The Total Implosion of Justin Schultz

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.

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But he’s been awful lately.


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:

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  • 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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  • Tikkanese

    Klefbom is a bust already. He’s been hurt the last 3 years, important development years at that. Has only 7 points in 67 GP in the last 3 years in Sweden. Yea he’s going to be a great one…

  • DSF

    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.

    • DSF

      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.

      • The Soup Fascist

        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.

      • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

        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?

      • G Money

        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.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    @ 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.