Zack Stortini

Bullies no more? Flyers approach season without enforcers


As of this very writing, the Philadelphia Flyers seem set to do something they haven’t done since the 70’s: enter the regular season without a full-on, “heavyweight” enforcer.

(Some were probably hoping they’d do a different thing since that decade: win the Stanley Cup. That’s certainly the other plan …)

By waiving Jay Rosehill on Friday, the Flyers inspired a wave of stunned headlines about this possible change of direction, with even labeling them “The Bully-less Bullies.”


Fans of pugnacious Flyers hockey shouldn’t fret too much, however, as there’s still plenty of snarl on this roster. GM Ron Hextall mentioned as much to the press, even as he seems to nudge this team along in a (gasp) progressive direction.

“We’ve got some toughness on our team,” Hextall said. “Don’t forget that. We’ve got some guys that can handle themselves. I think when you look, there wasn’t a lot of fights in preseason. There never are any fights in the playoffs. And then in between, it’s getting less and less. If we have to adjust at some point, we’ll adjust.”

While Rosehill led the team with 10 fights in 2013-14, there are plenty of players who can drop the mitts if things get out of hand, including guys who can take a regular shift like Wayne Simmonds (six fights last season). Beyond that, Rosehill and and Zack Stortini are just a quick call-up from the AHL. As Hextall said, “it can change in a hurry.”

(Some have mentioned Zac Rinaldo, and he’ll certainly drop the mitts with aplomb. Even if he’s heavier than his listed 169 lbs., it’s obvious that he’s not in that “heavyweight” category, though.)

Beyond the blatantly obvious fact that fighting is both declining in frequency and the fairly clear notion that teams are becoming far less willing to dress a guy who can really do little but scuffle, both Hextall and head coach Craig Berube feel like they’re better off with a more versatile fourth line.

“Right now we look at the [Pierre-Edouard] Bellemare line,” Hextall said. “They’re giving us some offense. They’re giving us some quality minutes. When Chief (Berube) and I talked in the summertime, we wanted to increase that line’s ice time.

“At this point it looks like we’ll be able to.”

This roster still has its issues (as you can read all about here), so it might be a while before we truly see positive results from the refreshing-yet-possibly-polarizing changes Hextall seems willing to consider.

In the meantime, it might be appropriate to drum up a new nickname. Should we start calling them “The Broad Street Beauties?”

(That … probably wouldn’t go over too well.)

Flyers send prospects Laughton, Gostisbehere to AHL


Philly fans hoping to see Scott Laughton and Shayne Gostisbehere on the opening night roster were disappointed on Wednesday, as the Flyers sent both to their AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Laughton, the club’s first-round pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and Gostisbehere — an NCAA standout at Union College, taken in the third round that same year — were considered longshots to make the team. Laughton only has 11 games of professional experience on his resume while “Ghost” has just two, both coming with the Phantoms after winning the Frozen Four a year ago.

That said, Laughton was thought to be the more NHL-ready of the two, and was in the running for Philly’s fourth-line center spot after scoring a goal and three points in four preseason games.

The Flyers also placed tough guy Zack Stortini on waivers today, for the purpose of sending him to the AHL.

With these moves, Philly’s roster is down to 26 players — one of which is Samuel Morin, the 19-year-old defenseman taken 11th overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Morin has NHL size (6-foot-6, 202 pounds) and has impressed in the exhibition campaign, but is still likely going back to QMJHL Rimouski.

Video: Flyers’ Stortini isn’t shy about fighting


Sometimes it’s just best to find your niche and know who you are. As Zack Stortini hopes to stick with the Philadelphia Flyers after years of AHL play, it’s pretty clear that he’s not shy about his role as an enforcer.

According to various onlookers, the 29-year-old engaged in his third fight in less than four periods of preseason action on Tuesday, in the latest case piling up penalty minutes against David Broll.

Side note: Some believe that Stortini might have landed a late punch in the bout. Hockey Fights already uploaded video of the scuffle for your own perusal:

Stortini spent last season with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, fighting his way to a staggering 299 penalty minutes in just 73 games by fighting a whopping 33 times by Hockey Fights’ count.

He last appeared in a single NHL game with the Nashville Predators in 2011-12 while the rest of his 256 NHL appearances came with the Edmonton Oilers from 2007-08 to 2010-11.

The role of the one-dimensional enforcer seems to be fading rapidlyeven guys who are labeled as such admit as much – so it’s anyone’s guess if we’ll see much/any of Stortini in meaningful action. It doesn’t sound like there should be much doubt about what he’s prepared to do if he does make any NHL appearances with the Flyers or another team in 2014-15, though.

Beefing up: Senators add Zenon Konopka, Predators sign Zack Stortini

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For better or worse, enforcers aren’t going away anytime soon in the NHL. Sure, a more skill-friendly league is making it tougher for guys who do little beyond serving up hearty knuckle sandwiches, but they keep finding ways to earn paychecks for punching and getting punched.

There’s not anything wrong with that, one just wonders how much longer it will take for fighters to go from “marginalized” to “obsolete.” For all the perks that coming with having a guy to protect a superstar player, there’s that snag about them also needing to be able to skate with that person to truly play that role (and not just menace offenders after they commit grisly acts).

It never hurts to at least have the option of plugging your lineup with a guy who can hurt someone, though, especially when they come at the right price. Two teams added pugilists via affordable deals today.

  • The Ottawa Senators signed Zenon Konopka to a one-year contract worth $700K. The best part for Konopka might be that it’s a one-way deal, too; he gets the same paycheck whether he’s throwing his fists or wearing a suit (or maybe playing in the minors?).

To be fair to Konopka, he’s proficient with his hands in one other way that might actually make him an everyday player: the guy can win faceoffs. He won 57.7 percent of the draws he took last season, good enough for the fourth-best rate in the league. It’s not like he only received a handful of FO’s either; he took 1,075 (winning 620) in 82 games played in 2010-11. That’s an average of 13 per game. Considering the fact that he lead the league for the second year in a row in penalty minutes (307), he actually might bring a little something to the table when he’s not breaking noses.

Don’t get too excited, though; he only scored nine points for the New York Islanders. (Still, his faceoff skills are an undeniably nice bonus.) If you ask Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun, the trio of Konopka, Chris Neil and Matt Carkner might make the Senators the toughest team in the NHL.

  • The Nashville Predators probably won’t expect to get much more than some fights out of Zack Stortini. That’s OK, though, because the one-year deal they signed him to is a two-way contract, allowing them to yo-yo him from the NHL to the AHL and back whenever they need a fighter. Stortini should hope he receives a lot of time at the big-league level; he’ll earn at a $550K pace when he’s in the NHL and just a $75K pace in the AHL.

Stortini appeared in 32 games for the Edmonton Oilers and 29 for their AHL affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons last season. Who knows if that half-and-half ratio will be a decent barometer for the Predators since they’re a higher-level squad than the woeful 2010-11 Oilers.

Canadiens add some muscle by calling up Ryan White, but do they need more?

The Boston Bruins left the Montreal Canadiens bloodied and bruised last night, in a scene that was at times just downright ugly. Obviously the “rough stuff” is a part of the game, but Boston did take advantage of some Habs who rarely fight (like Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik). Some wonder if they took advantage because there simply wasn’t enough fear of retribution.

Darren Dreger passes along the mood that today is a “pivotal day in the Montreal Canadiens season” as the team preps to face the lowly New York Islanders. Dreger suggests that calling up bruiser Ryan White isn’t enough and that the Habs should add recent Edmonton Oilers cast-off Zack Stortini to fold. (Or at least add someone of his knuckle sandwich making ilk.)

It’s not clear which Habs might be injured, beyond their collective egos, of course. Either way, Jacques Martin admits that the team needs to increase its intensity. It isn’t happening with the likes of Scott Gomez, who produced an ugly -4 rating among the chaos of last night’s game. Some wonder if teams will try to challenge the Canadiens going forward, as Dreger writes.

When motivated as they were last night, few teams can measure up to the Bruins’ physical assets, but sources say the worry now in Montreal is that the book is out on this team and all rivals now have a clear understanding of one of the Canadiens’ most glaring weaknesses.

So what do you think? Will the addition of White and the impetus to step up to the plate be enough to help the Canadiens get it together? Or do they need to head on over to Brian Burke’s Turculent Warehouse and get some goons to keep up with their black-and-gold rivals?

The Northeast Division is far from decided. If last night is any indication, it will be fascinating (and sometimes a bit unsettling) to watch.