Gone Now

He’s gone now. Traded to Pittsburgh for a third round
pick so long as the Oilers pay 50% of his salary. But looking back on his time
here as an Edmonton Oiler, Justin Schultz represented the complete and total
failure of the organization.

It wasn’t just him as a player, though he was terrible.
Justin Schultz, the way he came in, the way he was handled, the way he
developed – all of it – was this whole forsaken rebuild in one player.

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Everything about it was too easy. Too. Damn. Easy.

When Justin Schultz became an Oiler it wasn’t because the
club recognized his talent, staked its claim, drafted him, and developed him
until he was an NHL player. No, the Ducks did that in 2008, taking him in the second
round. Edmonton didn’t have to do anything. They put no time into him. They just
had to wait for Schultz to decide he could dictate the terms of his NHL
employment and they were happy to capitulate to those demands.

At most, the Oilers had to dust off those Danny Heatley DVDs,
do some quick editing, and ask for Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky to make a
couple calls. “Hey kid, wanna be an Oiler? Keep this number if you ever need
anything.” Add the promise of playing time and a max entry level deal then you’ve
got a pretty solid chance with absolutely nothing risked.

Getting him was easy.

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Then they played him in the AHL. But they didn’t just send
him to the AHL alone. The team convinced its top line from the NHL to join him
during the lockout. Two first overall picks and an NHL All-Star in
Jordan Eberle went down to play with him in the American Hockey League.

Of course they dominated offensively. It was all too easy.

He won the Eddie Shore award as the most outstanding
defenseman in the AHL. He was the first ever rookie to do it and he did it in
34 games. Thanks for showing up. Here’s an award. You’re the greatest!

Edmonton didn’t even bother to see if that offense belonged
to him or those NHL players he got to play with the whole time. The NHL season
started and there wasn’t even a question about him starting on opening night.
He was gifted that spot as a reward for picking Edmonton.

His entrance into the
NHL was too easy.

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Did you know it took 12 games for Justin Schultz to play more than 20 minutes? They didn’t even consider easing him into the NHL or
making him learn his trade more than what he already picked up in the NCAA and
34 games in the AHL. He averaged 21:26 as a rookie, 21 minutes a night where at
least he was offensively productive, even if only Nick Schultz, Lennart
Petrell, and Mike Brown had lower Goals For percentages on the entire team.

The goals against were conveniently forgotten. The Oilers
had Justin Schultz and they were happy to take him exactly as he was. When players
make mistakes their ice time can be taken away. When they stop being effective
they can be moved around the lineup.

Not Justin Schultz. Not with the Oilers.

There has been no concerted effort to push Justin Schultz to
improve. They did almost everything to suggest to him that he was perfect as is.
The previous GM even held a press conference professing that Schultz had Norris
trophy potential.

They just kept throwing him over the boards. The message
they sent, whether they meant to or not, was that they were happy with him just
the way he was. Bad positioning? No problem. Terrible outlet passing? No
problem. Weak shot? We’re not judging you, Justin.

Not one of the three coaches he’s had (Krueger, Eakins,
Nelson) before McLellan stopped giving him that sweet sugar-time. He averaged
more than three minutes a night on the Power Play (the highest of Edmonton’s
defenders) until this year. Too little, too late.

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His development in the NHL was too easy.

And isn’t this kid the story of the rebuild?

He is part of Tambellini’s all-too-simple plan to turn over
the team to talented kids and watch the wins roll in.

He is the classic example of why MacT couldn’t be trusted to
evaluate defensemen.

He is the dictionary definition of entitlement in the NHL.

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He represents the abandonment of defensive principles plaguing this team for years.

He represents all of the terrible choices this organization
has made that stunted the rebuild. It’s hardly entirely his fault. He didn’t do
enough, develop enough or earn enough, but the team allowed it to be that way. It’s
as much on them for letting all of that promise and potential go sour through

Justin Schultz’ failure in Edmonton was critical. They
needed him to be a top pairing offensive defenseman. They needed him to be a
player worthy of leading the team in ice-time every night. They still need that
player, but they blew whatever chance Schultz had to become that man.

He’s gone now. But truth be told, I’m not sure that player was
ever really here.

  • Freewheeling Freddie

    Good on Hall sticking up for Schultz.If your going to boo do it to another teams player.Or better yet should have been Lowe MacT and Katz t.Only lobotomized people boo their own players

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I don’t want to hear a single Oilers fan singling out a single player from its own team and booing him… EVER AGAIN!

    If you’re upset at the team and they’re giving a poor effort that’s different. Singling out a player, booing his assist and absolutely everything he does, every time he touches the puck? That isn’t helping anything. Good for Hall to say so, too. If you want players to want to come to Edmonton and play here that ISN’T going to do us any favours either, no matter how badly a player plays. They are never going to play better after receiving that treatment.

    Louie Debrusk said tonight, “I think they’re better than that” referring to us, Oilers fans. Let’s prove him right, and the other people, and players, that can rightly think highly of our city!

  • Both sides are to blame here.

    Before anything else though, let’s recognize that he had incredible talent. Most of you haven’t watched him in the AHL so you haven’t seen it first hand, but his poise and confidence, and his ability to move the puck was on another level. Watching him in the AHL was like watching a highly competent Dman in the NHL, I don’t think anyone who’s watched those AHL games would disagree.

    Schultz’s biggest mistake is choosing the Oilers, a team that would give him big minutes and would bypass the multi-year development often employed in developing young defensemen. I’m sure the organization used this angle to appeal to him.

    He wanted a shortcut and he got it. Sure, he is highly skilled, but the NHL is a different beast. He should have seen the development of young defensemen is done carefully for a very good reason.

    Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are doing fantastic in the CHL. That tells me that they’re doing something right as young players, and their coaching staff doing a great job as well. But I’d wager if they were popped onto the Oilers roster right now, they’d get roasted, and half of OilersNation would call them “busts”, and that’s the part I really disagree with.

    The failure to responsibly develop players should lie on the organization, not the player put into positions where they are over their head.

    Schultz, again, is a bit of an exception because he asked for it. But let’s be honest with ourselves, there are players that haven’t asked for it and they’re still getting pushed to the detriment of their development. Apparently management wanted Tom Renney to play Hall, Eberle and Nuge more than they should have played, to get fans excited. Screw player development, let’s sell more tickets!

    I think Schultz is a bit of a symptom of a larger problem that plagued this team. He was not the only one underperforming. But one thing is for sure, he chose this path.

    He asked for a shortcut and found an organization dumb enough to give it to him.