I’ve met Dave Berry, aka Pleasure Motors. It was at an event in a Legion that was closing or something, put on by a member of the transplanted Edmonton hipster scene. He wore tight pants and had a haircut that confused me. I think he was smoking clove cigarettes.
I didn’t realize that I was in the presence of a hockey savant. But I must have been, because more than two years ago, Dave was (somewhat publicly) punted from the Oilers’ pressbox after writing, amongst other things:
“Zack Stortini is just a disgusting hockey player.”
I won’t wade into that debate again, although re-reading what Elliotte Friedman had to say about it irritated me to no end. Also, while Dave was rapped by Friedman for writing “We had better be good on the powerplay, because we can’t do [expletive] all at even strength: that whole sequence before the disallowed goal was just horrific”, it bears mentioning that the Oilers finished the 2008-09 season in 22nd on the PP. AND, he kind of foresaw the redemption of Dustin Penner: “Penner is the early leader for the Mike Peca Award for the player who I most wanted to spit in the face of a year ago who I now kinda like.” If any retirement home residents can comment on Paul Lorieau’s success with the ladies, we might know just how broad Dave’s expertise is.
Back to Stortini: 161 games after Dave pointed it out and JJ Hebert defamed Zack Stortini by implying that he’s the kind of guy who might assault Dave for saying it, the Oilers have finally come to the same conclusion: Zack Stortini has been waived. (Followers of the arena debate may be interested to note that the Oilers currently have a whopping $6.75MM in one way contracts playing in the AHL: it’s not just that the team is terrible but they can’t even do that efficiently; they sign all sorts of players who are too terrible, or troublesome, to even play for the Oilers and then pay them to play somewhere else. I’m not sure how Zack Stortini, JDD, Alexandre Giroux and Sheldon Souray making NHL money to ride the AHL buses makes Edmonton a world class city but hey: it’s your tax money, not mine.)
There seems to be some disgruntlement amongst Oiler fans on Twitter that Stortini got the axe, as it’s felt that he shouldn’t be first on the chopping block. Is Stortini the worst player on the Oilers? Not by a long shot. JFJ is clearly more useless and Steve MacIntyre is more pointless than either of them. And I’m not going to get into Jason Strudwick eating up an NHL roster spot because he’s a great guy. I agree – their continued presence on the roster enrages me too.
With those concessions made, I’m not going to dump on management for moving Stortini out before those guys. Stortini isn’t good enough to play on a good NHL team. Full stop. The fact that a bunch of other guys on this team have the same problem doesn’t excuse his continued presence. The big picture is that this is a sign that the Oilers are cutting ties with a player who shouldn’t be here. It’s a good thing. Even if it took millionaire hockey executives spending $2.1MM in salary on him to learn what a guy filling time by writing a live blog while waiting to collect cliches (or, possibly, get assaulted) knew just from looking at the guy.
Unsurprisingly, Bruce McCurdy disagrees. A quick rebuttal of his points:
I really thought – and think – that there is room on a successful team for a role player of his ilk, and I was confident we were growing our own.
I think Bruce would have a hell of a time finding some statistical comparables for Stortini on good teams.
Stortini has been a break-even player on a truly crummy team (a net +1 over the past four seasons).
The percentages have been in his favour, which is never a smart thing to be bet on going forward.
He doesn’t give up much defensively, wins more than his share of board battles, takes the puck to the net, and gets in the faces of opponents – in fact right now today Zack Stortini leads the entire NHfreakin’ in penalites drawn per unit ice time.
Bruce loves his small sample sizes. Stortini’s never been good at this in the past. As for not giving up much defensively, when he’s on the ice, the Oilers tend to be stuck in their own end getting bombed.
Zack was never given much of an opportunity to play with skill players, and when he did (with guys like Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson), it was those guys who got promoted when the line was successful.
Yeah, I don’t even know what to say about this. I’m not sure what Bruce thought Stortini’s upside was. Maybe they should have waived Gagner and kept Zack? Stortini got literally oodles of opportunity given what he might bring to the rink if things worked out.
When he got solid linemates for fourth-line duties, those guys were traded (Kyle Brodziak) or allowed to walk down the QE2 (Curtis Glencross). He spent the vast majority of his time here playing with the call-ups, the slumpers, and the scrubs, and held his own in the process.
The Brodziak/GlenX/Stortini line rode the percentage lightning like basically no other line in the past few years. Stortini wouldn’t be close to positive without that string, IIRC. Other than that, I think Bruce and I draw the “held his own” line in different places.
The real beneficiaries of this, given management’s asinine devotion to JFJ and MacIntyre, are Liam Reddox and Linus Omark. Tom Benjamin had a good line the other day about finding good hockey players, saying “…the best way to find hockey diamonds is to sift a lot of coal.” Stortini going means that the Oilers are going to sift through some more coal this year. Complaining that it should have been JFJ or MacIntyre is akin to staring at three pieces of coal and trying to pick the one that is more coal-y than the others. IT’S ALL FREAKING COAL.