Hockey Correspondent and One-Time Shakespeare Character, White Cover Magazine
I’ll keep this short, because it doesn’t take a lot of time to write the gist of it: Justin Schultz is very, very good.
And yet, while I was making my list of the seven defencemen who should be on Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics — and then a list of a bunch of spares who could also play gold medal hockey — I completely forgot about Schultz. His name just kind of escapes your attention. He’s young and he’s not the only young player on his team, and it’s going to be hard enough just taking one man from the quarter of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, and Taylor Hall (and, I believe it should fall in that order).
Some think P.K. Subban should get a shot. An encore for Brent Seabrook, perhaps? What about Marc Staal? And, Drew Doughty seems like a gimme, although he may not even be the best Canadian defender on his own team, the Los Angeles Kings.
Now, there are a ton of men who could play just fine on Team Canada. Actually, there are several who would be perfect thwarts to the Russians or the Americans.
The Vancouver Canucks, for example, have three in Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis, and Kevin Bieksa, but none of them will make it. They’re not on the darling list. They’re not members of the union, so to speak, and they won’t be a call back.
But, Justin Schultz is the real deal. Not only is he logging over 23 minutes of ice time per game in his rookie season, but he’s been Edmonton’s best player most nights. He’s looked like a man, not a boy, and his poise and calmness with the puck is something every blueliner should admire, whether they’re 13 or 43 years old.
“Justin possesses all of the necessary elements to be a catalyst for what looks to be exciting times ahead for the Edmonton faithful,” said TSN analyst Craig Button just recently.
“His combination of excellent skating, passing, thinking, anticipation and the desire to make a difference when it matters most, gives the Oilers a look of a player they have not had since the days of Paul Coffey. While Paul remains one of, if not perhaps the best skater in NHL history, Justin looks to provide similar type impact from his defense position.”
If Schultz continues to trend upwards in the next calendar year, it would be criminal to see him left off the Canadian roster in Sochi.