zack stortini: not defensively responsible

I wrote a good portion of this post Saturday night on my phone. My best friend was playing the biggest concert of his life (probably) and I was killing time during an opener.  As you might know, the Admirals broke down completely against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that night. I’ve been for scratching Zack Stortini for a while now. He was scratched Sunday in an Admirals win. While I liked that, I know that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. 

Okay, here’s most of what I wrote on my phone:
Zack Stortini is not a defensively responsible player. Even though he is put on the PK sometimes , that does not automatically make him good at defense. It may signal a failure in tactics more than an ability to protect in front of the goal.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Stortini is here to throw fists. He’s done that enough to earn 1st in PIMs in the AHL. Beyond that, he is thrown on the ice for 5 minutes a game. Well, I guess it’s 5 minutes or so because we lack TOI information at the AHL level. He could easily be replaced by slotting Charlie Sarault I a line and switching some things up. With Sarault, you get point production. Stortini gives you “intangibles” which more or less result in defensive shortcomings.
I’m well aware that Stortini will never be an offensive wiz given his skillset and his age. The problem is that he’s not adding in any other value minus punching. The team already has a younger puncher with actual defensive play–John Kurtz.
Not to mention, Kurtz also contributes offensively.  While it’s not going to match up to the NHL-prospect talent, it is better. Stortini is simply an aging part of the game.
Now, about tonight [Saturday]’s game. It was a total disaster from the top down, especially with the D taking numerous penalties. Those don’t help the team, especially when you take a 5-minute major. When you force your team to play shorthanded, you compromise your team. That’s on Garnet Exelby.
By taking that 5-minute major, some players are thrust into PK roles. Given that odd-man situations do not make up the bulk of a game, they do not factor in as heavily in analysis of defense. As such, players still make mistakes that lead to chances and goals for the opposition. No one player is perfect.
The difference between skill players like Rakell, Etem, and DSP? They can make up for some defensive lapses by carrying play into the offensive zone. Stortini can’t do that. It’s been proven through you this brief spots in the NHL, where he’s been absolutely brutal in advanced stats 5v5.
That’s the end of the phone portion. Now to the numbers. 
the great stortini’s defensive lapses 
Zack Stortini, as I mentioned, has been brutal at both the NHL and AHL levels according to the advanced metrics at our disposal.  While he’s not expected to score goals, he sure as hell shouldn’t be as much of a liability defensively as he has proven himself to be.  It’s intriguing to me that he’s played nearly every game this season, despite his track record.  How bad is it for Stortini this season? According to a chart by Josh Weissbock, Stortini has been the 2nd worst among regulars on the team:
admirals march 15th CORRECT
This turned out too small, here’s a link 
What this means is that there is a negative differential when Stortini is on the ice.  It’s maddening, especially when a rarely used guy like Charlie Sarault exists higher up in the table.  If you want to make the “defensively responsible” argument, you can certainly look at guys like Chris Wagner and John Kurtz. Without hard data about their zone starts, it’s difficult to be certain about their deployment. What is pretty true is that both of those players are used in defensive situations and usually acquit themselves ( Wagner, especially).  Stortini isn’t really up to par with those players. Thanks to the Edmonton Oilers recent run of fun decisions, we have a decent amount of data for Stortini at the NHL level.
Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 1.22.28 AM
Source: behindthenet.ca. More info, which should be bigger
Stortini, at the NHL level, never produced positive possession numbers. While he was primarily deployed in the defensive zone, he did not face quality competition. I’d surmise that this was a result of other teams matching their 4th liners against Stortini. Nonetheless, he failed to gain positive ground on that mess of an era of Oilers teams. With that much data against him, it’s easy to see why he hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2011-12 season.
i never said he had to score 35 goals
I addressed this point above. I never said Zack Stortini had to play at the scoring level of Rakell, DSP, or Etem. Asking that is absurd, especially from an AHL 4th liner. The same could be said about Norm Ezekiel, and you don’t see me getting all mad about it. Ezekiel’s not great, but he’s an entire 8% higher than Stortini.  Not everyone is going to be great, it’s fine. Still, Stortini is still the scratch.
a season is a bigger sample than a game
Driving a point further into the ground, this was mentioned. Was Saturday’s game brutal? Absolutely. I am not arguing any point of that, it was a fiasco from every conceivable angle.  Here is the problem with citing that line being “-1” or what have you: it was one game. Thanks to theahl.com being down right now, I can’t properly cite the ES and PK goals allowed. As a concept, one game is not a sample size. When I wanted to bench Stortini, it wasn’t based on a whim or one game. It was based on an entire season’s worth of data (thank you again, Josh) and knowing that there were better options including Charlie Sarault.
sunday’s game (i play 4 lines on nhl14)
Sunday saw something completely surprising to me. Zack Stortini was scratched in favor of the talented rookie Charlie Sarault.  In his time this season, Sarault has been somewhat neutral in his goal differential, at least being the leader in the negative category.  I was happy to see his inclusion. I’ll admit something though: I was disappointed to see Joseph Cramarossa in for Antoine Laganiere. Honestly, I thought Cramarossa’s turn in Utah was a good thing for him. He actually managed to score 2 points in 3 games after a rough season in Norfolk.  He’s also the worst defensive regular on the team. Yes, Cramarossa has a worse differential than Stortini. Unlike number 26, Cramarossa is young and can still reasonably improve his game.  Laganiere has been better than season, with numbers closer to Sarault (a -2.73% difference).
Since the game was today, I can recall a few things that stood out to me. Charlie Sarault kept pucks alive in the offensive zone and finished with an assist in a 3-2 win.  The Admirals gave up one even strength goal (the other was a weird fluke), to Michael Latta. While it was ultimately the result of a weird bounce of Garnet Exelby, Joseph Cramarossa was on the ice. Later in the game, Cramarossa would also fight Steve Oleksy. I guess you can make Zack Stortini younger and with a bit more speed.
By the way: John Gibson stopped 35/37 pucks today.
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Beneath The Scope

Beneath the Scope is a blog that covers the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals. Compete level has never been higher.

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