The Oilers signed Justin Schultz to a one-year, $3,675 million deal. Craig MacTavish had very high praise for the 24-year-old from Kelowna.
“I think he’s going to be a great player and a great Oiler. I think he has Norris trophy potential,” said MacTavish.
Fans have been waiting for “bold” from MacTavish, and there is no debating that is a bold statement.
Personally, I think Schultz has a ways to go before he’s a Norris Trophy candidate, but I’d agree that Schultz has a lot of potential, most of it untapped thus far. I believe Schultz has better long-term potential than Jeff Petry, mainly because he has already excelled in one area, offensive production.
He’s only played 122 NHL games, so of course he can improve away from the puck and in his own end, but I don’t believe he’s as bad as his analytics suggest. MacTavish took that even further when discussing Schultz’s play in his own end.
“I disagree with the perception that he’s weaker on the defensive side of things,” said MacTavish.
” He showed me at the end of last year that he was managing the decisions
on when to go, when to probe offensively, when to get back. I know he’s
going to be a player that can be counted on in both ends,” continued the GM.
Schultz has been getting crushed by staunch supporters of analytics, and based on his stats you can see why statisticians would be concerned. The numbers at behindthenet.ca aren’t flattering for Schultz.
After MacTavish’s high praise of Schultz I asked him his thoughts on Schultz’s analytics and how he compares them to what he sees when watching Schultz in the game.
“I think the analytics on players is very important, but I disagree with it on the way it assesses our group a lot of times. But, it does lead us to ask different questions than what we would normally ask of the tactics we deploy and the icetime we would give players. At the end of the day, I’m evaluating our team based on watching them play 65-70 times a year, and I’ve got a pretty good idea in my mind where the value is,” said MacTavish.
An interesting statement from the GM. He respects the stats, and likes that they bring up new questions and ideas, but I got the sense he still believes in what he sees from his spot in the pressbox.
I followed up with another question.
I asked MacTavish if he had dug into analytics more this summer and if there is anything he has seen that he likes, or that disagrees with his own evaluation of players.
“I think we are on the cutting edge of teams in the NHL that deploy these types of numbers. Without getting too far into it, I believe in the possession numbers. I think there are anomalies in individual player’s possession numbers, but collectively within your team you have to drive possession. It’s directly correlated to points in the standings. You have to be careful on an individual basis. It leads you to try and identify value in outliers or guys who may have unrecognized value,” MacTavish said.
This response seemed to be all about Benoit Pouliot. He had very good possesion numbers, although his QofC was never that high. He can be a very solid 3rd line player, but we’ve yet to see what he can do against top lines on a regular basis. We likely will see that at times this season.
It was interesting that MacTavish mentioned he liked how stats reflected well on a player like Pouliot (he didn’t say Pouliot specifically, but he fits in that category), but he disagreed how they portayed players like Schultz. Hmmmm
MacTavish finished our short conversation about analytics with this.
“I believe possession is a measure of your team’s collective ability to make plays with the puck and to me that is skill. So it is a measure of skill, it’s not a measure of toughness or character, but it is a measure of your team’s ability to make plays.”
I agree completely. It can illustrate one key aspect to helping you win, but it does not measure other intangibles that are also important.
I’ve always been suprised how much flack Schultz has recieved, despite his limited NHL experience. I still feel $3.675 is too much based on Schultz’s experience and overall game, but it is clear that MacTavish is a huge fan of Schultz and believes he will only improve.
Time will tell, but as a fan of offensive hockey and players who can move the puck, I can understand why MacTavish gave Schultz this contract.
Now it is up to Schultz to make his GM look smart.
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