If the Edmonton Oilers want to trade Nick Schultz they should put him on the third pairing

That Nick Schultz is not having a great season for the Edmonton Oilers is obvious to anyone who has spent any amount of time watching the team. What is particularly interesting, though, is how often Schultz’s struggles relate to the role he is asked to play for the team. When Schultz is placed in a third pairing role, he isn’t half bad, but when he’s elevated into the top four his game collapses.

I’ve been tracking scoring chances for the Oilers all season, and have totals recorded for 58 of the team’s 60 games. I’ve also been recording line and defence pairings, and what caught my eye was how Schultz’s on-ice numbers fluctuated when he was with a given partner.

Consider this. When Nick Schultz lined up with one of four partners – Anton Belov, Taylor Fedun, Brad Hunt or Corey Potter – the Oilers were out-chanced by the opposition 87-79 when he was on the ice. That’s not a great total, but it’s not bad either; it means the Oilers had 47.6 percent of the chances, which is a substantial improvement on the 45.5 percent the team has recorded over the season. In other words, Schultz’s pairing outperformed the team average by two percent, provided he was playing with one of those four players.

Now, when Schultz lined up with four other partners – Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz or Ladislav Smid – the Oilers were out-chanced 148-82 by the opposition. That’s a terrible total; it works out to Edmonton recording just 35.7 percent of the chances, almost eight percent lower than the average of one of the NHL’s worst teams.