Showing posts with label Jeff Schultz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeff Schultz. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 35

We continue our look at the elemental aspects of Washington Capitals hockey with, well, Fearless’ walk through the periodic table in the countdown to opening night.



Bromine

Here is what you need to know about bromine.  Its name derives from the Greek word, “bromos,” meaning “stench.”  It is not so much a stench that characterizes it as it is a foul smell that resembles that of chlorine, which, like bromine, is a member of the group of elements referred to as “halogens.”

At room temperature, bromine is not solid, but rather takes the form of a reddish-brown liquid.  And, if exposed to air it evaporates easily to give off an orange vapor.  It is highly toxic and corrosive.

It was discovered independently by two chemists.  The first – Antoine Jerome Balard – discovered it in the ash of seaweed found along the southern coast of France (who takes long walks along the beach rooting around in seaweed?).  The second – Carl Jacob Löwig – isolated it from mineral water, subjecting it to a number of treatrments until he was left with a brown liquid (chemists are generally people who as kids did disgusting things with food).

Bromine has no recognizable essential biological functions in people – any mammals for that matter – although it can be found in some enzyme reactions among lower sea life.  It does have some industrial applications.  Or rather, it used to have applications.  For example, it once served as a gasoline additive.  There, its purpose was in binding to lead to prevent engine knocking.  Of course, now that gasoline is unleaded, and environmental regulations have been established to reduce lead emissions, you don’t find this application much these days.  It used to be used in pesticides, but since 2005…not so much.   It used to be used in sedatives back in the 19th century, but today?... mmm, no.

It does have some uses.  It is found in some vegetable oils that are then used in the manufacture of some soft drinks (those containing citrus, for example).  It is found in a number of dyes; it is used in swimming pool cleaning. 

So here we have a reddish-brown, toxic, corrosive, disgusting looking liquid discovered in seaweed.  It has no biological functions in people, and while it used to have some uses, these days it does not have as many and even those are kind of uncommon.  It gives off an orange color (sort of like a traffic cone) as it evaporates into air.  Some folks would find its smell off-putting.  Frankly, we think bromine gets a bad rap, but there is is…

Bromine, the “Jeff Schultz” of the periodic table.




..yeah, we know, former Cap, but what, you thought we were going to give this to a current Capital?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Washington Capitals: 2012-2013 By the Tens -- Defensemen: "Schulpotorlov"

“Schulpotorlov”

No, that is not a hot young prospect out of Moscow, that is the trio of Jeff Schultz, Tom Poti, and Dmitry Orlov.  In another time, these three defensemen might have been stalwarts among the top-six blueliners for the Caps.  Schultz, the quiet, stay-at-home defenseman with the long reach and use of position and angles more than brawn to defend.  Poti, the veteran who developed a solid two-way aspect to his game after years of being primarily an offensive defenseman.  Orlov, the up-and-comer with a heavy shot and a heavier hip check.

The 2013 season was not “another time” for these three defensemen.  Combined they appeared in 47 games, going 0-6-6, minus-3.  In no game this season did all three dress for action.  Orlov and Schultz dressed for the March 19th contest against Pittsburgh – a 2-1 loss in which neither was on ice for any of the three goals in their combined 22:47 of ice time.  Schultz and Poti appeared in 11 games together, the Caps going 4-7-0 in those contests and allowing 41 goals in the process.  Poti’s season ended on March 17th, the game before Orlov would play in his first of the season on March 19th. 

None of the three appeared in the post season, all have question marks heading into the off-season.

Jeff Schultz is signed to the Capitals through next season at a $2.75 million salary cap hit.  Here is the thing, though.  Schultz appeared in 29 of the first 31 games of the 2011-2012 season (0-5-5, plus-1), but has appeared in only 51 of 99 regular season games since (1-3-4, minus-9). Forty seven of those 48 absences were healthy scratches (he was out due to illness for the February 1, 2012 game against Florida).  For all intents and purposes he has been passed on the depth chart by Orlov, Tomas Kundratek, and Steve Oleksy from within the organization, and Jack Hillen came in from Nashville to occupy a top-six spot that otherwise might have gone to Schultz…in another time.  Even prospect Cameron Schilling, who got a sweater along with Schultz for a March 12th contest with Carolina in Schilling's only appearance of the season, might be in a position to pass him on the depth chart shortly.

Schultz is almost to the point of being “dead money” laying in plain sight.  He would have a bulls-eye on his back as a compliance buyout, especially with the Caps having to find cap room to re-sign restricted free agent Karl Alzner.  But the Caps are not a team with a lot of depth on the blue line.  When John Erskine – a capable third-pair defenseman – is getting a lot of second-pair minutes, you have depth issues. 

The Caps have 20 players on the parent roster signed for next season (assuming Philipp Grubauer spends the season in Hershey and Dmitry Orlov rejoins the club), including Schultz, with a cap hit of $58.934 million (numbers from capgeek.com).  That leaves the Caps with $5.526 million in cap room to fill up to three roster spots, including the re-signing of Alzner and either signing or replacing Mike Ribeiro at center.  If Schultz is bought out, that makes up to four roster spots to fill and $8.276 million in cap room.  Even if Schultz is bought out, resigning Alzner and Ribeiro could eat up the entire remaning cap room and still leave the team needing a seventh roster defenseman.  Ribeiro might or might not be in Washington in September.  It seems almost a betting certainty that Schultz will not. 

Tom Poti has 37 regular season games on his resume over the last three seasons, 16 of them this year before an injury to his ribs that ended his season.  The question for Poti is not whether he will return to the Capitals’ lineup – he will not -- but whether he has anything left in the tank to find a suitor for next season.  If a guy deserves such a shot, it is Tom Poti.  Fractured pelvis, multiple groin injuries, neck and back injuries.  That has been his recent history with the Caps.  Through it all, he was uncommonly dedicated to his craft, persevered when others would have called it a day and retired, and exemplified the highest level of sportsmanship and professionalism when after recovering from injuries found no playing time available.  He is a fine nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.  One hopes that it is not the capstone of his career and that there is more hockey from Poti to come.

Dmitry Orlov had an impressive rookie season in 2011-2012 – tied for eighth among rookie defensemen in goals, tied for second in assists, fourth in points, one of only 11 rookie defensemen with at least one game-winning goal, and he did this with only the 23rd highest average ice time among rookie blueliners.  And there were the thundering hip checks…





His sophomore season was jinxed from the start.  There was the lockout that affected everyone, and Orlov started his season in Hershey.  In his first 17 games with the Bears, Orlov was a respectable 1-8-9, plus-2, although the Bears were only 7-9-1 in those games.  Then the Bears came to Verizon Center to “visit” the Norfolk Admirals, the home team for purposes of the AHL Showcase on December 6th.  With the teams tied at a goal apiece late in the first period, Orlov sustained a double barreled hit that dropped him to the ice and might have been the one that left him with a concussion. 

That would be the last game Orlov would play until March 9th, when he returned to action for the Bears against, who else, Norfolk.  After a four-game get well tour, he was called up to the Caps for a game against Pittsburgh on March 19th.  Orlov lasted five games, going 0-1-1, plus-5, averaging a few ticks fewer than 15 minutes of ice time.  In the midst of a lot of personnel movement along the blue line at the end of the month and beginning of April, Orlov was returned to Hershey for the rest of the 2013 season, where he was 2-3-5, minus-2 in nine games to close the regular season and 1-2-3, even, in four playoff games in the Bears’ five-game loss to Providence in the first round.

The question going forward is whether Orlov suffers any lingering effects of his concussion.  Assuming Karl Alzner is re-signed, Orlov will likely be battling Steve Oleksy and Jack Hillen for ice time on the parent roster next fall.  The three constitute a bargain, salary cap-wise, consuming just over $2.1 million in combined cap room for the 2013-2014 season (more than half a million less than Jeff Schultz’ cap hit, by way of comparison).  But is there a reliable, healthy third-pair to be cobbled together out of that group?  Hillen and Orlov missed significant time to injuries this season.

In the end…

“Schulpotorlov” did not have the season wished for, not by a long shot. Jeff Schultz became a regular scratch, Tom Poti could never quite come all the way back from injury, and Dmitry Orlov would experience what amounted to a lost season.  None are guaranteed a sweater on a regular basis – with Washington or with another NHL team – for the 2013-2014 season.  All of them have a common goal in the season to come – “a comeback.”

Grade: incomplete


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Washington Capitals 2012-2013 Previews -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz



Jeff Schultz

Theme:  “Nobody is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.”
-- Benjamin Disraeli


Over a 129-game stretch, from December 28, 2008, through November 5, 2010, Jeff Schultz played to a plus-71.  That included his plus-50 in 73 games in the 2009-2010, the highest plus-minus of any player since Lockout I, and the highest for a defenseman since Chris Pronger was plus-52 in 1999-2000.  Since then, however, Schultz is a more pedestrian minus-4 in his last 113 games.

Whatever you think of that plus-minus statistic, Schultz’ change of fortune largely mirrors that of the Capitals.  In that 129-game run the Caps were 85-28-16 (a 118-standings point pace).  Since then, the Caps are 81-51-19 overall (a 98-point pace), and Schultz has found ice time harder to come by, down from 19:17 a game in his big 2009-2010 season to an average of 15:17 last season.

His underlying statistics since that 2009-2010 season to point to a drop in efficiency in his play.  His raw Corsi values at 5-on-5, for example, dropped from 8.52 to -2.62 to -4.94 (numbers from behindthenet.ca).  His goals-against on ice per 60 minutes jumped from 1.61 to 2.27 before settling at 2.11.  The difference between goals-against scored on ice to goals-against scored off ice per 60 minutes was a sparkling -0.74 in 2009-2010 (minus being the better number here), while in 2010-2011 it was +0.33 and -0.51 in 2011-2012.  And if you think that 2011-2012 mark is an improvement over2010-2011 (it is), it also should be tempered by the fact that Schultz has been facing lower quality of competition relative to his teammates, too – second on the club in 2009-2010 (to Tom Poti among defensemen playing the entire season with the Caps and appearing in at least 40 games), third in 2010-2011 (Karl Alzner, John Carlson), and fourth last season (Alzner, Carlson, Dennis Wideman).

Fearless’ Take…

There is one area in which Schultz has improved, though.  Last season he finished with his highest hits-per-game (0.91) in his six-year career.  It was comparable to the values for Karl Alzner (0.90) and Mike Green (0.84).  We mention this because some Caps fans seem to place considerable importance on this statistic with respect to Schultz. 

Cheerless’ Take…

Can we get back to semi-serious stuff?  If there is one thing that might linger as a reason Schultz will lurk on the edge of a third-pair spot it is that in 29 playoff games he is a minus-10.  He has been on ice for 27 goals against is 29 career playoff games (0.93/game).  That looks a lot like Mike Green (0.94 in 50 career playoff games), but there are two differences.  First, Schultz is a “defensive” defenseman.  He doesn't do anything else than to keep the other team from scoring.  If he is not doing that, then is there a reason for him to be out there?  Second, if looks to me like Green’s numbers are headed in the right direction faster than Schultz.  In his first three playoffs Green was on ice for 34 goals in 28 games (1.21/game).  In his last two post-seasons that number dropped to 13 in 22 games (0.59).  Compare that to Schultz, who was 13 goals on ice in 11 games in his first three playoff seasons (1.18) and 14 in 19 over his last three post-seasons (0.74).

The Big Question… Is Jeff Schultz suited to the sort of game Adam Oates wants to play?

Again, no one has seen Adam Oates coach a game in anger yet, so his philosophy is a big unknown to Caps fans.  We hear he will not be as buttoned down as Dale Hunter, but not as Animal House as Bruce Boudreau.  Even if he achieves a happy median, it might not look too good for Jeff Schultz.  After all, Schultz dressed for only 33 of 60 games under Hunter, and he did not distinguish himself in ten playoff games (no points, minus-7) in place of Dmitry Orlov, who was effectively benched for the post-season.

For Schultz, will a game that could be more up-tempo than what Dale Hunter implemented be compatible with his skills?  Well, Schultz was that plus-50 under Bruce Boudreau, so it is not as if he is a slug out there.  The answer to the question might be more in whether Schultz can shake off any rust that playing in only 126 of the last 164 regular season games might leave him with or if he can find happiness – or at least stability – with this, his third coach in the space of 11 months.

In the end…

Last season was Schultz’ first as a “minus” player in his six-year career.  And while a minus-2 did not have quite the impact of a minus-8 from Dennis Wideman or a team-worst minus-15 from John Carlson, five defensemen playing more than 25 games for the Caps were on the plus side of the ledger.  Being a minus player should not be an expected result.  And for those who are counting, Schultz has the third most regular season games played for the Capitals since the lockout among defensemen (373), one fewer than Shaone Morrisonn and 25 fewer than Mike Green.  Youth is not an excuse for sub-par play, and at age 26 he is too young for regression in his game to seep in and be accepted as part of the normal course of a player’s career.

Morrisonn actually is an apt comparable here.  Let us set aside the irony that Morrisonn and the first round draft pick that became Schultz came to Washington in the same trade (along for a second roundr pick for Sergei Gonchar).  Morrisonn was almost exclusively a defensive defenseman who might put up 10-15 points, but who was expected to be solid, if not flashy in his own end.  He was just that for Washington for his first three-plus seasons in DC, seasons in which he averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time a night and was plus-14 in 237 games.  But then his ice time was cut (from 20:16 a game in 2007-2008 to 17:59 in 2008-2009) and slightly more again (17:34) in 2009-2010.  He left Washington for Buffalo as a free agent at the end of the 2009-2010 season.

It was a case of some – including Schultz – perhaps passing Morrisonn by.  Now we might have Schultz being passed by in ice time by Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov.  It will be interesting to see if Schultz’ can recover enough of his game, if not to be the near 20-minute-a-game player he was in 2009-2010, to be a player who gets a sweater on a night-in, night-out basis.

Projection: 58 games, 1-5-6, plus-6

photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Monday, May 21, 2012

2011-2012 By the Tens -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “Some have greatness thrust upon them, but not lately.”
-- Frank Dane
(click pic for larger image)

It seems like a long time ago, now, that “plus-50” that Jeff Schultz put up in 2009-2010. It was the big number in a career year for games, assists, points, penalty minutes, and shots on goal. He was rewarded for that effort in July 2010 with a four year/$11 million contract. Since then, however, Schultz has returned to earth.

In 2009-2010, Schultz had a total of 11 “minus” games all season. Last year he had ten such games by the Winter Classic on January 1st. It was just once indicator of his settling into what might have been a more reliable level of performance. He finished the 2010-2011 season having played only one fewer game than in 2009-2010, but saw his point total cut by more than half (from 23 to 10), his shooting percentage dropping steeply (from 7.0 percent to 2.9 percent), and even his penalty minutes by more than half (from 32 to 12). And never a big hitter to start with, that number dropped from 66 to 53.

Perhaps Schultz was merely performing at a more reasonable level for his particular skill set. But then the 2011-2012 season began. Schultz did not start badly; in his first seven games (coinciding with the Caps’ 7-0-0 start) Schultz was on ice for only three of 14 goals, two of them in a 6-5 Gimmick win against Tampa Bay, the other a power play goal in a 7-1 win over Detroit. Even when the Caps went on the road and saw their winning streak end, he wasn’t on the ice for much of the damage – two of the 13 goals allowed.

But then the wheels started coming off. He was on ice for four of the next 11 goals allowed by the Caps. It set up a coincidence of events on November 11th – Mike Green ready to return to the lineup after a six-game absence with an injured ankle and the Caps needing to create a slot in the lineup for that return. It was Schultz who sat for what would be a 3-1 win over New Jersey.

Schultz returned to the lineup in the next game, but he – and the Capitals – were entering a downward spiral that would cost Bruce Boudreau his job. The Caps went 2-5-0 in the seven games leading up to Boudreau’s dismissal, and the Caps allowed 31 goals in the process. Schultz was minus-2 in those games. Not the worst, but any stretch, but not making a case for a heavy workload, either.

Dale Hunter took over in time for the Caps to host the St. Louis Blues, and for Schultz to be a healthy scratch. Starting with that contest Schultz would dress for only six of the next 27 games, averaging about ten and a half minutes a game. Even with Mike Green having missed all but two games in this stretch, Schultz was not getting a sweater, sitting in place of Dmitry Orlov, John Erskine, and even Tomas Kundratek for five games.

Schultz did return to the lineup on February 1st, though, and did play in 27 of the last 33 games of the season, going 1-0-1, minus-3 in the process to finish the season 1-5-6, minus-2 in 54 games. It ended as having played in fewer games than any season since his 2006-2007 rookie year (38); his fewest goals (1), assists (5), and points (6) since that season (0-3-3), and the only season in his six-year career in which he finished on the minus side of the ledger.

His underlying numbers where not especially strong, and here there is a comparable basis to judge those numbers. Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz faced roughly equivalent quality of competition (numbers from behindthenet.ca). However, starting from that point Schultz’ numbers were quite inferior to those of Wideman at 5-on-5. Pick your poison – On ice Corsi? Wideman was in negative territory here (-1.09), but Schultz was considerable worse (-4.94). Corsi relative to competition? Same (+0.132 to -0.249). It is easy to get a bit too caught up in these numbers when one sees that in goals against on ice per 60 minutes, Schultz fares better (2.11 to 2.47), and he does have a slightly better PDO value. But this still seems a far cry from that defenseman who finished a plus-50 two seasons ago. Here how this year’s record compared to last:



Odd Schultz Fact… Well, he was consistent. In 27 games against teams reaching the playoffs, Schultz had three points and was a minus-1. In 27 games against teams missing the playoffs…yup, three points and a minus-1.

Game to Remember… November 1, 2011. In a game that would be remembered more for who didn’t skate at the end of regulation than who did when the game-tying goal was scored to send the game with the Anaheim Ducks into overtime.  When the game-winning overtime goal was scored, Jeff Schultz earned a secondary assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s overtime winner against the Ducks in a 5-4 win. Schultz got the play started when he pinched down the left wing wall to keep a loose puck in play as two Ducks were closing on him. He wristed the puck toward the net, where it hit a Duck stick, then Alex Ovechkin’s stick before settling in front of Backstrom at the doorstep where he flipped it in for the winner. Schultz also finished a plus-2, one of only two games in which he would finish that high on the ledger for the season.

Game to Forget… March 27, 2012. In what would be his last regular season game of the year, Schultz was on ice for two goals in the first five shifts he skated as the Buffalo Sabres took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. He skated only two more shifts in the game – both early in the second period – and managed only 5:07 in ice time (his fifth lowest minute total in 373 career regular season games) while finishing minus-2 in a 5-1 loss to the Sabres.

Post Season… Perhaps surprisingly, given his sporadic activity in the last two-thirds of the season, Schultz dressed for 10 of the Caps’ 14 post-season games. But, like the regular season, he played himself to the bench before coming back to the ice. In Games 1-3 Schultz was on the ice for four of the six goals scored by the Boston Bruins. In a close fought, low scoring series, it earned him a spot in the press box for four of the next five games (the exception being the Game 7 clincher against Boston). Schultz returned for good in Game 2 of the second round series against the Rangers. He would fare marginally better in the defensive end, having been on ice for four of the 12 goals New York scored in the last six games of the series. But Schultz also had the misfortune all through the playoffs of never being around when a goal was scored by the Caps. Only once in 10 games was he on ice for a goal scored (Game 5 against the Rangers, in a 3-2 overtime loss).

In the end… One has to wonder what lies ahead for Schultz. Two years ago he was coming off a record-setting season (best plus-minus in franchise history and the highest of any player in the league since the lockout) and was about to sign a four-year deal. This past season, he was a defenseman with a $2.75 million cap hit who was not much more than an occasional player.

Looking at the defense corps under contract (or likely to be) for next season, it is a group that in addition to Schultz includes: Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, John Erskine, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov. The Caps are not a team deep in defensive prospects, at least not of the sort one would expect to get any significant time with the club next season. This would seem to leave Schultz on the bubble, with John Erskine and Dmitry Orlov (acknowledging the possibility of a sophomore slump for the latter) for the sixth defenseman spot. It is a future as uncertain as his 2011-2012 season seemed to be, one that seems now an eternity from the great season he had just a couple of years ago.

Grade: C-

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Washington Capitals 2011-2012 Previews: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward."
-- Chinese Proverb





Well, you can say that last year was probably a step backward on the NHL journey that is Jeff Schultz’. From a 73-game season in 2009-2010 which he set career highs in games played, assists (20), points (23), penalty minutes (32), minutes (1,450), average ice time (19:52), and a league-leading plus-50; he dropped to 1-9-10, plus-6 in 72 games. If you’re a Caps fan, you’re probably wondering if that whole plus-50 thing was a freakish occurrence or the potential for Schultz.

OK, you can stop laughing now. We get it. Schultz remains something of Caps fans’ personal whipping boy, the source of all disappointment, the cause of all things bad that befall the Caps. But Schultz is also the only Caps defenseman on the current roster who has posted five consecutive “plus” seasons (he has never had a minus season in the NHL). And we get that too – “plus/minus” is a flawed statistic. But when he does something in that category that no Cap has done over five years, it isn’t exactly a liability.

In last season’s results, Schultz faced a level of competition barely different from the level he faced in 2009-2010 (he ranked third among Caps defensemen in both seasons among those playing at least 50 games). What he did not benefit from, though, was strength of teammates. He had the strongest quality of teammates among Caps defensemen in the 2009-2010 season, but had only the third strongest in 2010-2011 (numbers from behindthenet.ca). But even with that, his Corsi value relative to quality or teammates dropped only slightly, but his rank improved from second among Caps defensemen in 2009-2010 to the top spot in 2010-2011. Given that Schultz contributed almost no offense of his own from the blue line in 2010-2011 (last among all Caps defensemen playing in at least 50 games in points/60 minutes), it reflected an understated responsibility in tending to business in his own zone.

Fearless’ Take: Schultz struggled in the first half of the season with consistency. He was 0-5-5, minus-1 in his first 38 games, but uncharacteristically had two instances of four consecutive “minus” games (the Caps were 2-4-2 in those games). But after his second span of four consecutive “minus” games, Schultz finished the last 34 games of his season 1-4-5, plus-7, and only twice had as many as two consecutive games on the minus side of the ledger.

Cheerless’ Take: His performance against teams in the East that made the playoffs might not be what it seems. He was 0-3-3, even, against those teams, but he was 0-1-1, plus three in three games against Pittsburgh. That made him 0-2-2, minus-3 in the other 24 games. And, although he has had occasional injury problems in the post-season, he is only 0-1-1, minus-3 in 19 career playoff games.

The Big Question… Was that plus-50 in 2009-2010 a blessing or a curse?

In the last 20 years in the NHL, only four defensemen have reached the plus-50 mark for a season – Scott Stevens, Chris Pronger, Vladimir Konstantinov, and Jeff Schultz. A hall-of-famer, a hall-of-famer in waiting, a potential hall-of-famer whose career was tragically cut short…and Schultz. He is the only defenseman – the only player since the lockout – to hit plus-50, but even the most ardent Caps fan would have to admit that there is one player who probably does not belong in this group.

But take that season out of the mix for a moment. You would be left with a player who in 246 regular season games would be 7-33-40, plus-36. That would be a player with a 2-11-13, plus-12 pace per 82 games in a shade over 19 minutes a night over a still brief career (Schultz being only 25 years of age). Forget the baggage Schultz carries (no purse jokes, please). Over the last four seasons he has averaged fewer than 2.5 goals/on ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. If you are looking for a first-pair, shutdown defenseman, you would probably want a better number there (to extend a comparison, Pronger has been below 2.0 in that number twice in the last four years). But if you are looking at a second or third pair defenseman, you might not turn your nose up at that kind of outcome.

In the end…

If the plus-50 year never happened, Schultz might be a nice defenseman to play in a second or third pair role, giving you 18-20 minutes a night. He is not that plus-50 player. But he has been consistent, never finishing a season in minus territory. In an odd way he is reminiscent of former Caps defenseman Joe Reekie, a somewhat ungainly skater to seemed a bit awkward on the ice and who didn’t contribute much at the offensive end. But as Reekie was a suitable partner for the offensive-minded Sergei Gonchar, just as Schultz has been something of a safety blanket for the likes of a more offensive-minded Mike Green. It is worth noting that Reekie compiled 13 straight seasons in plus territory, seven-plus of them with the Caps. And say what you will about the flawed nature of the plus-minus statistic, but if more good things happen when a player is on the ice than bad things, well, we’ll take it.

The 2010-2011 season might be looked at in one way as a step back for Schultz. That would be true if the 2009-2010 season was a fair representation of the kind of defenseman he is. That might not be fair. What he has been in the other seasons of his career is closer to what seems to be his performance level. And the trick for Schultz is to make those incremental steps forward in becoming a more adept defensive defenseman, to contribute a little bit of offense here and there, and to give the Caps solid, consistent, even boring minutes.

Projection: 73-games, 1-7-8, plus-10

(photo: UPI/Archie Carpenter)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

2010-2011 By the Tens -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “What if this is as good as it gets?”
-- Melvin Udall



In 2009-2010, Jeff Schultz led the NHL with a plus-50, the first defenseman to crack the plus-50 threshold since Chris Pronger did it in 1999-2000. Schultz also established career highs in games played (73), minutes played (1,450), assists (20), points (23), penalty minutes (32), shots on goal (43), hits (66), and fewest goals against on-ice at 5-on-5 (1.61).

Nice year. 2010-2011?...Not so much.

Well, to be more precise, not as much. If you look at his ten-game splits he started and finished relatively well…



…but the middle of his season wasn’t much to write home about, plus he missed nine games (Games 30-38, which accounted for almost all of his fourth ten-game split) with a broken thumb. Given his lackluster performance in his fifth and sixth ten-game splits (immediately after the injury, over which he was a combined 0-3-3, minus-6), perhaps that injury had some lingering effects.

Those lingering effects might have been reflecting in, perhaps surprisingly, his hits totals. Hit are a somewhat arbitrary statistic, dependent on what the eyes of an official scorer sees. But Schultz was credited with a rather substantial (for him) number before his injury (28 in his first three ten-game splits covering 29 games). After that injury, the hit totals dropped significantly (only five in Games 39-50) before picking up late.

Looking at this year versus last, though, Schultz’ basic numbers are almost uniformly worse:



Is that because his defense was worse, or because of other changes? Perhaps a hint at an answer can be found by looking at things another way. For example, that plus-50 Schultz had last year dropped all the way to plus-6 in almost the same number of games played. But here is the thing. In 2010-2011 Schultz’s goals-for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was 2.27, while his goals-against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was the same – 2.27, for a plus/minus of “zero.” Compare that to the 2009-2010 season when the GA number was 4.23, and the GA number was 1.61, for a plus/minus of 2.62. Break this down a little more by comparing the GF from year to year with the GA from year to year, and you can see that of the 2.62 change in plus/minus, 1.96 of that is explained away by changes in goals scored (4.23 in 2009-2010 compared to 2.27 in 2010-2011), while 0.66 of the change can be explained by changes on the goals allowed side of the equation (a number which, frankly, is a bit distressing in itself). These are high-level orders of review, and they don’t disentangle Schultz from the performance of his teammates in those situations. However, it can lead one to think that while Schultz might not have measured up in play to his 2009-2010 season, it is not the same thing as saying he played poorly. 2009-2010 was, after all, a career year for him and in terms of that plus/minus number quite remarkable in the context of recent NHL history.

Comparing some other of Schultz’ numbers from year to year suggests that he didn’t necessarily “play” much worse than the 2009-2010 season (or at least as much as the basic numbers might suggest). For example, he had 15 games of plus-2 or better in 2009-2010, 11 such games this past season (a product of less offense?). He was on ice for a total of 54 goals against in 2009-2010, 60 goals this past season. What he did have, though, was a significantly higher number of minus games – 23 this past season compared to 11 in 2009-2010. All in all, Schultz (and this would apply to a Karl Alzner as well) is the sort of player whose numbers, especially those like a plus/minus, depend on what goes on around him much more than himself, since he does not contribute much offense. The Caps were not the offensive team they were a year ago, and the difference in Schultz’ GF/60 at 5-on-5 compared to his GF/60 at 5-on-5 for the two years suggests that this is strongly the case (numbers from behindthenet.ca).

Odd Schultz Fact… Schultz had two four-game minus streaks, neither of which coincided with the Caps’ eight-game losing streak in December (Games 19-22 in November and Games 43-46 in January). He was minus-13 in those eight games, plus-19 in his other 64 games.

Game to Remember… March 18, 2011. If you are going to score only one goal all season, it’s nice to make it a game-winner. And it’s even nicer to score it on a hall-of-fame to be goaltender. Such was the case in March, when Jeff Schultz pulled a “Mike Green” and stepped into some open space at the edge of the left wing circle, took a pass from Mike Knulble, and one-timed it over the catching glove of Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur. It was the first goal of the night and the only one goalie Michal Neuvirth would need in pitching a 3-0 shutout. Schultz added a couple of hits for good measure.

Game to Forget… January 12, 2011. Schultz was on the ice for all three goals against as the Caps fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-0 loss. On the first goal he skated himself out of the play by following a rushing Nate Thompson to the boards, then neither putting a body on him nor using his stick to separate him the puck from his possession. Thompson fed the puck in front, where Tom Poti was the only defenseman in a position to defend; it did not end well. On the second goal he was caught in no-man’s land above the circle, not quite defending Steve Downie, and Tampa Bay ended up scoring another goal from in-close. On the last one, he tried to flick the puck away from a breaking Simon Gagne, but it was a less than confident effort, and Gagne scored on a breakaway. He earned his minus-3.

Post Season… Like so many other Caps, you could argue Schultz had two different playoffs – the one against the Rangers (plus-five in five games) and the one against Tampa Bay (minus-4 in four games. But there is this. Over the nine games the Caps played, Schultz had by far the best GA/ON per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 of all Caps defensemen (1.14) and the best by far plus/minus on ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 for the playoffs (1.14). He and Scott Hannan were the only two Caps defensemen who had better GA/ON numbers than GA/OFF. In Schultz’ case, the difference was 1.56 goals/60 minutes.  But he was on the ice for six goals in the Tampa Bay series, two of them on Lighting power plays, and half of them came in a 3-2 loss in Game 2 that put the Caps squarely behind the eight ball in a series they would lose in a sweep.

In the end, folks will always find shortcomings in Schultz’s play. Such is the price for a defenseman with Chris Pronger’s size (6’6”, 230), but with Nick Schultz’ game (6’1”, 200). We don’t think one could argue that Jeff Schultz had the year he had in 2009-2010; not close. The 2009-2010 season was a career year for him, perhaps not to be repeated. If anything, his year looked more like the previous season, 2008-2009, in which he was 1-11-12, plus-13 in 64 games, but that means a step or three back. Maybe the 2009-2010 season was as good as it gets for Schultz, which by no means makes his 2010-2011 season a bad one. Trouble is, neither was it an especially good one.

Grade: C+

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2010-2011 Previews: Defensemen -- Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: "Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition."

-- Abraham Lincoln



Plus-50. Alex Ovechkin didn’t do it, Nicklas Backstrom didn’t do it, Mike Green didn’t so it. Nicklas Lidstrom? No. Chris Pronger? Nope. Duncan Keith? Nuh-uh.

Say what you will against the maligned statistic, but plus-minus is an indicator that more good things than bad things happened when a player is in “plus” territory. And Jeff Schultz had a better ratio of good things happening to bad things than any player in the league last year. And while one might look at his record against Southeast Division opponents (2-7-9, plus-23 in 21 games) and say the numbers were padded, consider that in 26 games against Eastern Conference teams that would make the playoffs, Schultz was 1-8-9, plus-25.

One might argue it was the team; one might argue it was his playing partner (usually Mike Green), but among defensemen palying at least 50 games Schultz had the best differential of goals scored on ice-to-goals scored off ice per 60 minutes (numbers from behindthenet.ca) in all the NHL. And it was not close. Schultz’ differential of plus-2.62 was more than a half a goal better than Green, who was second in the league – more than 25 percent better. He had the sixth lowest goals scored/on ice per 60 minutes in the league.

Although Schultz could not claim to have faced the highest quality of competition in putting up those numbers – he was tied for 61st among 176 defensemen playing at least 50 games – the defenseman he happened to be tied with was Drew Doughty, and Schultz’ goals against/on per 60 minutes was almost a third of a goal better.

He was consistent as well – only 11 games in minus territory and only once as bad as a minus-2. 15 times he was at least plus-2 and had two plus-5 games. He almost doubled his offensive output from the previous season (23 points from 12 in 2008-2009) and dressed for the highest number of game in his brief career (73).

That’s the good news. Last season, he lasted for an entire round of post season play (after dressing for a total of three games the previous two post seasons), dressing in all seven games of the Montreal series. But despite averaging almost 20 minutes a game, he managed a single assist and was minus-1 for the series. What is worse, he was on the ice for half of the 20 goals Montreal scored in the series (six at even strength, four while shorthanded).

Last season the 11 defensemen who dressed for the Caps break down into three groups as far as hits are concerned – Shaone Morrisonn, John Erskine, and Milan Jurcina are the heaviest hitting group (all with at least six hits per 60 minutes played); Tyler Sloan, John Carlson, Mike Green, and Brian Pothier in the middle group (four to six hits per 60 minutes); and Tom Poti, Joe Corvo, Karl Alzner, and Jeff Schultz in the lightest hitting group. The oddest part about this, though, isn’t that Schultz is in the third group, but that he had almost four times as many hits-per-60 minutes as Tom Poti (2.62 – 0.76). This isn’t a statement on Poti’s ability as a defenseman, but more one that Schultz’ perceived reluctance to hit opponents might be a bit overdone by Caps Nation.

Schultz made up for this alleged shortcoming in other ways. He did finish fourth on the club in blocked shots-per-60 minutes (and the most among Caps defensemen playing more than 50 games). He also had the second lowest total of giveaways-per-60 minutes among those defensemen playing more than 50 games.

Fearless: It’s one thing for a player to be on the plus side in wins – Schultz was plus-48 in 49 wins. But he was a plus-2 in the 24 losses he played in. None of the Young Guns can say that for the Caps, and only one other defenseman could make that claim (Milan Jurcina, plus-1 in eight losses).

Cheerless: As long as you’re on the plus/minus kick, cuz, Schultz had the worst number (minus-3) of all Caps defensemen in the playoffs playing in Verizon Center. He had the worst number of any Caps skater in the playoffs at home. Only eight of 115 defensemen in the playoffs had a worse plus/minus at home than Schultz.  In the regular season he ranked 119th in hits, 45th in blocked shots, and 145th in takeaways among defensemen. He’s not quite an all-star, yet, cuz.


In the end…

Schultz is probably best suited to be a second-pair defenseman, but given the state of the Caps and how their defense is put together at the moment, he seems likely to be paired with Mike Green once more on the top twosome. Just as the Caps are not likely to hit the 121-point mark again, it is a stretch to think Schultz will replicate his plus-50 from last year. That is not to say he won’t be better. Schultz is still only 24 and has fewer than 250 games of experience. One could make the case that he has improved, perhaps not year-to-year, but certainly he has come a long way from his rookie year in 2006-2007. It is reasonable to expect he take another step forward this year.

That next step he clearly has to take is not to disappear in the playoffs. He has only ten playoff games under his belt, and none of them could be considered memorable, at least not in a good way. One assist and a minus-4 in those games isn’t going to go far in building his reputation as a reliable post-season defenseman, but then again, there are only those ten playoff games of experience, part of a problem that this defense has as a whole.

Schultz is likely to once more be solid, dependable, and not especially flashy. Twenty minutes or so a night, an even or plus player on a nightly basis, probably on ice for an even strength goal every other game (approximately his average last season). It is the kind of play that doesn’t make any one game memorable (unless you are scoring goals from 175 feet), but over an 82-game schedule it will make for a solid season. On a team with enough flash, thank you very much, that steadiness is just fine.

Schultz does not inspire moderate opinions about his play. He is either a player who uses his position and reach effectively, or he is a player who fails to take advantage of his size to play a more punishing game. Odd that a player who seems more effective the less he is noticed inspires such divergent opinions on his play. But that seems to be his lot in life as an NHL player. The only thing that will silence the naysayers, at least this season, is the same thing that any of the other Caps might need to squelch the doubters – a Stanley Cup. Tall order, but then again, Schultz is a tall fellow.

Projection:

74 games, 3-19-22, +27

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 2009-2010 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “Truth is generally the best vindication against slander”
-- Abraham Lincoln



"Hit somebody!" "Hit him with yer purse, Schultz!!" "Get off the ice, Schultz!!!" It has been a continuing refrain heard at Verizon Center almost since defenseman Jeff Schultz entered the NHL. Such is the price a player pays, one supposes, for being almost precisely the same size as Chris Pronger, but not being the physical player Pronger is. It would be like a seven-footer playing 25-feet from the basket in basketball or a six-two, 220-pound running back having happy feet in football.

Well, consider this year “Schultzie’s Revenge.”

We all know that the plus-minus statistic is worth less than a plugged nickel, but try this on. Since the plus/minus statistic was first officially recorded in 1968, 16 different defensemen have won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. Of those 16 defensemen, only five of them had better plus/minus number in any of their first four seasons than the plus-50 Schultz put up this season (his fourth) to lead the league. And what a who’s who that short list is:

Rod Langway
Denis Potvin
Larry Robinson
Paul Coffey
Raymond Bourque

That’s it. That’s the whole list. And the most recent of these was Paul Coffey’s plus-52 in 1983-1984, in his fourth season. It was an entirely different era of hockey.

Did Schultz have a Norris-worthy season? Is he a hall of famer in waiting? Let’s just hold off on those campaigns for the time being. What Schultz had was a very nice, very solid season. The offensive numbers certainly do not compare to a Mike Green, as his ten-game splits plainly show…





…but he did rank highly in a number of other measures. Among 152 defensemen appearing in at least 60 games and skating at 5-on-5 (numbers according to behindthenet.ca), Schultz finished:

-- second in plus/minus differential (plus/minus on and off ice per 60 minutes)
-- sixth in goals against-on ice/60 minutes
-- ahead of Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Dennis Seidenberg, Dan Boyle, and Tomas Kaberle, among others, in quality of competition faced.

But before getting all carried away here, all of this is at 5-on-5. And Schultz, having the role of being a more defensive defenseman, did not perform as well in a penalty killing role. Looking at the same sorts of rankings as at 5-on-5 for the 91 defensemen skating at least 60 games and two minutes a game on the penalty kill, Schultz finished:

-- fifth in plus/minus differential (plus/minus on and off ice per 60 minutes)
-- 45th in goals against-on ice/60 minutes.
-- behind Hamhuis, Boyle, Duncan Keith, Christian Ehrhoff, and Tyler Myers, among others, in quality of competition faced.

Schultz’ splits have an odd quality to them. In 26 games against teams in the Eastern Conference that made the playoffs, he was 1-8-9, plus-24. In fact, he cleaned up against the East overall. He was 3-16-19, plus-51 in 57 games against the other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference. But against the West, he was 0-4-4, minus-1 in 16 games.

What he does not do, at least enough to satisfy a large contingent of Caps fans, is play a physical game. His 66 hits on the year ranked tied for 118th among defensemen in the NHL. Well, gee, guess what. He is right in the hits neighborhood of Scott Hannan (67), Erik Johnson (70), Derek Morris (65), Nick Boynton (64), and Victor Hedman (59), all rather sturdily built defensemen themselves.

Where Schultz might improve is in the area of blocking shots. His total of 129 ranked him 45th among defensemen, but you might expect more from a defenseman whose role is being more active in his own end. One might chalk this up to inexperience (Schultz still has less than 250 games of experience in the NHL), but he might use his size and frame better to block shots.

The playoffs were not especially kind to Schultz. He was on the ice for nine of the 20 goals the Canadiens scored in the series. Being on the ice for 45 percent of the goals scored by the opposition in this series is about twice the share of opponents goals he was on the ice for during the regular season (23.8). If your calling card is defense and that big plus/minus number, this is not a happy result.

Schultz is very much a work in progress. At 24, he now has 247 games on NHL experience and just completed his first playoff series that he did not have cut short due to injury. In a sense, he is the Caps defense in microcosm – young (four of next year’s top-four will start the year still under age 25: Green, Schultz, Alzner, Carlson), short on experience (those four have a combined 637 games of NHL regular season experience). But the time is arriving (read: next season) when that will cease to be a reason for lack of performance and more of an excuse.

Still, Schultz’ progress was significant this year, despite the opinions of the peanut gallery commentariat. He is never likely to be a Chris Pronger – a defenseman who seems to harbor dreams of biting the head off of an opposing forward and consuming it at center ice. But this season was a huge leap for Schultz in being effective at what the object of the exercise is – preventing goals.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2009-2010 Previews -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “When they boo you, you know they mean you.”






George Halas said that in reference to football, but it pretty much applies to any sport or art form. And no one, it seems, is the target of more boos, or at least more ill feeling among Caps fans, than defenseman Jeff Schultz. Frankly, we’re not seeing either the reason or the purpose. First, there is the calendar. If Karl Alzner does not make the opening night roster (or John Carlson), Schultz will start the year as the youngest defenseman on the roster (he will not turn 24 until next February). Then there is performance. Schultz has played two full seasons and about half of another, and he has been either first or second in plus-minus in each. He has, by far, the best cumulative plus-minus among defensemen over the last three seasons (+30 to Mike Green’s +20).

But Schultz is 6’6”, 221 pounds. And big defensemen are supposed to hit – hard and frequently. Well, maybe. Four defensemen of 6’6” stature played in at least half of their team’s games last year – Alexei Semenov, Marek Malik, Chris Pronger, and Schultz. Only one – Semenov – recorded at least one hit per game (1.13 in 47 games). Pronger came in at 0.95 in 82 games, Schultz at 0.83 in 64 games, and Malik at 0.33 in 42 games. It’s not a large sample, but then again, large defensemen heeding Fred Shero’s philosophy of taking the shortest route to the puck carrier and arriving in ill humor is not a universal truth among big defenders, either.

And here is another odd fact about Schultz. Last season, of the 11 defensemen in the NHL standing 6’6” or taller, only Zdeno Chara and Pronger played in more games, hinting at a certain durability in Schultz’ game (of lack of it in others of his stature). In 2007-2008, only two of 11 (Chara and Hal Gill) played in more than the 72 games Schultz played.

We’re not here to sing Schultz’ praises, inasmuch as he’s a young defenseman (174 career regular season games) who has a considerable way to go in his development, as much as we scratch our head over the antipathy shown to him by Caps fans. Is he – or will he ever be – a top-pair defenseman? Probably not. John Carlson and Karl Alzner would appear to have more promise as a partner for Mike Green down the road. But Schultz can – even as his body fills out some more – be a solid second-pair defenseman.

Fearless: OK, let’s play a game…two defensemen, both in their third year in the league:

Defenseman 1: 67 games, 2-8-10, +11, 20 PIMs
Defenseman 2: 64 games, 1-11-12, +13, 21 PIMs

Even Cheerless can figure out that Defenseman 2 is Schultz. But Defenseman 1?... That would be the 1986-1987 line for third year defenseman Sylvain Cote, who ended up playing in almost 1,200 games over 19 seasons. This isn’t to say Schultz will have as long, or even as prolific a career as Cote – a solid player for almost two decades. But it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that there is an upside to Schultz that hasn’t manifested itself (and might not for a few years – for example, Cote wouldn’t become a 40-point defenseman until his eighth season, his first with the Caps). And Schultz should not be penalized in the comparison just because he’s Pronger-sized and not Cote-sized.

Cheerless: In two years’ worth of playoffs, the Caps have played in 21 games. Schultz has been around for three of them. He missed most of the Flyers’ series in 2008 with a back injury and almost all of the 2009 playoff season with a rib injury. In the last 23 games of the regular season last year, he was 0-2-2, -5 after starting the year 1-9-10, +18 in his first 41 games. You can’t predict injuries, and incurring them isn’t a player’s fault, but you’d like to see stronger finishes than what he’s had so far.

In the end…

Following on to an observation we made about Karl Alzner, nine defensemen were selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. Of that group, three – Mike Green, Ladislav Smid, and Andrej Meszaros – have played in more games. Two – Andy Rogers and A.J. Thelen (one of the great busts in recent memory) – have yet to play in an NHL game. One might conclude that while Alzner has rocketed to the NHL (OK, we concluded that), Schultz’ development has been entirely reasonable within the context of his class. Of those playing more games so far in their respective careers, Smid (9th) and Mesazros (23rd) were selected above Schultz in the 2004 draft, Green (29th) two picks after Schultz.

Last year, Schultz had an impressive plus-minus, but had the worst Corsi rating among Caps defensemen playing in at least 30 games (5-on-5, according to behindthenet.ca). He also had the third worst mark among Caps defensemen playing in at least 30 games at 5-on-5 goals against/60 minutes. But he played a higher quality of competition than did Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, or John Erskine (all of who had better 5-on-5 goals against/60 minutes (all numbers from behindthenet.ca). The point of all this is that Schultz is very much a work in progress, even if there is a vocal crowd of Caps fans imploring him to hit something… anything.

Projection:

60 games, 2-11-13, +11


Sunday, June 14, 2009

The 2008-2009 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz


Jeff Schultz

Theme: “A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem”


That anonymous quote seems to fit young Mr. Schultz rather well. Instead of accepting Schultz for the player he is – a steady one who plays angles and anticipates, who does not sacrifice position for the big hit, fans would seem to want to take the clay that is a defenseman with about two years of experience (174 games, to be precise) and remake him into… Chris Pronger.

Schultz’ curse is that he is a positional defenseman in a Pronger-like body (they are virtually the same size – 6’6” and about 220 pounds). And that’s probably going to be his curse for as long as he plays the game. He might develop more of a physical edge as he gains experience, but he plays a certain way, and that way is not to go for the bone-crunching hit or the bug-on-a-windshield smear against the glass. Compound that with the fact that a defenseman of his size playing the style he does can look ungainly at times, and it makes for a difficult row to hoe with respect to how fans view him. The facts are these…

- He was second on the team amond defensemen in even strength ice time per game, second in shorthanded ice time per game.

- He was fourth in points among defensemen, despite missing 18 games.

- He was second in plus-minus, despite missing those 18 games

- He took only eight minor penalties this year (we’ve noted folks – including ourselves – praising Karl Alzner for having taken only one)

- He was second on the team among defensemen in total goals scored when he was on the ice.

- He had the second best goal differential per 60 minutes at even strength on the team (+0.61, second to Mike Green’s +1.36)

His ten-game segments suggest an up and down sort of year…


There was a solid start, scoring wise (seven points in his first two segments), followed by something of a drought. What he was able to do consistently was finish on the plus side of the ledger – he was even or better in five straight segments (and that even came in a segment in which he played only one game). However, at the end, he faded. From Game 61 to the end of the year, 0-2-2, minus-5 in 21 games, although hey, he hit more often (25 hits in those 21 games).

And that leads us to some unfortunate numbers for Schultz as we delve deeper. He was last among defensemen on the team with 50 or more games played in his Corsi rating. He followed up his five goal season last year with a single goal this year – a shorthanded empty netter against Pittsburgh in January. Despite that second best goal differential at even strength noted above, he has the second highest goals-against per 60 minutes at even strength, while the quality of competition he faced was third among the six defensemen playing at least 50 games for the Caps. For a “positional” defensemen, he did not position himself in front of a lot of shots. He was last among the defensemen (50 games, minimum) in blocked shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

As a penalty killer, Schultz faced the second worst quality of competition among the six Caps defensemen playing at least 50 games. Yet, he still was only fourth among the Caps D in goals scored against per 60 minutes in 4-on-5 situations.

An odd number shows up at this point, and that concerns his home and away performance. Despite the heckling he gets from the home folk, Schultz was a better performer at Verizon Center (0-6-6, plus-14, seven PIMs) than he was on the road (1-5-6, minus-1, 14 PIMs), or at least his numbers came out better.

And here is another odd one, if you’re not inclined toward being a Schultz fan… against the other seven playoff teams in the East, he was 1-4-5, plus-12, with only two penalty minutes in 23 games.

Part of Schultz’s problem is that when he makes a mistake, it’s usually a doozy. He’s like the cornerback in pro football whose mistake is out there for all to see. None was bigger than the game-winning goal scored in Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs, when Schultz got his legs tangled at the Capitals blue line, and Brandon Dubinsky left him writhing on the ice as the Ranger skated in along to net the winner. It would be the only playoff game in which Schultz would play. Why? Well, not because of the gaffe, but the fact that he had a broken rib that was suffered before this misfortune.

Schultz is yet another one of those arbitration-eligible restricted free agents among the defense. His cap hit of $763,889 this past season was, frankly, a bargain. What that means in terms of a new contract, that’s another matter. Is he worth Shaone Morrisonn money (at least what Morrisonn earned this year). Almost certainly not. But the Caps can fill only so many holes on the blue line, if anyone departs. Since he is in a competition of sorts with two other defensemen for contracts (Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina being the same situation), his return is not a certainty. But for all the nonsense he takes for the contradiction that fans seem to feel between his size and his style, he is what he is – a young defenseman who could one day be a quite effective, if unspectacular one.

Grade: B-