Farewell, Steve Pinizzotto

13-Pinizzotto-1

He joined the Edmonton Oilers’ organization midway through the 2013-14 season, an older minor-league journeyman still fighting hard (often literally) for that elusive NHL dream. On Tuesday that dream likely came to its conclusion, as it was announced that Pinizzotto had signed with a team in Germany’s top league.

Arrival

The trade which brought Pinizzotto to the Oilers was one of the more unique ones I can remember seeing, a four-player transaction which saw the Oilers, the Florida Panthers and each team’s respective AHL affiliate swap skaters:

  • Edmonton acquired Steve Pinizzotto and Jack Combs (AHL)
  • Florida acquired Ryan Martindale and Derek Nesbitt (AHL)

Superficially, Martindale was the catch in the trade, a third-round pick of the Oilers in 2010 who offered size and offensive talent to the Panthers. As a practical matter, Martindale had struggled to even stay in the AHL full-time over parts of three seasons as a professional and Edmonton was willing to move on.

Pinizzotto was a long-time AHL journeyman, but he had struggled as a veteran hand on Florida’s middling AHL team. He’d had an NHL cup of coffee with Vancouver earlier in his career, but injury had ruined that and he was eager to get a fresh look with a new franchise.

He impressed immediately, playing on both special teams in his first game in Oklahoma City and adding a consistently physical presence to the lineup. He got scoring chances. It was a solid performance, and several members of the Oilers front office were on hand to see it. I asked him about the possibility of a player his age breaking through and carving out an NHL niche. 

“I’m getting to an age now where there are guys that I am probably 10 years older than I am now,” he told me. “The door can’t stay open forever. I can’t look at next year; like you said I have to worry about this year and hopefully catch some eyes.”

Performance

As it happened, Pinizzotto would earn 24 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers, recording six points which included his first two career NHL goals. 

His big shot came this fall. The Oilers had a couple of open spots at the bottom of the roster and no single player with a clear hold on them. Pinizzotto was part of an intense training camp battle with Jesse Joensuu, Tyler Pitlick, and Will Acton. In the end, Joensuu had a fine camp and a one-way contract, and Acton was a centre, as Craig MacTavish explained on the day that Pinizzotto and Pitlick were sent out as final cuts. 

I think that we can debate the effectiveness of Tyler Pitlick. I think Tyler is at a position right now that we wished he would have been at a year or a year and a half ago. He’s turned himself into a professional. It ended up with Tyler as well as with Pinizzotto was two difficult decisions, but at the end of the day for me it got down to a positional bias, and I thought the 13th forward here would be best served by being a centreman. It [waivers] was a risk I was willing to take.

Both Pitlick and Pinizzotto would eventually return; Pitlick played 17 games with the big club and Pinizzotto played 18 and both did a lot of things right. Pinizzotto fit in smoothly with Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks. He was an aggressive physical and pugilistic presence, and that line had some surprising offensive success. Discipline was a problem, though; in his short time with the Oilers Pinizzotto ran up four times as many penalties as he drew, and while a lot of those were a byproduct of playing a physical game they are the kind of thing a fringe NHL forward really can’t afford to do. 

Pinizzotto is one of those players who probably could have had a career as a depth player if things had broken just a little bit differently, if for instance he hadn’t lost a season to injury after an impressive training camp with the Canucks in 2011-12. 

The Oilers certainly have no cause for complaint; Pinizzotto gave them more NHL minutes than they were going to get from Martindale and there was never a question of effort. He put his not-overly-large frame in harm’s way time and again, played an honest defensive game and got significant production out of what are by NHL standards modest talents. He may not have been a full-time NHL player, but he was a good Oiler all the same.  

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • @S_2_H

    It’s a shame that Pin was cut in favour of Jesse “Preseason Powerhouse” Joensuu and Will “the coaches son” Acton. Under other circumstances he could have stuck, I always liked his jam.

  • Harry2

    IMO, the best type third liner or actually a top fourth liner that the Oilers desperately need.. aside from Gordon or Hendricks … is a Mike Grier type guy with great skating, hitting/fighting skills, and a definite adequate offensive scoring type skill.

    Mike Grier was an excellent, absolute tough mother beast back in the last of the good ole Oiler days … especially come playoff time, and but yet, has since has never been really ever replaced by another same type player with the same grit and calibre.

    Pinnizotto was (and is) a great team tough guy but again, as with many other Oiler players in the system, there are too many ore flaws that isn’t. The flaws and lack of offence are mainly why Stortini couldn’t stick around or then Ryan Jones.

    I was happy as a fan with all he did in the brief time with the Oilers but can see why he couldn’t stick. And… this goes the same too and now for guys like Matt Fraser, Aulie, maybe Klinkhammer too.
    I sincerely wish him the best in Germany and that he enjoys the game out even more there while making a good income for a couple of years.
    In the meantime… it’s a new era for the Oilers….Yahoo!!!!!

  • TKB2677

    I am hoping that the NHL roster and their prospect depth is getting to the point where there is no room for the Pinizzotto’s. He gave it everything he had and he deserves respect for that but he’s an AHLer and on a good team, he wouldn’t make the NHL roster ever.

  • Johnnydapunk

    The DEL is actually kindof a fun league in a weird way, it’s like where fading NHLers go to die as the hockey isn’t too bad. Also beats the KHL as the teams are relatively stable especially the many “RedBull” clubs that dot the globe now and I can’t think of a bad place in Germany to live. He will enjoy himself there I am sure.

    The hockey is also not bad and the schedule is not as intense either. Hopefully in a way he has had good advice and his NHL money that he has made is held wisely since DEL money is not so amazing.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I had no idea of that until now, guess he has 2 brothers playing in Germany as well. It works brilliantly as he also isn’t considered a “foreign” player as there is a quota system for non EU players, and with German Nationality he is free to play anywhere in Europe without having to deal with paperwork hell as he is EU and EEA.

        I hope he has a great time there as Munich and well, Bavaria as its a place where you can really experience “stereotypical” German Culture (lederhosen and stupidly giant beers) It will be fun for him.