Photo: Debora Robinson
Last summer, the Washington Capitals bought out the final season of Jeff Schultz’s four-year, $11 million deal. The 6’6”, 227-pound defenseman fell out of favor with Caps brass, and the Calgary, Alberta native asked for a trade. When they couldn’t find a willing partner, they bought him out. The Caps ended up using Sarge’s $2.75 million cap hit on Mikhail Grabovski, and we all said goodbye. It was time.
Over the summer, Schultz signed with the Los Angeles Kings. He didn’t make their team out of training camp, so he spent the entire season with American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs. He put up pedestrian numbers there–two goals and 11 assists– but Sarge has never been a stellar boxcar stat guy. On Monday night, with Robyn Regehr injured, Schultz was given a jersey by Kings coach Darryl Sutter. He looked like a changed player.
It was weird– and not only because he was playing his first NHL game since DC against Bruce Boudreau, Mathieu Perreault, and the Anaheim Ducks.
Sarge played well. He played rugged. Yes, rugged. I saw him clear the crease with authority and play with more tenacity along the boards. He had some nice stick work. He also seemed lighter on his skates.
I know Teemu Selanne is like 1,000 years old, but Sarge beat him in a foot race for an icing! I couldn’t believe it.
Sutter rewarded Schultz with ice time in the final minute. He did so many things. Like I said, it was weird.
Jeff Schultz saves Quick after a bad rebound. Jeff Schultz knocks Corey Perry off the puck, gets it out of the zone. Jeff Schultz!
— Cörey Masisak (@cmasisak22) May 6, 2014
After the Kings won 3-1, NBCSN’s Brian Hayward spoke to Conn Smythe winning goaltender Jonathan Quick. The first question was about Jeff Schultz and how awesome he did.
“He was great,” Quick said on national TV. “He stepped in and played great for us. He logged a lot of big minutes, PK, stuff deep down in our end. Obviously they have a lot of big guys that are good around the net and he handled it well. It was great.”
“It’s been a couple years since I’ve been in the playoffs,” Schultz later said to The Orange Country Register’s Rich Hammond. “There’s no other place I’d rather be, trying to help the Kings go as far as we can.”
While the Kings were outshot 19 to 9 with Sarge on the ice, that followed the trend of the game: Anaheim more than doubled up the Kings in shots 37-17. That does not take away from the fact though that Mr. Nasty played some big minutes against some of Anaheim’s best players.
Jeff Schultz gave the Kings 19:58 and an even rating in first game with them w/Mitchell and Regehr out.
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) May 6, 2014
Jeff Schultz ended up with 7 d-zone starts (to 6 in o-zone), 50% of his minutes against Getzlaf and 4th most minutes among LA D.
— Robert P. (@RobertJFTC) May 6, 2014
After washing out in Washington, I’m happy for Schultz. He’s always had a bunch of talent and the right tools to be a dominant defenseman. That’s why he was a first-round pick.
After last night’s game ended, I spoke to Chris Gordon. After a few jokes, I said to him, “that’s exactly the type of player we need in Washington.”
Props to Sarge for using the new coaching and opportunity available to him to make us feel that way. Hard work always pays off.
Mr. Nasty might win a Stanley Cup.
Blood on his jersey!
Quick talks about Sarge.