As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals. As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Jeff Schultz, who finished his seventh and most turbulent year with the organization this past season.
Season Summary: As noted above, Schultz endured the most tumultuous season of his NHL career during this campaign. Sarge started out the season where he belonged, in the lineup, and performed well for the most part. After Dale Hunter was hired as coach, Schultz played less and less in December before being benched in favor of John Erskine for the entire month of January despite being substantially better than him. After February 1st, however, Schultz played almost every night until being sat down in late March; he played in 52 games total, his lowest by far in a full NHL season. He posted a goal, five assists, and a -2 rating to go along with 12 penalty minutes; he also had a -4.94 corsi rating at even strength, the fourth-worst among the eight defensemen that played in more than 20 games. He did all of this, however, while facing the fourth-hardest even strength competition among those eight defensemen. Grade: C
Role Play: Jeff Schultz came into this season as the sixth defenseman, and he played that role. What you want from the sixth best defenseman on your roster is someone who doesn't mess up every time he is on the ice, is defensively responsible, and can block shots. Contrary to popular belief, Schultz can do all of those things, as evidenced by his statistics and the fact that he blocked 58 shots. No one expects Schultz to be the best defenseman on the ice, but as a complementary player, he did well. Good thing, too, because that's what Schultz is. Grade: B
Playoffs: As relatively solid as his regular season was, Schultz's playoffs were not so hot. He played in ten games, going -7 in them and being held pointless. He also had the worst even strength corsi rating on the team among defensemen, at -22.28 - and he did that against the easiest competition among all defensemen. His defensive partner, Dennis Wideman, was certainly to blame for part of that, but Sarge was a constant question mark when he did enter the lineup. A very poor playoffs from him; I was dissapointed that Dmitry Orlov remained on the bench while Schultz continued to play. Grade: D
Future Potential: Schultz has two more years on his current contract at a salary cap hit of $2.75 million. Because of his down season and his relatively high price tag, he would probably be tough to trade should the Capitals try and go that route, but he could always been fodder for a team looking to get to the salary cap floor, especially at the draft. If he stays with the Caps, though, expect more of the same; he would probably play almost every night next season, however, because of the likely departure of Dennis Wideman. At age 26, Schultz may even get better before he gets worse, but we just don't know at this point. Grade: C+
The next report card will feature center Jeff Halpern.
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