Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Stortini)

The Edmonton Oilers have always thought highly of Zack Stortini. It was obvious in their words and deeds from the start.

About a year after he was drafted, Oilers scout Chris McCarthy said: “Zack Stortini does not skate like an Oiler but he brought other things to the table that made us say ‘alright, look what else he’s got’. He’s tough, he’s a leader and was captain of his team at 17 years old, he can put the puck into the net every once in a while, he’ll fight anybody, and he works hard and he’s willing to improve his skating.”

He said and did all the right things, from the power skating in Regina with Leanne Davis to going out every night in the NHL and playing the role asked of him. He grabbed an NHL job ahead of the Oiler selections taken before him from the 2003 draft and along with Kyle Brodziak (who is 14 months older) appears to be on his way to making the scouting staff look pretty smart for their depth selections that summer.

Stortini’s role on the club is as the agitator, the physical presence on the 4/energy line. In 2007-08 he was so effective in the role many of us doubt it it can be repeated. Desjardins says he played subpar opponents with the dregs and came out smelling like a rose consdering his age and talent. Zack Stortini had a fine season in a defined role and most certainly deserves another 500 at-bats. Can he do it again?

Prediction for 08-09: 75gp, 5-8-13 (.173 per game).

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11 Responses to "Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Stortini)"

  1. Schitzo says:

    I have nothing useful to add. That said, I think it is a succinct summary of Stortini’s pro career that 6 hours after posting, there are 0 comments.

  2. Bruce says:

    Schitzo: It’s Friday night in August, it’s 38 fucking degrees outside and the Olympics are on inside. Maybe some of those other Oilogosphere regulars (present company excluded) actually have some semblance of a life. So what the hell are we doing here, writing about hockey?

    :-D

    “He’s tough, he’s a leader and was captain of his team at 17 years old, he can put the puck into the net every once in a while, he’ll fight anybody, and he works hard and he’s willing to improve his skating.”

    Chris McCarthy saw the same things in Zack at 19 and presumably earlier that I saw at 21 and 22, which probably explains why McCarthy is a scout and I’m up here in the peanut gallery. But even from this distance it’s fair to conclude that to this point — and way ahead of schedule — Stortini has delivered on every one of McCarthy’s comments (depending on your definition of “once in a while”, I suppose), plus one more important one: he’s smart.

    In 2007-08 he was so effective in the role many of us doubt it it can be repeated.

    To me that makes zero sense. Next year he will be one year older, one year more experienced. Why won’t he be one year better and even more effective in the role? He was easily twice the player in March that he was in October; why isn’t that the assumed starting point? Maybe it’s time we started raising our collective expectations for this guy.

    Prediction for 08-09: 75gp, 5-8-13 (.173 per game).

    2007-08: 66 GP, 3-9-12 (.182 per game in 8:10 TOI)

    … so basically treading water. Now it’s hard to envision Zack playing on a line with better chemistry than the one with Brodz and GlenX, but it isn’t that hard to envision him continuing to improve in the offensive zone as he did throughout 2007-08. Check out these splits:

    Oct-Jan: 37 GP, 1-2-3, -5 (.081 per game)
    Feb-Apr: 29 GP, 2-7-9, +8 (.310 per game)

    I’m admittedly an optimist when it comes to this guy, but so far that confidence has been fairly decently rewarded. I think a 20-point season is within his capabilities, perhaps as early as this upcoming season; certainly that and more in the further future as he continues to develop. Zack is destined to be a fourth liner for a year or two yet, but I am confident he will be an effective one.

  3. Lowetide says:

    I have pretty much all the kids running in place for this season so Stortini isn’t alone.

  4. PerformanceOil says:

    Yeah, Stortini is young, full of desire and, apparently, extremely coachable. His natural talent level will certainly limit his upside, but he’s a player you can pretty much bank on reaching his maximum potential, whatever that is.

    I’m not sure I’m as bullish on the growth of his offensive prowess as Bruce is, but I think he will continue to provide great value in his role, so yeah, I think he can do it again.

    It will be interesting though, to compare the years (and careers) of Stortini, Glencross and Brodziak. Hopefully we look back years from now with the realization that it was Glencross who had hitched his wagon to the other two.

  5. Dennis says:

    Maybe the numbers will prove me wrong but it looked like 20-51 had the real chem that drove that 4th line. That’s not to say that Zach didn’t contribute but I remember chatting with Ty and we both mentioned how there were a couple of games where 78 slotted in on the 4th line RW and that line kept clicking.

  6. spOILer says:

    I think one of the measures of players in the instigating role should be penalties drawn.

    Last year Stortini drew more penalties than Gagner and Horchoff. In fact the entire 4th line had outstanding numbers.

    His rate, penalties drawn per 60 min, was actually better than anyone on the team not named Hemsky.

    Hemmer finished 14th in the league in penalties drawn and about 20th in rate**.

    BTW, Erik Cole finished 3rd in penalties drawn, 2nd in PD/60**, and first in PD/PT differential. (That PP better be firing on all cylinders this season.)

    Hitting should also be a consideration for energy role players. Stortini finished second to Stoll in total hits and second to Moreau on hit rate.

    So my expectations are for Stortini to improve his TOI per game up to about 10, thus improving his reliability, while maintaining his hitting, scoring, and penalties drawn rates from last year. And be a plus player again.

    **I’m using Behind the Net for these numbers which seems to have a terrible skew in the calculated rates in that it only uses ES TOI rather than total TOI for its penalty/60 numbers. I have no idea why this is.

  7. Bruce says:

    Hmmm, nobody’s ever called me “bullish” before, though they often call a somewhat similar word. :)

    LT: Running in place seems a reasonable position for all the kids, but it’s hard not to be excited by how they (all) finished the season. Check out the pre/post All-Star break splits on any of them and there’s lots of reasons to get excited. Of course, some of the injured guys whose roles they filled will be back and the whole team dynamic will be different, but give or take a potential trouble spot at 3C MacT has a terrific set of options.

    Spoiler: BtN stats are entitled “5v5 Penalties Drawn/Taken”, so presumably Gabe only tabulates penalties that occur at evens as well as ES TOI. I can understand where he’s coming from; to include special teams time when penalties occur at a very different rate would really skew this.

    As for hit rates among Oilers, you are right that Moreau had the most hits per GP at just a shade under 2. I posted this stat a couple times during the season based on TOI, which had Stortini comfortably in front; and on ES TOI (assuming few hits on either special team) which had Stortini just ahead of Moreau. Of the 25 Oilers who played 10 or more games Zack was 25th in TOI/G and ES TOI/G, so 2nd in per game hit rate suggests he understood his role very well. Like you, I’d expect to see those TOI numbers trend up slightly, assuming MacT continues to stick with a four-line strategy at least into the third period. It sure worked for him this past spring so I don’t see why not.

    Guy on the bubble is JFJ who in 9 GP and less than an hour TOI recorded an impressive 15 hits, suggesting he too understood at least that portion of his expected role. I wouldn’t mind seeing MacT putting both of those big guys on the same line in the pre-season and seeing if any chemistry develops.

  8. Bruce says:

    BTW, Erik Cole finished 3rd in penalties drawn, 2nd in PD/60**, and first in PD/PT differential. (That PP better be firing on all cylinders this season.)

    I meant to bring this up in the Cole thread, but I have been surprised at how little buzz there's been here about this aspect of his game. With his size and speed he's a tough customer to deal with legally. Dude gets a ton of breakaways too, where hauling him down is the best option if it's even possible. Throw in his own impressive hit rate (>2.5/GP; 18th in NHL in total hits with 186) and the relatively small number of penalties he takes himself (just 10 taken vs. 43 drawn) and that's a whole lot of positive elements. I'm excited to see this guy in copper and blue.

  9. Bruce says:

    PS: On the subject of Cole getting breakaways and drawing penalties, he is the only player in NHL history to take two penalty shots* in the same game (Nov 9, 2005). Erik followed up by drawing another in the very next game, thus becoming only the second player (after the immortal Esa Pirnes in 2003) to have a PS in consecutive games.

    (*excluding shootouts)

  10. Dennis says:

    I used to watch a lot of hockey — not just WC stuff — back when teams from each conference actually played each other;) but then when Bettman cut down the number of inter-conference games, I didn’t watch a lot of EC games and I really haven’t been able to stomach much of the Canes as of late.

    For obvious reasons.

    So, mostly it’s been the Pens or Caps and it’s been a long time since I watched Cole or remembered that he was a developing power forward. I do remember someone bring up the penalties drawn thing but I hadn’t looked closely enough to see that he hits a tonne as well.

    Overall, I think I’m holding back on Cole because I don’t want to get attached to him. We can see the guys that are going to get paid for awhile and the guys who are next in line and there won’t be room for Cole unless the Oilers decide to get rid of Penner.

    So, I’m excited about seeing him for this year but I’m not totally investing in him either.

  11. Bruce says:

    That’s not to say that Zach didn’t contribute but I remember chatting with Ty and we both mentioned how there were a couple of games where 78 slotted in on the 4th line RW and that line kept clicking.

    Well for those with selective memories like you, Dennis and you, Tyler, there were a couple of games where 78 slotted in on the 4th line C in Brodziak’s spot, and that line kept clicking. Pouliot’s first points and his first plusses of his eventually-strong comeback — which would be his first points and first plusses of the entire season when it comes to that — came when he was teamed with GlenX and Stortini, in consecutive wins in Chicago and here vs. St.Louis. Cogliano got the headlines, but the games don’t reach OT if the fourth line doesn’t go +1 each time.

    GlenX scored one of the goals and Zack the other one, and Pouliot had two points and +2 and at long long last something positive to say about that lost season. To see Marc still with a goose egg in fucking March is still pretty hard to swallow. But to his credit, he turned it around after that. Let’s just say I don’t think his shifts with Curtis and Zack hurt the cause when it came to improving Poo’s attitude and intensity.

    But if only they had kept that line together … surely Staples would have dubbed them the Crosstinipoos, which sounds like what happens when you breed a high- strung poodle with a couple of mutts and see what comes out. Which come to think of it, describes that particular line combination pretty well. :)

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