Bad to the bone

The Edmonton Oilers won’t be as tough with Steve MacIntyre out of the line-up with a fractured orbital bone, but they just got a whole lot nastier with the acquisition of Jesse Boulerice.

With MacIntyre out of action for as long as two months after taking a beating from Eric Godard in Pittsburgh, the Oilers claimed Boulerice, a tough guy and noted stick man, off waivers from the Colorado Avalanche today.

Boulerice, 30, a six-foot-two, 215-pound right winger, had been playing with the Lake Erie Monsters, Colorado’s AHL affiliate. He had scored 2-2-4 with 46 penalty minutes in 12 games.

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Simply put, with MacIntyre placed on injured reserve today and possibly facing surgery to repair the damage around his left eye, the Oilers felt they needed somebody to pick up the slack in the toughness department.

Boulerice is their man.

“MacIntytre will be out for awhile and we felt we needed another body to protect us a bit,” assistant GM Kevin Prendergast said. “He’s proved he can play in this league. He can give us some minutes.”

Rap sheet

Looking at Boulerice’s resume, there’s no doubt about that. The native of Plattsburgh, New York is in his 11th pro season and has played 170 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted Boulerice 133rd overall in 1996, the Carolina Hurricanes and St. Louis Blues.

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With 16 fights in 2002–03 and 15 more in 2003–04 with Carolina, it’s obvious Boulerice doesn’t need a written invitation to drop the gloves. But it’s his rap sheet, not his resume, that’s garnered the most attention.

As a member of the Flyers, Boulerice was suspended for 25 games in October of 2007 for cross-checking Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks in the face with Philadelphia up 7–2.

In April 1998, Boulerice, a member of the Plymouth Whalers, took a baseball swing at Andrew Long of the Guelph Storm, hitting him in the face and injuring him badly. Boulerice pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault and was suspended for a year by the OHL.


The Oilers are well-aware Boulerice has trampled the line between tough hockey and out-and-out thuggery more than once, but they don’t seem worried by his past transgressions.

“We talked about it, but it’s not a concern,” Prendergast said. “We felt we needed the depth.”

Prendergast says the Oilers did their homework on Boulerice, who played with Erik Cole in Carolina.

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“He said he’s a great guy,” Prendergast said of Cole’s take on Boulerice. “We checked with a few people about him.”

Boulerice, who’d just signed a two-way deal with Colorado, is expected to join the Oilers in the next day or so and will likely be available to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • David S

    Another AHL "designated thug". Yay.

    From what I've seen this year, we have way more team toughness and our fourth line (without SMac) has started to be effective in the last few games – which we've won.

    Get a guy like Laraque who's a real NHL player and I'm on board. But every time we get our thug on the ice, we lose a roster space on top of the one we already have to deal with because we're carrying three goalies.

  • I think it's both Asher. I mean, sure Stortini has grit and he's a good team guy, but Moreau plays the same style of crash and bang and can actually put points on the board.
    And with two goons on the team, I don't see any point in wasting a roster spot for a guy that is going to get 4 points this year, and barely fight.
    And with Boulerice's track record he seems like more of a liability than anything. Looks like a quick fix to me.

  • “We talked about it, but it’s not a concern,” Prendergast said. “We felt we needed the depth.”

    Depth in what? Douchebags who can't actually play hockey at the NHL level and are only good for using their stick as a shillelagh?

    I guess Bryan Marchment was too busy for a return engagement.

  • “He’s proved he can play in this league."

    170 GP, 8-2-10, +15/-32 = -17

    2 assists in 170 games? I'd say he's proved he CAN'T play in this league.

    "He can give us some minutes.”

    4:47 TOI /GP.
    1.11 GF ON/60
    2.36 GA ON/60

    Since the lockout:

    43 GP, 0-0-0, +1/-10 = -9.
    2:42 per game.
    0.52 GF ON/60
    5.16 GA ON/60

    Not to mention the times he put his team shorthanded with stupid penalties, or embarrassed his team and the game with his thuggery.

    I'll take Zack Stortini every day of the week over this guy. especially given one's a 23-year-old kid who's still devloping, and the other's a 30-year-old never-was who clearly is on the downside of his "career".

  • RobinB

    Asher: While jeanshorts already answered the question you asked me, let me say this: I don't understand this move at all.
    I don't see Boulerice as being any tougher than Stortini and he's proven to be no more skilled in other facets of the game, so why?
    Zack isn't the answer in terms of having as heavyweight teams fear, but neither is Boulerice. In fact, Boulerice could be seen as more of a liability, given how little slack he'll get from officials because of his past.
    This one has me scratching my head.

  • Jerry MacWire

    From having plenty of team toughness last year where we needed an instigator and not a fighter to this year where we are going to be tripping over fighters in the locker room? What gives? Change in philosophy? Whose philosophy?

    How much of this decision was made at management/ownership level?

  • Stortini can play hockey – Boulerice can't. He's a fighter and a fighter only, so that way there's no qualms about who is first to drop the gloves. This is not a move that improves the team's play so much as the continuing trend of the Oilers not wanting Souray and Moreau to drop the gloves as often, IMO.

  • Asher

    RobinB: When it comes to Boulerice, I'll defer to your knowledge of the player, but as far as the team toughness is concerned I don't see how you can do much worse than Stortini. His fighting skills do not intimidate anyone, the physicality he brings can easily be replaced by another player (even Brule, who is a pretty scrappy kid for size), and I don't think he's effective enough as a pest to deserve a roster spot on this team. Maybe Boulerice is not the answer, but I still think there's much room for improvement over Stortini and I don't see why there are players like Brule stewing in the minors while Stortini continues to occupy a roster spot on this team.

  • David S

    I'll let Bruce go into why Stortini is an effective role player on this team. From what I can see, there's more it than might meet the eye. It seems that he "fits". He'll stick up for all the guys and do the ugly things they can't. I've heard that he's well liked and we all know that at 23, he's an effective agitator on top of being extremely coachable. I'm sure Bruce will corroborate that he's an ever improving NHL regular. In short, he's a MacT player.

    What bothers me is that we might give up what will become a valuable asset to the future of the team for a short-term goon. Obviously there's something going on here. I guess we'll have to wait and see what it is.

  • the physicality he brings can easily be replaced by another player
    Asher: If it's so easily replaced, where are the guys doing it? My aplogies to readers of other blogs who have read this littany before, but Zack Stortini led the club last year in PiM, fights, and hits/60. He was second overall in hits with 99 despite finishing 20th on the club in TOI. He did this while taking zero instigating penalties, pretty much zero stupid penalties, and nothing at all remotely resembling a suspension. He also was second on the club behind only Hemsky in penalties drawn per 60.

    From Jan. 1 to the end of the season Zack posted +19/-9 = +10, the Best plus rating on the club in the second half (third best on the season at +3). Which in my books was pretty darned impressive for a 22-year-old who had been drafted 94th overall.

    I will be the first to say that he looks awkward and clumsy and that skating will never be his first strength. But he is smart, coachable, and willing, a team player who excels at driving the other teams nuts. The fact that fans in Calgary and Vancouver absolutely hate the guy is a big plus in my books as well.

    As a fighter he will take on anybody and everybody from all weight classes (latest example of many: Colton Orr). An unconventional fighter to say the least, he gets in close but does throw 'em while never absorbing a beating the likes that MacIntyre took at the fists of Godard. While Stortini is more pest than goon, I'd rather have a real hokcey player looking after those details than wasting roster space on the likes of MacIntyre or Boulerice. Especially a 23-year-old player who has improved by leaps and bounds every year since he was drafted.

  • Gord

    I completely agree with Bruce. Give Stortini a few years to hone his skill at getting under the skin of his opposition and he could be one of the best pests in the league. What Stortini does best is listen to the coach. When MacT says 'go yap at so-and-so, piss him off but but don't drop your gloves', that's exactly what he does. When MacT says, 'stick up for your teammates and drop your mitts against anyone who is taking liberties with our skilled guys', Stortini does it. He has a very level head, he knows his role and plays with the same emotion each and every night.

  • DJ Spyn Cycle

    yeah, we sure did, David S. I neglected to post in this thread, but there was something wonky going on with filters in the backend of the site and we lost about 20 comments.

    It sucks, but it was an abberation and shouldn't happen again. because if it does I'll kill someone.

  • Thanks David S., (and thanks Robin) but unfortunately I didn't print anything off.

    My new theory is that all those nice comments (from sources other than me for a change) about Zack Stortini caused the Internet to hug itself into a singularity in a strange quantum loop. And poof! just like that, he's gone.

  • Jason

    All I can say about Stortini is that as an Oil fan, I'm sick of being embarrassed by his fighting style. I can't even justify it anymore, he's scared to get hit, in a fighting role. Go be Matt Cooke or Ryan Kesler then, and do that elsewhere please.