The Fall of Nick Schultz

(Photo credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)

(Photo credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)

Last season, Nick Schultz was praised as a veteran leader who provided some competent defensive minutes on a Philadelphia defensive unit that dressed Nick Grossmann and Andrew MacDonald repeatedly. This year, with MacDonald and Grossmann gone, Schultz has gone from veteran leader who resurrected his career to someone who’s been exposed as being old and barely able to keep up with the game.

The real question is, what’s changed?

First, we’ll look at last year:

Via Behind the Net

Via Behind the Net

Via Hockey Viz

Via Hockey Viz

Schultz’s possession numbers last season fell below Andrew MacDonald’s but he did face tougher zone starts per the Behind the Net records. In terms of 14-15 WOWY, the only player who showed actual improvement with Schultz on the ice was Zac Rinaldo. While Brayden Coburn actually did pull an almost acceptable defense only result out of Schultz last season, there was no one who had a significant benefit from Schultz. Mark Streit did see a marginal improvement, but from a statistical perspective, it was not enough to justify extending Schultz and giving him top pair minutes.

Via Behind the Net

Via Behind the Net

Via Hockey Viz

Via Hockey Viz

Compared to this year, Schultz possession numbers, relative to his teammates, took a nose dive. The effect of this is two fold. One, Schultz’s teammates got better. Andrew MacDonald and Nick Grossmann became Evgeny Medvedev and Shayne Gostisbehere which meant that the bar to judge relative possession changed. Second, Schultz’s Quality of Competition jumped up from 0.586 in 14-15 to 1.28 in 15-16 while his offensive zone start percentage dropped from 44% to 37.2%.

Meanwhile, his WOWY Chart is clustered in roughly the exact same way.

Essentially, while Schultz’s teammates got better, he got saddled with harder minutes which exposed his limited talent even worse than last season. Nick Schultz is a third pair talent, who’s being asked to log top pair shutdown minutes.

The fall of Nick Schultz in the title does not refer to Nick Schultz getting worse, but rather, Schultz being overexposed by being asked to log minutes far above his talent level. From an individual standpoint, he hasn’t really changed much. But the team has gotten better and he has been left behind.

The good news is, he’s actually not bad as a third pair talent and penalty kill specialist. At 38.5 Shots Against/60, Schultz has the best shot on goal suppression, behind partner Mark Streit and Shayne Gostisbehere, both of whom have logged far fewer minutes on the penalty kill.

Given that he is still useful on the kill, a team with a weak penalty kill, say the Winnipeg Jets, could come calling for his services. The Jets may also need to add money given the Dustin Byfuglien trade rumors and the fact they operate close to the floor. If the Jets want to have any hope at a playoff spot this season, Schultz could potentially part of a solution. If the Jets need a veteran contract to stay over the floor next season, Schultz is also, part of the solution.

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