Edmonton Oilers Players in Review: Justin Schultz


One of the most controversial players among Edmonton Oilers fans is the enigma that is Justin Schultz. Recently, the Oilers resigned defenceman Schultz to a one year, one-way contract totaling $ 3.9 mil USD. This past year Justin Schultz was often faced with heavy criticism from management, coaching staff and fans alike and therefore it is difficult to accurately review and project but there is a lot of optimism surrounding this particular player.


After signing a one-year deal on August 28, 2014 to remain with the Oilers, the potential for Schultz to emerge as a steady NHL defenceman became a plausible reality. However, prior to the puck drop on the 2014-15 season, then General Manager Craig MacTavish set unrealistic expectations for one of the promising blue liners in the Oilers line up.

"“I know he’s going to be a player that can be counted on in both ends. I think that Justin has Norris Trophy potential and I don’t think there are too many people who disagree with me in that regard.” – General Manager Craig MacTavish"

Without even playing a shift the level of expectations for Schultz was already astronomical, drawing heavy criticisms from all levels of hockey experts. While not entirely steady in his own defensive zone, his tremendous offensive upside fits the game of the young talented forward group of the Oilers. Schultz has the ability to be an offensive weapon; moving the puck up quickly to the forwards and presents the bursting speed and offensive instinct to jump up in the rush as an added attacker.

Under the former coaching regime of Dallas Eakins / Todd Nelson, the defensive inability of Justin Schultz became amalgamated into the struggles of the entire Oilers squad.  His play did improve under the leadership of coach Todd Nelson but with new bench boss Todd McLellan coming in its important to give Schultz a clean slate entering the 2015-16 season.

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Statistically, Justin Schultz was one of the highest played defenceman averaging over twenty minutes a night throughout the 2014-15 seasons. Having watched several Oilers games over the past season it strikes me that in 81 games played that he only managed a mediocre stat line.

"GP: 81 G: 6 A: 25 P: 31 +/-: -17"

While the entirety of the Oilers squad struggled last year this stat line is sub-par results expected for an offensive defenceman let alone a “Norris – potential”. By being an average defender at best in his own zone, the majority of his ice time came with offensive zone starts and valuable power play time to no avail.

It was quite common to see the Oilers fandom raining down negative comments and severe criticism on the defensive liability that is Justin Schultz and he was quite often declared the whipping boy for goals scored on a struggling Oilers squad.

I feel that there is still a great deal of potential within a young, offensively gifted defenceman like Schultz but when the team struggled it was rather easy to point out the struggles of his defensive game. However, I am fully confident that his defensive game will improve under the direction of head coach McLellan.


There is without a doubt in my mind that the play of Justin Schultz will improve in the next coming season. While the Oilers defense core on paper is already more talented and capable than the opening night roster of yesteryear. The addition of the Oilers adding Andrej Sekera means that no longer does Schultz need to play a top pairing role. A reduced ice time will benefit Schultz, giving him potentially easier forward match ups and allow him to concentrate on his offense capabilities. My prediction is based on Schultz playing on the second and/or third pairing but at least being on the second power play unit.

"GP: 75 G: 9 A: 36 P: 45 +/-: -4"

As you can see it’s a tad bit more productive progression because I feel that under the guidance of McLellan and more specifically defense minded assistant coach Jim Johnson, Schultz will show improvement in the defensive areas while given more freedom to pursue offensive opportunities when they arise.

This upcoming season will be a measuring stick for Schultz, having only a one year contract he will be playing for another chance to stay with the Oilers. If he struggles throughout the upcoming season he might be playing to advertise his abilities for a NHL contract on any of the 30 teams. However, I would love to see Schultz find his game within the new McLellan system and see him develop into the offensively gifted defenceman the Oilers have shown to be in need of. Only time will tell exactly what kind of a player the Oilers have in defenceman Justin Schultz.

Next: Edmonton Oilers Players in Review: Luke Gazdic

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