THE SCHULTZ DECISION

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Justin Schultz will be back in the lineup soon, possibly as early as tomorrow night in Detroit. There are several questions facing Edmonton’s young puck mover, and the answers are very important to the Oilers future.

WHO DOES HE REPLACE?

The early question, the Friday one, comes in the form of transactions and lineup changes. My guesses are Griffin Reinhart gets sent out and Eric Gryba moves to the pressbox, but that isn’t a slam dunk. Unique among recent Oilers head coaches, Todd McLellan’s moves tend to be less about the obvious choice and more about finding out about the team. We’ll see what happens, and while I’m at it let me suggest the ideal spot for Schultz in his first games is third pairing with Brandon Davidson. Let him force his way up the roster, on merit.

HOW WILL MCLELLAN USE HIM?

Todd McLellan’s first 20 games as Oilers coach included a lot of ‘taking things out for a test drive’ and that includes Justin Schultz. An example: Let’s compare Todd McLellan’s usage of Schultz in zones against the young defender’s handling a year ago. Information below from War-on-Ice:

  • 2015-16 D-Zone starts: 48
  • 2015-16 N-Zone starts: 53
  • 2015-16 O-Zone starts: 27

Taking all into account, Schultz’s offensive zone starts represent 21% of his overall usage. I’d argue that Todd McLellan is toying with the idea of Schultz as ‘skilled puck mover and passer out of our zone’ and giving him more defensive zone starts. Let’s look at the previous season:

  • 2014-15 D-Zone starts: 315
  • 2014-15 N-Zone starts: 567
  • 2014-15 O-Zone starts: 533
  • Source

Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson gave Schultz a ZS push, as his offensive zone starts in 2014-15 represented 37.6% of his overall total. I’m looking forward to seeing how this rolls over the rest of the season.

HOW IS HE DEPLOYED IN TOI?

Another area I’ll be watching is deployment of ice-time. In what situations will Todd McLellan use Schultz? Will he see the power play as much as one year ago? More? Here’s what we have so far:

  • 2015-16 EV TOI: 16:22 per game
  • 2015-16 PP TOI:   3:20 per game
  • 2015-16 PK TOI:   2:03 per game

Interesting. Schultz is playing a substantial amount in all three disciplines. Let’s compare that to last season’s numbers:

  • 2014-15 EV TOI: 19:28 per game
  • 2014-15 PP TOI:   2:47 per game
  • 2014-15 PK TOI:   0:20 per game

Last season, Schultz received three more minutes at even strength and almost no time on the PK. Todd McLellan seems to be using his speed for offense and for defense—and it’s important to know that. If Peter Chiarelli is going to pay Schultz $5 million or more next season on a long-term deal, his actual value needs to be well documented and understood by McLellan.

Can he win a championship with Justin Schultz in a feature role?

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

I think the future of Schultz is wide open at this time. The Oilers could trade him, sign him long term, sign him to another one year deal, and yes, if he chooses arbitration they could let him walk. All that said, I think the new management wants to get a lot out of this season, including a very long look at Schultz:

  • Peter Chiarelli: “He’s a
    player that I don’t have really strong knowledge of. Saw him in college.
    Saw him in the lockout in the American League. Saw him in bits and
    pieces with Edmonton, maybe a little more this past year, whether it’s
    video or otherwise. He’s got a lot of assets, like puck skills, passing,
    skating. He’s been labelled sometimes as a rover and that’s more
    negative than positive in my mind, but the fact that he’s up the ice
    with the forwards is a good thing. That’s something that we would preach
    here. It’s about defending, about being the proper position and if
    you’re not strong enough to defend, let’s talk about positional
    defending, stick defending. He has to get better at that.”
    Source

We’re about to find out about Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers defensemen. I think Todd McLellan is going to find things he likes. Will it be enough? We wait.

(Cover photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).

  • hagar

    The Oilers are too young.

    Their 1st and 2nd line centers are 22 (Nuge) and 20 (Drei) years old.

    When MacDavid gets back the forward positions get even younger.

    They play against men – Last night E Stall was the best center at 31 years of age. Other teams skilled centers/forwards are also older.

    Oilers either acquire more skilled veterans or wait until this group gets older.

    I am sure that management have figured this out and we can expect changes coming to the core.

    Last night I watched the game on TV using the Carolina feed.

    Their take on the outcome of the game, when Nilsson let in the soft goal at the end the first period, he lost his confidence and the youth of the team couldn’t respond with a goal or aggressive play to restore the flow of the game back to the Oilers.

  • hagar

    Thinking about the prospect of inking a deal with Shultz makes me shudder.

    Why can’t we be like other teams, and sign players everyone KNOWS are good at what they do? Not the oilers.. we sign has beens, hopefully will bees, and never ares to long term contracts.

    You can just tell the oilers are guessing at what it takes. They randomly fail to sign players that become good, and seemingly non stop sign big deals to players that suck, and nobody else wants.

    Its like the scouting report is done by some sort of reverse rain man. Pick first overall, and take the highest ranked player on the off chance you don’t. No need to put any thought into the rest of that jazz.

      • hagar

        Shultz is not better at his job than many oilers are this year.

        Shultz is a little better at his job this year than shultz was last year.

        Thinking about signing him long term would be freaky unless he is a totally different player this year.

  • Micbilly99

    On a team that has been 29th or 30th for several years, how can there be any untouchables? McDavid aside, this team was awful last year and continues to be awful. The defense is terrible and power play is one of the worst in the league.

    So what are they going to do to make it better? They have changed the GM, the coaching staff, the goaltenders and some of the defense and some of the forwards, but have left ‘untouchables’ together. Has anyone even though maybe for a moment that Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yak, Schultz are not all that good? Maybe they look good on a 29th or 30th place team. Maybe they are simply not top 6 players on a good team? We see them every game and convinced ourselves that they are legitimate top 6 players, but maybe just maybe everyone else in the NHL knows that they are not. Clearly something is wrong here and it hasn’t changed in 5 years. Maybe it really is time to make a change within the core and because clearly what they have done is not working.

    • hagar

      Don’t forget the management untouchables. Wouldn’t be fair to fail to acknowledge them as well.

      Shuffle all the supporting players around the core players, and shuffle all the supporting management around the core management.

    • hagar

      How can you say Hall is not good? 4 th in the scoring race. In the top ten in two of his previous seasons. Give your head a shake. It absolutely sucks that the oil are not posting wins but a critical eye is required to judge individual players worth based on their total years of past performance not the teams short term record. Hall continues to “push” the river for the oilers and has tightened up the defensive side of his game. Nuge is a valuable two way player who is having a bad streak of games(3) . Not a reason to use your ” blanket shotgun approach” to blame the core group.

    • S cottV

      save for Hall, i completely agree. RNH, Ebs, Yak and Schultz are, simply, mediocre at best.

      All the matters is maximizing the career of McDavid. Chia should be trying to bend heaven and hell to support him. And if that means trading all of those 4, then you do it. Even Hall, tho I don’t really want it to come to that.

  • Been there

    I have also finally had it with Eberle and RNH to a somewhat lesser extent. These guys are fragile injury-prone softies. They score when it doesn’t matter and flat don’t show up on a regular basis. They have totaly picked their spots and are way overpaid for what they have become. Skilled yes, but only when no one is pressing them hard.

    They are losers from the neck up. That counters and negates their pitential.

    Where the hell is Chiarelli ? He needs get off the dime and start beating the bushes for some bottom sixers. The whole bottom half of the roster is less than useless the only botom sixers who appear to be trying are Hendricks and maybe Pakarinen.

    If the players have failed to show up the same could be said for the GM and the losers he brought in ths year.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    No matter how they want to play Schultz this year, my only hope is that he’s not here next year.

    Showcase him as best you can, trade him and be done with him.

    3.9 million off the cap that can be spent better, I have no doubt.

  • hagar

    It has been mentioned in the past that there may be a player or two in the dressing room that can affect the play of the team on a whim.

    The constant re emergence of the on and off play seen every year for years is troubling.

    Maybe someone with a pvr full of oilers games should play detective, and put a link to pissy looking faces on the team, and poor play.

    We sure go through a lot of coaches!! If the untouchable management deems certain players untouchable, then all you can do to solve the problem, is to keep cycling coaches.

    Hasn’t worked yet.

    It’s the time of year again for speculation!!

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Before the season started knowledgeable Oiler fans were stating that the Oilers were not a playoff calibre hockey team. They were wanting to see signs of turning north. They wanted to see statistical improvement. They wanted to see some structure to Oiler games. They realized it would take at least 20 games for the Toddler to get a good sense of the skill and talent that he has to work with.

    The Oilers have shown signs of improvement. We all know development is not usually in a straight line.

    Today over 90% of the comments are bordering on hysteria. Get a grip. Take a deep breath. The club is making headway. Maybe not as fast and as much as we had all hoped but they have lost significant man games to injury which hasn’t helped.

    Next year was always the target year for vast improvement and I strongly believe the Oilers will be a strong contender for a good playoff run next year.

    • Klam

      Vs Carolina that is the “meaningful game” for the Oilers right now. That is their must win. If they want to improve and show they are an NHL caliber team then those are the games they MUST win.

      I am sad to say I am an Oiler fan after that junk that was being shown. I am not sure they would have beat an AHL team with that game.

      Drai, Nurse, Hall, Sekera, and a couple others showed up but not enough. The team needs everyone competing and Drai is going to have a harder time now that they have video of what he does really well. Every team is going to shut down Drai and Hall and if Nuge and Ebs dont pick up that slack then this team is destined to be torn apart.

      I think PC is already working overtime on the phones. I bet just like us he knows what he wants to change but will be patient because he knows he has to make meaningful changes, not just sell the farm and hope to get a decent price.

  • Soiled Trousers

    Verdad2.0 is my favorite ON poster. Not because i agree with him, because i vehemently disagree with him on almost everything, but because of his commitment to a narrative without substantive evidence to support him.

    Clearly he knows what chiarelli tried to do this summer, or more importantly he knows he didn’t try to do anything.

    Clearly giving a GM 20 games to turn around a 9 year disaster, and him not completely turning it around, means he should be fired.

    Clearly a team with more points and a better goal differential, despite a tougher schedule and more critical injuries, is worse than the one last year.

    Clearly not getting a norris calibre defenseman in OEL, who is obviously available, is due to Chiarelli dithering and being unwilling to change the core

    Clearly 21 games tells you the entire story of a season and we need to write-off this season again. Minnesota from 2014-2015 season is proof of that

    Clearly Verdad2.0 is the only sane person on here as he is the only one speaking the truth.

    Savor that

    ***This is your sarcasm warning in case you didn’t get it***

  • BobbyCanuck

    Wow a lot of negativity today.

    Usually Verdad2.0 trash ratio is anywhere 4:1 today it was 1:2, an absolute improvement, and visually much better, glad to see the bi-polar is strong today.

    Relax…only game 20, if things progress like this, I hope at the trade deadline, we trade a whole wack of players an start a rebuild in earnest. All the previous rebuilds do not count, nor do they matter, lets quit looking at the past.

    Our next rebuild will go a lot better due to increased competency in the POHO/GM/Head Coach/New scouting staff/ and we finally have a farm team.

    Draft picks have the most value at the deadline…we could trade a wack of players for a handful or dozen or maybe even more draft picks, and A Level prospects picks spread out over the next two years, if our new scouting staff is as smart as we hope, it could be a very good thing.

    btw, got my City tax assesment in the mail the other day, I am truly happy and proud to be able to help finance the new arena, especially because according to Forbes, Katz has already doubled his investment, so glad I could contibute to his wealth

    I was really really hoping to be able to change my avatar on game 20…guess I’ll have to wait…

  • bradleypi

    I love when articles about Schultz come out. Seems like they come out just for the sole reason for oilersnation to spew their vile at him and blame him for how bad the oilers have been. Not sure if its because Mact chose to keep him over petry is why he’s hated so much? Guy hasn’t played for weeks and the team has barely won a game and yet oilersnation thinks he needs to start on the 3rd pairing and work his way up to the top pairing. Lol. Good one. Although in the same breath I couldn’t even tell you who the “top” pairing guys are on this team as they are all basically equal in my eyes. And by equal I mean average….. is hamonic an oiler yet???

  • Soiled Trousers

    only relevant question regarding Schultz is:

    1. do you thro him in to finalize a deal for Hamonic?

    or

    2. do you wait to thro him in to finalize a deal for a better dman like Seth Jones?

  • hagar

    A trade for Hamonic would be nice but with this cap era it becomes very difficult. How do you put a value on Hamonics team friendly contract. A package deal may have to take place and it may need a third team involved. Oilers need some veterans to round out their lineup, and I don’t believe the Islanders want to disrupt team to much as they could be a contender.
    Maybe what the Oil needs is a veteran such as Eric Staal to help settle things down in Edmonton.

  • hagar

    Schultz made a massive mistake in coming to the Oilers. Had he went to the Ducks, he’d have progressed and grown to be one of those trusted defensemen with offensive gifts that many teams wish they had.

    So if I’m to say that ‘Schultz sucks’, I only mean it in how he chooses which NHL teams to play for.

    He dominated the AHL and it wasn’t just because of Hall or Eberle being there, he knew how to play that style of game so well against easier competition. The ridiculous minutes and opposition he was getting in the NHL wasn’t his fault…and what you see now is the result of “Oilers Player Development”.

    We see the same story with Gagner and others. I’m SO glad they got it right with Nurse, and that MacT sent Drai down last year. Oh what? People want to consider them “untouchables” and part of the “core”? Surprise! I agree with those people, but the correlation to proper development has to be pointed out.

    The Oilers management isn’t getting enough credit for stunting the development of the “core”. They weren’t surrounded with the experience they needed (Roy mentoring Yak is a clear example of how it helps), and they were given ridiculous minutes and responsibilities from the get go.

    I contrast Seguin’s 1st season to all of the Oilers 1st round picks in the last 5 years and have to laugh.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t trade these people, it’s just a damned shame that it has to be at a loss, because of incompetent management.

    I look at players like Abdelkader, DeKeyser, and Kindl on Detroit and see players put in positions to succeed, brewing confidence and discipline. These guys, if traded, will be traded for a whole lot in contrast to their draft positions.

    Schultz or Yak for the other hand? Traded for peanuts, and that’s not on them, that’s on the Oilers.

    • bradleypi

      Exactly how do you figure the oilers are “getting it right” with nurse? Because they sent him back to junior when he clearly wasn’t ready? And now he’s right back in the league learning how to lose just like schultz. All because Chiarelli is sitting on his hands and won’t get actual nhl defencemen on this club? Wont be long before oilersnation turns on nurse just like schultz.

      • Been there

        You could be right! I really meant they did something right with him, in previous seasons. I also thought sending him down this season was the right thing to do.

        Having him up, in an almost fulltime capacity (it doesn’t look like Ference or Nikitin will come back as regulars), could very well be a mistake.

        Especially if he’s given top minutes, and top responsibilities…I don’t see “playing in the NHL” as the problem, I see “feeding him to the NHL’s best wolves” as the problem.

        So you could very well be right. My statement shouldn’t have made it seem like a done deal…his development is ongoing and could be screwed up.