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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Oilers4ever

    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…

    • D-Man

      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??

  • Mitch

    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).

  • Mitch

    @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.

  • D-Man

    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…