Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
Nick Schultz was one of the most popular players in the Minnesota Wild’s locker room, as well as being their longest tenured player by over two hundred games. With 743 games in a Wild uniform, there’s no surprise why the trade that sent the 29-year-old defenseman to the Edmonton Oilers sent a shockwave through the Wild’s locker room, leaving many in St. Paul searching for words.
Wild forward Devin Setoguchi probably summed it up best, saying, “It sucks and it’s always no fun, but its part of our game.”
If the Wild’s locker room was shocked about the trade, though, Schultz was downright floored.
“It’s basically all I know,” Schultz told reporters after learning of the trade. “Being here and playing here and being a part of this team, so it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be an adjustment for myself and my family, but it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with.”
Hearing those words come out of a player’s mouth doesn’t necessarily breed excitement about the level of commitment that the player might bring to their new team. With Schultz, however, a lack of commitment doesn’t even enter into the equation.
“It’s tough right now,” Schultz told reporters. “But they’re (Edmonton) a great young and upcoming team with a lot of talent that’s trying to build a winner.”
The addition of Schultz shows, also, that the Oilers recognize that their blueline is lacking defensemen that are versatile and have the ability to play a strong game in their own end, which is exactly what Schultz brings to the table.
With four points this year, it’s clear that Schultz won’t be setting the world on fire with his offense, but he immediately gives the Oilers a trait that is equally as important – the ability to prevent goals from going into his own net.
“I think we can be better as a hockey club in pressure situations,” Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini told reporters. “I think [Schultz] has the ability to show and demonstrate that type of poise we’re going to need as we get better as a hockey club…[Schultz] has got vast experience as far as NHL play, international play. He’s seen a lot of things and he’s comfortable in a lot of different aspects of the game that we need to improve.”
What’s more, though, is that Schultz has brought a consistency to the Oilers’ blueline that has been sorely lacking.
“What he brings is something we don’t have enough of, a dependable, very fit, very experienced defenseman,” Tambellini told reporters. “I love the poise he brings. We’re getting a player with a lot of poise in a lot of different situations. We have to get better in big moments. He understands a lot of the different parts of the game and a lot of the looks of the game. His compete level is hard. He’s a match-up type of guy that plays against a lot of the top lines.”
The biggest complaint by those that follow the Oilers, however, was the fact that the team traded Tom Gilbert who, at his best, can be a 40-50 point-per-year defenseman, for Schultz who is a disciple of the Jacques Lemaire, defense first school of defensemen. Schultz, though, has done his best to silence those critics in his first three games in Edmonton, tallying assists in two of them.
Who knows? If he keeps up this kind of play, Schultz might find himself in the good graces of his one-time detractors.
Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
Northwest Division Notes
Calgary Flames With 572 consecutive games, Jay Bouwmeester is the leading NHL iron man among defensemen and is eighth all-time, with no active players on the list ahead of him. … Forward Mike Cammalleri suffered an upper body injury against the Dallas Stars on Sunday and is expected to miss Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. There is no word as to whether or not Cammalleri will miss more than just that one game.
Colorado Avalanche Gabriel Landeskog was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for the month of February. Landeskog had 13 points in 12 games, including a six-game point streak.
Edmonton Oilers The Oilers recalled Linus Omark from the Oklahoma City Barons. Omark has six goals and 16 points in 18 games for the Barons. … General manager Kevin Lowe was named the general manager for Team Canada for the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Minnesota Wild Nick Palmieri and Clayton Stoner returned to practice on Monday. Stoner has missed 15 games with a lower body injury, though there is no timetable for his return. Palmieri, though, is questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Vancouver Canucks The Canucks will be hosting a telethon on March 8 to benefit the Canucks for Kids Fund. The Canucks host the Winnipeg Jets on March 8.
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