Chest Hair

I meant to do a write up awhile ago about how one of the major things this team was missing was a player everyone hated. Someone who was tough, nasty, and a little dirty. A lot of statements were going around in the media or blogging community about how this team isn't tough to play against. We are young, talented, and soft.

Then Ethan Moreau came back and showed some of what I was talking about. He was throwing hits on other teams skill players, he was going into corners with his elbows chest high, and he made 'Celine' Dion Phaneuf have a very uncomfortable and forgettable game on Monday. But as a team captain, and a player relied upon for veteran leadership on the ice he can not be getting into penalty trouble or spending five minutes of the period in the box.

Which is where a player like Zack Stortini comes in.

He has been looked at to be the replacement to Big Georges, the man that is going to open up space for Hemsky through fear and intimidation, but that has not been the case. "Huggy Bear" has not followed this role at all. His fights have been described as one giant hug with few punches thrown and that he never really makes people pay. Lets remove Stortini from Laraque's shadow and discuss who he is and the role he has now defined for himself.

Today the Journal did up an article on him and used the word "pest" as a descriptor. I have to say I like the idea and I'm going to use Monday's game against Calgary as an example. Stortini had the entire Calgary Flame team focused on him and their play was affected by it. Both of his fights were engaged by Flames (Regher even moved positions on the faceoff draw to line up against him) and he held his own against two strong guys. The idea that Stortini is a heavyweight is wrong. He was a third round draft pick in 2003 out of the OHL as a player who would hit, play tough, put up some points, and fight to stick up for his teammates. He was the team captain in his last couple years on the team.

The Stortini of today is the same way only with a more heavy reliance on fighting. He has done whatever his team needs and it shows. I can remember reading a story on Rob Schremp that talked about Stortini and him going to summer skate camps in Saskatchewan together after they were drafted. Schremp went one year then quit half way through the next, while Stortini stayed on. Which one is in the NHL? He has improved his game so that he is not a liability on the ice and that allows him to stay in the line up while he works on other facets of his game. He is only a -5 in 40 games this year as well as chipping in 4 pts in basically his first full NHL season. If it wasn't for a string of 4 games in a row where he went -5 he would be an even player.

As for the fighting has answered the bell whenever called upon. Edmonton is 19th in the NHL with 26 fights, 15 of which are from Stortini tying him for fifth in the NHL. If Stortini can mold himself into a player that can get under opponents skin like Avery or Cooke, provide a willingness to fight for his teammates, and not be a defensive liability on the ice then we have a player that every team covets. Yet hates.

Zack Stortini is growing on me.

1 comment:

Rory said...

Have to agree, starting to like the guy, he's not a douche like Cooke is (glad to see him leave the conference) and Mac T found a good fit for him with Glencross and Brodziak, the best line the Oilers have right now. Beginning of the season I was wondering why he was up here instead of Shremp, now it's obvious.