Monday, October 27, 2008

Do the Oilers Really Need Zack Stortini?

Often times I find myself under fire for not going along with the crowd. This apparently is one of those times.

Zack Stortini brings to the team a disturber and a guy that is willing to drop the gloves. What happens when the gloves come off is an entirely different story. Any which way, the guy bleeds for his team, and that is always admirable. I am not questioning his heart, his guts, or his mental toughness. However I am questioning why this is a player that needs to be a fixture on this team. A team with Steve MacIntyre and Jason Strudwick on it.

Do we really need 3 goonish players? Do we need more than 2 of these guys on any given night? Strudwick has been much more than a goon this season, he has been a reliable 6th defenseman.
This team is not in an offensive position to play Stortini and MacIntyre together more than a handful of games. Do we really need a hybrid agitator/heavyweight? A guy that has some skill, but not nearly enough to take this team to the next level?

I'm sure that the people that view this post knows where I'm heading with this.


The answer is a resounding NO! Part of this teams woes is due to the fact that the kid line has too much pressure on it to score. Perhaps the revamped lineup will change this, but why not just go for something new. A coach that believed vehemently for 2 seasons that the team didn't need a heavyweight who then made a complete 180 in that belief this offseason could surely change his mindset that the team is in need of an agitator, couldn't he?

Look at Marc Pouliot, here's a guy that some people would've felt was a smaller cog in the Oilers wheel than Stortini just a few weeks ago. Now Pouliot has established himself and has finally shown that he can start the year awake instead of always sleepwalking into the season.

Why not see if the same could happen with Rob Schremp? Or perhaps Gilbert Brule? Maybe even Ryan Potulny?

When will this team come to realize that it will either have to trade away a number of solid young players or change its mindset and embrace a 3 scoring line team?

It maybe impossible for the current coaching regime to grasp the concept, but it needs to happen. There is simply too much skill coming of age to keep buried in the AHL for a player that is a better than average skilled Heavyweight (minus the intimidation) and a below average skilled disturber.

MacIntyre serves a purpose, and if he can continue to provide a big hit here and there, there really is no need for a player like Stortini in the City of Champions.

9 comments:

dubya said...

When will this team come to realize that it will either have to trade away a number of solid young players or change its mindset and embrace a 3 scoring line team?

Nilsson-Horcoff-Hemsky
Penner-Cogliano-Gagner
Moreau-Pisani-Cole

That IS three scoring lines, Bryan. The third just happens to be defensively responsible. Brule and Schremp aren't what this team needs, and I suspect Moreau would outscore Potulny over an NHL season.

Further, with Pouliot-Brodziak-Hemskly/Cole/Nilsson, you could argue that MacT is playing much of the game with (gasp) four lines with more offensive than defensive skill (i.e. scoring lines).

Unfortunately, none of them are scoring right now...but that's not MacT's fault, and I think the lines from last night are well constructed. To my eye, the effort is not there.

As for Stortini, while I hate his fighting I still think he should rotate in and out with SMac as he is a far superior player and contributes things to this roster that aren't duplicated elsewhere (unlike Schremp, Brule, and Potulny)

Bruce said...

Do the Oilers really need Zack Stortini?

Yes.

Of all the bullshit being thrown around on Pensblog recently, one comment that has the ring of truth is that the Oilers are perceived as soft. Replacing Zack Stortini with the likes of Robbie Schremp is hardly going to address this issue, now is it?

Stortini brings things to this club that all the small skill players in the world don't, most of which is in the realm of in-your-face physical play. He also adds to the club's strengths of youth, enthusiasm, and chemistry.

For all of his perceived lack of offence, let me point out that from January 1 to the end of the season, Stortini was on the ice for 19 GF and just 9 GA, which in 352:00 TOI works out to excellent per/60 rates of +3.24/-1.53.

Now I don't think that's sustainable for any NHLer outside the Motor City, but I sure would give him more than a half hour ice time in the new season before writing him off. I'd rather see him get a real left winger and some regular fourth-line minutes and see what happens. That formula worked wonders last year, and that fourth line was a huge part of the Oil's second-half turnaround.

Bryanbryoil said...

Is Stortini really in your face? IMO Moreau is about as in your face as you get. Cole is also very good at this, and MacIntyre lets you know every time that he's on the ice.

For what he brings/doesn't bring, he should be hitting more. To be a very effective hitter he has to get faster.

While many like to point out that Schremp's and Brule's games are duplicated by others, would it really hurt to have a 4th line that is an offensive line except when MacIntyre is needed? Would it hurt to have a lesser version of Nilsson and Cogliano on the 4th line? I think not.

We have toughness on the blueline, in the NHL and on the farm as well as coming up the prospect ranks.

Moreau and Cole bring toughness and physicality minus being great fighters.

Again, I find Stortini to be a 14th forward, not a top 12 or even currently a top 13 forward. He may get there, but IMO right now he's a weak link.

Bryanbryoil said...

BTW-Nice article Bruce. I agree with you about Storts needing to be the least skilled player on his line.

Perhaps having a guy like Schremp or Penner on the 4th line with Brodz and Storts could get him/them going. For all of the crap that Schremp gets he is a superb playmaker and he could create chances for Brodz and Storts as long as they keep their sticks on the ice.

I also believe that your statement about Storts would be accurate with Penner as well.

Bruce said...

Is Stortini really in your face? ... For what he brings/doesn't bring, he should be hitting more.

BBO: Say what? Let's see now, in his last game on Saturday Stortini was 16th on the club in TOI (6:29) and second in hits (4). That's pretty typical for Zack. Looking back to last season, he was 20th on the club in TOI (539:20) and second in hits (99). Needless to say, among Oilers with 10+ GP he was far out front in hits per 60, at 11.0 (Glencross 8.0 in Columbus and Edmonton, Moreau 7.4 in 25 games, Torres 6.0 in 32 games, Stoll 5.0, all others less, mostly far less). You will note that 3 of those 5 hitting forwards are no longer with the Oilers, and now you want to get rid of not just a fourth, but the team leader in this respect.

Besides leading the team in hits per unit ice time, Stortini also led it outright in PiM, fights, and (unofficially) scrums. How much more in-your-face do you want?

Bruce said...

I agree with you about Storts needing to be the least skilled player on his line.

On this we absolutely agree. There's only room for one plumber, max, on any line, and for sure Zack's not good enough to carry around the likes of MacIntyre. Hell, I'm not sure Horc and Hemmer would be able to manage that. :)

I understand why SMac is there, but to me his greatest value is in the PB except for "special occasions".

Bryanbryoil said...

"BBO: Say what? Let's see now, in his last game on Saturday Stortini was 16th on the club in TOI (6:29) and second in hits (4). That's pretty typical for Zack. Looking back to last season, he was 20th on the club in TOI (539:20) and second in hits (99)."

When I look at hits, I really only consider the ones that knock guys silly or cough up pucks for 4th line players. He makes it a point to get a piece of the opposing forward very often, however he doesn't land quite as many really big hits as I'd like. The kid hits hard, but I'd like to see him hit hard more often, especially with limited minutes.

Bruce said...

When I look at hits, I really only consider the ones that knock guys silly or cough up pucks for 4th line players.

Do you suppose those 19 goals Zack was on the ice for in the second half were all the result of slick passing plays? Of course not, they were mostly the result of GlenX and Stortini pounding the boards on the forecheck and Brodziak jumping on loose ("coughed up") pucks down low and working from there.

The kid hits hard, but I'd like to see him hit hard more often, especially with limited minutes.

A hit rate that is 50% higher than any other forward on the team counts in my books as "more often". I don't want the guy running around raising the body count if it means getting trapped out of position. Zack's excellent GA/60 rate last season was due in large part to the fact he played a strong positional game, and only took the hits when they were there. Which was still pretty darn often.

Bryanbryoil said...

His GA numbers are impressive. Who was he playing with to start last season? I recall him playing with Stoll and Torres for a short stretch. It's been awhile. The 4th line that he rounded out last season was superb to say the least.

It will be interesting to see if he can continue his impressive defensive numbers this season, if he doesn't, last season could've just been a situation where everything falls in place for you.