Vancouver Canucks Enforcer Tom Sestito Looking for Chance to Play


Sep 25, 2014; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks left wing Tom Sestito (29) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Vancouver Canucks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a much rougher year on enforcers across the league as the fourth line fighters that used to be a given on every team in the NHL are slowly being phased out for players who have spent their careers focusing on developing offensive and defensive skills rather than protecting their teammates, making the enforcer role something that teams are starting to consider as expendable. That goes for the Vancouver Canucks as after Tom Sestito led the league in fights last season under head coach John Tortorella the enforcer has yet to see a game as the team heads into the end of October.

There is a good reason for that and it is that new head coach Willie Desjardins does not share the philosophy that a team needs to carry a fighter on their fourth line, something that was always going to be a factor in Sestito’s games played as there was no way that Desjardins was going to give 77 games to a player who totaled just nine points while being a -14 under Tortorella as the designated enforcer. While five goals from a fourth liner is nothing to scoff at and Sestito did score 42 goals in his final Junior season, it does not appear Desjardins considers Sestito’s skills as worthy as getting more than the occasional game.

According to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, Sestito has discussed his ice time with general manager Jim Benning, who is aware of what Sestito can bring to the table when it comes to being an enforcer. However with the ultimate decisions on ice time up to the head coach, it appears that the veteran of the AHL and the two year Canucks fourth liner with 100 games under his belt will be a healthy scratch often this season.

From Sportsnet:

"I’m not sure you would label Canucks forward Tom Sestito a disgruntled employee just yet. But it’s getting close. As Vancouver gets set to play its ninth game of the season Sestito is getting set to sit his ninth game of the season. As you can imagine it’s weighing on him. Sestito met with general manager Jim Benning before the Canucks’ recent game in Denver to talk about his situation.Sestito basically wanted to know if he was in the Canucks plans. He would love a chance to play – and if not here, perhaps somewhere else. Benning doesn’t want to go down that road just yet.The GM’s message to Sestito was to stay ready and make use of his chance when it comes. He also let the tough guy know that he really respected the role he played for the Canucks last season (led the league in fights).Sestito played 77 games and at time showed the hands that helped him score 42 goals one year in junior. Unfortunately for Sestito it’s not the GM he needs in his corner. It’s the coach, and just last week Willie Desjardins said this about him:“He has to transition his game to our play,” Desjardins said. “He has kind of been in the league as a protector and we want to get him into the role of a player so he’s like everyone else. If something happens, he deals with it, but no more than any other player. So it is a bit of a transition and I don’t feel he is quite there yet.”"

Desjardins comments on Sestito give the sense that the new Canucks head coach doesn’t feel that the fourth line staple has climbed from the AHL to the NHL on the merit of his hockey skill and that is going to be a problem as it is well known that Desjardins has little time for players who aren’t skilled enough in all facets of the game earning valuable ice time. There is a place for power forward enforcers like Sestito, but coaches are turning more and more from the big lumbering fourth liners to guys who can skate fast to help with the forecheck as well as to avoid having a liability in the defensive zone. If Sestito can’t prove that he is the type of player that can be of use if given ice time, there is a good chance that a move is made in the near future as it doesn’t appear that the veteran wants to spend one of his few seasons left in the NHL as a nightly healthy scratch. With the amount of enforcers being phased out of the league, it may just be a reality that Sestito, who despite having underrated scoring talent from his Junior days, is found on the outside looking in for focusing on his skills to fit in a role that the game feels is less needed season by season.