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.