No Love for Zack

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 5×5/60 has been efficient in previous seasons. Below are the "points-per-hour" totals for the last 4 seasons:

  • 07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.24
  • 08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.76
  • 09-10 5×5 per 60m: 1.04
  • 10-11 5×5 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 5×5/60 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.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    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.

  • Bucknuck

    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.

  • kawi460

    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.

  • positivebrontefan

    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.

  • positivebrontefan

    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.