Justin Schultz Becoming More

Jake Gardiner signed a nice deal with the Leafs this weekend. Five years at roughly four million a season. Not a crazy number for the Leafs to swallow. Gardiner has got some stability contract wise, something NHL players love to have. Now that the deal is done it is time to park it and look at how he can become more.

At times I have such a hard time understanding why fans and media dwell so much on stats. I am talking all stats. The first text I got from a friend in Toronto about Gardiner asked if I think “he can score fifteen goals and thirty assists this season?” I answer back “does it matter if the team doesn’t make the playoffs?”

Gardiner is an extremely talented player. He can skate the puck out of trouble, something that is very hard to do. He has his head up in tight situations which makes it easy for him to find and put the first pass right on the tape. He pushes the play from the back end. This means he jumps into the play to create odd man rushes. It is hard to defend a rush that is a two-on-two and then suddenly turns into a three-on-two.

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All good things, good enough to be a second pair defenceman. It shouldn’t be enough for him or the Leafs.

When I think of two top defenceman I played against, I think of Scott Niedermayer and Drew Doughty. These guys were/are great offensive players. Skate like the wind, puck moving ability and offensive instincts second to none. It was fun to play against them. You would never know where they would show up. They were like rovers. The offensive part of the game came to them easily.

The other part of the game, the defensive part, took more time to develop. This did not happen without frustration. There was push back from them to their coaches when they were told to be more selective in their times to jump into the play, or when to take chances with the puck. But slowly, game after game, season after season, they became elite defencemen.

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Gardiner is not an elite d-man — very few are. But most top teams have elite d-men. The Leafs need him to fill out his game and become that elite player on the back end. He has to commit to playing both ends of the rink. Yes, at times he will have to sacrifice offensive stats to win a game, but winning is more important.


The Oilers have their very own Jake Gardiner. His name is Justin Schultz: Highly skilled, puck moving and still working on completing his game.

He and the Oilers are working on a new deal. Gardiner is a pretty good comparison to Schultz in many ways. Maybe the deal comes back looking something like Gardiner’s for Schultz. Five-year deal? I could live with it, but I am leaning towards a two-year deal for Schultz. Maybe even a one-year deal.

Once the deal is signed the Oilers need Schultz to have a stronger year on the back end in his own zone. Last year he played a lot of minutes for the Oilers. Even though it was too much for this young guy, that’s the way it went. In a perfect world he is on your second or third pairing. If he brings the rest of his game up I think this guy can be a solid player.

I watch the games as closely as anyone and the battle level of individual players is what I watch. It separates the players I want on my team and the ones that I don’t. The playoffs are always a great example. The teams that thrive are the ones who as a whole never stop — all over the ice — trying to keep or get the puck back.

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One issue I have with Schultz is his very relaxed attitude in his own zone. Off a point shot he is often in the right position standing beside his man. He doesn’t battle with the guy to push him out of the shooting lane or to take his stick away. This is a simple correction but one that takes a lot of attention to make happen nightly.

Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith are very aggressive in these areas. It makes such a difference in their own zone. Bringing this part of the game to a higher level made them much better players and lifted both their teams to the ultimate heights.

Once the deal gets done for Schultz, park it and don’t look at it. I would spend that energy praying that in addition to his offensive skill he becomes a much harder and more detailed defender for the Oilers. Just being a going point producer won’t be enough to push the Oilers up the standings.

So to my buddy who asked me if Gardiner can get fifteen goals and thirty assists: Does this answer your question?

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    I dont know what the hold up is. If Schutlz signed an identical deal to Gardiner, we would all be happy!

    Deal “might” not be worth it this year, but over the term it would be anywhere from good value to fantastic value.

    • BC BOY

      Not quite “happy” – half of Oiler fans would be mad at the term, the other half would be mad at the price…you’re not an Oiler fan unless you hate on half the players.

    • hallsyoilerforever5

      Raschaug claims that Schultz is looking for 5M per year for a longer term contract. I assume that means more than 4 years where he would be selling some UFA years. If this is correct, we will likely see a 2 year bridge contract. Might be the best outcome in any event.

    • BlazingSaitls

      If you do a 5 x $4M for him and 2 years in the O is there but the D and complete level is still lacking you’d still be able to move him in a heartbeat and get a nice return

  • BC BOY

    But Jason,

    Do you think that compete level is something a player can just develop. Or is it something they have to be born with?

    I think as Justin gets bigger, stronger, more mature he will gain confidence in those battles and start winning more. But I’m not sure if he will ever develop that nastiness that Keith or Doughty have.

  • BC BOY

    I want cup run Pronger back!! That guy was amazing! That in my mind was the perfect prototypical D-man. I hope we sign Shultz and I love the fact he chose to come to Edmonton but it’s tough for me to get excited about him. He is not mean at all.. He’s a skilled guy.. he would have made a great winger. I hope Struds is right and they can make adjustments so he’s a bit tougher to play against.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Pronger was awesome and that kind of “tough to play against” isn’t measured accurately yet by advanced stats…but does not mean it isn’t one the most if not penultimate factors in hoisting a cup.
      And Strudsy speaks to that here so props to him. We can armchair quarterback all we want but he played the NHL game and knows what it takes. I think it’s why we’ve never been able to swallow the vanilla defenders here. A guy like Gilbert is a perfect example. Great talent and statistically speaking not terrible. But he was a lame duck when push came to shove and the guy would not be a smart choice for a playoff team.

      • Actually, Pronger’s brand of “tough to play against” showed up very nicely in his advanced statistics because it led to results.

        The problem is when you have players with supposedly great “intangibles” who have bad results but people think they are great because “BIG HITZ!!11!”.

        If a player makes your team better because of his so called intangible qualities then it will show up in their results, and therefore will show up in the statistics.

        • The Last Big Bear

          This is valid, but with a catch. I’ll illustrate by way of example.

          When the Flames had Iginla, they always carried a heavyweight on the team, so that Iginla wouldn’t have to fight every numbskull who needed an ***-kicking.

          Andre Roy never won a fight as a Flame (that I remember). I’m sure his Corsi numbers were brutal, and I bet that the Flames didn’t score more goals in the shifts after his fights, etc.

          But his results did show up in the statistics, namely:

          Jarome Iginla: Games Played – 82

          Roy’s job was to fight guys so that Iginla didn’t have to, and there no amount of Corsi or +/- that was going to make up for Iginla being injured for 10 games with a broken hand. Sometimes a player’s success is hard to see, but if they are contributing it will show up in the statistics.

          The catch is that you need to know where to look.

          • Iginla still fought multiple times, twice in Games where Roy was dressed. They even both fought in the same game once.

            The benefit you have perceived is imaginary. Roy was never going to fight anybody who would be on the ice at the same time as Iginla.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Too bad you weren’t there to explain that to Iginla when he specifically asked Flames management to always have a goon on hand so he wouldn’t have to fight so much.

            I’m sure you would have convinced him that the benefit he perceived was completely imaginary. I mean, what would he know, right?

          • Coppperhead

            Now they have Brian MCGRATTAN , Engelland, and Bollig. We only have GAZDIC to respond to these SUPER HEAVIES!!! Aulie , Hendricks et al cant go with these MONSTERS!!! OH NO!!! Any chance the SHARKS will trade BIG,JOHN SCOTT to the OIL! Can we sign WESTGARTH or trade for ORR, McLAREN or ROSEHILL? JUSTIN JOHN SON or TREVOR GILLIES would be great AHL signings? Maybe STRUDWICK will come out of retirement?Can George’s LARAQUE still stand up on skates long enough to destroy someone? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lofty

    Justin should get a 2 year bridge contract set @ $3M per. After he gets his two way game up there we can raise his $.
    Let’s get PK Subban next year if he signs 1 year with Habs.

  • A-Mc

    I wish i could be a fly on the wall while the schultz negotiations are going down. MacT has shown he’s pretty level headed regarding many things, so i have to think that the $$ being asked from the Schultz camp is just simply unreasonable at this point in time.

    Rishaug said on the radio that he expects Schultz to be in the 5M/yr range if he were getting a 4 or 5 year deal.

    I am hopeful that the contract looks pretty close to what Gardiner is getting..

    • BlazingSaitls

      It’ll take at minimum the 2015 1st rounder and probably one of the top D prospects as well as Schultz and Ebbs to make that deal work.
      A Top D like PK comes at a very top price.
      It would be a game changer though, I’d make the deal if we even had the slightest chance. ( I don’t believe we do though)
      The only thing that makes that deal even remotely possible is he’d be moving west.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I don’t understand why Schultz kept on getting ice time with the defensive holes in his game while Petry got games in the press box.

    “The Teflon Don” was his nickname.

    Schultz needs some “reflection time” too. Sit and watch how real NHL D-men play the game.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Do players who have a very relaxed attitude in the defensive zone ever change? That’s just his personality a d type of guy he is. There’s no way I’m giving him a long term contract and hoping h change and praying it becomes a value contract

  • BlazingSaitls

    If your boss told you you are the main piece of an organization(in other words we need you)…. wouldn’t you ask for the sky when it came to contract negotiations?
    MacT made a huge mistake imo by mentioning Schultz in the core group in this origination this early. Pretty sure it playing a huge role in Schultz’ demand right now.

    • bazmagoo

      “If your boss told you you are the main piece of an organization(in other words we need you)…. wouldn’t you ask for the sky when it came to contract negotiations?”

      Very good point, MacT needs to tighten his lips a little bit. He’s improving, but definitely needs to get better.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Jultz will likely not ever be that ‘complete’ dman. Why not set an acceptable baseline of defensive responsibility, work toward that, and exploit the hell out of his strengths.

    Or to pose as a question (honestly I don’t know the answer), if you hammer a guy’s deficiencies through his head as you coach him does it detract from the stuff he brings?

    Seems to me we beat the good out of players sometimes by by over-emphasizing what they don’t do well.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Oilers did a lot to get him here so I doubt they have not considered how much it would cost to get them to hold his services at this time . Perhaps stumbling block is whether Schultz wants to continue here much longer ? They gave him hefty bonuses last two years to bring him here , so expecting a value contract seems remote to me short term or long term.

  • Sorensenator

    Justin CHOSE the Oilers and we certainly courted him. In a couple of years our faith in him and his commitment to us will pay off. Sign him long tern, for decent dollars, but if he falters, then trade him. He deserves a decent shot, not many players CHOOSE to come to Edmonton, and he is good. Give him a chance, confidence from the club in one of the players sure makes a difference, show him you have no confidence and his production will slip away pretty darned quick.

  • Sorensenator

    Go after Subban , then trade him for a top notch centre + another decent D. Subban ins’t the second coming, and his attitude doesn’t bode well, but having his rights would sure give us a HUGE bargaining chip.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nobody should know these kids better than MacTavish. Eventually it’ll come down to him having to move one of the previously thought untouchables to help in another area. Craig has a gut as to where Justins ceiling is, and if he’ll be able to reach it here.

    He’ll act on this instinct on one of these kids sooner or later. Maybe this type of decision happens with Justin Schultz. Awfully early to give up on him though, but patience is wearing thin. Hate to see him stagnate like Hemsky did here. One or even two difficult choices ahead perhaps.

      • Dan 1919

        Sounds good to me.

        It looks like this unnecessary “core” talk by Oilers’ brass has backfired as expected. I never thought it was a good idea telling a bunch of teenagers they’ve got the team by the balls, regardless of their anticipated potential.

        Hall 6mil/year – value contract

        Ebs 6mil/year – solid although he needs to bring more leadership and constant compete level (but he does have a 28 and 34 goal season under his belt already)

        RNH 6mil/yr – not a deserved contract yet

        Shutlz – I’m part of the core??? RNH has it why can’t I have it. Hall is better than Ebs and gets paid the same??? I’m the core I want lots of money.

        If no “reasonable” deal is agreed on, sit him to start the season and see how Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin are panning out. If it looks good trade Shultz for preferably a 2C, or a proven Dman to help out.

  • Justin sounds and acts like a selfish player that feels a sense of entitlement. Well Justin you rank 38th in points as a dmen and 293 in the +/- with a -22. Well your buddy Jake may have gotten on 31 points to your 33 but he is only a -3. Only 9 d-men had a worst +/- then you. Most games 80% of the play is 5×5 so you are untrustworthy. You are not worth more then your buddy Jake.

    • Coppperhead

      Toronto as a team was a MUCH better group 5×5 at -13 overall versus the Oilers -53 so part of that +/- discrepancy has to do with the team not the player.

      Furthermore if we are comparing Justin Schultz to Jake Gardiner, the latter has played one entire extra season of pro hockey and 45 more NHL games which can make a huge difference in the development of a defenceman.

      I agree that Schultz has work to do but you can’t cherry pick a few stats that prove your point without looking at the larger picture.

      • Coppperhead

        Good point. I agree I cherry picked stats that would hurt him. But if you went to arbitration that is what would happen too. So Justin has to put on his big boy pants and stop living on the past AHL performance and show he can play in the next level. Bridge contract of two years at around 4.0 mil which is still 1 mil more than the best D-men in Edmonton is more than enough time for your future D-men to develop and be part of the next stage. Justin’s cost and time line doesn’t fit with the CAP space when all our young d-men are ready. if he performs well he will be a great trading chip. JMHO

  • Whether it was Gagner , Gordon , Ference , Pouliot , Purcell , Nikitan or Fayne , etc. all were signed without even one being a value contract . Schultz is part of the fab group and I doubt will take the first value contract here . Look for $5.5 M / season with a term of 4-6 years .

    • The Last Big Bear

      Fayne *might* prove to be a good value contract.

      Hall and Perron are also on good cap hits, and nobody should be complaining about the goalies contracts.

      There are really only maybe 10 guys on the Oilers who are on questionable contracts, and only about 5 guys the team would have difficulty trading for a positive return.

      The only real cause for concern is that all of the really bad contracts were signed or acquired by the current GM, but the flip side is that many of those guys (Hendricks, Gordon, Nikitin) filled a role that the Oilers really REALLY needed to have filled.

    • The Last Big Bear

      5.5 per year is in the range of Duncan Keith, Oliver ekman -Larsson, Dan Girardi Jay Boumeister, Alex Pietrangelio

      More than Niklas Hjalmarsson, Keith Yandle, Cam Fowler, Mark Giodano, Fedor Tyutin, Nicklas Kronwell, Slava Voynavo, Alexei Emelin, Roman Josi Mark Staal

      These are only some of the players I looked up. His points rank 38th, his +/- ranks 293 with only 9 players worst then him.

      You should never pay for potential. Often it is never reached.

  • The Last Big Bear

    If a player is asking for something in the region of $5m x 5 years, then we shouldn’t be using phrases like “just pray that he can learn how to play his position effectively at the NHL level” to describe his upside.

    It shouldnt be a surprise to anyone that Schultz and his agent are playing hardball, given how he ended up in Edmonton in the first place. Nobody is going to blame the Oilers for signing him either, but he came as a pied piper, and now the piper wants to be paid.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Has the whole world lost their collective minds? I can’t believe the numbers people are throwing around in the comments for an unproven still developing Schultz. He was not good last year.

    The Leafs are done. Good luck trading Phaneuf and/or Gardiner with those ridiculous contracts.

    Of course the ON fangirls are in full hysteria mode hyping up their latest idols.

  • The Last Big Bear

    FLYFISH : The marketplace is set by POTENTIAL , and consequently base salaries rise each season along with it . Value contracts are few and far between , and aided thanks to a salary cap league . If you don’t pay for potential you would have very few players sign here or elsewhere if they did not . The marketplace is risk reward in nature and you require an astute GM to make it work for them , and allocate where it works for them . You never pay for potential and you’ll never have a competitive team in todays NHL .

    • The Last Big Bear

      Not sure if you my post #36. Is Justin in that range of the players I listed?

      Did you see how he is ranked with his stats? Do you call that potential or peaked in the AHL?

      Do you ever watch “Dragons Den”?

      Sales,Sales Sales Bottom line is what is important.

      No different here.

      Teams that pay for potential gets in trouble.

      Flyers and Leafs fortunate for compliance buyout. Always signing players on potential

      Wings,Devils and Coyes always competitive without stupid signings.

      To me a good example of a signing is Ekman- Larsson. Schulz vs OEL, I know who I would rather have on my backend. JMHO

  • The Last Big Bear

    JS is a great hockey player and deserves to be locked up to a long term deal now as opposed to later, when he will cost much, much, more.

    The trick becomes how do we take a player that is very nice to play against and turn him into a junk yard dog…….you don’t . Coaching should encourage this guy to add some weight and pair him up with a player who takes care of the physical side of things.

    JS will never pound guys into the boards, but if he can do everything else, that should suffice.

  • Jayz

    Shultz is in my mind very similar to Omark.

    Very talented offensively but seems to fail defensively. Trade him while his stock is relatively high based on potential .

    I’m sorry super fans this kids a bust..

  • Dan 1919

    The real problem with fan expectations for Schultz is this: the Oilers had to promise him a ton to get him to sign here, including a higher than usual entry level salary and immediate playing time at the NHL level. This precluded necessary development time in the AHL, especially vital To NCAA players, to round our his defensive game, like Marincin got.

    Thus both his role and contract moving forward will both be ahead of his optimal development path.

    I’m ok with it, the guy puts up huge numbers, and gives us a high level puck mover and point man we haven’t had since Visnovsky got dealt. Maybe with better goaltending and a better defensive corps, he can turn a corner this season defensively.