Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Jeff Schultz

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Teammates are those listed at 10% or greater and at even strength (though the percentage includes all manpower situations). Today, Jeff Schultz)

Jeff Schultz: age 24, 6'6", 221 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: $2.5 million with $2.75 million cap hit, UFA in 2014, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 54% Mike Green, 10% Tom Poti
2010 playoff linemates: 76% Mike Green

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 73 GP, 3-20-23, +50, 43 shots, 32 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 0-1-1, -1, 4 shots, 4 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 3rd in Corsi QoC, 4th in Corsi Rel QoC, 1st in Corsi QoT, and 2nd in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 53.4% offensive zone (second) with Zonefinish 51.7% offensive zone (third). Corsi Rel 3.8, 8th on team, behind Corvo and Green among Caps defensemen.
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 4th in Corsi QoC and in Corsi Rel QoC, 3rd in Corsi QoT, and 4th in Corsi Rel QoT.

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Schultz, green how much better Schultz is with the player)

Tom Poti Jeff Schultz. As late as March 2010, the guy's name instantly struck fear into the hearts of Caps fans. He can't clear the puck on the PK. He scores into his own net, or finds some other way to fantastically mess up in a big way. He can't move the puck effectively on offense. The list goes on. Over the past season, though, Tom Poti Jeff Schultz has shown his value to the Capitals, again and again.

Schultz and Tom Poti aren't too dissimilar. Both are left shots. They played together for the first part of the 2009-2010 season. Both now are primarily defensive players. Both are tall. Both use long sticks. Both are kind of awkward. Both look a little slow with the puck. Both finished the season with 20 assists and don't get enough credit for being able puck-moving first-passersj. Both are oft-maligned in Caps fan circles. But that's okay, since both are much better than they're often given credit for.

Schultz needs to be good defensively, and he is, in general. His defensive GVT was 17th in the NHL. His GAON/60 at 5-on-5 was one of the best in the league, and combined with his high GFON/60 Schultz finished 3rd in the league in +/-ON60. He was the top shot-blocker on the Caps. He played disciplined hockey. He logged significant PK time and was good in those minutes. And then there's this little matter (note: don't bother with the link once the league leaderboards get updated for 2010-2011). He's reliable, and with the past two seasons plagued by unreliability come the spring, Schultz needs to continue his play into the postseason. It's critical that he and all the others contribute so that the Capitals can have a successful playoff run.

What else does Schultz need to do? Well, working on his skating and defensive play will never hurt. He can shoot a bit more, or at least find ways to get shots through from the point (this as a bonus could help Mike Green get shots through by removing predictability as to which Caps' D on that pairing will shoot). He can work on little parts of his offensive game, like pinching a bit along the boards, maybe pinching into the circle on the weak side or in the slot, making smart, crisp passes, and keeping the puck in the offensive zone. It's not critical, though, that he become terrific: merely passable will do.

This all being said, expect to think that Schultz took a step back. His PDO was a league-leading 106.9% as he not only racked up an on-ice shooting percentage about 3% higher than average, but an on-ice save percentage about 3% higher than normal as well. While the save percentage may not drop all that much--I think Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth should provide around .925, which while not Schultz's .945 is better than the average around .915, and Schultz very well may increase that save percentage--the shooting percentage should fall a lot. That means his point and plus-minus totals should fall. On the other hand, the Caps' poor PK should improve, and Schultz will look better as a result.

I guess at the end of the day Schultz will provide low-key, consistent play from the blueline, and we'll be frustrated if we expect anything more. He probably is not good enough to be a top-pair defensemen on other "contending" teams, but he isn't in way over his head, either. Ideally, Schultz is a 4/5/6 defenseman, but because of chemistry and experience issues he gets the enviable job of playing with Mike Green on the Caps' top pair, because he just goes out, quietly does his job (so quietly that Evgeni Malkin doesn't make a noise), and gets off. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy, but just good, solid hockey. 75 GP, 4-14-18, +25.


  1. he is the slowest skater on the caps. he has a terribly weak shot (let alone getting it on net). he still makes mistakes. he has trouble keeping the puck in on the blue line. he doesn't hit often, and when he does it is not with any authority. he seems paralized when trying to figure out if he should move up (pinch) on the play...and often hesitates too much. for his size, he is unable to keep his zone clear. yes, he's young. yes, he's improved a bit from two years ago. but as you said, he is not an ideal top pairing defenseman. and that is why so many are frustrated with him. imagine how much BETTER green would be if he had...oh...say a real defenseman as his partner.

    His stats are all thanks to Green and a high powered offence (to which he contributes nothing). I don't think he'd even crack the line up in Chicago or Vancouver. Put him on a pair with someone other than Mike Green...and he wouldn't come close to last year's plus minus.

    I hope he improves. I think he can. But he is way over-rated. When he is on the ice, I panic...because he is always one skate stride away from falling on his keester, knocking the puck in his own net, or being blown past by fourth line forwards.

  2. "he is not an ideal top pairing defenseman. and that is why so many are frustrated with him. imagine how much BETTER green would be if he had...oh...say a real defenseman as his partner."

    People are going to drive themselves crazy over this. The Capitals don't have a better option than Schultz to play big minutes next to Mike Green, unless Karl Alzner develops like Drew Doughty. He's not ideal, but he's the best the Caps have got.

    "I don't think he'd even crack the line up in Chicago or Vancouver."

    Not true. He'd be 5D on Chicago (even last year), and at least top-4 in Vancouver now (due to their injury issues). He's NHL-good on any team and top-4 good on most teams.

    "But he is way over-rated. When he is on the ice, I panic...because he is always one skate stride away from falling on his keester, knocking the puck in his own net, or being blown past by fourth line forwards."

    Fact of the matter is, although there is video of this, if it happened a lot then it would show up in the numbers. It doesn't. We never notice how good Schultz is because at his best he's completely invisible. I mean, Schultz hasn't been owned that much more frequently than Zdeno Chara, another Schultz-esque skater, recently:
    Hal Gill also gets owned on a regular basis, and is an even poorer skater than Schultz.

    Schultz isn't putting up so many points without Green, no question, but I think you're shorting him a bit. All the Caps overachieved this season, save maybe Varly and Neuvirth. Every single one. On average, Schultz was good, and he wasn't showing weird inconsistency like Semin with 60% or so of his points in multi-point games. That's all we need to know: good and consistently good.

    By the way, I took a random game early in the season, right around when Schultz and Green starting playing together. It's ID 20370, versus Montreal, around game 25.

    Schultz's Corsi% was good even before Green.

  3. Also, don't be mad at Schultz because Bruce Boudreau uses him in a less-than-ideal role. It's why people hate on Poti too--not his fault the coach somehow thinks Poti is a good PKer, or that he thinks Laich and Flash can handle tough ES minutes, for example.