As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $2.75 million in 2010-11, $2.75 million in 2011-12.
The year that was: Jeff Schultz is one of the traditional stay-at-home defensemen on the Capitals’ roster. He’s not going to blow anyone away with speed, but when at his most effective, his positioning allows him to break up plays. He’s a reliable shot-blocker and presence on the penalty kill – traits that the Capitals missed when he was out for nine games with a broken thumb in December.
While Schultz returned quickly, he may have been affected by Mike Green’s prolonged absence late in the season. It’s difficult to quantify how much of an impact it had, of course, but Green and Schultz were paired together 10.71 percent of the time this season, compared to 15.41 percent a season ago (via Dobber Hockey).
A year after being on ice for the fewest goals against at even strength per 60 minutes among Capitals defensemen (1.61), Schultz saw that number jump in essentially the same amount of average ice time (19:51 last year to 19:46 this past season).
Of the defensemen who spent the year in Washington and played at least 30 games, Schultz was on the ice for 2.27 goals per 60 minutes at even strength — second most behind Tyler Sloan (2.49). Schultz also had the second-worst Corsi rating of that same group at –2.62 in the regular season, which is a significant drop from last year’s 8.52.
Looking ahead: After a breakout season and a subsequent relative drop off this past year, the upcoming 2011-12 campaign will offer Schultz a chance to find an equilibrium. Whether some of the instability was brought by Washington’s change in systems or the lack of a consistent defensive partner may not matter, so long as Schultz can improve after three years of being relied upon for at least 19 minutes of ice time per game.
With younger players like John Carlson and soon-to-be restricted free agent Karl Alzner stepping up and embracing workloads as a shutdown pairing, Schultz appears to have been jumped in the depth chart this past season.