As it stands, Ryan Jones is shooting 13.0% for the year. This is, however, somewhat misleading – he has two empty net goals which have inflated his shooting percentage. If you look at his shooting percentage with a goalie in the net, he’s scored 12 goals on 106 shots, an 11.3% shooting percentage. This is of note because Jones was a bit of a cause celebre for the people who believe that shooting percentage tells us a lot about a player before the season. Jones himself was one of those people, explaining:
“When you go to the net and you’re banging home goals that are two feet away, you shooting percentage is going to be high. I don’t take a lot of perimeter shots because I’m a guy who likes to get rid of the puck. I let the defence and my linemates take the shots and I drive to the net hard.”
I had some doubts about that as an explanation for his shooting percentage. As always, I think it’s helpful to break these things down into ES/PP/PK. At 5v5 before last year, Jones had taken 97 career shots, scoring 10. Last year, he took 98 shots and scored 15. This year, he’s taken 95 shots and scored 7. Less than half as effective as he was before. He basically invented a whole narrative for himself, on the basis of a single season, that didn’t even match with his past history.
Of course, although Jones’ S% has fallen this year, it hasn’t quite fallen as much as we’d have expected. Why’s that? He’s got the two empty netters mentioned. He’s shooting a career high 40% on the PP. Coming into this season, he’d scored 7 goals on 40 career PP shots (17.5%). He also has two shorthanded goals this season, something that’s notoriously fickle – he had one, total, coming into this year.
In any event, what was really interesting to me was that Jones had this whole narrative at the start of the year about how and why he deserved to have a high shooting percentage that sounded sort of bogus and, lo and behold, it was. He’s likeable though (so I’m told; his charms are lost on me) and will undoubtedly be an analyst somewhere when he retires.
* * *
One of the things I like to do here is document what the Oilers claim their expectations are for things (this year: the pathetically low goal of not being in the draft lottery) or why they do things. I am pretty much convinced that their hockey operations department is still in the Stone Age and that the only way we’re ever going to see real success in Edmonton is if these people get far luckier than they deserve. (Aside: if they don’t make the playoffs next year, I think you’ve got a decent argument that the rebuild is far enough off course that people should get fired, even if you aren’t sold on current evidence.)
Anyway, I was eager to see what Tambellini had to say about why they acquired Nick Schultz.
We’re acquiring a player that has very good experience in a lot of different positions, as far as left and right defence…Nick gives us an opportunity to use him with a shutdown player such as Ladislav Smid, where they can against the top units…It gives us an option to play with someone like a Ryan Whitney, who is starting to skate like he has in the past, and if he needs to go up the ice, you have someone like Nick Schultz who has the gamesmanship to be able to protect and allow him to do things he wants to do with the puck. I think it gives us an option as far as the last couple minutes of play that normally you would see Nick Schultz out there at a crucial time. We’re getting a player that has a lot of poise in a lot of different situations. He’s played in Minnesota for quite some time nwo and has been as steady and consistent a pro as what you can imagine so we’re really looking forward to that.
I was speakin’ to Stevie Yzerman today who had him also at the world championships and his comment was ‘If you’re lookin’ for someone who is a true professional, extremely fit and very dependable, you’re gonna get someone like Nick Schultz that your coaches are gonna enjoy having.” So a nice comment from someone I have great respect for.
…Nick Schultz who gave us that ability to use in different situations and I think we can be better as a hockey club under pressure moments, whether it’s the last couple minutes or when we’re defending a lead or learning how to play with a lead, I think he has the ability to show and demonstrate that type of poise that we’re going to need as a hockey club. We have some veterans that are getting better, we have some young players that are emerging on the scene where they’re starting to require the moments where it’s very important. And then, with that, you need players like a Nick Schultz to kind of settle things down.
When we’re looking at the mix and going forward, it’s something that we don’t have enough also is what Nick Schultz brings. More importantly to us. Like I said, he has a vast experience as far as NHL play, international play, so he’s seen a lot of different things and comfortable in a lot of different aspects of the game of where we need to get better. and where he needs to. I love the poise he brings to our hockey club. And the fact that he can play left defence or right defence for a defence group that is emerging, changing as we go here, he’s gonna be an important piece.
2. He can play left D or right D.
3. Stevie Yzerman likes him.
4. He can play with Ladislav Smid or Ryan Whitney.
5. Ryan Whitney is skating better than he has in the past.
6. He’s played lots of NHL and international hockey.
7. Young players are emerging that that are starting to require the moments where it’s very important
8. He can play at the end of the game when it’s important and you’re defending leads.
1. Boy, he says “poise” a lot. It is, however, entirely possible that he doesn’t know what “poise” means. He went on to say, with respect to Yzerman: “I have great respect for Steve. His poise of analysis and discussion, y’know he brings good perspective. He’s a good person to listen to.” Maybe he thinks it’s a synonym for “quality”? I don’t know. Bizarre.
I’ve been actually thinking about this a lot lately. It’s awfully easy to make fun of Tambellini’s speaking patterns – he’s a bad speaker who says odd sounding things. It always struck me as sort of unfair that debates were central to political campaigns because debates aren’t really a central skill when it comes to governing. Maybe the guy with the stutter and weird pronunciations is better at governing and policy than the smooth guy who can toss out good lines, you know?
Maybe the way presentation pays off for a GM can be seen in Brian Burke and Tambellini. The Leafs have been pretty bad since Burke took over. Not Oilers bad but pretty bad. There don’t seem to be the same widespread doubts that Burke has any idea about what he’s trying to do though. That might be, in part, because Burke is basically a cartoon character GM, with his quippy one liners and gravelly growl. He has the managerial equivalent of the good face. Tambo? Not so much. Also, he has a complete lack of poise.
2. There was some speculation, when Schultz basically was a third pairing guy initially (he’s averaged 17.6 minutes a night so far), that he might just be losing a bit of a body count, in that he could only play on one side and the left side was full. This doesn’t seem to be the case – looking at his time in Minny, he was paired up with lefties frequently and, presumably, played the right side.
Looking at the games, Schultz has played two apiece with Sutton, Whitney and Peckham. In all of them, he appears to have been on the right side, despite being a lefty (although I noticed him lining up a bit differently for d-zone faceoffs against Dallas when paired with Sutton.) Lefty/lefty pairings. This makes it all the more curious that Schultz hasn’t been able to crack the top two pairings, outside of the two games that he’s played with Ryan Whitney. Maybe they want to have puck carriers in the top two? (Mirthless laughter.)
In any event, I can see the limited use of Schultz as possibly being understandable if they want him tutoring a younger player or providing some of his world reknowned poise, but I’m not sure why he’d spend two games with Andy Sutton then. Nor can I fathom why you wouldn’t shorten the bench
3. Pathetic name dropping.
4. Oddly, Schultz has played three games with Whitney so far and four games with Peckham/Sutton. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this Schultz/Whitney pairing but I’m wondering if they’re doing it to a) hide Whitney and b) give him some more protection in the form of a veteran defenceman. Last night against San Jose, Schulz played with Whitney most of the night and played just 1.1 minutes against Joe Thornton, which is astonishing. Andy Sutton and Corey Potter saw more time against Thornton than did Schultz. Whitney barely played against Thornton either.
5. Ryan Whitney’s skating has been directly responsible for something like five goals against since this trade was made. As noted, Renney looked to be hiding him from Thornton. I’ve noticed an odd little tic in Whitney’s skating too; rather than stopping when he’s backing up and then switching direction, he does these long, looping turns. Like width of the circle long. The Oilers can say what they want about his skating coming back but the coach doesn’t seem to believe it. Neither do I.
6. I mean, who cares. Tom Gilbert was an established NHLer at this point in his career. Is Schultz’ experience that much more valuable? Or is it just more miles on the odometer?
7. I pretty much just included this because it sounds delightfully crazy. I have no idea what it means or to whom it’s referring. Jeff Petry?
8. I can see, in some circumstances, that there’s merit to the idea that you want a shutdown guy to preserve leads. It seems to me though that the time when you start worrying about fine tuning your car for optimum performance is when the only thing left to do is make tweaks of ever less significance to improve performance. In the Oilers’ case, the car is on fire and Tambo’s mucking around with the timing mechanism or something. They need about three more quality defencemen.
I’ll be interested to see how this progresses but it seems to me like a trade that’s hard for the Oilers to win. If Whitney’s finished, they’re stuck looking for a Gilbert. At best it’s a sideways move, at worst a backwards one. Regardless of any of that though, the rationale just sounds crazy and that’s the most important thing – if the process stinks (“Steve Yzerman, who has poise, says this is a good idea”) then you’re stuck hoping you get lucky enough to win. Tough way to build a team.