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.


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.


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.


— 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.

  • Milli

    I have always been a Storts fan but that fight was BAD! I can see Renney’s frustration grow with that and at the same time, JFJ’s game has come around nicely. Too bad. I’m thinking there is no chance Brule takes Omarks spot that for sure!

  • Oilers4ever

    I think the answer to what should happen to him and everything is else quite simple: What is he being paid for? To be just a banger and fighter or someone who can contribute more by skating, scoring chances, etc? If it’s just the first one alone then punt his arse because compared to Big Mac, he can’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. Big Mac would have whipped Barch’s derriere and likely Barch wouldn’t have even started the fight. People tend to fight the Oilers less from what I’ve seen when Big Mac plays.. so if you want the enforcer role only, then Big Mac is the guy to have. (This is another area where I see this team missing Souray, two legitimate fighting contenders, although Vandermeer impressed me in that game)…

  • Jiri Dopita

    He tried a new fighting technique and it didn’t work – big deal! How much impact does a player winning or losing a fight have on the outcome of game? I’m not sure, maybe some in terms of its affect on momentum but I think that’s open for debate.

    You know what has more affect than the outcome of a fight? A power-play goal!I’m surprised that nobody has pointed out that in the process of losing that fight Stortini earned the Oilers a power-play(Barch got 2,5 and 10). If the Oilers score on the power-play and stage a comeback it’s a great a job by Stortini.

    This team has a lot of issues, Stortini isn’t one of them. He’s an adequate 4rth liner. He’s certainly more effective than SMac or JFJ.

    • Dan the Man

      I agree 100%. Zack is good at what he does. He is having a rough year this year, and I think that stems from a lack of confidence from the coach. He is still a valuable player, who goes out and does the job we ask him to every night, and with gusto to boot. I think all the Stortini haters on here would do well to remember last year, when there was one guy on the ice every night you could count on to give it his all. On a last place team, where many nights most of the team just gave up, that showed me all I need to know about Zack’s character as a player. And that is why I won’t jump on him for having one bad fight, or even a bad couple games.

  • O.C.

    RB. Nicely done.

    This is not the Son of Curt Brackenberry.

    As a “What The Heck Was That?” game flow changer… Very good.

    As a checker… Maybe average.
    As a scorer… Terrible.
    As a playmaker… Very poor.
    As an enforcer… Embarrassing.

    Seriously, there must be hundreds, if not thousands of players available, at that skill level or better.

  • I agree stortini Is not a good fighter he is very good at agitating.when I watch the Rangers I,m willing with all my Willpower that somone will crosscheck avery in the teeth.Thats what zack should work on.losing fights is not a great tactic.

  • @ Robin Brownlee:

    Has Tom Renney said anything specifically about Stortini that has you wondering, or are you going mostly from his ice-time this season?

    I agree with your take, I’m just curious if you’re going on a little more than those of us who don’t talk to the players/coaches.

  • book¡e

    I think that Storts is a useful 4th liner for reasons OTHER than fighting. I think he wants to be that player. I think Renney considers him a fighter and doesn’t think he is a great fighter and thus – he sits, etc.

    Sometimes coaches have a vision for a player that does not line up with the player (see MacT – Penner).

  • victorious secret

    The 3 things I look for in an effective agitator/fighter are:

    1. Is he intimidating/annoying? Sorry, but Storts has more opponents laughing than worrying. He can get under the skin of an opponent now and again, but doesn’t do it frequently enough to be effective.

    2. Can he beat the heck out of someone to get his team pumped up? Storts does NOT have this ability. While admittedly he occasionally has to fight guys bigger than he is, even when he is on a level playing field he doesn’t seem to have the punching power or technique to survive. I’ve played on teams where your “tough guy” gets pumped – it’s deflating.

    3. Does he crush a few of the oppositions key players with a thunderous hit or two? Again, Storts is not capable of this. He is not fast nor coordinated enough to do any damage with a body-check. As a contrast, consider Peckham’s ability, and desire, to crush the star of the opposition whenever he can.

    Considering all this, I agree with Renney’s take on Storts’ ability to contribute to this team. Also, in my opinion, since Smack fills at least #2 (and sometimes #3) he is of more value in this role. Even JFJ, of whom I’m no fan, at least can provide the occasional crushing hit.

  • kawi460

    My guess is that storts has a nice holiday booked for him and his girlfriend and he is going to propose. Hence he was shielding his face from getting mangled by Barch.

    • Jiri Dopita

      I thought he may have gotten popped early and was hurt and was just riding out the bout.

      A buddy and I were talking yesterday and he mentioned something similar to what you are saying. Not sure if true but apparently Penner is getting married and maybe Stortini is attending and he wanted to save his face.

  • Bucknuck

    i have always liked stortini. He’s tough, hussles his ass, and gets beat on regularly for his trouble. I pick him over jfj just due to the injury thing.

    He’s not untouchable, but I don’t understand Renney’s problem.

  • Peter Griffin

    I liked Stortini’s game last year, as he looked to be progressing into being a half-decent checker. However, this year he seems to be late to his check, and ineffective as an agitator/fighter. Stortini may be the most agitating forward, but he may also be the most heavily mocked.

    @ Brownlee

    Why can’t Brule take Fraser’s spot?

  • Pilgor09

    Stortini looks like the Undertaker. But he fights like Rey Mysterio JR.

    I think JW article was one of the worse things i’ve ever read on ON. It was kind of embarrassing actually. Why do the Bruins have Seguin up WIllis? They don’t need another centre and they could have saved a year or 2 on his contract keeping him in junior……… When a guy is getting hat tricks in pre-season, what kind of message are you sending when you send them down. I agree he started off real slow, but his play as of late with Omark and Gags has been dominating at times.

    I guess everyones entitled to their opinion though so who am i to judge……

  • If Zack is getting laughed at while wearing an Oilers sweater, then the Oilers them selves are part of the joke. That includes his teammates on the bench. I wonder how it makes the rest of the Oilers players feel when they’re sitting on the bench watching and listening to it. He is proving more and more useless as time goes on, enough is enough.

    Willis’ article and view on Paajarvi is as pointless as an Eklund, Dreger and/or Friedman trade insights.

    • Dominoiler

      I agree with this somewhat.

      I couldn’t help but feel what Zach’s team mates thought and how they would react to his antics in that fight.

      I understand you have stick up for your team mates and all that, but really what do you say when the other teams rip Stortini for his fight?

      I am sure the players have a bit of a com[plex to begin with (being near the bottom of the NHL standings) and having to deal with an incident like this can’t be good for morale???

      • Cosmo


        Great points.

        But why must you mention Eklund…at all..ever…

        There should be a 1$ fine every time we mention Eklund – with proceeds going to charity.

        I’m in for $2.

  • kawi460

    IMO, Stortini isn’t a great fighter to begin with; that being said I’m glad he’s trying different techniques. He should watch and learn from Godard tapes as he is about the same size.

  • kawi460

    I also agree, as Iam no expert on NHL fights i think Stort was trying to do exactly what Rypien does, the difference is Rick has faster hands than Stort….. wasn’t his dad a champ at boxing?

    In the next few years if the oil make the playoffs, i can see Stort cracking the line up and being a usefull fourthline checker… he seems to get under the skin of the opponents more than Mac and JF.

    As for MPS, he deserves a spot on the team just as much as the other rookies, i thought it was unfair for willis to compare him to Nillson.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Stortini is a young guy, and we tend to forget that. However, I’ve yet to see much improvement in his game over the last couple of years. Be it fighting, agitating, and overall hockey skills…he really hasn’t developed all that much, if at all.

    I understand there isn’t much to improve on when it comes to one dimensional players (such as Stortini); but in the last couple of years have we seen much improvement with anybody?

    I though Renney was suppose to be a teacher.

  • Stortini should have used his FISTS more.

    *I can’t believe I actually just did that*

    Also, I agree with literally everything you said. Is there any way you can get to the bottom of why Stortini has been on such a short leash, outside of the “crappy skater” thing Renney trotted out earlier?