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2018-19 Penguins’ Season in Review: Justin Schultz

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The Penguins defenseman spent some time on IR and showed good signs after coming back from injury.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Vitals

Player: Justin Schultz

Born: July 6, 1990 (28 years old)

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 193 lbs

Birthplace: Kelowna, BC

Position: Defenseman

Shoots: Right

Draft: 43rd overall (2nd Round) by Anaheim, 2008 Draft

2018-19 Stats: 2 goals, 15 assists in 29 games played

Contract status: $5.5M cap hit, under contract for one more season. Without another contract extension, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

The past:

After opting not sign an entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks, Schultz signed a free-agent entry-level deal with the Edmonton Oilers. In 2016, Jim Rutherford rescued him and traded for him before the deadline. Schultz would find his game and get back to being a confident puck-moving defenseman, becoming an integral part of the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup winning teams.

Pittsburgh Penguins Victory Parade And Rally Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Regular Season History

Schultz’s season was limited to just 29 games in 2018-19, due to a bad luck broken ankle when a Montreal player finished a routine looking check on him. Interestingly enough, since Schultz’s breakout 2016-17 season, he’s only played 92 games combined since in the last two seasons, putting up just six total goals and 42 points in the last two years after generating 12 goals and 51 points in his best career season.

Fancier Stats

After performing as a 50%+ Corsi and Fenwick player in each of his first three seasons as a Penguin, Schultz suddenly had a very bad fancy stat year and was pinned in his zone a lot more than ever before in Pittsburgh. Gee, I wonder what happened? (Hint: see charts section below for by far his most common partner).

Playoffs

Schultz’s three points were tied with Evgeni Malkin for team-high and Schultz’s game-tying goal with 89 seconds left in Game 1 vs the Islanders was probably the high water mark of the Pens’ season. They would get no closer or better that year. Kinda sad.

Monthly Split

via Yahoo!

The long injury break is the story of his season, but check out that ice time in February. Almost as soon as Schultz returned to the lineup Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin got hurt, so the Pens had to lean on Schultz BIG time. He couldn’t ease back into the lineup at all, and even though everyone else was in mid-season form and he was coming back from injury, Schultz performed very admirably. He didn’t waste any time, making an impact by scoring a goal in his return to the lineup for the Stadium Series game in Philadelphia.

Charts

Schultz got second pair minutes and individual production, but as we’ll see the team did not fair well territoriality while he was on the ice.

His age-28 year is defined by that big white chunk in the middle representing all the time missed to the broken ankle. You have to wonder what the season would have looked like for the Penguins if they had more stability back on the blue line during that period of time.

And here answers the question as to why Justin Schultz had his worst statistical season as a Penguin - he was paired primarily with Jack Johnson all season long and Johnson was an anchor to Schultz, pulling him under and forcing them to spend more time in the defensive zone, despite very friendly offensive zone starts and usage.

More illustrations that mainly show Jack Johnson is not a very good hockey player. He has to go!

Highlights

The aforementioned goal that tied Game 1 against the Islanders late to force overtime at Nassau Coliseum. Feels like that was about 3 years ago.

I remember watching this goal live from the Stadium Series game and thinking “wow, the Penguins sure have missed defensemen who can shoot the puck like that”

Ideal 2019-20

The ideal situation for the Penguins and Justin Schultz is two-fold. The first factor is hoping that another bad injury doesn't come along like it did for the 2018-19 season. The second factor is making sure that Jack Johnson is not wearing a Penguins uniform when September rolls along.

Realistic 2019-20

I don’t think the ideal possibilities are all that far away from the realistic possibilities. We already know that the Penguins have tried to move Jack Johnson in a potential trade with Minnesota, so one has to assume that they will keep trying throughout the summer. Come back and yell at me if you want, but my guess is that Jack Johnson gets traded at the draft. That leaves the first hope that Schultz stays healthy. It’s hard to deem players “injury-prone” when broken legs and ankles come as a result of hits the way that Schultz’s did. Make the first factor happen and I think we can make it work for the second.

Worst Case 2019-20

Worst case is simple. First of all, it means that Jack Johnson doesn't get traded, and secondly it means that Mike Sullivan keeps playing the two of them together.

Discussion

What kind of year do you think Justin Schultz would have had if he had stayed healthy? What kind of year do you think he would have had if he had not been paired with Jack Johnson? Can we look towards 2019-20 with a thought that we can see both things happen ideally? If he had stayed healthy all year, would it have made all that much of impact for the Penguins bottom line and helped stabilize things?

Poll

Grade Justin Schultz’s 2018-19 season?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    A
    (12 votes)
  • 35%
    B
    (124 votes)
  • 34%
    C
    (120 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
  • 23%
    Incomplete (due to injury)
    (81 votes)
349 votes total Vote Now