We heard a rumour about this days ago:
Word is AHL Toronto will be signing Tom Sestito to a PTO...154 NHL games, last two seasons with Wilkes-Barre...source indicated he was happy Sestito gets one more shot, "Loved him as a teammate."— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 15, 2018
And I’ve had time to think about this. First, this really irritates me that a guy like Sestito gets the everyone loves him disclaimer. Who cares? Maybe he’s the best guy ever, and he’s kind to puppies and small children. Maybe he’s a total mensch. That’s for his teammates to care about, not me.
I also get that this is just like the PTO for Brandon Prust or even Karri Ramo, it’s just a chance to get a chance. The Leafs gave Kyle Cumiskey a chance this fall, and he managed to finally get an AHL deal in the Bruins organization.
This is like that, and yet, I don’t like it.
Kyle Dubas came out yesterday, one day ago, and made much of how he doesn’t buy into the need for toughness or a player who fights on the team.
Which is maybe a touch disingenuous:
Is there one rule for the NHL and one for the Marlies?
Maybe I am a hypocrite. Here’s why:
That is Mason Marchment at the moment he takes Mitch Marner out of the OHL playoffs in 2015.
And yet, I really like Marchment and his scrappy, edgy play on the Marlies. For the two players now on Leafs contracts, this is old news, and they’ve been to several training camps together. Players sort this kind of thing out, but fans hold grudges forever. And yet, maybe because Marchment was a kid when this happened and now he’s much less careless in his play on the ice, I got over it.
I think it also helps that Marchment is a good hockey player with a checking line game that can level up to a scoring line winger on occasion. In the AHL, he has .55 points per game, and .9 penalty minutes per game. He’s had some fights, but he’s not a fighter. (The Marlies have had two fights all season so far, and are last in the AHL by this measure according to hockeyfights.com.)
He’s not a goon.
Tom Sestito is a goon. In the NHL, anyway.
What many Leafs fans have against Sestito is that one time he hipchecked Frederik Andersen’s head:
I take a slightly different tack on that issue. I blame the coach of the Penguins for putting a guy on the ice who isn’t a hockey player. There’s not too many people still around the fringes of the NHL I’d say that about. Zac Rinaldo is the other, and I look down at any GM or coach who plays him.
Sestito has .14 points per game in the NHL or 21 points in 154 games played. To put that in context, Roman Polak has .18, and he’s a defenceman. Sestito is alleged to be a winger.
Sestito is one of a class of player that has all but died out in the NHL. They are usually Canadian, although Sestito is American. They nearly always come out of Canadian junior hockey, usually the OHL or WHL, and Sestito did learn his trade with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.
In 152 games played in the OHL, he had 88 points and 399 penalty minutes. Surely, he could have fit one more in and got the fourth century? That’s 2.62 PIM per game played, or more than one power play given to the other team every 60 minutes. In 2006, that and being 6’5” tall all day long got you drafted 85th overall.
In the NHL, in the interests of giving his team even more PK time, he had 499 PIM in 154 games played, just missing again that noble round number. His rate there is 3.24 per game.
That’s the NHL, where the expectation that you play some hockey has taken hold, and there’s no room for Sestito on anyone’s roster anymore. In the AHL, where Sestito has played 367 games in his career, he has 1,207 PIM which rates out to 3.28 per game. He’s only 91st all time in the AHL. Largely, that’s true because he’s played very little in a lot of his seasons there. To be as fair to him as I’m able, his point rate in the AHL is more respectable at .43 per game.
In his first year in the NHL, 2007-2008, where Columbus played him for one game where he took 17 minutes in penalties (really), he put in 66 games in the AHL. He never put in that many games on one team (although he has 66 total games again in the AHL/NHL the year Columbus realized he wasn’t a hockey player and moved him to the Flyers) until he played for the Vacounver Canucks in 77 games. 213 PIM. Nine points.
Vancouver finished that season with 83 points in 25th place overall, and then, and this is actually pretty delicious in an enjoying the misfortune of others way, after they let Sestito help them waste another season of the Sedins, they drafted Jake Virtanen sixth overall.
Laurence Gilman, the GM of the Marlies, was the AGM in Vancouver that year that Sestito cosplayed as an NHLer.
I like Gilman. I think he’s got some very smart ideas about contracts and how you make deals. So far, his work running the Marlies is leaving me with a few questions, and doing a favour for an old player who wants to try to keep his career going is lovely. But there’s not a guy on the Marlies I’d sit in the press box for Sestito.
I’d play Rich Clune every game first. I’d play Emerson Clarke every game. I’d call up Hudson Elynuik, the closest thing hockey produces to a Sestito now (product of the WHL with .96 PIM per game and .80 points), and I’d play him every game before I’d give Tom Sestito a shift.
So maybe I’m not a hypocrite after all, maybe I’ve just got a definition of edgy, checking line guy that’s an order of magnitude farther away from goon than Sestito is. If we’ve all collectively changed our definitions so a guy like Elynuik actually raises our eyebrows when he’s signed, when we wonder what this fellow who potted 84 goals in junior hockey is doing on Toronto ice, we’re showing we’ve moved well beyond the kind of game Sestito thinks is hockey.
If he’s changed his mind at this late stage about how you play hockey — he’s 31 — I’ll change my tune as well, but I’m not expecting to need new sheet music. The AHL is supposed to be a development league. It’s supposed to be good preparation for Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. I know how I’d feel if Sestito was suddenly on the B-Sens or the B-Devils.