As we've all no doubt seen in the frenzy of recent profiles, tweets, blog posts, TV features and radio appearances, Jeff Schultz fever is (finally) spreading; more ink has been spilled over Jeff Schultz in recent weeks than has been spilled by the Jeff Schultz who spills ink for a living.
It's well-deserved, of course, for a player who, at age 23, has the second-highest plus/minus rating in the NHL, behind only his high-scoring teammate, Alex Ovechkin. It would be easy and perhaps logical to assume that the two statistics are related, that Schultz's +27 owes a great deal to Ovechkin's goal scoring exploits.
What if I told you that even-strength goals by Ovechkin account for only one-third of Schultz's plus/minus total?
What if I told you that even if all of Ovechkin's tallies were wiped from the scoresheets by some cosmic malfeasance, Schultz's plus/minus rating would still stand at +18?
What if I told you that a plus/minus rating of +18 would still place Schultz fifth among all defensemen, ahead of guys named Lidstrom and Pronger?
So while it would be easy to assume that Schultz's boat is being lifted by Ovechkin's high tide, it simply ain't true; Ovechkin has scored only nine even-strength goals with No. 55 on the ice.
Patient Capitals fans believed Schultz to be capable of this type of defensive prowess; his +13 at the end of 2008-09 hinted at it, at least. So what accounts for Schultz's dramatic statistical blossoming? Maturity and experience have to come in to play, for sure; the arrival of Bob Woods might certainly explain some of it, as well.
More likely, however, is that he's being paired with better teammates, specifically Mike Green and Tom Poti. Schultz's QualTeam has risen to .307 this season from .095 last season, placing him second among all blueliners except Green's "regular" partner, Shaone Morrisonn (.337).
With greater talent surrounding Schultz comes greater responsibility as well. Schultz's QualComp value has risen from -.006 in 2008-09 to .042 this season, which, among Caps blueliners with more than five games played, places him behind only Poti.
In short, Schultz is skating with more offensively-gifted teammates than ever before, while facing more offensively-gifted opponents. Put those two conditions into a calculator and the answer is +27, no matter who's scoring the goals.
Thanks to Behind the Net for the advanced statistics; for an explanation of QualTeam, QualComp and other stats, click here.
[Image via here]