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.
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.
DOES STORTINI FIT?
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.
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.
WHERE HE BELONGS
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.
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.
THE WAY I SEE IT
— 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.