As the regular season inches closer, day by day, the time has come to predict and begin to take a look at what the Caps and their fans can expect from each player on the roster. Today's player is beloved "tree man" Jeff Schultz, who will begin his seventh season in the organization this fall.
Recap of Last Season: Schultz fell off pretty spectacularly this past season following his good 2009-10 campaign. He played in only 72 games because of a broken hand he suffered early in the winter, but was only able to record a goal and nine assists in those 72 games. His plus-minus also dropped precipitously from the previous year. But outside of statistics, Schultz was just worse in all facets of his visible game as well. He rarely kept his feet moving in the defensive zone, was easy to beat down the wing, and lost coverage frequently at even strength. Put simply: no bueno. For my full post-season analysis of Schultz's 2010-11, click here.
Expectations for this Season: Schultz should reprise his role as one of the Caps' stay at home defensemen this year, blocking shots and seeing a regular shift, because he can be reliable. He should be a first-choice penalty killer again because of his shot blocking prowess, and should rebound after his below-par campaign last year. Barring injuries, I also think he sees the lineup way more often than John Erskine, detailed here. I expect at least a partial return to form.
Playing Time: Defensive pairing C; primary penalty killer. I think that for the most part, Schultz will see his time in the lineup with Dennis Wideman on that third pairing, as they played well together last year when Wideman was healthy. If the blue line gets torched by injuries again, he could see time on the second defensive pairing as well. As I noted above, Schultz is also going to see a lot of time on the penalty kill because he is going to be better defensively than he was last year and he is so good at blocking shots. I go into further detail on that topic here.
Projections: 74 GP, 2 G, 10 A, +15 rating, 16:49 ATOI.
The next season preview will feature Matt Hendricks.