Typically seven points in 12 games will get you positive reviews. For Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers, that just hasn’t been the case. Nor should it be. As it stands, no team in the NHL has been worse on defense than the Oilers. Despite adding Andrew Ference as a free agent and signing a two-way forward like Boyd Gordon, Edmonton still has been awful in its own zone.
Leading the way in terrible defensive coverage is Schultz. He’s a minus-seven on the season, which literally washes out his seven points entirely. If the Oilers had their way, they would likely trade all of Schultz’s offense output for him to be a plus-five player. That isn’t how things work in the NHL though, and defensemen that are among the league’s best know how to pick their spots.
Schultz doesn’t know how to do that yet. That has Edmonton looking high and low for some defensive help.
If Oilers GM Craig MacTavish could magically acquire a top-2 defenseman today, he would… EDM looking hard to improve overall team defense
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 26, 2013
It’s belabored at this point, but until this team figures out how to prevent goals, that stash of top-end youngsters won’t amount to anything. If you look at the teams around the league that have had success, they have strong (if unheralded) pairings on defense. The Boston Bruins don’t feature a run-and-gun type of defender, yet are consistently Stanley Cup contenders. Ditto for the Detroit Red Wings and even the San Jose Sharks.
Good teams have defenders that can recognize when to jump up in the play and not cost their team more often than they score. It’s a learning process, and perhaps one that Schultz needs to learn before Edmonton can take any steps forward.