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 PotiJeff 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 PotiJeff 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.