve Austin, and at 35 years of age, unless Silva retires, Sonnen is never winning the middleweight belt. Sonnen could make more money in WWE as well.
     
  • Where are all the fans who thought Ricky Ray was the problem for the Esks? Ray went 30-for-40 and 407 yards in Toronto’s 39-36 win over Calgary, while Steven Jyles went 10-for-19 and 91 yards and Kerry Joseph was 3-for-6 for 25 yards in the Esks 17-1 loss. Ray leads the league with 705 passing yards through two weeks, and he’s doing that without any big-name receivers and an ok O-line.

    I ripped that trade when Eric Tillman made it, and I don’t see how anyone is surprised the Esks offence looks woeful through two weeks. Jyles has never been consistently accurate. Sure he has a stronger arm than Ray, but being able to over throw receivers doesn’t lead to many completions.

    I said Tillman was putting his job on the line when he made that deal, and unless Matt Nichols can come off the bench and make some completions the Esks are in trouble. 

SKYDIVING…DO IT

Yesterday a spry, young Marg Ritchie celebrated her 80th birthday by going skydiving. (Me, Marg and Len Pick in above photo).

I was lucky enough to be asked if I wanted to go and didn’t hesitate at saying yes. I’ve always wanted to go skydiving, but it ended up being even better than I thought.

We jumped out from 12,500 feet (About 2 1/2 miles) and you free fall for  50-60 seconds. The parachute releases at around 5,500 feet and then you experience what it feels like to soar like a bird.

The original jump out of the plane was awesome. If you are thrill seeker, I highly recommend going. The staff at Edmonton Skydive was great and if you are worried about the landing, don’t, it was very soft.

Happy 80th Marg, that was a blast.