Accountability & Justin Schultz

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The Edmonton Oilers won a hockey game for the first time in a dozen tries on Sunday night, and it was a game that had some interesting points. One of the most notable was Justin Schultz’s ice time; he played just 13:14 on the team’s third-pairing as head coach Dallas Eakins leaned heavily on his top two pairings.

The Ice Time

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There isn’t much question that the shift in ice time reflects a change in the way the coach views the player. Yes, the Oilers were leading for a while and no there wasn’t a lot of power play ice time available, but even so it’s becoming clear that if Schultz is going to play like the third-best right-shooting option on the team than he’s going to get third-pairing ice time.

Also interesting is what happened after this:

Schultz had played 13 shifts prior to that goal, which almost exactly marked the halfway point of the game. He played just seven shifts afterward. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how the coaching staff saw that goal. Schultz shouldn’t get all the blame of course, but it’s an interesting exercise to count how many strides he took from the blue line to net. Schultz also ended up playing all of nine seconds in the final 8:46 of the third period.

This is what accountability looks like. Eakins gave Schultz a lot of rope to start the year, and kept playing him long after many fans had lost patience, but the kid gloves are off now. If Schultz can’t meet expectations, he’ll be scratched and he’ll be benched.

That One-Year Deal

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Craig MacTavish said a lot of interesting things at the August press conference announcing Schultz’s new one-year deal, and while the line that most people remember is “Norris Trophy potential” there were some other comments that are worth revisiting now:

We had some discussions [on a long-term deal]. We had trouble agreeing on a number based on such a small sample size for Justin. Albeit he’s a bit older, he’s really only played 110, or 15 or 20 games in the league. We as an organization wanted a bit more information, fully aware that information can be expensive. He was very willing to provide us that information, and that’s what we’re going to see. He felt strongly that he’s going to hit it out of the park this year and we agree with him.

More information can turn out to be expensive, but due diligence can prevent a costly mistake. There are still two-thirds of the season to go, but so far the information the Oilers bought with that one-year contract suggests that Schultz isn’t the player that management thought he was.

I do think we’re at a low ebb in Schultz’s career at the moment; in that same presser MacTavish talked about peaks and valleys in a player’s development curve and it’s very true that very few players progress in a linear fashion. Even so, it’s a low ebb that does help illustrate the way the player has been overvalued by the team down the line.

The other comment that sticks out in hindsight is this one:

I suspect that Justin is going to camp [and] we’re all going to see a player playing at a different level. I think there’s going to be some significant improvement in him at training camp and I expect him to play every bit as much [as he did in 2013-14].

There are internal factors that go into player usage that are impossible for an outsider to see but that a savvy coach will take into account. One of those factors is management’s view of a player – a coach has a job to do, but ultimately he reports to the G.M. and if he isn’t playing a guy the G.M. likes it probably isn’t very good for that relationship. MacTavish has made no secret of how he feels about the player, and that’s probably one of the key reasons why it took so long for Schultz to play his way off the top pairing.

Decisions

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The right side of the Oilers’ defence corps could look quite a bit different on July 1 than it does right now. Schultz is an RFA this summer and his name has cropped up in trade rumours lately; Edmonton has to decide what to do with him and if they end up keeping him what kind of term and dollar value he deserves. The team also has to make a decision on another right-side defenceman, Jeff Petry, who is a pending UFA. Petry, incidentally, played 24:50 against San Jose.

In September, it seemed highly likely that Petry was going to be traded by this season’s deadline and that Schultz would be getting a shiny new long-term contract, one with a number boosted heavily by his work as the team’s No. 1 power play defenceman. Three months later, the future doesn’t seem nearly so certain.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Lumley

    If Shultz signs for 3rd pairing money I’d still be happy. Something tells me he will be looking for more, despite what is looking like a brutal year for someone who should at least show some progress.

    I’d be more than happy locking down Petry and getting Shultz out of town before the deadline. He will never win a Norris, and if I take into consideration how he treated the Ducks along with his negotiations this year, it tells me we can’t trust him as far as we can throw him.

    I really can’t wait until klefbomb, Nurse, and Marincin are ready, and the blue line is shored up a little more.

    A solid Blue line is the most important thing to have in the NHL. Our fans wouldn’t be so jealous of Calgary if they didn’t have Girdano. Dallas would have never have been so dangerous without Zubov (and same with Detroit without Lidstrom). A good blue line also takes pressure off goalies, and makes them look better as well–lord knows we can use that kind of help.

    A good blue line chips in offensively, and helps boost point totals for the offence as well.

    This is an issue MacT can’t mess up. We are still quivering from the beatings we’ve taken since Lowe basically fire sold a once solid blue line for pretty much nothing. That’s a large reason why we are at where we are now. Souray, Pronger, Vishnovski, Smid, Whitney (coming in and our), and probably more have all come and gone. We’ve never had any return on those assets worth mentioning, and it hurts!

  • Fortinbras

    If Shultz is willing to sign for what they had Petry locked in for after this train wreck of a show me year, then we can see him swallow his pride and actually start to work. THEN give Petry Shultz money. Funny how that works.

    Shultz time in the AHL was in hindsight very troublesome. His ego grew, Oilers management salivated only to find that the AHL had bad goaltending and wrist shots from the point don’t work in the Big Leagues.

    That video is DAMNING for his case. Wow. He tells Drai to move over while he coasted in.

  • It’s unbelievable to me how much MacT undervalues Petry while over-valuing Schultz.

    Petry is either going to walk for nothing, or be traded for magic beans at the deadline. Very little chance of him re-signing (imho), given the verbal he’s received from MacT, and being made a healthy scratch for the likes of Brad Hunt.

    So, Justin Schultz is not the player we hoped he was (at least to this point), and the Oilers are going to lose their best RHD for cents on the dollar. The RHD depth chart for next year would be Fayne-Schultz. Fin. Those are the only right-handed dmen in the entire system!

    To top it off, MacT minced no words on Friday when he talked about how poorly the previous regime drafted and developed, and how important it is to develop your own players. Petry is the single non-first rounder with the team from the Pendergast era.

    Is Petry a top-pairing dman. No. At least not to this point in his career. But he’s the best RHD (and arguably the best D period) on the team, and MacT can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Rebuild Ad Infinitum.

  • Kevwan

    I got some free tickets to the game from work, and sat in in 200;s right behind the Oilers bench.

    It blew my mind to see how Schultz acted in the last 10min of the game. He literally sat there and sulked, obviously I couldn’t see his face but the body language was clear.

    I know some of the media people have talked about it the past few game,s but it blew my mind when in the last minute of the game both teams were standing on the bench, watching the play. Everyone was on their feet except for Schultz!

    I thin its time to move on with the Schultz experiment, play him his 13-17min a game for the rest of the season, and sign him to a one year deal, or package him.

  • Congo Powerarm

    So what is it? We’ll never know but is this Dallas now allocating ice time as he should? Or is this Mact saying “ok Dallas, Schultz sucks, run the bench your way”. In either case, it’s unacceptable that it basically cost a season to get here. With proper D deployment, could this team be 5 wins better?

  • Tikkanese

    I really doubt Petry resigns here no matter what $ the Oilers offer him. Detroit badly needs a RD and that is basically his hometown, not to mention a good team.

  • Tikkanese

    The problem with trading Schultz is he is the only D in the entire Oilers system with any offense. Unless they have another offensive D coming back, I wouldn’t advise it. Plus, he’s still young, I have hope he’ll improve. I mean he can’t regress much more can he?

    Nurse might be a 30 point guy in 3 or 4 years but that’s nothing to get excited about.

    I really doubt Klefbom or Marincin will have much offense at the NHL level. I sure hope I’m wrong but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

    I’ve been saying it for some time now. The Oilers biggest need is two top pairing D-men. “But Tikkanese, what about getting a C so they can send Leon down finally lol?!?”. They can simply call up Lander and send Leon down. Zero offense from Leon or zero offense from Lander is a sideways move but saves Leon from the losing culture. Or Jason Williams is an option as well.

  • YFC Prez

    What should a third line d-man who is a pp specialist make? That’s what Schultz should be offered or packaged and dealt, that’s what he is.

    I’ve been saying since last season Petry should be re-signed. He is one of the best UFA option available next year, if he goes there is no replacement in the system. He should be priority #1. It could very well be too late, but that’s just another hole in the roster for next year that I doubt Mac T will address if Petry moves on.

  • DyeGuy

    Schultz got a one year contract for a reason. MacT wasn’t 100% convinced contrary to his statements. Schult played awesome in the preseason which doesn’t mean much.

    They should keep Petry around. They do not have a lot of other options and I think his upside on this team out weighs his downside.

    Keep Schultz on the third pairing and put him on the Power Play. That’s where his niche is anyways.

  • Kevwan

    What amazes me is it took 27 games for Dallas to figure out that he should limit Schultz’s ice time.

    Even with only 13:14 last night Schultz still leads the team in A/TOI this year.

  • srelio

    I dont know if petry will want to sign here but its not that easy to just uproot and leave your life behind. I dont understand why people talk about the decision to sign with another team from an entirely business prospective. I can see him maybe signing in Detroit if he has history there but who knows. Maybe he has a girlfriend in town that he doesnt wanna leave (i honestly have no clue since i really couldnt care less about hockey players personal lives) but talking about trying to sign him like all hes going to take into account is money and how good a team is way oversimplifies things. That being said we do need to stop dicking around sign him. I also think some accountability for schultz will help, must be frustrating to see guys not being held accountable while you sit for having a bad game. We might be able to sell hope and get him to sign for one more season if this year the accountability problem is seriously addressed (aka the main thing holding this team back).

    Kind of like being a fan, i just want to believe they can change, no matter how many times they prove me wrong. So hopefully like most Oilers fans Petry has an small shimmer of hope, an unhealthy amount of loyalty, some good old nostalgia, and just a touch of Stockholm syndrome

  • Lumley

    It’s about time they’ve been holding Schultz accountable and I honestly believe that it was the players themselves finally having enough of it and going to Eakins/MacT about it to say enough is enough. It started with Perron’s comments a week or two ago and only continued from there with Ference, Eberle, etc since. They all stopped short of naming Schultz but it was pretty clear who they were talking about at the time.

    • camdog

      I agree that some of our more passionate players (like Perron who I really enjoy watching in the offensive zone) likely needed to vent their frustrations at repeated errors that have impacted the results of games. What I really hoped to see was guys leading by example. The three players mentioned have made their own fair share of critical errors this year too. The suggested comments would have had more credibility if they came from Boyd Gordon who in my eyes has been one of our most consistent players. The last couple of games Eberle has stepped up his compete level demonstrating the willingness to finish checks and go hard to the net. If it continues, I want him to remain an Oiler. We need more impact players walking the walk, and playing smart (turn overs by our stars are still turn overs–Hallsy are you listening).
      Shultz is an issue, but the teams results go way beyond his influence. I think some of the regular bloggers are dead on that culture change is needed that involves more than one block-buster trade (from an Oiler perspective) can deliver. This submission is not anything new, just the feelings of yet another frustrated Oiler fan.

  • vetinari

    @Willis

    On a unrelated note, the Barons have a 10 game unbeaten streak going on… I know that you have covered them in the past. Any thoughts about how the Oilers and the Barons can have such different results given the circumstances?

  • WTF2

    Justin “Norris” is another example of the Oil over estimating the potential of a player and their piss-poor development of players in general.

    The other teams who had expressed interest in Schultz a few years ago are laughing at us now.

  • ubermiguel

    Afer that goal Draisaitl lost his next shift. The blame was put on Draisaitl, and rightly so. The centre ALWAYS takes the high guy coming into the zone…that’s his man. Watch the video again and you can see Draisaitl takes a glance back but ignores his guy, odd play and poor decision making.

    On the other hand, Schultz should have been covering somebody and that somebody was John Scott who was just to his left. If Schultz has Scott, Draisaitl takes McGinn…no opportunity for a goal.

  • camdog

    In defence of Eakins there are 2 tiers of players on the team 1 the GM had endorsed and 2 those the GM hasn’t endorsed.

    It’s tough to coach in the NHL, it’s even tougher to coach when the GM is over valuing “his core” players.