No Love for Zack

Lowetide
December 22 2010 07:21AM

Zack Stortini didn't play much in the first two periods last night (about 5 minutes) but took a fairly regular shift in the third (8:23 overall, all at EVs).  Coach Tom Renney clearly went to the big winger when rookie struggles got in the way of his normal rotation, but once again the big man with hair wasn't the first choice. 

This season, many are wondering how long Mr. Stortini will be an Oiler. It looks like Tom Renney considers Zack a fringe player, outside the top 12 when healthy. Is it time to send Huggy Bear down the line? 

Tom Renney is Stortini's 3rd coach at the NHL level. Pat Quinn found a couple of extra minutes (at EVs) for #46 but the burly winger has returned to previous levels in terms of playing time.

  • MacT 07-08: 8:10 (17 out of 20 forwards)
  • MacT 08-09: 7:17 (19 out of 22 forwards)
  • Quinn 09-10: 9:17 (20 out of 23 forwards)
  • Renney 10-11: 7:07 (15 out of 16 forwards)

Quinn also played Stortini in almost every game, whereas the other two coaches spotted him and used him in a very specific role. To my eye, it seemed as though Coach Renney was using Stortini less than in previous seasons, but coach MacTavish ran him about 7-8 minutes a night (and not every night).

The thing about Stortini is that he's made himself into a fairly useful player, especially considering skill set and role. Stortini's 5x5/60 has been efficient in previous seasons. Below are the "points-per-hour" totals for the last 4 seasons:

  • 07-08 5x5 per 60m: 1.24
  • 08-09 5x5 per 60m: 1.76
  • 09-10 5x5 per 60m: 1.04
  • 10-11 5x5 per 60m: 0.85

These are not the worst numbers on the planet. In fact, Stortini's 4line numbers (considering relCorsi, etc) have been very strong during these lean times. JF Jacques had a 5x5/60 number of 1.26 a year ago, but that was during a season in which he spent gobs of time with Horcoff and Hemsky. Stortini's often playing with muckers, grinders and knuckle-draggers.

Jacques ("Crazy Train") looked like a hockey player many moons ago but those back injuries never really go away and he's skating miles without taking or making a pass. Last season's time on the top line with Horcoff and Hemsky was painful and counterproductive. JFJ doesn't look like he's capable of playing with skilled players again this season.

So when we talk about this team and how they can get better (improved PK, etc), replacing one of these Coke Machines would seem to be an obvious way to add a role player. Stortini CAN play an effective 4line agitator role and deliver some offense. Jacques at this point in his career is a "stick optional" player type.

Last night's RW depth chart went like this: Eberle, Omark, Jones, Stortini. Steve MacIntyre also gets some starts at RW and of course Ales Hemsky will return one day to claim his spot. If the Oilers want to keep Omark with the big club--and I think there's reason to believe they do despite some defensive miscues by the young Swede--Stortini is the obvious choice for a kick to the curb on RW.

I'd suggest the better plan is Jacques being dumped. And after that, when the team decides to callup Reddox, McDonald or someone else to help the PK, I think Steve MacIntyre, Ryan O'Marra or Colin Fraser would be the better choice for demotion.

However, sooner or later it'll get down to this: at some point Zack Stortini is going to take the gaspipe because the coach doesn't like him. I've never been the biggest Stortini fan, but man he's miles from being the worst forward on this team.

Miles.

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 Albertaboy111
December 22 2010, 09:05AM
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Stortini was consistently the only player on the ice showing any emotion last year. You don't find heart like that very often. Especially when you consider his play has been looking better and better. I think Storts could be a fourth line player here for a long time and inserts a lot of grit into the game. I hope they don't dump him. Any chance Renney just knows exactly what he can offer, and has too many new players on the bottom line and wants to see other players skill sets? It would be great if Stortini "hug" around for a while(take that Gene).

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#2 David S
December 22 2010, 10:59AM
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Actually, I seem to remember Zack has pretty decent f/o numbers (from an admittedly small sample size).

[EDIT] FAIL . Maybe I should check the stats first.

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#3 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
December 22 2010, 07:22AM
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I love Zack's FISTs

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#4 book¡e
December 22 2010, 07:59AM
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I wish one of the ON insiders would pose the question about Stortini's role directly to Renney.

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#5 Dennis
December 22 2010, 01:46PM
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I think that some of these guys were a waste of time anyway but once 10-83 went down it was really time to trim the fat and make sure the bottom six held guy that could grind or PK or win draws.

Fellows like 22-33 can't even play the game so one of them at the very most is all you can handle and from that group I'd keep 33 but only if you gave him the permission to Jeff Kugel anyone who needed some Jeff Kugelling:)

46 is a guy who's cheap and can grind and who's always done well if he had two decent linemates.

I can't see how he's a problem on this club either but every coach picks his hills to die on.

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#6 Sven$$
December 22 2010, 03:01PM
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Storts and JFJ need to go. 4th liners are replaceable and you can actually look for guys that will give you what you desire.

Stortini lacks foot speed and therefore cannot establish a forecheck, so because of this is pretty much a useless 4th liner.

I personally would sign Jay Rosehill from Toronto tomorrow. If you youTube the guy he's got a willingness to punish opponents and then he will back it up. I've seen him lose one fight, but he throws until he can't throw no more. AND afterwards the Buds seem to light up. Beat Boston and scored 2 quick goals in a loss to Pittsburgh.

I just want a guy who does the job with some exclamation and that the guys on the bench might actually get a lift from. I find myself embarrassed when I watch Stortini.

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#7 pelhem grenville
December 22 2010, 07:27AM
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and hugs

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#8 D-Man
December 22 2010, 08:27AM
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Although JFJ has not played up to his potential, dumping him now doesn't really make a lot of sense - especially considering the knock that we're 'easy to play against'... I'd wait to the end of his contract to see if he turns it around... He's not going to be a 10-15 goal guy, but with his speed and physical upside - he's worth taking a longer look...

Stortini is a smarter hockey player than JFJ but doesn't have his physical tools... I believe Storts is also a RFA at the end of this season as well...

Tambo needs to decide a) is Smak worth keeping around (I say 'yes') and if so, b) decide to keep either Storts or JFJ... My vote of course would go to JFJ, assuming he figures out his role - to muck it up on the 4th line, hit everything in sight and drop the mitts when Smak isn't in the line up... If he doesn't figure that out by the end of this season - you don't resign him and lock up Storts for 2 years...

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#9 Mitch
December 22 2010, 08:28AM
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@Lowetide

Stortini and JFJ gotta go, Stortini could be a effective 4th line guy, but must be told not to fight, and he has to kill penalties. I don't understand why MacIntrye only gets in against tough guys, how many more games will he get into 9-12 more? I feel there are better players that deserve a look at the very least. There is now depth in the organization and it's also easy to sign free agents for those positions while the young players grow.

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#10 Drock
December 22 2010, 08:50AM
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@ Mitch

Easy to find (even relatively) effective fourth line agitators? I don't think thats the case.

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#11 Oilers4ever
December 22 2010, 09:56AM
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Frankly the decision is quite simple on this... live with Storts, BMac, and JFJ for this season as we really have no choice... but punt all three for next year... keep Omarra... and add Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton next season... those guys would provide more energy and better play than the existing three could any day of the week...

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#12 David S
December 22 2010, 09:57AM
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I missed most of last night's game due to some Xmas festivities, but from what I read over at blogs like C&B, it sounded like Zack had his best game of the year. Was there really a point in the game where he single handedly kept the puck in San Jose's zone for over half a minute?

Its always been my contention that Zack (much like Cogs) needs to be surrounded by a certain level of competency on a consistent basis. Instead, it seems he's playing part-time with whatever dregs are left over to fill out the last few roster spots.

I feel for the guy. I bet if we trade him, some coach and GM who have winning at the top of their agenda will have him heading up one of the toughest-to-play-against fourth lines in the NHL. And you know what? We'll look like total losers - again.

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#13 Dman09
December 22 2010, 10:10AM
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I think JFJ needs to spend some time down in the AHL to get his game back. I think those injuries have really hurt his game and spending the rest of the year in the AHL might help him get it back.

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#14 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
December 22 2010, 10:11AM
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I'm going to keep assuming that the hockey minds that run this professional franchise have a reason for the Jacques/Stortini anomaly but when the hell are they going to communicate with their fans.

Every fan and their dog know that JFJ was a bad signing, he takes up a roster spot and he's relatively ineffective.

Stortini can play better hockey, has more heart and is not nearly as injury prone. I hear JFJ is a fearsome fighter but I can't remember seeing him whoop anyone for the life of me. Hold a goddammmed press-conference and tell Oilers' nation why

a) JFJ is still in the NHL, and b) What the hell their startegy is with Dubnyk.

Usually questions answer themselves over the course of a season, but JFJ has answered nothing for like 3-4 years. Enough already.

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#15 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
December 22 2010, 10:11AM
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Edit: double post

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#16 D-Man
December 22 2010, 10:25AM
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Oilers4ever wrote:

Frankly the decision is quite simple on this... live with Storts, BMac, and JFJ for this season as we really have no choice... but punt all three for next year... keep Omarra... and add Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton next season... those guys would provide more energy and better play than the existing three could any day of the week...

I'd like to see roster space for Omarra next year - but with Fraser's contract; I don't see him on the squad next year... Both Pitlick and Hamilton are said to be a minimum of 2 years away, but progressing nicely...

I don't think you'd want to punt all three players - keep at least one (probably Storts unless JFJ figures it out) to add to the team toughness... You'll probably want Omark to take one of those roster spots and hope Tambo can sign another 'energy' guy to a short term contract... To anyone who's seen Colin McDonald play, could he fit into that 3rd line role?? Or do we have to sign Jones for a couple more years??

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#17 Cervantes
December 22 2010, 10:28AM
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I think Storts is a victim of running 3 scoring lines more than anything. Renney is trying to keep the 5/5 minutes somewhat even for the Top9, and that means trimming a few minutes off what is generally an ineffective 4th line. However, I lay the blame for that pretty squarely at the feet of Colin Fraser. I was somewhat optimistic in the offseason to see this guy, with his decent but limited stats, experience of a Cup run, and the opportunity waiting to be seized. But he's done almost absolutely nothing to help this team. His faceoffs are subpar, his penalty killing is below average, and his physical game is nonexistent. Zack is the kind of player who can help support solid linemates and help them create (See: GX/Brodz/Storts for reference), but he can't do it on his own, and I don't think there's any arguing that this year, Huggy Bear is the most talented member of his line.

So, I would argue that, while Zorg is getting the short end of the stick, that stick is being swung at Colin Fraser and the revolving door of left wing plugs being dropped on that line.

Also, unfortunately, by running 3 top lines, Renney has all but ensured that he needs a 4th line consisting of PKers and role players. Zack doesn't have the footspeed for PK (though I'd love to see him try), hasn't worked on faceoffs, and doesn't have the linemates to create chances... so he's Schremped.

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#18 Milli
December 22 2010, 10:40AM
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I'm with David S. I watched the game and Zach played great! Actualy, from my eye, until the 5 on 3 debacle, the whole team was playin great. We've all seen that when the 4th line has the right players, Zack and the rest are very effective, JFJ is not that player. If we deal storts, he will find a new home and he will make the most of it, that's how he made it this far. And thats why he will have an nhl carreer, hopefully with us!

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#19 Ducey
December 22 2010, 11:05AM
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Frankly the decision is quite simple on this... live with Storts, BMac, and JFJ for this season as we really have no choice... but punt all three for next year... keep Omarra... and add Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton next season... those guys would provide more energy and better play than the existing three could any day of the week...

A better plan would be to grab a few free agents or AAAA tpyes from the minors. Hamilton and Pitlick will not be ready for the NHL next year. Hamilton might graduate to the AHL as he is doing very well in the WHL but Pitlick still looks like he has some more to learn in junior.

There is a better chance Hartikanen can fill a role on the 4th line next year. He, Omara and a decent free agent ruffian that can hit and fight and cycle (or Storts) might be okay. They could PK a little, win a faceoff and generally stir up stuff as a 4th line should.

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#20 Team Hall
December 22 2010, 11:21AM
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I think Stortini is a farely effective role player. The thing is, until we get a more effective Grier type, he is the best fourth line banger we have. Show me an improvement before we ditch Storts, he is useful. If Mike Grier were to reincarnate and show up again, I'd go for that. Otherwise, keep Storts.

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#21 Horcsky
December 22 2010, 11:38AM
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David S wrote:

Actually, I seem to remember Zack has pretty decent f/o numbers (from an admittedly small sample size).

[EDIT] FAIL . Maybe I should check the stats first.

lol props, the self fail post made me chuckle.

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#22 Death Metal Nightmare
December 22 2010, 12:02PM
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Stortini isnt a fourth liner you build a cup team with. sorry. he cant fight. his combative technical skills are horrid. no speed. late to hits.

yes, we all seen how hes improved (sort of) but improvement doesnt equal consistency or effectiveness. hes too slow to forecheck well without others creating the chaos first (Glencross). this year hes been reduced to a terrible fighting, chirping, penalty machine. a sideshow. he had one OK shift last night. i liked that shift. couple shots. nice positioning. etc.

frankly, the entire bottom 6 needs to be rebuilt as much as the top 6 needs to be. intelligent, fast, mean plays is what this team needs. start building it ASAP.

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#23 David S
December 22 2010, 12:45PM
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Death Metal Nightmare wrote:

Stortini isnt a fourth liner you build a cup team with. sorry. he cant fight. his combative technical skills are horrid. no speed. late to hits.

yes, we all seen how hes improved (sort of) but improvement doesnt equal consistency or effectiveness. hes too slow to forecheck well without others creating the chaos first (Glencross). this year hes been reduced to a terrible fighting, chirping, penalty machine. a sideshow. he had one OK shift last night. i liked that shift. couple shots. nice positioning. etc.

frankly, the entire bottom 6 needs to be rebuilt as much as the top 6 needs to be. intelligent, fast, mean plays is what this team needs. start building it ASAP.

As soon as we start building that bottom six, we start winning. ~And that cannot be allowed to persist this year.~

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#24 Jonathan Willis
December 22 2010, 01:08PM
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I like Stortini. A lot, actually.

He's not the world's best fighter, but because of it he can drop the gloves with guys that would never dream of fighting MacIntyre. If you're going to have a fighter, I like the kind that engages the opposition pests.

That said, in an ideal world he's a 13th/14th forward.

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#25 Jordan
December 22 2010, 01:14PM
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I am a firm believer that Storts is being kept out of the lineup not because he is disliked by the coaches, or because he isn't a useful, even valuable, 4th line player.

He knows how to muck along the boards, agitate, throw the big hit, fight, and stick up for his team mates. His footspeed isn't great, he's both a marginal passer, and shooter.

As we saw when he was paired with Brodziak and Glencross, and even with Nilsson and brule/gagner/cogliano last year, he can contribute offensively in a very defined role and outscore. What we see is a complementary player. He can grind it out on the 4th line, but because of his limitations, hes not the guy who you're going to move up the depth chart. But if you give him two NHL caliber players to play with, he's a really solid player too.

This is just another sign that the plan is to play exciting last place hockey this year. Storts can't be in the lineup much because he helps the team, but isn't "valuable" (i.e. not as entertaining). When he is, it is with guys who can't play hockey well. He's playing in a role in which he cannot succeed - which is a familiar place for this Oilers team.

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#26 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
December 22 2010, 01:16PM
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Is Gary Unger or Davey Keon still alive anyone know? Maybe they could coach/help out the guys out with faceoffs.

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#27 CitizenFlame
December 22 2010, 01:37PM
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What about trading Hemsky? Doesn't the emergence of Omark make Hemsky tradeable? The Oil are in the middle of a rebuild and I would think that Hemsky when healthy would garner some kind of value? This is an honest question not a Flames fan trolling.

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#28 Racki
December 22 2010, 01:41PM
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I'm a fan of Stortini, but the issue I have with him this year that makes it hard to defend the guy is he's not making the most of his minutes. No doubt that the coach takes some responsibility there. But when you're a 4th liner you've got to bust your balls to make every minute count. I'm not so sure he's done that even if he isn't contributing to many goals against while on the ice.

There was a time where he went out and generated a lot of energy for the team whether by crashing and banging, or fighting (once he stopped the hugging), or hitting everything in sight. Now he's almost deflating. He needs to get things going again. I think there is still a player there too though.

I think our 4th line could use an overhaul though. Less guys that are along for the ride and are out there to either get the team jacked up or kill penalties / win key draws / etc.

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#29 SumOil
December 22 2010, 01:47PM
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LT I actually like Starts a lot. I did not like him initially but over the years and listening to Bruce has made a fan out of me. He is almost the perfect 4th liner. He fore-checks hard. He is more than defensively adequate. He uses his size to advantage. Hits and even battling in the corners, creating space for his line-mates. What he isnt is a good puck handler. So given two linemates who are good at handling the puck, he is money! Of course JFJ and Fraser are not good.

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#30 Slats
December 22 2010, 01:56PM
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Maybe it's time for a change in philosophy. I agree with the comment that if Stortini is to have a roll on this team he needs to fight less and be able to kill penalties.

The 2 best PKs in the league are NYR and MIN The top PK units are: 1. NYR Callahan and Dubinskly and Boyle/Prust

2. MIN has BRODZIAK/MADDEN and CLUTTERBUCK/MADDEN Let's go to what the Elite Franchise does in Detroit as well:

3. EAVES/HELM and HELM/MILLER

If we use the "Sesame Street" principle - (One of these is not like the others . . .)Storts at 6'4"/215 lbs does not seem to fit the typical PK specialist and his foot speed really confirms this.

I would argue that we do not need Storts/Big Mc or JFJ and that we should trade all or draft for a legit PK specialist that is quick, is 6'1 210 lbs, takes face offs and hits. Scoring desirable but not required. I like fights but I fear the role of the "intimidator" is gone and is not what TEAM HOPE needs or is.

Further I would get Ales to change his game a bit and not have him be that first man in on the dump where he gets those nasty from behind hits and put our new PK specialist on his line.

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#31 longbottom/P.Biglow
December 22 2010, 02:12PM
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@Oilers4ever

My question is who on that line is going to fight when they are getting run?

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#32 longbottom/P.Biglow
December 22 2010, 02:15PM
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That moment in the game it was more like him JFJ and Fraser who did that. It wasn't him all by himself but that was a defining moment in the third.

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#33 longbottom/P.Biglow
December 22 2010, 02:18PM
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Ummmmm last years fight with Reigher put JFJ in a special spot in the organizations heart if he can get back to that ability where he skated, hit fight. thats what the Oil want.

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#34 David S
December 22 2010, 02:30PM
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Jordan wrote:

I am a firm believer that Storts is being kept out of the lineup not because he is disliked by the coaches, or because he isn't a useful, even valuable, 4th line player.

He knows how to muck along the boards, agitate, throw the big hit, fight, and stick up for his team mates. His footspeed isn't great, he's both a marginal passer, and shooter.

As we saw when he was paired with Brodziak and Glencross, and even with Nilsson and brule/gagner/cogliano last year, he can contribute offensively in a very defined role and outscore. What we see is a complementary player. He can grind it out on the 4th line, but because of his limitations, hes not the guy who you're going to move up the depth chart. But if you give him two NHL caliber players to play with, he's a really solid player too.

This is just another sign that the plan is to play exciting last place hockey this year. Storts can't be in the lineup much because he helps the team, but isn't "valuable" (i.e. not as entertaining). When he is, it is with guys who can't play hockey well. He's playing in a role in which he cannot succeed - which is a familiar place for this Oilers team.

That's an astute observation Jordan. It fits with what I too have come to admit - we're tanking. Too bad we have to sacrifice a guy's career in the progress.

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#35 Craigero
December 22 2010, 02:33PM
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I say we drop Fraser and give Stortini more of his minutes. Last year when we traded for Fraser I thought what has this guy really ever done... why all the hype. Anyway at least Zak works hard and at least drops his mitts.

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#36 longbottom/P.Biglow
December 22 2010, 02:45PM
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I think the Oilers are doing fine but, if Tambo had a do-over he would use two. 1) the Heatly trade getting out to the media, even though I believe it was Heatly's camp that leaked it. 2) Not resigning Glencross,that can be retafied this summer. with Glencross Stortini/Jfj would be expendable.

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#37 Bucknuck
December 22 2010, 04:48PM
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I remember that big surge by the Oil in a few years ago when Gagner, Cogs and Nilsson were getting all the press. I always thought (and said it frequently) that the difference in those games sometimes had more to do with Glencross, Brodziak and Stortini. Those three would go out and the energy level would triple. It made a big difference.

Glencross is an UFA this year and I would LOVE to see him come back here and play with Zack attack.

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#38 KenMcC
December 22 2010, 06:32PM
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CitizenFlame wrote:

What about trading Hemsky? Doesn't the emergence of Omark make Hemsky tradeable? The Oil are in the middle of a rebuild and I would think that Hemsky when healthy would garner some kind of value? This is an honest question not a Flames fan trolling.

Why the hell do we knee-jerk into ideas like "trade Penner or Hemsky so we can get a better young 2nd or 3rd line player"? This idea comes up pathetically often.

Please consider this: Many of us seem eager to tank the entire season (ELPH) because it means we can essentially move up in the draft from about 16th to about 1st.

That's about like getting Hall instead of Hemsky, Eberle, or Penner.

But, Hemsky and Penner are known quantities to us. I am not sure I would trade either of them for a No. 3 pick, straight across, LET ALONE SOME PROJECT THAT ANOTHER TEAM KNOWS ALL ABOUT.

Is Hemsky injury-prone? Have we checked the stats for other 1st line RW? What is it about his game that will make him useless in three years "when we start winning?" Why not keep him and start the winning feeling now?

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#39 positivebrontefan
December 22 2010, 07:30PM
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CitizenFlame wrote:

What about trading Hemsky? Doesn't the emergence of Omark make Hemsky tradeable? The Oil are in the middle of a rebuild and I would think that Hemsky when healthy would garner some kind of value? This is an honest question not a Flames fan trolling.

It's been talked about here, IMO four or five games does not a Hemsky replacement make. I'm as impressed so far with Omark as anyone here but I'd like to see a consistent 20 game effort out of him. Not saying it can't happen just saying I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions.

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#40 kawi460
December 22 2010, 09:49PM
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I believe that the Oilers need a couple of players that are willing to engage, the Pens have 4 tough dudes that are willing to go every game: Godard, Rupp, Asham, and Engelland.

If i could control the forward line combos they would look like this:

Hall Horcoff Eberle Penner Gagner Hemsky Paajarvi Cogliano Omark Jones Brule Stortini/MacIntyre Fraser I think the 4th line would be physical, with Jones and Brule playing I wouldn't doubt if they put up a decent amount of points. However Cogliano is a problem, I would try to trade for a Zubrus or a Large physical centre. Fraser could use some time in the press box. And I would waive JF as he has yet to show any physical play in 13 games.

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#41 Bruce
December 23 2010, 11:15AM
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Stortini's foot speed has greatly improved due to his working his butt off every single summer since he was drafted. His acceleration is not great but he always gets his feet moving and when he gets up to speed he's surprisingly fast, like most big men faster than he looks. He wins his share of races to (good) shoot-ins, and doesn't take the overland route so that he can always arrive second and deliver the hit; he's more than willing to be on the receiving end of the hit if it means getting possession. He's also become very good at board battles, wins more than his share and cycles the puck to good places that maintain offensive zone possession and/or pressure rather than jailbreaks going the other way.

This guy has always been a long-term project, but he's also always been an over-achiever. It's long been my opinion that Oilers would be best served by writing his name in pen in the line-up every night and relying on his 5-12 minutes of consistent play. He for one makes the Oilers a tougher to play against, and there haven't been enough guys like that in recent years.

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#42 Bruce
December 23 2010, 11:18AM
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As for replacing Stortini with Omark, that's like taking the bass player out of the band and replacing him with a flautist. Different roles entirely, and balance is a must.

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