Friday, August 10, 2007

Jeff Schultz By The Numbers

If the Caps have an offensive lineman-type on their team, it's probably Jeff Schultz, and not because of his size (in fact, I'm sure "Sarge" would agree that he could stand to put a few pounds of muscle on his 6'6" frame).

No, Schultz is reminiscent of a football guard or tackle in that when he's playing at his best, he doesn't stand out. It's when he's doing something wrong - a shockingly rare occurrence in his rookie season last year - that he gets noticed.

For a 20-year-old blueliner to come into the League, play decent minutes for its fifth-most pourous team and finish the season with a plus-five rating is borderline miraculous (Shaone Morrisonn's plus-three in much tougher minutes is even more impressive).

Still, Schultz is by no means a lock to be on the Caps' opening night roster, in part because he can be taxied between D.C. and Hershey without having to pass through waivers and in part because, well, he'll have to earn a spot. While some of Schultz's stats show how good he can be, others show that there's still a way to go in the youngster's development (which, of course, is to be expected).

For example, no regular defenseman on the team had fewer minor penalties per shift than Schultz (that's a good thing for Jeff), who averaged more than 121 shifts in between minors - surprising for a young guy, especially one of that size and whose skating and grace will never be confused with Scott Niedermayer. Here's how the blueliners stacked up in shifts-per-minor:
  1. Muir - 47
  2. Morrisonn - 52
  3. Erskine - 60
  4. Poti (with NYI) - 61
  5. Eminger - 62
  6. Jurcina - 68
  7. Green - 76
  8. Pothier - 94
  9. Schultz - 121
Sure, Schultz wasn't going up against the other teams' top forwards night-in, night-out like Mo or Poti, but there's still something to be said for his discipline (he skated twice as many shifts as Steve Eminger in between penalties, for example).

Another positive for Schultz is his shot-blocking ability (and we all know that the tallest guys are the best shot-blockers). Here are last year's shifts-per-blocked-shot leaders among the Caps' D-corps:
  1. Poti (with NYI) - 13
  2. Erskine - 14
  3. Pothier - 15
  4. Schultz - 16
  5. Jurcina - 17
  6. Morrisonn - 19
  7. Eminger - 21
  8. Muir - 26
  9. Green - 33
Have I mentioned that I'm glad that Muir's gone? Anyway, back to Schultz, prorate his blocked shots over a full-season and he would have been near the very top in the stat among rookie defensemen - very encouraging.

Now, to the not-so-impressive stats. Let's start with the obvious, Schultz's offense. No one expects big offensive numbers from Schultz - it's just not his game. But let's take a gander at the Caps' rearguards' shifts-per-point from last year:
  1. Poti (with NYI) - 51
  2. Pothier - 74
  3. Muir - 74
  4. Erskine - 103
  5. Eminger - 105
  6. Green - 114
  7. Jurcina - 125
  8. Morrisonn - 173
  9. Schultz - 324
Yikes. While the Caps simply didn't get enough production from the blueline as a group, Schultz's number here (which amounts to a point every 12.6 games) stands out in a big way, and is explained a bit by the next stat - takeaways-minus-giveaways-per-shift:
  1. Poti (with NYI) - -.004
  2. Muir - -.006
  3. Morrisonn - -.010
  4. Erskine - -.014
  5. Jurcina - -.015
  6. Eminger - -.018
  7. Pothier - -.019
  8. Green - -.020
  9. Schultz - -.024
Some of the best players in the game are also your worst giveaway culprits. These are high-risk, high-reward guys, for the most part - the guys who are willing to break a few eggs to make an omelette, etc.. But that ain't Jeff Schultz. He needs to protect the puck better and make a good first pass. Improve that, and the point totals will rise as well.

Finally, we'll look at shifts-per-hit. As we know, despite his size, Schultz isn't a big hitter. Here's the statistical proof:
  1. Erskine - 14
  2. Jurcina - 15
  3. Green - 16
  4. Morrisonn - 20
  5. Muir - 22
  6. Eminger - 23
  7. Pothier - 34
  8. Schultz - 36
  9. Poti - 37
It's difficult for fans to wrap their minds around the concept of a huge defenseman who doesn't play the body, but this is the NHL in 2007, so if the kid can continue to use his frame for effective positioning and shot-blocking, it shouldn't be a problem that he doesn't hit like other players of similar size.

So what do we take away from this? First of all, Tom Poti is likely going to be a great addition to this team. But regarding the roster spots, we know that Poti, Pothier, Morrisonn and Jurcina are mortal locks to make the team, and, if he signs, it looks like Erskine probably has a role as a sixth/seventh defenseman. Steve Eminger (if he's still here) probably has a spot in the final pairing, leaving one last spot for Schultz and Mike Green to fight over (of course, training camp can produce surprises, including Josef Boumedienne snagging that last spot).

The fact that both Schultz and Green can be sent down and called up without having to go through waivers may make this a moot question, but if it comes down to those two for that final roster spot, who would you rather see in the opening night lineup?

For more on the Caps' defense, head over to OFB for their excellent evaluation of each and every one of the top blueliners in the organization.


Anonymous said...

Nice work JP - wouldn't it be safe to say that we need more Morrisonn's and Schultz's coming up through the ranks with the defense first mentality? Guys like Green and hopefully Eminger should be compelled to put their offensive skills to work more often, because God knows we need more production from the back. Poti and Jerky should provide more in that regard.

b.orr4 said...

God stuff,Japes. I know that Schultz was the focus of your piece, but what struck me from all the stats is that Poti is far and away the best all-around defensemen on the team. Aside from hits, he's first in virtually every other category. He may not qualify as a true #1 D on a lot of teams, but he certainly fits that bill for the Caps.

b.orr4 said...

Actually, I meant to say good stuff. I like your blog but I don't worship you. :-)

JP said...

b.orr4 - Poti's numbers struck me too. Granted, they were for a better team, but still.

Tyler said...

Superb post. That Poti/penalties stat really stands out because not only did he play against top pairings, but he was over-used minutes-wise (by necessity) and he STILL kept the PIMs down.

I think Schultz sticks if only because Green/Eminger would be a no-go pairing.

Anonymous said...

other anon, alzner and finley definitely qualify as defense first players coming up through the system, and i am very excited for them to get here. look for pothier to have a much better offensive season too. as far as green or shultz goes, id love to have them both with the club and have erskine sit, but if youre going to play erskine you have to send down shultz cause those two as a pairing aint gonna work. all these defensemen are either going to work out great or cause chaos on the blue line due to a lack of continuity. I think its going to work out, which may mean in the form of a quality trade to clear up space and better define everyones role

poti morrisonn
pothier jurcina
shultz eminger


emmy is on a short leash, and assuming that green will evolve into a better player, i wouldnt mind seeing emmy sit or traded, which is a shame, but we got depth!(just a little unproven)
im more confident in the d at this point, especially top four or five, than i am with the bottom four or five forwards (brashear, clymer, bradley, laich, sutherby?)
with that said, the only two of them i have no desire in seeing in a caps jersey are bradley and clymer
sorry for rambling but needless to say im excited

Doug said...

The blueline is starting to shape up. The competition is going to be fierce in camp. Some of the young guys will have time to go down to Hershey and develop, perhaps.

Hockey Amor said...

I think Boumedienne will beat out Green and Schultz because of his experience.