It’s been a rough season for young Schultz. Learning one of the toughest positions while playing for a bad team in the best hockey league in the world was never going to be easy. And we’re seeing what happens when you put a good prospect in a terrible position to succeed.
The bottom line is that Schultz is a prospect. And he has had zero support for his growth and development in professional hockey. The Oilers have absolutely failed this player and need to re-assess how they handle their defensemen going forward. Giving Schultz the most minutes, and the most offensive zone starts has done nothing for his progress. We’re seeing the full array of deficiencies that prospects typically possess by watching Schultz every night. It didn’t help that he not only left the team that originally drafted him and was pursued by 29 other teams, creating a bit of a prima donna perception. The Norris trophy comparisons and the unrealistic expectations have vilified the player, when really, the management group should be getting grilled,
We’re (fans) reacting to comments that comes from the team. Because it’s the team is at the upper echelon here. When Craig MacTavish says something, it travels a lot farther than when 10 people on Twitter say it.
A lot of the reaction has really been incited by the team both in how they’ve used him and in the things they’ve said about him all down the line.
If they had something realistic like…’Schultz has a lot of good offensive abilities and we really like him as a second unit defenseman and a powerplay option’, I think you’d see a lot of the distaste for Schultz become really muted because that’s a reasonable assessment of the player. He can help. He can be a useful. We just haven’t seen him put in a position to succeed yet.
When assessing Shcultz, it’s reasonable to compare his progress to players like Paul Martin and Matt Carle, players who had similar stats as Schultz in college. And bear in mind, while other teams eased in their college standouts at a young age, the Oilers threw Schultz into the fire handing him the most minutes with very little support. A few comparisons were made to Steve Smith last week, which was absurd, but I decided to see who Smith had to mentor him at age 22, compared to who Schultz had.
|Oilers 1985-86||Oilers 2012-13|
|First Name||Age||First Name||Age|
|Lee Fogolin||30||Nick Schultz||30|
|Randy Gregg||29||Corey Potter||29|
|Don Jackson||29||Ryan Whitney||29|
|Charlie Huddy||26||Mark Fistric||26|
|Kevin Lowe||26||Ladislav Smid||26|
|Paul Coffey||24||Theo Peckham||25|
|Steve Smith||22||Jeff Petry||25|
It’s obvious why Schultz lead the defensemen in minutes at 22, since the rest of the unit was below average. You can also see here how New Jersey and San Jose developed Martin and Carle respectively in their first two seasons coming straight out of college. It’s mind-boggling that the Oilers didn’t do more to surround Schultz with the right group of defensemen to ensure that he (a) eased his way into the line-up and (b) really earned his spot with the NHL club.
It’s blatantly obvious that the Oilers need to enhance their defensive unit for next season. To not only take on the tougher minutes, but to shelter the prospects like Schultz until they’re ready to succeed.