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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oilers Sign Justin Schultz – It was Lucky but Tambellini Patted Himself and Lowe on their Backs Anyway! – Also, Deserved Rebuke of Tambellini and Lowe

The Oilers have been looking for an effective offensive defenseman for a long time, and today, the start of free agency, they hit the jackpot by signing Justin Schultz, a young, talented player who was a steal at the cost of an entry-level contract plus bonuses.

Schultz was originally drafted by the Ducks back in 2008 (Round 2, 43rd overall) but refused to sign with them and decided to play at the college level and study until he would become a free agent in July of 2012. What made him one of the most sought-after free agents this year? Three things: his youth, his low price, and his outstanding play in the three years he was with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In both 2010-11 and 2011-12 he was named the WCHA defensive player of the year, and he was also named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award each of these years. In 2010-11 he had 47 points in 41 games (18 goals and 29 assists), while in 2011-12 he compiled 44 points in just 37 games (16 goals and 28 assists). Obviously, he was a much desired commodity. 

Pretty much every NHL team made an effort to get Schultz, but it really came down to three possibilities: Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. Toronto made a huge effort to obtain Schultz and so did the Oilers, while Vancouver was the favorite in many people’s minds since Schultz is a BC boy—Kelowna. The Leafs used defenseman Jake Gardiner to try to convince Schultz to decide on Toronto, the two are good friends, while the Oilers used a barrage of people. In the end, Schultz chose the Oilers as the best place to begin his NHL career. I will explain why in a moment.

On June 28th, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, new head coach Ralph Krueger and Taylor Hall flew to Toronto to meet with Schultz to see if they could work his mind / sweet talk him. Furthermore, Kevin Lowe got dirty by contacting Gretzky and Coffey and asking them to phone Schultz to try to convince him to go to Edmonton. Both did phone Schultz and I guess Gretzky felt he owed something to his buddy Kevin and also to the fans of Edmonton for leaving. Nevertheless, all of this pressure was not responsible for Schultz’s decision to sign with the Oilers, but rather, various circumstances came into play. Lowe  and Tambellini were simply lucky to get the nod from Schultz and they landed him for the following four reasons, none of which had anything to do with Lowe and Tambellini’s skill in doing their jobs—and yet, Tambellini, in his pride, shamelessly patted himself on the back as he spoke to the media about the signing. 

  1. First, Schultz wanted to play in Canada.
  2. Second, and most importantly, he wanted to play on a team that had many players around his own age, as this would allow him to feel comfortable and enable him to easily connect with his teammates and make friends. The Canadian team with the greatest number of young players is of course the Oilers, who, will have eight under 24 including Yakupov. Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal have around five each, the Jets four, and the Canucks and Flames just three each. So, it was clear to Schultz that he would decide on the Oilers.
  3. Third, Schultz liked the Oilers team when he was growing-up.
  4. Fourth, Shultz wanted to play on a team where he would get a lot of ice time, and a team that had a coaching style that agreed with him. Schultz respected the attitude of Krueger. Schultz would have been given plenty of ice time in Toronto and Edmonton, and probably less in Vancouver (depending on how he adjusted to the NHL of course). One could say that Schultz wanted to be on a team that was going to have a great chance to win the Stanley Cup in 2013, but only Vancouver fits that role and the Oilers are likely looking at two to three years before they get their shot, depending on their goaltending. Tambellini and Lowe forgot that they needed an elite goalie to make the road to a Stanley Cup victory that much easier, and they did not even draft a goalie in this year’s draft! Unbelievable! They ought to pat themselves on the back for that too.     
All said, it was not Lowe and Tambellini who were the main factors in Schultz’s decision, but it really was luck since the Oilers had the situation that Schultz wanted to be in—one more comfortable for him with more players nearer to his own age. In fact, it has been Lowe’s and Tambellini’s abominable work that put the Oilers in the situation that they are now in, so, I guess they are indirectly responsible for getting Schultz—ha, ha, ha! Tambellini, go ahead and take credit for being a lousy GM who has screwed the Oilers in the drafts, in trades and also by never signing any significant free agents, previously. Furthermore, Tambellini, you don’t even know what players are worth and you have offended good players (Ryan Jones for example) and you have also blown money on players who really have not contributed much to the team—Hemsky for one, who you extended for two-years for a whopping 10 million dollars! Does he clean your house as part of the deal? Kevin Lowe has been no better. Both of these guys ought to pat themselves on the back for winning the draft lottery too—ha, ha, ha.

Yes people, I do hate to see Tambellini and Lowe taking credit for something that involved more luck than anything else. These two guys know no shame, and is it any wonder they were the first guys to bring cheerleaders into the NHL in Canada. If the Oilers can’t put out an entertaining team without cheerleaders it is time to pack it in boys. The people can get their “peeps” and sex at home! Kevin Lowe should have phoned Gretzky to ask his opinion on the cheerleaders. Certainly, Gretzky would have told him that it was sleazy, and Gretzky knows because he had to put his daughter in place for flashing her stuff all over the place. 

Regarding Schultz, he will make $925 000 a year for the next two seasons and also received a $92 500 signing bonus, but, the real money comes in performance bonuses as this takes him up to a potential 3.775 million US per year. Afterwards he will be a RFA and will have the opportunity at many millions if he performs as expected.

With Schultz on board, the Oilers just became a lot stronger and there is envy and concern in Calgary that is for sure.

TJ Stanley