3-2-12 Update: Thanks for reading, Mr. Fletcher, it means a lot to me.
Let me preface this entry by saying I know there is a lot more involved than looking at statistics when evaluating hockey players. Defensive ability is hard to quantify; players that rarely score are often counted on to shut down the opposing team’s best players. Having said that, over the course of a career you can get a decent handle on a player’s offensive ability by looking at the numbers.
Let’s take a look at Minnesota Wild defenseman Nick Schultz. He’s the longest-tenured player on the roster, having been with the team for 10 seasons. Here are some of his career numbers:
740 games played, 25 goals, 102 assists, 127 points, 318 PIM
When I first looked up those statistics I thought to myself "Dang, that’s really inept." But as I considered this I gave Nick the benefit of the doubt and thought he probably has comparable numbers to a lot of career defensemen in the league. Not the case.
I ran a search on hockey-reference.com and discovered there are no active NHL players with more games played and fewer points scored. None, nada, zip. A few are close:
Colin White (SJ), 781 games played, 21 goals, 107 points, 129 points
Cory Sarich (Cal), 868 games played, 20 goals, 122 points, 142 points
Here’s where things get even more frustrating. In terms of salary, White is making $1.0m this season and Sarich $3.3m. Both contracts expire after this season. Our guy, Schultz, is making $3.6m this season and is under contract for the same amount for the next 2 seasons.
All of this notwithstanding, these dizzying numbers would be a little more digestible if Schultz were a bonafide shut-down defenseman. Or even if he was a gritty, stir the pot guy ala Willie Mitchell. Sadly, he embodies neither of these qualities. Don’t get me wrong, he’s decent, maybe even average. On a playoff-caliber team he’d be a 4th or 5th defenseman, but they’re paying him like he’s a 1 or 2. This speaks volumes on the lack of Wild defensive depth and to the poor decision making of former GM Doug Risebrough.