I’ve got to admit I was a surprised by the venom spewed in the direction of Zack Stortini on blogs and call-in shows in the wake of his fight with Krys Barch in Dallas Wednesday.

I’m not sure what Stortini was thinking in his bout against Barch — I’ll ask him after the all-star break — but it looked to me like he was trying to imitate the kind of defensive posture that Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks used so effectively against him.

Whatever Stortini’s reasoning, it didn’t work. He got mocked by Barch after the fight, laughed at by a couple of Dallas players, according to what I’ve been told, and righteously ripped by Oilers fans, who seem to be focusing a lot of pent-up frustration in the direction of No. 46.

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There’s no question Stortini embarrassed himself with the peek-a-boo tactics he tried against Barch — I’m guessing he’d like a do-over — but I’m still surprised by the pointed criticism he took in the aftermath.

I won’t go on about what a tough job Stortini and other enforcers have again because he is being paid good money to do a job, and I’m not going to scold our readers for venting, but let’s not lose perspective. He lost a fight and looked bad doing it.

What I’m wondering is if he’s lost coach Tom Renney.


I believe Stortini can be a useful fourth-line player on this team, but what I think doesn’t matter spit. What matters is what Renney believes and I wonder what was going through his mind on the flight home from Dallas.

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My perception, given how many times Stortini has been a healthy scratch this season, is that he was already on thin ice with Renney. I don’t know that, but I think it. Could Wednesday have provided Renney with a mental "last straw" as it regards Stortini’s usefulness to the Oilers?

As much as I think toughness is an important element in the line-up of a team, particularly one with as many young, smallish players as the Oilers have, I have my doubts there’s a need (not to mention room on the roster) for Stortini, J.F. Jacques and Steve MacIntyre.

I’d still keep Stortini over Jacques and run him in tandem with MacIntyre, but that’s just me. Again, what matters is Renney’s vision, not mine. I can tell you that Jacques has some backers in hockey ops and, to be fair, he seems to have been coming on of late. Simply put, Stortini couldn’t have trotted out his failed Rypien imitation at a worse time.


I’m not sure what prompted Jonathan Willis to re-state his position the Oilers and Magnus Paajarvi would have been better served by having him serve another year in the minors or the SEL, but it’s a position that makes no sense to me, given what I’m seeing from Paajarvi.

Willis is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I’m suspicious of a premise that hinges on the pitfalls of "burning" a year of an entry level deal when we don’t know with any certainty whatsoever what this team and the salary cap will look like a full two seasons from now.

I get the theory, but I feel the same way about this approach as I did when it was applied to Taylor Hall. "Sorry kid. We think you’re ready to play in the NHL, but you’re going to the minors because there’s a bigger picture to consider." Want to guarantee a kid and his agent start eye-balling the door as soon as they get a chance? This is the way.

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Unless my eyes are failing me, Paajarvi has overcome a so-so start and has been coming on. I’ve liked his game a lot of late, and that tells me he is settling in with new teammates and a new city. That’s a step he has to make. Isn’t that what development is about?

Even with limited ice time and very little time on the power play, Paajarvi is on pace for 30-32 points. Fifteen of his 19 points have come at even strength. Certainly, there’s room to grow, but Paajarvi doesn’t look out of place to me.


— I think Ryan Jones has been a pleasant surprise, but I’d like to see him spend more time crashing and banging and less time casting the stink eye at referees when somebody knocks him on his ass and he doesn’t get the penalty call he things he deserves. Jones spends too much time for my liking casting longing glances at the referees when somebody starches him. It seems to happen at least once game. Stop begging. Pick yourself up and go back at somebody.

— I’m assuming Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Gilbert Brule will be ready to play after the all-star break. Eberle and Hemsky are no-brainers when it comes to dressing if they’re ready to go. Brule? Not so much.

— Memo to Renney: More Devan Dubnyk, Linus Omark and Jeff Petry in the final 33 games. Less Nikolai Khabibulin in goal and Ladislav Smid on the second-unit power play.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Rob...

    No one in the league is afraid of Stortini, dump him and go after Glencross in the off season. Mac doesn’t even have to go on the ice to make a difference. Here’s to hoping Stortini has put on an Oiler uniform for the last time.

  • Rob...

    22`s had a goal and two other legit scoring chances in the last two games so I doubt he`s going anywhere.

    Gregor seems to have some sources and he teased a minor trade the other day so I`d say 46`s out the door.

    Not sure why Renney soured on him but every coach has their pets and their whipping posts.

    I`d say 67 gets a showcase in the top nine when he`s healthy and then he`s shipped out the door shortly after.

    33 for that matter as well because for all the gasbaggery of Renney – who`s got a lot of it in him, BTW – regarding 33 and how `this man has to play.`GP means more than talk and he`s just not racking up the numbers.

  • Mitch


    What bothers me with Zach and many other oilers is we have many guys that got 3-5yrs experience in this leauge and they don’t have any gamesmanship. Many players on this roster don’t understand thier role, Mac, Hall, Hemsky, Horcoff, Whitney, Peckham, Eberle and Penner understand what thier job is, it could be argued forever and then some what is the role of the other roster players? So we have 8 guys on a 21 man roster that understand what thier job is? Goalies are no brainers. I maybe missing 2 or 3 players, but when only half the roster has a true defined role and understands what it takes to win on a daily basis, we should expect some brutal performances because of the 8 players to have a defined role it should be expected that at least 2 will be having a off game.

    Try Hall and Paajarvi on the pk, there is 30 games to try differnt stuff.

  • Mitch

    Robin, just want to say great post and I really enjoy the perspective and insider type insight that you provide. As a new fan to the game I really love reading stuff like this–and I think you have a pretty good idea of what is going on in the head of those in the front office and staff. Even if it is a guess.

  • Dutchscooter

    Standing in there and taking shots while at least attempting to throw some shots back is “showing up”. What Stortini did against Barch was not that. Not only that, I’d think we’d all agree that fighting is a part of his clearly defined roll on this team. Because of this, “showing up” or “the gesture” isn’t good enough. That isnt something that is going to inspire the bench. If Gagner or Cogliano or even Hall did it then yes, that would inspire. But when one of your supposed tough guys is simply dropping his gloves and holding on (not a single punch directed at Barch) then that does absolutely nothing for the team.

        • Eddie Shore

          I already said what I think above: “There’s no question Stortini embarrassed himself with the peek-a-boo tactics he tried against Barch . . .”

          You started out by saying Stortini didn’t direct a single punch at Barch. In your latest reference, you changed to “four.”

          Criticize players to your heart’s content, but don’t embellish — either by exaggerating or downplaying what actually happened — in an attempt to justify that criticism. That’s pretty straightforward, no?

          • Eddie Shore

            I thought it was a slight exaggeration that helped make my point but I guess I won’t do that again. As long as you promise to never exaggerate either. Deal?

  • Eddie Shore

    “Stortini’s in full defence mode, with the right!” haha what an embarrassment.

    And I can’t believe he didn’t square up the second Barch punched him square in the face on the original call.

    And didn’t Barch fight earlier that game? Shouldn’t he have been more gassed than Stortini?

  • Eddie Shore

    The role of enforcer is precarious. Lose too many times, at the wrong time or in the wrong way and your stint is over. Stortini has lost so many times that I’m surprised he’s made it this long. The beating against Barch has to seal his fate as his laughable status in the league is eroded further and it diminishes the Oilers credibility. What team is fearful of playing in Edmonton’s barn? What opposing player will think twice about running Hall or Eberle? Huggy Bear (not a complimentary moniker when you’re paid to beat others up) has to go immediately. And please spare the rhetoric that he has “playing” skills!