Justin Schultz has been an NHL player for over 200 games and I don’t think he’s better now than he was on opening night 2012-13. At 24, we can probably assume he’ll never win a Norris (seriously — no Norris for Schultz) but the bigger question is this: Can Justin Schultz help an NHL team win?
Justin Schultz as an AHL player was a record breaker and an award winner. As he entered the NHL, there was much anticipation about his ability to create offense. Ralph Krueger talked about his defense as being a strength too—those were heady days—but three years into his career we seem to have him surrounded as a player.
This is Schultz over his three Oilers seasons. This year, he’s been handled in a different manner (more inviting zone starts, easier opponents) and his possession numbers spiked in a good way.
What does that tell us? Well, despite appearances, there were some good things happening on the ice with Schultz. The results (5×5 and 5×4/60) weren’t enough but this is probably the best spot to have him in. I can’t honestly say the Oilers have mishandled him in terms of deployment this year—he should be getting good ZS’s and should be the go-to defender in the offensive zone.
His 5×5/60 (0.80) ranks Schultz No. 73 in the NHL in this category, tied with Morgan Reilly, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Dumba. He’s in a range with offensive defensemen but isn’t impacting these easy minutes like Mike Green in Washington (1.41/60 at 5×5).
The power play number ranks him No. 52 among defenders with 100 or more 5×4 minutes and No. 20 among those with 200 or more minutes (23 players qualify).
I think it’s reasonable to suggest Edmonton is using Schultz wisely (or did this season) but the offensive results are merely fair and the defensive results are (despite the possession stats) not good enough by plenty.
TIME ON ICE
I think the Oilers use Schultz too much, especially at even strength. Here are his numbers by year, including category:
- 2012-13: 21:26 TOTAL (17:39EV; 3:12PP; 0:34PK)
- 2013-14: 23:20 TOTAL (18:55EV; 3:26PP; 0:58PK)
- 2014-15: 22:36 TOTAL (19:26EV; 2:49PP; 0:20PK)
I think that’s the problem right there. The Oilers use Schultz too much, and would be far better off moving him down the depth chart (third pair at EVs) and shaving three or more 5×5 minutes off those totals. They hired Mark Fayne to play for them, paid him good money, and then played Fayne only 15:14 at even strength.
I’m no expert but can say winning teams rarely put young players into positions that cause them to fail without changing course when the failure is clear. The Edmonton Oilers, a curious team for certain, appear to believe if they keep hammering Schultz into the breach a different result will occur.
They may want to look at that over the summer. I agree with their current deployment of the player but would think fewer minutes per game would help all involved.