From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. Next up, Jeff Schultz.
#55 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Feb 25, 1986
$2,750,000 cap hit through 2013-14; UFA summer 2014
'09-'10 Rink Wrap: 7.63
Key Stats: Schultz led the League's second-best regular season penalty killing unit in shorthanded ice time per game (minimum 22 games).
Interesting Stat: Since the lockout, only Nicklas Lidstrom has a better plus-minus among NHL blueliners than Schultz, who hasn't finished a season with a minus rating since his penultimate year of Juniors.
The Good: At five-aside, Schultz faced the toughest competition among the team's defense corps, with the exception of the top pair, and did so without the benefit of a consistent partner - whereas in 2009-10 he skated more than half of the time with Mike Green, in 2010-11 that number dropped to just over 40%, with him seeing regular time with Scott Hannan and Dennis Wideman, among others. In those relatively difficult minutes, Schultz fared, well... we'll get back to that in the next section (though it should be noted that Sarge took so few penalties he made Karl Alzner look like a thug, so there's that).
Where Schultz did perform well was on the revamped penalty kill, where he not only saw tough competition, but also posted the best GAON/60 of the team's D's who averaged more than 1:30 of shorthanded time per game (thanks in no small part to his netminders making a lot of saves behind him).
Schultz also played well in the Caps' first-round series against the Rangers, playing five games without being on the ice for a single goal against while leading the victors in plus-minus.
The Bad: Let's face it - Jeff Schultz regressed in 2010-11. As has been the case throughout his still-young NHL career, to get an appreciation for "The Good" from Schultz requires diving a bit deeper than simply glancing at his traditional stats (plus-minus and blocked shots aside). Unfortunately, this time around, the deep dive reveals more bad than good. At even-strength, Schultz was on the ice for as many goals-against as goals-for; the only defenseman who was with the team all season to play more than 21 games and finish with worse +-ON/60 was Tyler Sloan (and if not for a strong PDO, Schultz's numbers would look even worse). His Corsi was pretty lousy, shots-for and shots-against poor, and his offensive rate stats woeful. And despite good numbers on the PK (and with the caveat that he played relatively big minutes on that unit), no Cap was on the ice for more goals against per game than was Sarge.
Back to surface level, Schultz posted the worst offensive numbers of his career, more than halving his goals and assists from a season prior and firing fewer shots on goal per game than during any of his NHL seasons to date.
Finally, Schultz seemed to hit a wall in the second round of the playoffs, as he was on the ice for six Tampa goals (two on the power play) in the four games. Only Marcus Johansson (minus-5) had a worse plus-minus against the Bolts than did Sarge.
The Vote: Rate Schultz below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Schultz's 2010-11 season: aberration or something more? How much of his down year can be attributed to a lack of playing time with Mike Green (or any consistent partner for that matter), or on losing a month of training and 25 pounds in the off-season while battling mononucleosis? Where does he fit in going forward? What will it take for him to earn a '10' next season?