He hasn’t even played one NHL game yet, and already Justin Schultz is starting to annoy me.
The Edmonton Oilers agreed to terms with the 22 year old on June 30, ending months of speculation as to which NHL uniform would have his last name stitched on the back of it.
Prior to the media inventing the “Schultz Sweepstakes” schmozzle that began to elevate his billing to an inaccurate Sidney Crosby level (you may remember the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes of 2005), the kid did a lot of things right – he played Junior ‘A’ hockey rather than Major Junior, which qualified him to earn an NCAA scholarship, plus he got drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, before his arrival at the University of Wisconsin in 2009. He’s even from my hometown of West Kelowna, BC, Canada, and played with our local junior hockey team (Westside Warriors of the BCHL) from 2006-09. I’ve never met him, but there are a lot of reasons why I should back the kid.
But here’s where Schultz gets a little squirrely to me. My beef boils down to him seeming like a guy that started to believe his own hype, got a little selfish, and dictated his own future in a game that so many young, hopeful players would do/accept anything in order to play at its top level. And if you sense a tinge of jealousy in that statement on my part, it’s because I’m stocked full on it. I just don’t see how a player who hasn’t competed in a single NHL game could have so many teams falling at his feet to sign with them, especially a defenseman. It’s all just so…. Eric Lindros/Quebec Nordiques-ish.
Chronologically speaking, the first thing that bothers me is his seemingly cavalier approach to his college career. His play spoke for itself, winning him seven NCAA awards and two finalist nominations for player of the year while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, so clearly he earned all the on-ice accolades he collected while there. But after playing out three of (presumably) four years of his eligibility/scholarship, Schultz withdrew from school, and walked away from another free year of education, and likely whatever degree he was working towards.
That move pretty well nullified his rationale of not playing Major Junior hockey in the first place (assuming he had the option as a teenager), and pursuing the college route that every hockey parent hopes their hockey playing child with NHL aspirations will choose instead.
On a personal note, as someone who played college hockey, earned a degree, and is still paying off student loans six years after completion, this move grinds me a little extra. I mean, he couldn’t have waited one more season, graduated, and jumped to the NHL the following season? There’s always the possibility of injury, a down year, or some other stock-dropping scenario to that option, I suppose. And also, when your paycheck is going to start including millions of dollars every year, securing a strong education for the purposes of landing a good paying job to secure your future in a struggling economy probably isn’t a high priority anymore.
Secondly, as an afore mentioned player who would have killed to play in the NHL myself, Schultz turning his nose at the team that drafted him rubs me the wrong way too. Granted, the Ducks sat on him long enough without pulling the trigger that he had the right as per the CBA to entertain offers from the 26 teams that expressed interest (just who were the four teams that didn’t even try, by the way?), so it’s not like Schultz technically did anything wrong here – it’s just that I never had any NHL team interested in me and would have taken anything passed my way (I’m not the only one), especially from the team that claimed me first; whereas Justin Schultz has size and a ton of talent that rightfully garnered him a plethora of interest from nearly every team in the world’s best hockey league once he became an option. The notion of rejecting an NHL team absolutely boggles my mind. If roles were reversed, I’d like to think I would have chosen loyalty and stuck with Anaheim, personally. I was never good enough to find myself sitting in the position he was though, and maybe if the freedom of options that were plunked in his lap were given to me, I very well may have gotten selfish with my future residence too — especially if I had received a persuasive phone call from Wayne Gretzky to try and seal the deal.
Without knowing him personally, I doubt Schultz desired the attention his situation drew, but it certainly was enough to generate an amount of widespread interest that I assume produced a better offer than Anaheim was tabling to him. Good on the kid for getting the amount of money and location that he wanted, not many players get to do that.
Whether you agree with what he did or not, the deal’s done, and the onus now is on Schultz alone to deliver on his own hype. I don’t see it being easy for him – he’s used to playing less than 50 games a year in the NCAA against lower (than the NHL’s) caliber, compared to the NHL’s 82. The NCAA has produced its share of future NHL talent though (Toews, Parise, Miller, Thomas, Keith, Heatley, Kesler, St. Louis, Kessel, etc), so don’t look too far down your nose at the talent pool he most recently developed in. Also, he’ll be no stranger to the travel rigors of playing all over the continent, so that will work in his favor. But beyond that, I don’t have any other bones to throw him.
As we’ve been doing since this all started, all we can do until October when Schultz lines up for his first faceoff as an Oiler is continue to speculate as to whether he will turn out to be the star that some believe he will be, the bust that others predict, or just an average player in the league. Playing alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Nail Yakupov can’t hurt his chances of success – but we’ll see how reality plays out soon enough.
And truthfully, although this little situation does annoy me, I am pulling for the hometown kid to live up to his billing.
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 2, 2012]
A puck bucket full of hockey thoughts to tee up….
Four of the eight teams remaining in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have direct ties to Wayne Gretzky – The Great One played 18 games with the St. Louis Blues in 1996, 234 games with the New York Rangers from 1996 – 1999, coached 4 seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 – 2009, and played 539 games with the LA Kings from 1988-1996, captaining them to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history. Had the Edmonton Oilers not been laughingly awful yet again this past season and lived up to hype and expectations, this could have been an all-Gretzky playoffs. Gretzky was known to have been vocal about wanting to win just one more Stanley Cup before he finished his career – is it that far-fetched to think that if one of those teams manages to win the Cup this year (there’s currently a 50% chance of that happening), Wayne might find a way to sneak on the ice and hoist the grail one last time?
Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they’re beginning to draw a lot of similarities to the underdog 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens – both entered the playoffs as the eighth seed of their conference, both eliminated the President’s Trophy winner of that season in the first round (Montreal beat Washington, Los Angeles ousted Vancouver), and both had/are having unexpected success in the second round (Montreal eliminating Pittsburgh, LA currently mauling St. Louis). The main difference though, is that it took Montreal 7 games to win both of those series – it only took the Kings 5 in the first round, and they are in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead now. Of course, Montreal was beat in the third round, and LA’s playoff fate is not yet written. Los Angeles’ main criticism heading into this year’s playoffs was their inability to score – coming off a series sweep over St. Louis most recently, and with three players in the NHL’s top 25 playoff scorers (Brown, Kopitar, Richards), that ailment seems to be cured. Their goaltender remains a standout, and they’re shown their toughness is not an issue either, mixing it up frequently in both series. While both the Habs and Kings teams look similar, LA looks to be well on their way to faring far better.
A moment of discussion about a frame from game 2 of the Rangers/Capitals series…. The score was 3-1 Rangers with roughly 8 minutes to play in game 2, at which point Washington took a Too Many Men penalty. Caps’ coach Dale Hunter elected to have Alex Ovechkin serve that penalty. The announcer was quick to point out that Ovie’s serving of the penalty was a strategic move in hopes of springing him on a breakaway at the conclusion of the infraction, which is all well and good. My counterpoint to that is that on every team and every level I’ve played on, the player that generally went over to serve a bench minor penalty was an “expendable” player – maybe a fourth line or injured player, or just someone who wasn’t getting a lot of ice time for whatever reason that game, and it certainly wasn’t by any means because our coach had a strong confidence in their breakaway ability. So from that standpoint, it looks like Ovechkin may simply have been chosen for removal from participation in the game for 2 minutes when their team needed 2 goals really badly in a short amount of time if they hoped to win the game.
The chance of that breakaway opportunity actually occurring is relatively slim and more of a crapshoot; a hail mary play that is too low percentage to gamble on when the puck could just as likely be in a precarious scoring chance against Washington when the penalty expires. It seems like a positive spin a coach might pose to a psychologically fragile player that needs positive reinforcement to perform well so they don’t conclude that they are the team’s expendable player while sitting alone for two minutes or less. By the strategic logic, Hunter should have put Matt Hendricks, Washington’s shootout goal leader through the regular season, in the box for the opportunity at an uncontested run to the net.
It’s not like Hunter is afraid to clip Ovie’s wings if he’s not performing either– Ovechkin played 21 minutes in game 2 and was a -1 in the loss, while in game 3 he only saw 13 minutes of play (the least he’s ever played in a single playoff game), and scored the game winning goal. So the query point I want to raise is this: do you think Ovechkin serving that bench minor penalty was a strategic move for a chance at a scoring chance, or was it a knock towards his expendability and/or need to improve from coach Dale Hunter?
Further, the Caps should maybe consider making Ovechkin a dman if he’s only going to score from the point now.
The 2012 World Hockey Championships are nearly underway in Finland/Sweden, and the world’s “best” will be competing to improve their world rankings – Canada currently sits at fifth in the world, and will be looking to improve on that seeding with a decent roster, but one that does not include names like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton, and many other big name players that are available, but have elected not to compete for reasons of varying legitimacy. With many national rosters in the same boat, is it even fair to place as much value on this tournament as there is? Is there no way that this tournament can be played out at a different time of year where all of the world’s best hockey players can compete against each other to determine the world’s best? Or is it possible that the world’s best hockey players simply aren’t taking the tournament seriously enough when they should be jumping at the chance to wear their county’s colors on the international stage?
Hockey Talkie: Winnipeg Jets, Draft, Oilers – Smyth, Taylor/Tyler Trump, and the Creepy Keeper of The Cup.
Do you remember in 1994 when the unnamed Baltimore franchise competed in the CFL, and then won the Grey Cup the following year? It looked like we might be getting to that point with the “Winnipeg NHL franchise”, until mercifully, they officially introduced themselves as the Winnipeg Jets at the 2011 Draft. Great move. I understand the arguments to have called the team other things to be more provincially inclusive, or go in a different direction; but in the end, the team did the right thing – they gave the people what they wanted. Gonna be awkward when the Phoenix Coyotes play their first game at the MTS Centre though. Now all they have to do is swindle Teemu Selanne out of Anaheim and they’ll be set. Also, jerseys and a logo would be nice.
On the heels of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and with last year’s #1 overall, Taylor Hall, ascending the podium with the Oilers brass to announce the first overall pick, I had a thought a while back….with a Stanley Cup ring in his first year in the league, did Tyler Seguin check-and-mate the Taylor vs Tyler debate? Seems like the ultimate trump card, does it not? These guys are going to have long, successful careers in the league, and the debate will probably live on for years, but at this point, Taylor’s got a whole lot of catch-up to play; especially while still a member of the cellar-dwelling (albeit youthful talent laden) Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers…. You know you’re either Canadian or just plain nuts when you voluntarily request to move from +30° C LA beach weather to -30° C Alberta blizzard weather, as Ryan Smyth is trying to wiggle his way back to Edmonton. I really respect what Smyth has done in the NHL, and for team Canada and all, but where does he get this crazy notion he can play for anyone he wants to? Even though he’s following all Wayne’s team footsteps, Gretzky went where he was told in the end (PS – you should watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Kings Ransom” on the Gretzky trade for that whole story). It just seems a little arrogant for Smyth, which is extremely out of character. With LA nabbing Richards from Philly, I’m sure the Kings aren’t exactly clambering to pick up the pieces after his departure. It’s too bad, because he was one of LA’s more productive players last season, right into their playoff run.
Good to see the Columbus Blue Jackets finally acquiring some talent to help out Rick Nash from doing everything. I was seriously thinking of starting a FREE RICK NASH campaign to try and get him traded to team with a chance to win, but with these latest developments, I may have to sit on that one for a little longer.
Phil Pritchard, aka the” Keeper Of The Cup” sure does polish the Stanley Cup a disturbing, creepy amount, wouldn’t you say? The guy is with the trophy every day of his life; have you ever seen him not rubbing that Cup down with that little grin on his face? I thought he might go all Smeagol/Gollum and run out and stab Zdeno Chara this year after Bettman took the Cup away from him and gave it to the Bruins’ captain. He probably could’ve claimed the riot tweaked him out, and gotten away with it.
Brad Marchand is the NHL’s new Claude Lemieux, pest/irritation wise. With those babyface red cheeks of his and inability to grow facial hair, perhaps just less assuming, but just as ratty.
And lastly, even if you didn’t like the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, you gotta agree, seeing that Stanley Cup hoisted is absolutely extraordinary. What an exclamation point of a literal life-long journey for those fortunate enough to win it. The most difficult trophy in sports to win, and the biggest and most impressive looking for a reason. I wonder if any of this year’s draft picks will be lifting the grail above their heads, ala Tyler Seguin, at the conclusion of next season?
Schwartzel Taps His Inner Seinfeld For Masters Win, Tiger Loses Again, Norm MacDonald, and Hockey Quips.
Shameless self-promotion: I had my latest newspaper article published; did you pick up a copy of The View on Friday? Click here to read it online if you don’t get the paper. Also, follow @LakeCountryBB and @BlackbeltsLCF on Twitter.
Sorry if this throws you off, but I’ve got a few golf comments to make. I watched the final round of The Masters today, something I didn’t think I was capable of doing. A big part of making it tolerable was listening to Norm MacDonald’s “Norm Cast” running commentary of the event, and even getting one of my tweets read on the air live by Norm. You should follow Norm on Twitter @normmacdonald and @normsportsshow , and check out the website.
The tweet I got read was, “If Tiger Woods wins the Masters today, expect Michael Vick level forgiveness of transgressions from the masses.” Valiantly try as he might, Tiger did not win. Charl (es?) Schwartzel did wins The Masters, and subsequently lifted the “Seinfeld Curse”(dubbed by Norm and company, as Charl has a striking resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld, facially). So I guess this means Tiger is still a dirty man-whore. How slutty do you think Tiger was over the weekend to play as well as he did? Also, do you think Tiger Woods was rattled that Lee Westwood’s wore his same red shirt, black hat/pants/shoes setup for Masters Sunday? That’s Tiger’s Sunday getup, Lee, everybody knows this.
I felt painfully bad for Rory Mcilroy, watching his Masters-sized meltdown. Guy was leading until he hit a shot onto some guy’s front lawn (who has a house on Augusta, btw?), and basically collapsed from there. Had a chance to be the youngest guy since Tiger to win the Masters, and then he BA-lew it.
I was closet-cheering for South Korea’s KJ Choi to win, and he was in the hunt. I bet KJ Choi played a lot of screen golf in Korea as a youngster. Only people who have lived in Korea will understand that comment. Basically, screen golf is virtual golf; and most Koreans play it instead of real golf because there are very few real golf courses in Korea as there’s very little previously undeveloped land to build them on, and the ones that exist are extremely expensive and exclusive. I am a little surprised Jinro Soju isn’t KJ Choi’s major sponsor (another Korean inside joke, sorry). SK Telecom must’ve won a screen golf bet for his rights.
So the last place Edmonton Oilers beat the Canucks back to back before the end of the NHL regular season? Can anyone else feel Vancouver’s first round slipping out of their hands?
Vancouver’s Raffi Torres’ hit on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle seemed like a classic tall guy’s elbow naturally falling at short guy’s head level. Clean hit if Raffi got lower. I honestly thought it was a good, hard, borderline clean hit. The Chara-Pacioretty thing has every call on eggshells, and discipline is expected everytime someone goes down. I think Torres said it best himself, saying he was just finishing his hit, and if he hadn’t he probably wouldn’t be seeing much more ice. I like Eberle, but if players can’t hit, the NHL turn into touch hockey before we know it.
I’m happy that my LA Kings won’t be facing Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs, especially now that they are without Anze Kopitar. I’m also happy that Vancouver will be meeting Chicago in the first round. I’m a casual fan, and I don’t invest my entire existence into my hockey team, nor their playoff hopes. If LA doesn’t win, no big deal. However, for Canucks fans, if Vancouver bows out early yet again, look out innocent civilians residing in the lower mainland of BC….
Rookie Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and seasoned veteran Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils both have 30 goals this year. The difference between them? $97.3 million in salary. That seems fair. Oh, Jacques Lemaire just retired again, and Brodeur sucks now? New Jersey is in trouble going forward. Jeff Skinner on the other hand, not so much. Calder?
Martin St. Louis sure is content using those obscenely yellow Easton sticks, isn’t he?
I have a hunch that more NHL players are going after Gordie Howe hat tricks on purpose and as a real stat these days. Not that I mind.
I enjoyed Toronto’s late playoff push. I love how mad so many people would have been if they got in. I think the Leafs have a lot to look forward to next season, as long as Brian Burke doesn’t Niemi/Halak his #1 goalie and trade James Reimer in the off-season, in favour of backing Giguere or Gustavsson (who is anything but a monster. Unless he’s one from Monsters, Inc).
And finally, Cory Clouston gets tossed out of Ottawa. After getting the worst out of every good player Ottawa had under his regime, feuding with Dany Heatley to the point of a no-trade clause waiving trade, and finishing nearly last in the league over and over, how did it take this long for this to happen?
Ok, first some shameless self-promotion…. I’ve been published! Like, in a real newspaper! “The View” in Lake Country will be printing my stuff every two weeks, both in ink and online. Here’s a link to the first one. If you live in the Winfield/Lake Country area, be sure to pick up a copy and have a gander. Check out their website too, and follow them on Twitter.
Ok, some hockey…..
As much as I hate the Vancouver Canucks, I do have to be objective from time to time, and give them their due. They’ve had an unreal season. The Sedin’s are running things. Can you imagine how many points Daniel would have had last season, had he not gotten hurt? Nearly comparable to what Sid Crosby might have ended up with minus his concussion this season. That ‘C’ might even have ended up on his sweater, rather than Henrik’s. Well, enjoy your President’s Trophy win. And remember, that award is for REGULAR SEASON accomplishments. If you’d forgotten that the playoffs are a whole other world, I’m sure a first round meeting with the Blackhawks will jog their memories pretty quick. For the past 2 seasons, the President’s Trophy winner has lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Bruins, Captials), and it has been a curse to many other winners too. Vancouver residents, have you purchased your 2011 riot protection gear yet?
Also, Alex Burrows leads the NHL in all-time most “what, no call?” looks at referees.
Speaking of Crosby…this is out of line, but it’d be funny if his returning to the NHL now because Mario Lemieux told him if he didn’t play again, he’d have to move out of his house and get a real job. Luckily for Sid, he’s been out of Mario’s for a while now. Supposedly.
I don’t get why a respected veteran like Mark Recchi would say something stupid like a guy with a fractured vertebrae was embellishing. He said it was to take some heat off of Zdeno Chara after the Pacioretty incident, but I mean come on man, that’s pretty low. Those who argue his “veteran savvy” in diffusing a volatile situation can’t possibly compare what Recchi said to Gretzky showing up at Marty McSorley’s trial and drawing the media to the front of the building while Marty made a slick escape out the back. This is more like Chara did something regrettable, so Recchi went all topper, and said something stupider than Zdeno actually performed. Just seems unnecessary, unclassy, and disrespectful, especially coming from a 2-time Stanley Cup champ, multi-time all-star, and future hall-of-famer. Whatever. The Bruins slaughtered the Habs in the rematch, and basically just pwn them all around now.
TSN’s Oilers documentary, “Oil Change” seems like it was named with wishful thinking. They’re still awful, just like last year. What is it exactly, that changed? I’d still like to see more of this and HBO 24/7’ish NHL programming next season; and as I’ve mentioned before, it’d be unreal to shoot a show like this in the Cup finals.
With the baseball season underway, go ahead and try to justify why MLB teams need to play 162 games a season. No really, go ahead, I dare you. Can’t do it? Shocking.
I loved this little quip from President Obama on the NFL labor dispute, especially the little smirk at the end: http://youtu.be/-x9NDSxGV90 Figure it out NFL. Or your fans may be forced to endure a “New NFL“, too.
Is it just me, or does Andy Roddick seem like he’s trying WAAAY too hard to be the John McEnroe of this generation of tennis, verbally? I guess pro sports are entertainment after all; I’m sure sports not included in the “big 4” need to try a little harder to compete for viewership and advertising/merchandise sales.
Annnnnd, some non-sense……
I’ve purchased 3 Tim Hortons’ Roll-Up The Rim To Win Cups, and had one winner (coffee), leaving me with a .333 winning percentage. Could be better. But then again, it could be worse, and I could be addicted to coffee.
If you can’t pay your debt to the mafia, and they break your legs, or whatever, does that clear your debt, or do you still owe? Do they keep breaking more things until your cough up the cheddar, or does the bodily harm cover it?
If we all collectively start ignoring Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, & Justin Bieber, will they all go away and disappear from conversation?
Piers Morgan is the worst interviewer on TV. And of all-time. Someone make him go away. Who thought he’d actually work out as a follow-up to Larry King?
Scream 4? Come on….seriously? They actually thought it was a good idea to make another one of those? The Arquette split must’ve been more expensive than either David or Courtney realized it would be.
Instead of going on detox diets, why don’t people just not-tox in the first place? Wouldn’t that save a lot of time, pain, and money?
Is it just me, or do most minimum wage jobs require a lot more actual, physical work than most high paying jobs?
Whomever ended up with 555-5555 as their phone number must regret accepting those digits.
The band Rush, to me, is as rap music is to my dad: Bothersome noise. Turn that crap off!
In honour of the 2010 #1 Overall NHL draft pick, the Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall FINALLY scoring his first goal, I decided to look into some of the best all-time first NHL goals ever scored. Unfortunately for Taylor, he didn’t make the list. His teammate, Jordan Eberle did though [hint: he's at the top of the list, and my pick for the Calder Trophy this year/lead all rookies in scoring]. Keep in mind that these are not ranked as the best goals these players have scored, they are only the best first NHL goals scored by players. Also, there are only 5, and the only ones I could post video evidence of. I have a feeling I’ve missed some good ones ( I can’t find Gretzky’s, and a whole bunch of others that I assume scored beauts), so feel free to chime in with some suggestions/corrections, but be advised, you have to defend your pick with video evidence :) Please take the poll after you peruse the evidence and vote for your favorite, or specifiy an alternative!
So without further adieu, here’s how I’ve ranked the NHL’s best firsts, starting at the top:
1) Jordan Eberle toe-drag (ala announcer…”FROM FOREHAND TO BACKHAND!”):
2) Anze Kopitar OMG:
3) Mario Lemieux breakaway bury on the first shot of his first shift:
4) Jonathan Toews snipe:
5) Tyler Bozak dangle:
*honorable mention for situational awesomeness* Danny Syvret scoring in the Winter Classic: