I can’t say I take any joy whatsoever in the news the Edmonton Oilers waived farewell to Zack Stortini today, but we saw that coming after his embarrassing fight with Krys Barch of the Dallas Stars, didn’t we?
It’s never easy to see an honest player who has worked as diligently as Stortini has to make it to the NHL lose his job, but that’s a part of the business that comes with the bright lights and big money.
Like I said last week, Stortini looked to be on thin ice with coach Tom Renney even before the bout with Barch. Obviously, he was. He’s now available to any NHL team that wants him. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll be sent to Oklahoma City of the AHL.
With Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle both close to returning to the line-up, possibly against the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow, Renney had a roster decision to make. With Renney unwilling to demote Liam Reddox or Linus Omark, Stortini drew the short straw.
"When you see where you’re going as an organization, you’re not sure when your young guys are going to nail it," Renney said.
"Under these circumstances, our young guys have done well. They’ve earned themselves further opportunity. Now, we have some unhealthy guys getting healthy and they need to get back in the line-up. It falls into the category of a numbers thing and we needed to make a move."
That’s the business end of the game.
GONE FOR GOOD?
I don’t know if another team has a need for a player with the limited skill-set Stortini possesses, but even if he doesn’t get claimed on the way down to Oklahoma City, I wonder if we’ve seen his last game in Edmonton silks.
I’ve had my say on Stortini. I’ve been of the opinion he can be an effective fourth-line player with this team. That said, he didn’t convince Renney of that and I don’t think there’s room on the roster for Stortini, J.F. Jacques and super-heavyweight Steve MacIntyre.
At the same time, I applaud Renney and GM Steve Tambellini for not taking the path of least resistance and demoting Linus Omark or Liam Reddox. I’m not a big Reddox fan, but he brings tenacity and the ability to kill penalties and play a regular shift effectively. As important, his skills aren’t replicated by many Oilers forwards as Stortini’s are with Jacques and MacIntyre.
What Renney needs to do now is employ Jacques and MacIntyre more effectively, For me, that means seeing more of Macintyre — not on a per-minutes basis game in and game out, but spotted in on the fourth line when warranted by opposition rosters.
A quick look at the rest of the schedule tells me No. 33 should draw in 15-18 games the rest of the way, including Feb. 15 against Dallas.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, FAKE RADIO-GUY VOICE
I had some fun doing an hour-long segment of Oilers Lunch with Bob Stauffer at the TEAM 1260 studios today.
While I’m thrilled to have landed a twice-a-week spot as co-host on the Jason Gregor Show these last couple of a years, it’s been awhile since I did an in-studio stint with Stauffer, who gave me my first gig on the radio back during the days of Total Sports. I owe him for that.
Aquila Productions had a camera on Stauffer, Dan Barnes of The Journal and me in studio for 60 minutes for a segment of an upcoming episode of Oil Change. While I fully expect most of what we said today will find its way to the cutting room floor, I’m guessing we’ll end up with 30-60 seconds in the next episode once Don Metz and his crew have done their work.
Two old newspaper guys doing a radio show on TV? If anybody can make a couple of wags look good for posterity on DVD, it’s Metz.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
— The Oilers will establish a franchise record when they miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year this season, but it looks to me like they’ve already got more to show for being lousy in terms of the draft under Stu MacGregor than they did when they missed four straight years in the early 1990s.
Off the top of my head, this four-year playoff drought has produced Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner. The Oilers have also snagged Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Curtis Hamilton and Teemu Hartikainen.
During their other four-year miss, the Barry Fraser regime drafted Ryan Smyth, Jason Arnott and Miro Satan but not much else. They used first-round picks on Steve Kelley, Boyd Devereaux, Jason Bonsignore and Matthieu Descoteaux.
— What is really wrong with Gilbert Brule, exactly?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.