I’ve been covering the Oilers since 2001, so rarely does much surprise me anymore. I’ve seen a lot, and sadly for Oilers fans, most of it has been losing. However, I’ll admit I’m surprised by how many people want to ship Justin Schultz out of town.
Maybe I shouldn’t be, considering I’ve seen this movie recently staring the likes of Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and many others, but none of those players heard the trade talk so early in their career.
Schultz has only played 122 games, yet many are convinced they know what type of player he’ll be and in their eyes he won’t help.
I strongly disagree.
I hate generalizations. Nothing irks me more than when someone says, “the media.” Lumping all media members together annoys the hell out of me. I don’t share the same beliefs as every media member, but often people throw a blanket over all media and assume they feel the same.
So let me preface my next statement by saying I understand that not all of those who believe in Corsi, Fenwick, etc want Schultz gone, but I’m surprised that many of the most vocal trade-Schultz crowd comes from that background.
The ironic part is that many of the people wanting to ship out Schultz are the same guys who have steadfastly defended Jeff Petry. It’s almost like people believe they have to trade one of those two and they are picking a side. It is plausible that both can stay in Edmonton, isn’t it?
Maybe it just reaffirms that we all have bias. We all do, and anyone who thinks they don’t is dreaming. Stats guys have bias to believe their numbers always lead to the correct analysis, watchers of the game believe what they see on the ice is correct, and all of us value players higher or lower for various reasons.
If we all agreed, it sure would be rather boring in the Nation so I hope that never changes.
Anyways, back to Schultz, who has played less than two full NHL seasons.
He is 27th in points over the that time and 29th in points-per-game for defencemen. He is also 6th in EV goals over the past two seasons. His offensive numbers are very good, and bordering on elite.
Where Schultz struggles is in his own zone.
His Corsi and Fenwick numbers have been less than stellar, and his defensive zone coverage has been lacking. I’d say that is due to his inexperience, him having to play more minutes than he should be at this stage of his career, and that he never had to be great defensively in college.
Schultz, like every Oilers D-man, has had to play tougher minutes than they are capable of handling and that has led to some tough nights.
For me, his first two seasons have unfolded very close to how I expected them to. He was touted as an offensive defenceman, and he’s lived up to that, but at the same time he’s struggled defensively.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
The same was said about Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
Hall has become a dominant player. Eberle has had two very good seasons, while Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov have had a tougher time.
Nugent-Hopkins plays a harder position than the other three forwards, and his lack of size and experience against big, skilled western centres has been rather apparent. I believe he will have the biggest improvement this season (more on that in another article).
Yakupov had an okay first season that ended in spectacular fashion with six goals in three games. He struggled last season, but if you mention trading Yakupov the same people who want Schultz traded were the first to come to Yak’s defence.
WHY THE DIFFERENCE?
Why are people more willing to move Schultz, but not Yakupov?
Both have been in the league the same time. I suspect part of it (trade talk) stems from how they have been used. People think Yakupov hasn’t been given the same opportunities as Schultz, and that he will produce once he gets more icetime.
That is possible, but isn’t it equally possible that Schultz will improve defensively with more experience?
The other perplexing thing for me is that winger is the only position currently where the Oilers have any depth. The Oilers don’t have another D-man who can produce offensively. If they trade Schultz who is going to fill his offensive totals?
If the Oilers trade Yakupov, at least they would still have Hall, Eberle, Perron, Purcell and Pouliot.
I’m not saying they should trade Yakupov, I’m just trying to understand why so many believe trading Schultz is the right move.
Schultz has very good instincts in the offensive zone. He has a deceptively good wrist/snap shot and if he learns to shoot more on the PP, I suspect his offensive totals will improve even more. Schultz is on the verge of being a great offensive D-man, and that’s why I’m hesitant, in fact I’m loathe, to trade him at this point.
I fully realize that he has struggled defensively, but he can learn that part of the game. It is extremely rare that players suddenly become better offensive players in the NHL, but many offensive players have improved defensively.
I’m confident Schultz’s defensive zone coverage will improve, especially with the addition of Craig Ramsey, and that’s why I wouldn’t deal him.
At this point I wouldn’t trade any of Petry, Schultz or Yakupov, because their value is low and there is no way you would fetch a 2nd line centre for any of them.
I’d keep Schultz, but I’m surprised at how quickly some think he is more of the problem than the solution.
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