They Did It To Themselves

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
power.

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
decisions mattered.

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
earning it.

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
places.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Some head scratching decisions since round 1 of the draft. Tends to happen i guess with so many people calling the shots. Certainly looks like there still isn’t just one person calling the shots yet. Peter must be biting his lip watching his coworkers double down on yet another iffy move.

    ~ Matt, are there any intensity exercises you’re aware of that could be passed onto Justin this summer? Something he could also work on instead of just staring angrily at himself in front of the mirror.~

    • Alsker

      Loved the conspiracy thing with Klowne + McTerrible but it’s time to get past that. Yes they will both be around until the Oil win another Stanleys Mug and their faces will be hoisted into the rafters as builders/alumni but will any of us really care???? As for Jultzy, the amount of trashes I’m still getting re: “walk away” says there are way too many who haven’t watched him play or way too many koolaid drinkers here. Over @ Lowetide someone(sorry can’t remember who) compared him to Drew Barrymore(rather than Doughty), lol, as if Jultz has the balls to flash Letterman on national TV. Drew Barrymore rules!!!!!

  • Rusty Patenaude

    Schultz’s game went south at the precise moment Dallas Eakins took over as coach. That is a fact. Eakins steps in the door and bam! Schultz stops developing. Now maybe, MAYBE, a competent coach comes in and Schultz turns it around.

  • D

    Visually Schultz was the best defenseman to watch , and entertaining , despite any flaws , including Petry . Not like rest of Oilers were an offensive juggernaut last year . Subpar coaching probably did not help either as special team play bore out . He is not Orr or offensively , but he is the closest we have on team to it presently . Coffee struggled defensively just as long when he entered NHL.

    • Reg Dunlop

      First, how can the coach be blamed for Schultz’ complete lack of any competitiveness? Sure, the coach should have benched him or at least cut his time on ice but that decision may have been made by someone other than the coach.

      Second, comparisons to HOFers like Coffey must stop. #7 was not strong in his own zone but his point totals, even in his first few seasons, compensated nicely. Remember, he was more than a point/game by his 2nd season and was always a plus on the +/- scale.

  • Anton CP

    1. It is only a year turn, consider this is to encourage to prove himself. If not, he is not going anywhere anyway.

    2. Petry is 3 years older, unless you are cmparing Schultz to 3 years ago Petry then you can’t really argue that Petry is better.

    3. Petry’s new deal with Habs comes to 5.5m cap hit, Schultz is still nowhere come close to that.

    If he still fails under McLellan then he will not likely find a top 2 pairing job anywhere.

  • In the time since the oilers last made the playoffs, NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft that has traveled 4.8 billion km’s across the solar system to photograph Pluto. Let’s hope we make the post season before Hayley’s comet makes it’s next appearance!!

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I like the “prove yourself” contract. He is still young and I feel like he could be rejuvenated next year along with a lot of other players with everything that’s gone on this offseason.

    I just have to thank MacTavish and Eakins for helping us get McDavid.

  • Mr.Ulanov

    Over playing Shultz was all part of the fall for hall, I mean nudge for Nuge. Sorry, hack for Yak?

    I know I’m getting these wrong. Here we go got it this time.

    6 rings for Mcdavid and in the darkness bind him.

  • jonnyquixote

    >Everything the Schultz camp needed to leverage this pay raise was handed to them by the Oilers themselves.

    I hope you’re not suggesting Schultz’s contract situation should have dictated his on-ice usage.

    Either way though, I think your conclusion that Schultz used this leverage to get a $225k raise and that this is terrible for the Oilers is way off.

    Last year’s Justin Schultz contract was a nightmare and it created a no-win situation. It was gloriously incompetent – a Bridge To Nowhere contract.

    This current contract is great. I mean, it’s way more than an RFA defenseman of Schultz’s calibre should be paid, but barring a major calculator malfunction by Schultz’s agent, he wasn’t signing a deal for less annually.

    And if they had gone to arbitration, there are plenty of metrics that could have justified a much, much bigger raise. Arbitrators can be wa-a-a-a-a-acky.

    A one-year contract for a raise in line with the cap-escalator is pretty much the best case scenario for the Oilers in this situation. It wasn’t getting any better than this for Edmonton. A show-me contract. Negligible raise. Neutral effect on the cap. No long-term commitment. RFA status preserved. Schultz did pretty much nothing with all this leverage you’re pointing at.

    This is nothing to whinge about.

    • CMG30

      The point of the article was NOT that Schultz’s contract situation dictated his on-ice usage. Just the opposite: his on-ice usage last year dictated his new contract this year.

      It’s not whingeing to discuss why an already overpaid, under preforming player is getting a raise.

  • Chongler

    Can we just drop the Petry talk? Yes, the old management regime made a huge mistake in their handling of a solid player, but that ship has sailed…time to say goodbye and just let it go. The decision makers of yore are not in charge of this business anymore and Schultz needs to be given a real shot without people/media/bloggers ragging on him. We here (aside from a few lurking flames fans) ALL want the same thing for the player and the club: success.

    I, for one would rather have Sekera at the same $ & Term as Petry. (Not to forget that he’s also an example of a player NOT form the Edmonton area who actually wanted a NMC to come here…another positive sign that the tides are actually changing).

    Let’s choose our words wisely for this pre-season, give Schultz the final chance that he deserves…I’m sure he wasn’t pitched extreme roster mismanagement, 3 rookie coaches in 2.5 seasons, (2 of which being AHL caliber) & a line-up full of holes when he decided to come to Edmonton. He chose us, lets give him one more year to make things right without being TOO harsh on him.

    That being said, if he bombs this season, i’ll print off this post, have it transferred into some sort of edible format, DQ cake perhaps, and eat these words!!

    • CMG30

      You can’t talk about Schultz’s usage last season without pointing out that there was a better option in Petry that was ignored. You can’t talk about contracts handed to Schultz without drawing the comparison to Petry and how he was ‘challenged’. It’s difficult to claim that Schultz’s regression was due to coaching when Petry continued to progress year after year under the same coaches.

      You may not like to talk about Petry but the fact remains that the Petry/Schultz dichotomy was one of the defining features of the 2014/15 edition of the Oilers.

      • Chongler

        I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to Petry’s continued progression. I am not for a second saying that Petry was a better option, he was horribly mismanaged by the powers that WERE.

        We all know that players respond differently to similar situations, they are paid professionals but still need various levels of attention and coaching. Sure Schultz & Petry both come from similar backgrounds, College to NHL with some AHL mixed in, but they also have different play styles. I would argue that it is harder for an offense-minded D-man to transition into the NHL, especially with inconsistent coaching and support around him.

        This is not ALL on the coaches, he needs to find a way to improve his game. It is very easy to quickly write him off as a bad player with a bad contract without giving him a fair opportunity to excel (whether he is due or not at this point is another story). I just hope that, as fans, we can partially put the past aside and send some positive pressure his way instead of all the criticism.

  • RYLO

    Schultz > Ference, Nikitin, Gryba

    Those three will be making a combined 9mil this year. Schultz may have a bad pay:talent ratio in the NHL but not in Edmonton which could have been his argument. But hey, it’s a 1 year contract anyways. Let’s wait and see how he plays under some real NHL coaches (for the first time in his career) before we pull out the pitch forks and torches

  • Smythyyyy

    JS underperformed all season. He has been grossly mismanaged. Giving Top 2 D minutes to a player who started the season with less than 125 NHL games is insane. He had no way to succeed! He has been vilified as a poor performer asking too much money. Thank you Matt for pointing out the biggest issue was with bad team mgmt – GM and coaches who put him in a position to fail.

    I believe with the right coaching and 3rd line pairing this season (less competition: more chance to develop) he will develop into a very good offensive D. We need to add a top 4 D so JS can play the 3rd pairing where he should have been in the 1st place.

    Dubnyk, JS, Petry – recent examples of mismanaged players is a testament to why these dramatic management changes had to happen.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Matt we have had our differences, your unreasoning love of Penner was one of them, certainly your propensity to use mathmatical formula to determine worth is another. Certainly I have my quirks as well I loved Dave Brown because he could beat the tar out of Jim Kyte and stat people would freak as they determine those skating refrigerators as useless at anything resembling actual hockey but so it is.

    Anyways to my point is that in this one case I must say I fully support your view of Shultz and if I could I would hire Dave Brown for training camp so he could beat the tar out of him….Ithink that would help in his development.

  • jonnyquixote

    Like most organizations……..I used to work for many and there is always one constant with organizations. When it come to hiring it seems that the “grass is always greener on the other side”.

    We should have kept Petry but Mac T was smarter than us all and treated him like a bowl of crap. Now someone else has discovered that the bowl of crap was actually a bowl of gold.

    I hope that from now on we value what we have in the young up and coming defenceman and dont let them walk for nothing!