The Los Angeles Kings signed Jeff Schultz to bring the physical, defense-first mindset he had as a member of the Washington Capitals for seven seasons. A poor camp and inability to adjust to the Kings’ style of play saw Schultz waived and playing in the AHL for the Manchester Monarchs during the season. Such a demotion would be viewed as a slight by many established veterans, but Schultz played his game and never showed an ounce of unprofessionalism while riding the buses in the minor leagues all season. Schultz was recalled when the playoffs began and he was skating as a “black ace” during the first round. When Robyn Regehr went down with an injury early in the playoffs, it was Schultz who stepped in to fill the void, hitting and blocking shots to make the Kings even tougher to play against.
Schultz’s play wasn’t exactly of the highest standard as he was scratched in Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks, but he should still be applauded. For starters, Schultz’s role is a thankless one that doesn’t reflect in the stat sheet, but is surely appreciated by his teammates. Not every player is going to be a big-time star, but in order for a championship to be won, everyone has to contribute in their own way. Schultz has done that in a manner that wasn’t detrimental to the Kings’ postseason chances as he ate up valuable minutes and used his veteran expertise to keep scoring chances against to a minimum.
Schultz is a free agent at the end of the season and his stepping in during the playoffs may very well have earned him another NHL contract in L.A. or elsewhere. With the mix of injuries and ineffectiveness of Regehr, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, the play of Schultz has been greatly beneficial to the Kings’ postseason success. If the Kings go on to win the Stanley Cup, Schultz’s play and professionalism should not be discounted as they came at a time when the Kings needed both.