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.

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:

  • 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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  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Early Prediction: DSF will make hilarious post on this article and many will join in the joke!

    Nice work DSF! NICE work!!!

    haha, in advance.

    I love you, man! *HUG*

  • G Money

    @ JW,

    I am harping on “the system” right now. My theory? The first eight games Schultz was playing on instinct. His game declined after he started playing the system.

    The decline mirrors every other defenseman on the team from last year to this year.

    Secondly, even as terribly as he’s played out there – and who plays a rookie against Patrick Kane anyway? – the skills that got him there are on full display at least a few times a game. Skating, passing, and doing smart things.

    I think he’s badly run down and overwhelmed – but nothing a summer of training and mental adaptation won’t address.

    If I had to make a prediction, I would say his development will mirror that of another cerebral and gifted player (RNH). Next year, we’ll see Young Schultz work hard on the defensive side of his game (albeit at the cost of some offensive results). The year after that we’ll start to see the complete package.

    • John Chambers

      Good call.

      Thank you for making a succinct point.

      Our current system being supported by our managment group is dysfunctional and mid-evolution.Ralph has tried to make positive changes to our historic system but hasnt been able to make a wholesale change, he has had to follow upper-managments template and only make small adjustments.Seven years of playoff futility make us an NHL landmark.There is no fluke in that and it sure isnt managment or players,it is obviously the system itself and the Oilers hate being dragged out of the closet on the issue.

      The reasons we see Jeckyl and Hyde results is because we have been using an inferior system for decades,Ralph is brave and has guts,he has tried to make improvements against the organisational flow.When Ralph is under pressure his personal instincts kick in and he reacts fine,however when he is partially handcuffed by a pre-existing inferior system and philosophy then his personal instincts and skillset cannot overcome the systemic dysfunction he faces.

      I like Ralph,I like most of the men we have on the roster,I like the upper-managment potential we have,but I absolutely hate the system and philosophy the Oilers try to make work.

      The utter stubbornness that this organisation has displayed in steadfastly as they think”defending” the remains of a dynasty system,has been the root cause of our inconsistancy and lack of playoff appearances.

      Please use your hockey acumen as fans and try to rationalise that there is no possible way we could maintain consistantly losing results for so long unless there was a TREMENDOUS amount of power and energy directed at supporting that result.The Oilers have put the cart before the horse for to many years and there is now a long and definitive tangible record of losing results to back this theory up.

      Kevin Lowe and the “system” are synonomous because this team has never made any type of system statement,who chooses the “system” we use the Owner?, the Oilers use the word but refuse to define it to any reasonable degree.

      As long as system responsibility and accountability remain a Teflon issue we can never talk about of discuss this team will produce losing results and regress developmentaly,as we have been clearly doing.How long do we need to read and react to this failing system dynamic from a managerial perspective, god knows we throw away most of our games because the system itself cannot read and react fast enough on the ice.

      At the end of the day if the problems dont catalyse from the system itself then it must be the men running it not the men playing it.

      The list is already made of changes we need to make,and we start with kevin Lowe,he needs to hold the line and go down with the ship, he specificlly has postured this way and forced the hand for wayyyy to many years without sinking below the waves, step up or step back the salesmanship is over.Jettisson the system and philosophy,change it ,or get the hell out with it.There is no other option.And if it is katz who picked the system ha ha ha impossible,but if thats the case lets hear about it ok,lets designate accountability so we can initiate positive changes.

      I see the reality that the entire sub-cast has been assembled around a chronically flawed system,this team has only had one decent shot at the cup since the glory days, we have all but erased that Dynasty legacy with the shoddy results we have created.So as uncomfortable as it seems the reality may be that the entire managerial group might have to go at once to get a healthy start,they dont seem to want to admit there is a real need to change and show any desire to make those changes happen.

      The cost to rebuild this team systemiclly and keep the current core of managers is on par with restoring a Historic landmark home, it is horrendous but the return is tremendous as well. It is worth it if you have the money,and if you dont you are better off just tearing the entire house down and rebuilding with current values in mind as opposed to historiclly inflated values.

      Heres the real problem, the Oilers dont even admit they have a system it doesnt have a name or a history, it is like it has been in a witness protection program for decades like a states witness. So we cannot analyse the real root of the problem, sorry Kevin Lowe but you are behind the curve, other businesses have changed their morales since the internet came along,you refuse to so good-bye,you will not survive this cleansing unless you use integrity but you think that is being a traitor to the system you defend,so be it.

      The old guard s full of BS, when they were players and they felt the game slipping away they made immediate adjustments and never gave up, but as managers they refuse to adjust and they stay the course, it really makes no sense at all and has been the Achilles heel for nearly every one of them managerially, mac-T slipped by on some system innovations and evolution and one good solid playoff run.

      You know one of the Dynast Oilers greatest assets was youth,and the willingness to change and adjust on-the-fly,maybe age has a factor that affects the metality of our managers today who were all players.Maybe they are just unable to make the changes we need to see.Maybe they cant see how horrible the system is and this is why they have been trying to push-start if for so many years with no results.

      At the end of the day if the problems we see are not catalysed by the system then its the men running it,then its the man coaching it,then its the players playing it,in that order so lets start lopping heads off until things get better.Looks Like K-Lowe is up to bat first.

      J Schultz was exposed to a dysfunctional inconsistant sub-par system so I give him a mulligan, in my mind he should win the Calder,he has played the right minutes and put ip the points to earn that reward.D-men are rarely able to step in like this and produce and J Schultz produced this year,he was kept on a leash systemiclly for different reasons,same as Nail,they will be given more rope next year.

  • BigBurgers

    He sucks, trade him. (sarcasm)

    In seriousness, while it’s been painful to watch this happen to him, I just hope that we can just chalk this up to growing pains.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I was thinking of Nashville and Edmonton as trade partners and wanted to see what people thought of my idea.

    to Nashville: Gagner, N.Schultz, Horcoff, Dubnyk and 2014 1st and possible 2013 switch.

    to Edmonton: Weber, Rinne and Legwand

    In the next 2 years Nashville isn’t going to win much and is a havenot franchise at the start of a rebuild. The players going to Edm have a cap hit of about $19.3M and to Nash $17M if Gagner gets $4.5m, but in actual money the players going to Edm. will be owed $61.3M in the next 2 years and again assuming Gags gets $4.5 the players heading to Nashville are owed $23.5M. If I’m Nashville’s ownership and I am bracing for a hit in attendance for 3-5 years $40 Million is pretty hard to pass up.

    • Micbilly99

      Please stuff with this Webber stuff. Nashville is not trading him to the Oilers or anyone else. They can’t move him until one year after Nashville agreed to the offer sheet and that’s in late July/August. By that time teams have signed their free agents and drafted their players. More importantly, THEY DON’T WANT OUR CRAP FOR THEIR SUPERSTAR!

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      The leafs cashed that lottery ticket Brownlee was so convinced the Oil would find in their back pocket.

      They are a bad, bad team riding variance into the sunset in a short season.

      In other news, Tampa beat them last night 5-2. They now have the top two scorers in the league and are miles from the Playoffs. If they had better goaltending they’d be much better.

      But… if they and Nashville manage to win or tie one of their final games and we manage to lose both our final games… we pick 3rd. amazing.

  • MKE

    @g money

    Who plays a rookie against Kane? The canucks did – they played corrado against Kane in his first NHL game and he had a positive scoring differential..

    • G Money

      You are comfortable that a one-game sample is adequate for you to draw conclusions? DSF would be proud.

      I also assume therefore that you’d be willing to bet that Corrado will be a better D than Schultz?

      When I say “who plays a rookie against Kane”, the purpose is to use a specific example to highlight a broader point, which is that Schultz’s performance has to be looked at in the context of the high-level of competition he faces every night, and the heavy minute load he faces, all while playing for a terrible defensive team.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Growing pains. Good for him to get these lessons out of the way while the games mean nothing. He’ll be better neat season when the Oilers finish 5th overall in the western conference.

  • MKE

    The biggest problem here for years has been a lack of a strong culture. It’s hard to have when you don’t have a solid identity. I believe that the Oilers have a chance to change this with Kruger as their head coach. A winning culture doesn’t happen over night, but its nice to know we have guys like Taylor Hall (although not enough of them) who actually care.

    I think MacT will be alot better as GM then some people think. Time will tell. No matter what moves are made people won’t be happy, but I hope for the best and look forward to a giant step forward next year. (because really..who wants to hope for another losing season)

    But lets face it…this is Edmonton…and even if this team was a perfect 82-0, people would still find something to complain about.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    This is on Krueger . May have looked like our best “D” but he was /is a rookie . Way to many minutes all year . I would have sent him down 15 games ago and said be ready for next year . ps. I said exactly that about 15 games ago . Hope he hasn’t been screwed up .

  • 106 and 106

    Dubynk’s body language is telling. He is frustrated and probably would have stared Schultz through the glass if he wasn’t busy fishing the puck out of his net. He’s had a great season though, too bad it ends in the toilet.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    The team has checked out on professor Krueger.

    I believe they are sending a message to MacT .

    It’s not just need for better players it’s new coaches too.

    • Spydyr

      Funny, my dog told me about this one coach. He has been around for years .Knows the NHL game and is available. My dog keeps going Ruff , Ruff, Ruff.

      The only problem being he would not take Lowe’s $hit. So that will be a no go.

  • Eddie Shore

    Not sure why you would single out Schultz when the entire team has been awful. He plays too many minutes and for some reason Krueger has insisted on not trying to get favourable matchups all year. I think he might be the only coach in the NHL that doesnt match lines. I think Schultz struggles are more of an indictmmet on the coaching staff than anything else.

  • John Chambers

    This looks like a team that has quit on its coach, which puts MacT in a tough position. Do you blow out yet another coach, or do you save that bullet for another day? Will a good coach come if Krueger gets the bullet, given they have turfed 3 coaches in 5 years?

    If they like Ruff, and they think he will sign, they should probably bullet Krueger. Otherwise, they need to give Krueger another year and turf the key guys who quit, which would appear to be Horcoff and possibly Gagner.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Schultz has no clue out there unless it is in the offensive zone. He follows the puck in his zone and constantly circles instead of stopping. Not physical at all either. The team promised him top 4 minutes which does nothing to encourage accountability and work ethic either.

    • CaptainLander

      People do realize he is a rookie (and yes JW/DSF, if you scour the league you will probably find other D rookies with better plus minus or pointless stats) that has never played close this this many games in a year. Playing against the best in the world. I would suggest we give him a couple seasons to develop before Oil fans and media do what they do and run him out of town. I get the frustration but ripping a rookie for woes of the team, c’mon.

      • DSF

        I don’t see development being possible when a player is guaranteed things without even stepping on the ice. I am actually ripping the management not the player. Plus, at 23 years of age, you would think he would have a little more of a clue defensively though.

  • Spydyr

    Some comments would bear more merit if we had a good competitive club right now , but we don’t . We overachieved in first half . Schultz reminds me of Coffey and the problems he faced defencesively his first couple of seasons . He’ll get better and probably sooner than later as our offence evolves .

  • G Money

    One player is not the problem. The stats are interesting, but don’t tell the whole story. JR. is like the rest of team, shows flashes of brilliance, wildly inconsistent at times, and not good enough, YET.

    As for Gagner, it seems to me he has always been streaky. If the season were another 34 games, I suspect he would have picked it up again.

  • MKE

    Justin’s game has waxed and waned as noted above. But so has Nick’s. In the early part of the season, the two were very complementary. Now it appears that they are completely out of synch. There aren’t too many defensemen in the league that can overcome poor synergies with his partner. They really do have to play as a unit; just like the forward lines. I am not sure why we would be surprised – they only forward unit that has played well has been the top line (Nuge, Ebs, Hall). All other forward units have had considerable challenges. Unfortunately, when defense units struggle, it ends up in the net.

  • remlap

    @NewAgeSys… TL;DR

    To be more on point.. He’s a rookie, and was thrown to the dogs. What do you expect? If he had chosen to sign with Vancouver, you could reasonably expect him to start on the 3rd pairing with some PP time. If he did start to run into issues, like he is here in Edmonton, the organization would likely push him further down the depth chart, or maybe give him some AHL playoff time.

    Edmonton has a history of throwing rookies to the wolves. Hell, there’s talk of doing it again next year with Klefbom.

  • John Chambers

    2013 Oilers Best Case Scenario: They squeak into the playoffs!

    2013 Oilers Likely Scenario: They finish 10th or 11th in the conference, playing competitively into late April, with the young players leading the team.

    2013 Oilers Worst Case Scenario: What we’re seeing unfold before our eyes.

    Can we shop for some depth now? Ye Gods!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I can’t, for the life of me understand why Justin is struggling so much. I mean, every one of us here could be doing what’s required with our eyes closed and one hand bound behind our back. It’s like this in NHL13, can’t be any difference in really having to do it out there on the ice, could it?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It is easy to see why he is struggling – no solid veteran to pair him with and calm things down. I said it then and I will say it now, the Oilers lost the NSchultz trade big time and it shows in how little he can do to help JSchultz adjust to the NHL. NSchultz is like Gator was at the end of his stint here – a soft, slower, d-man that was a liability. Unfortunately, he is the best option to pair JSchultz with if you want to have some semblance of a top pairing to face the toughs with Petry and Smid. The lack of NHL quality depth on the Oilers blueline is horrible, but was clear to see at the start of the season.

    That being said, the Oilers d-corps is not developing under Steve Smith. Both Smid and Petry have regressed this year IMHO. Huddy did a much better job here (and then in Dallas after he was canned) than Smith has done. Time for a change of assistant coaches IMHO as well.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As a rookie defenceman, he exceeded my expectations this year. Just based on the amount of minutes Kruger had him play has got to be the most out of practically every other rookie defenceman. Moreover, I can’t think of a single rookie defenceman that was a superstar year one. The Doughty’s and the Webber’s and the Karrlsons all took a few years and so will Schultz.

    I look forward to about two years form now as Klefbomb will have one year under his belt and be getting his legs, while Schultz should be coming into his own. Maybe even by this time Perty and Smid have become even better, and who knows, perhaps we land Jones, and can go out and buy a top vet and some tough depth (see Yandle and Fistric).

    • DSF

      Rookie defensemen TOI/G:

      Jonas Brodin – 23:15

      Mark Cundari – 21:57

      Justin Schultz – 21:27

      Brendan Dillion – 21:22

      Tyson Barrie – 21:16

      Ryan Murphy – 21:03

        • DSF

          The conclusion that should be drawn is that Schultz is not playing more than any other highly touted rookie.

          Here are the numbers from the prior season:

          Justin Faulk – 22:50

          Marco Scandella – 21:46

          Jake Gardiner – 21:35

          Adam Larsson – 20:37

          Justin Falk – 19:29

          Worth noting that both Scandella and Gardiner were both sent to the AHL this season to work on the defensive side of their games.

          Also worth noting is that Brodin is 19 and, not only has he excelled defensively but has also had to learn how to play of smaller ice and adjust to North American language and culture.

          And for those who are making the excuse that Schultz is “tired” because of a longer season, Brodin only played 50 games in Sweden last season and seems to be doing just fine this year.

  • DSF

    As Bruce McCurdy put it in his Cult of Hockey player grades piece last night:

    “Something is rotten in the state of denial.”

    Remember that “1” means “deserving of almost immediate demotion”

    ” #19 Justin Schultz, 1. It’s been hard to watch the promising young defender’s game come off the rails as the season has gone on. Wednesday night may have been a new low, as the Oilers were outshot 14-0 during Justin’s (team-leading!?) 17 minutes at even strength. In that time the Oilers attempted just 5 shots, 4 of which got blocked; the Hawks meanwhile had 23 attempts, just 1 of which was blocked. I’d think about that a little more except my head hurts already.”

    While there are some differences, Schultz is tracking very much like another chaos defensemen currently playing in the NHL:

    1) NCAA defenseman √

    2) Didn’t want to play for the team that drafted him √

    3) Strong PP performer. Dreadful at even strength √

    4) 8G 28A 36P -15 during his 22 year old season √

    Ladies and gentlemen: That defenseman is Jack Johnson.

    Now lets look at another NCAA defenseman who should have had as much trouble adapting to the NHL as Junior if you believe that playing too many games and too many minutes is a problem.

    1) Rookie season at age 22 √

    2) Played 72 NHL (AND 10 AHL) games as a rookie √

    3) 9G 34A 41P -4 √

    4) Played 20 minutes/night as a 22 year old rookie √

    Ladies and gentlemen…Kevin Shattenkirk

    I expect with some good coaching Schultz may close the gap between Johnson and Shattenkirk but on any good NHL team, he would be getting that coaching in the AHL.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Interesting numbers, especially Shattenkirk’s (you fail to mention JJs 22 year old season was his 4th in the NHL, but I digress).

      Shattenkirk’s numbers are much MORE interesting when you look at his season, or more accurately two distinct seasons within a season.

      In Colorado where there were no solid D-men to play with (Adam Foote was very long in the tooth 39 year old at this point) and the rest of the defence was also a mess, not unlike good old our team, the 22 year old rookie went:

      46 games played / 7 goals / 19 assists / 0.56 points per game / minus 11

      Upon being traded to St. Louis and being paired with Pietrangelo his season magically improved. His new numbers:

      26 games played / 2 goals / 15 assists / 0.65 points per game PLUS 7

      Thank you for pointing out, so clearly, the positive effects of playing a rookie with a true number one defenceman and solid defence corps.

      I am just not sure I am buying that there are many (any?) NHL teams strugging to score points, who would leave a 1.4 ppg AHL defenceman, sit in the minors. I maintain that the issue was not having Schultz Jr. in the bigs, but rather the the Oilers failed to provide him with a viable 1st pairing defenceman to play with. Schultz Jr. will be fine once MacT finds him some support.

      • DSF

        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.


        (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.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Sorry, to be clear, this is a shortcoming of the Oilers and you are correct MacT may very well be unable to pull “that guy” out of his a$$ in five months. That isn’t J. Schultz’ responsibility, though it could become his cross to bear.

          My point was the Shattenkirk example shows how much disparity there is when you pluck a rookie D-man out of a dysfunctional defensive group and surround him with actual NHL calibre blueliners. Schultz would likely have fared much better on virtually any other team in the league and is going to be a very good hockey player IMO.

  • DSF

    If Mact is serious about winning…

    Schultz should not be in the top 4 defense pairings to start the season next year.

    And anyone suggesting Klefbom should be in the top 6 should crawl in a hole and die.