From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Jeff Schultz.
#55 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Feb 25, 1986
$715,000 cap hit in 2009-10; Restricted Free Agent
Key Stats: Schultz tied with teammate Mike Green for the best plus-minus in hockey over the past two seasons, and trailed only Nicklas Lidstrom and Duncan Keith among blueliners over the past three campaigns.
Interesting Stat: Schultz is the first defenseman to finish a season with a plus-50 rating or better since Chris Pronger in 1999-2000.
The Good: Sarge, a healthy scratch on Opening Night, responded to an increased role (that of first-pairing rearguard, partnered with the game's most dynamic offensive defenseman) by shattering personal bests nearly across the board, punctuated by a franchise-record plus-50 rating. He had two plus-five games (the only player in the League with that distinction), three plus-fours (only Eric Staal could join Schultz in making that claim), and even had five multi-point games (entering the season he'd had one in 174 games played). Schultz, who won't turn 25 until next February, led the team in blocked shots, was second among defensemen in even-strength assists and points, and committed just one minor penalty per 90.6 minutes of ice time (a better rate than all Caps blueliners who played twenty games with the team). His Defensive GVT was tops on the team and his five-on-five +-ON/60 was the best among all NHL defensemen (his GAON/60 was fourth-best and his GFON/60 second-best), all while playing against the second-toughest competition among the Caps' regular defensemen. He was also arguably the Caps' best penalty-killing blueliner (perhaps damning by faint praise), facing the second-hardest competition and sporting a better GAON/60 at four-on-five than anyone else in the D-corps not currently fighting for a second-consecutive Calder Cup.
All of that, and he scored this beauty of a goal:
The Bad: Schultz's giveaway-to-takeaway ratio was bad (though Milan Jurcina, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan were worse), his offense still limited, and his footwork downright awkward at times. There are also a handful of stats that temper some of the more impressive numbers above and imply that there was a fair amount of "right place, right time" going on for Sarge in 2009-10. Specifically, he had an absurdly high PDO (which basically means that the Caps shot and save percentages were exceptionally high with him on the ice), a lot of offensive-zone starts, and had some of the highest-quality teammates around (of course, it's unfair to discount entirely Schultz's contributions to these numbers).
Then came the playoffs, where Schultz and his partner struggled mightily at the outset - Sarge was on the ice for five of the first eight goals the Caps allowed - and hardly recovered. But hey, he had a better playoffs in 2009-10 than he had a year earlier, so that's something.
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: With Schultz due a new contract, should the team look to lock him up long-term, or go with a one- or two-year deal? What's a fair price for Double Nickel? What would you like to see him improve upon in his game? What will it take for him to earn a 10 next season?