Tom Sestito and the Enforcer Market

Nearly a month ago, Tom Sestito broke the news about his having signed a new two-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Twitter. The restless denizens of Canuckistan were mostly unmoved by the news, while we reacted with a brief, subdued shrug.

In describing why the team decided to sign Tom Sestito – a player who was only months removed from being waiver fodder -to a one-way deal worth 1.5 million, Canucks Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman told the Vancouver Sun that “Players like Tom Sestito are a commodity, they really are." 

You can debate the utility of pure enforcers in the modern game, and I tend to think a club is better off employing a twelfth or thirteenth forward who can kill penalties, bring speed and possesses hockey ability. But Laurence Gilman’s assessment of Sestito’s value has proven to be astute. Read past the jump.

Consider that in the very early days of this "offseason," we’ve seen four enforcer-type players signed to one-way contracts spanning multiple seasons. Those players include Washington’s Aaron "the one who got away" Volpatti (2 years, 1.15 million), Vancouver’s Tom Sestito (2 years, 1.5 million), Colorado’s Patrick Bordeleau (3 years, 3 million) and now reportedly Toronto’s Colton Orr (2 years, slightly less than 2 million). So yeah these types of players clearly have value, or at least are widely perceived to have value.

Essentially we know that executives like Dave Nonis, Mike Gillis, George McPhee and Patrick Roy (or whoever is in charge in Colorado) are whilling to commit a small proportion of their cap-space over multiple seasons to guys whose primary job is to punch face. Which makes that group of four far from unique, after all wasn’t that Brandon Bollig and Shawn Thornton featuring into a memorable Stanley Cup Final game on Wednesday night?

Losing Revelstoke’s Aaron Volpatti on waivers for nothing in March and putting in a waiver claim on Tom Sestito to replace him, was definitely an uncharacteristic spot of brutal asset management from this Canucks management team. That mistake was compounded further by the fact that Volpatti, probably a more useful hockey player than Sestito, was signed to a similar but less expensive deal this summer. It’s only a marginal loss really, but the stuff at the margins adds up in a competitive environment like the National Hockey League.

Which is to say that I still don’t particularly like the Sestito extension, and would prefer to see the Canucks eschew the archaic ethos of the hockey enforcer entirely. But at least Gilman had a good feel for the direction the enforcer market was moving in.

  • “Players like Tom Sestito are a commodity, they really are.”

    Does anyone ever follow up on these type of statements and ask how, exactly, these players are “commodities” (by which I assume he means useful assets)?

    Because I’d love to hear an answer. One that doesn’t fall back on stupid cliches either. Surely there’s something beyond the typical “protection/intimidation” thing.

    • One would have to think he means “commodities” in the sense that there is a market for the services of this kind of forward.

      In terms of Sestito being “useful”, that’s open to interpretation.

      I wouldn’t exactly say that teams signing similar depth forwards to similar contracts vindicates Gilman.

      After all, this is supposedly a management group that thinks “outside of the box.”

      Though one would think they wouldn’t be signing overvalued assets just for the hell of it.

    • Fred-65

      Perhaps he meant commodity in the sense that this is an entertainment business?

      Sure, it might not be something quantifiable that contributes to wins, especially in the playoffs.

      But you can’t deny that fights get the crowd going, and while its a polarizing subject, lots of people, probably a majority, enjoy seeing a good scrap that develops out of the course of a game.

      Plus anything that gets the crowd on their feet and not looking at their phones in Rogers Arena is a good thing 😉

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    To be fair there is a lot to like about Sesito…a) he is still young at only 25 b) 6’5 230 is a true heavy weight…and his past play has shown him to have some skill, though not a great scrapper by any means. Can this translate to servicable regular 4th line roll? Can the new coaching staff get more out of this guy?

    I guess thats the 2 year 1.5 million dollar question.

    • Mantastic

      I agree.

      Fans kept messagboards alive with silly wishes of a big enforcer. Now they have one

      Im with you on the notion that he will be called upon to be servicable in a larger role.

      I would guess he has been asked to work on Hockey, and not full on intimidation.

  • Meh. another vancouver writer hating on a canuck ?

    The media in this town does nothing but hate on its players.

    i welcome Sestito back with open arms,as long as he comes back stronger and can increase his speed.

    check out his twitter today.

    He’s working out like a fiend at an MMA gym in NY.

    I wouldnt mind seeing Torts here just to watch him ether hacks like Tony G

  • JCDavies

    “Losing Revelstoke’s Aaron Volpatti on waivers for nothing in March and putting in a waiver claim on Tom Sestito to replace him, was definitely an uncharacteristic spot of brutal asset management from this Canucks management team.”

    This is the same management group that bought high on Bernier, Alberts, Booth, Ballard & Roy while selling low on Grabner, Hodgson & a number of draft picks to acquire the “buy high!” guys.

    This is also the same management group that has actively participated in sabotaging the trade value of Ballard for 3 years and Luongo for 1 year.

    Perhaps once Ballard & Lou are off the roster for a song the myth that Gillis et al are good asset managers will finally die.

    • UkeeRob

      Truth be told I wasn’t happy about losing Volpatti either. He offered more than Sestito and cost less. Can Kellan Lain fight? He might be a future option to “enforce.”

  • Fred-65

    I’ll be interesting to see what shape Sestito turn up in for camp, he’s suppose to be loosing some weight and get some speed into his game. Lain is supposed to be rambunctious but he’s 24 and that’s young for a tough guy

    • Fred-65

      Lain has the size, but I don’t know about being a fighter. He comes out of NCAA, and you see more fights in a rec league game than a NCAA game.

      That being said, just because he comes out of a league that bans fighting doesn’t mean he can’t scrap, just look at guys like Parros (Princeton grad I believe). But the odds are against it.

  • Fred-65

    I think management is trying to be smart with their 4th line players. Sestito and Weise are players that have 4th line skills (i.e. size, hitting, fighting) but are young enough and have enough upside that they could grow into 3rd liners. I believe that management thinks they could at least become above average 4th liners. We’ve seen Weise show little flashes of being a better player at times, and he even won the Canucks fastest skater competition. Sestito may seem like just a thug, but he surprised me with his puck handling skills. I expected him to treat the puck like a hot potato and just chip it forward and skate after it (ala Hordichuck, or John Scott), but he seems to have a little more skill than the average tough guy. Basically, I don’t hate the signing and am curious to see how Sestito performs next season.