As we celebrate the Capitals' 40th anniversary, let's take a moment to...
Play Taps for the Sarge
Photo by Alena Schwarz
I think you can make a good argument that Jeff Schultz is the most hated player in Capitals history. Enough people hated Larry Murphy that the “whoop” was invented for offensive-minded defensemen returning to DC in other uniforms. Joe Corvo sparked almost universal disdain. The only thing that comes close to the Schultz Hate was Kevin Hatcher Hate.
It’s no coincidence that both Hatcher and Schultz are/were both large defensemen. It’s also no coincidence that both of them didn’t have much of a “physical” element to their games. Hatcher wasn’t going to go out there and blow people up like Scott Stevens, and similarly, Schultz wasn’t going to punch Chris Thorburn’s and Milan Lucic’s face in like John Erskine.
Hatcher and Schultz, more than anything, were the victims of optics. Big, hulking defensemen aren’t supposed to be goal scorers or solid, stay-at-home players with good positioning in fundamentals. They’re supposed to be killers and maulers and “crease clearers” and intimidators, and that was not Jeff Schultz’s game. Ask yourself, Caps fan, how many articles/internet comments/twitter blurbs did you read over the years about Jeff Schultz that involved (with very vaguely veiled homophobia and sexism) about “Shultz [sic]carrying a purse” and “Shultz pussyfooting around” and “Shultz (it was always “Shultz” wasn’t it?) should wear a dress lulz!” You can probably go read a selection comments like that on Katie’s article today if you’re not doing anything better, like slamming your own head into the wall or giving the cat an enema.
That’s the Schultz I will remember, but it’s not the one I want to remember. I want to remember +50, and goals against the Thrashers that travelled the whole rink, and the guy that gave of his time and efforts to local charities. I want to remember the Jeff Schultz that was buried on the bench for long stretches by two different coaches, and never, ever complained about it publicly like some others did. That, to me, was the ultimate display of toughness.
Schultz just didn’t fit here any longer. Here’s hoping he finds a way on to another NHL squad, and gets more appreciation from the fans there than he ever got here.