Today the Oilers gave Justin Schultz a raise to 3.9 million
dollars on a one year deal. For many Oiler observers the decision to give him
anything more than his qualifying offer is madness, and they are right, but the club
did this to themselves.
I’ve mentioned this before, and it is extremely relevant:
when the Oiler elected to take Schultz to arbitration they handed him a lot of
Last year some combination of Dallas Eakins and/or Craig
MacTavish decided that Justin Schultz would play more minutes than anyone else
on the defense. Period. As such, he would also end up playing more minutes than
any other skater on the team.
I railed against this call by the Oilers staff all year. The
thinking was perhaps that the Oilers did not have any better options. This is
untrue. They had Jeff Petry who was a significantly better player than Justin
Schultz. Even offensively the two were similar last year. Justin Schultz
produced 0.77 points per 60 minutes 5v5 in 2014-2015 while Jeff Petry produced
0.71 points per 60 minutes. If we keep in mind just how much time Schultz spent
with the top line compared to Jeff Petry, the difference between them
offensively seems trivial.
“Oh here we go again! Henderson is tilting windmills with
the Petry stuff for the 100th time.” That sound I hear is your eyes
glazing over and its gross, stop that. This new Schultz contract is why those
Justin Schultz’ camp had the ammunition it needed to demand
a raise either from the Oilers directly or via an arbitrator because the team
incorrectly identified their own talent all year long.
There’s no reason Justin Schultz should have played 22:36 a
night. There’s no reason Mark Fayne should have been 9th on the
Oilers defense in average time on ice per game. There’s definitely no reason
Justin Schultz should have been Edmonton’s only option on the point for the power play all year long.
Saying “there wasn’t anyone better” is/was the wrong decision and it’s a
cop-out. There were better options for the Oilers to relieve the
pressure from Justin Schultz. The management and coaching staff couldn’t see
the obvious answers in front of them and as a result a very flawed player was
given everything his camp needed to extract even more money when anyone with a
working set of eyes knew he wasn’t worth it.
They gave him 500 more minutes than any other defender on
the club even when they didn’t have to.
They gave him the number one spot on the depth chart without
They made sure he played with the best offensive players on
the team even when he wasn’t contributing his share.
They refused to acknowledge his inadequacies at all.
The Schultz camp represented Edmonton’s highest scoring,
most utilized, top pairing, Norris Trophy potential having defenseman. Because
of how the team opted to use him, he was part of a five man unit with their best
players, his possession metrics (now eligible for use in arbitration) match
that of the team’s best forwards.
Everything the Schultz camp needed to leverage this pay raise was handed to them by the Oilers themselves.
Justin Schultz is an extremely flawed defender that’s still
learning how to be an effective NHL player. He lacks physicality of any kind,
struggles with his outlet passing, can’t break up the cycle, and was atrocious on
the power play all year. His struggles contributed greatly to Edmonton losing
on many nights and that’s because he was played out of his depth and fighting above his weight class.
That being said, he can get better. He has just barely crossed the 200 game
plateau and can still improve. I don’t think he’ll cover the bet on $3.9 million but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the new coaching
staff can get more out of him than the trio of Krueger, Eakins, and Nelson ever could.
In any event, it’s times like these, when problematic
players get paid more than they should, that underscore why teams shouldn’t
just hand out ice time like Halloween candy. Ice time should not be a charitable act.
Ultimately it costs the team real dollars that they end up spending in the wrong