Zach Sill Proving Why He Deserves To Remain in the NHL

I’m not entirely sure when Zach Sill became the go-to-guy for why the Penguins are not succeeding as much as they should be.  I’m not sure why so many fans want him benched, traded, released; whatever it may be, but it is absolutely unjustified.

Could it have been during training camp when he beat out Kasperi Kapanen, Bobby Farnham and countless others?  Maybe after he suited up for his first NHL season opening contest against the Anaheim Ducks and has been as steady on the fourth line as anyone in recent memory?  Or maybe it’s simply for the fact that Zach Sill was an undrafted player who was supposed to only be a career AHLer with a handful of games in the big leagues?

I’m not sure when the Penguin faithful decided to not support the 26 year-old Truro, Nova Scotia native despite his ever increasing quality of play, but their criticisms are a bit unwarranted.

Fourth-Line Future

For the last couple of seasons, Craig Adams has been one of the many scapegoats Penguins’ fans lash out at for lack of consistent play.

Craig Adams (bridgetds/Flickr)
Craig Adams (bridgetds/Flickr)

“He’s too old,” or “He’s too slow” are the common comments heard about the 16 year NHL veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner.  For the last couple of seasons, fans have been looking for his inevitable replacement.

Enter Zach Sill.  Sill and Adams are comparable in stature (6’0″, 200 lbs. vs. 6’0″, 202 lbs. for Adams and Sill, respectively), log around the same amount of ice time (Adams with the edge), and spend time on the penalty kill.  Sill is much faster, much more aggressive, and is arguably the best along the boards besides Sidney Crosby on this squad.

Sill also possesses a passion that is lacking when you look at the faces of the Penguins on the bench.  Some look dazed, some look confused, others don’t look as focused.

Zach Sill has that killer instinct in him.  He does not take a shift off.  He knows his job and he knows that each and every shift, it is on the line.  That’s why when he is finally rewarded, we got to see one of the most honest and spontaneous reactions to a goal this season.

Sill, unfortunately like Adams, is the new target of the “Why do we keep this guy?” comments.

Qualities Zach Sill Brings To This Team

The fourth line is meant to establish a forecheck and shift momentum, force turnovers, and wear the opposition down.  Occasionally, and very rarely may I add, are they supposed to score every time they’re out; it’s just an added benefit when they do.  Point to Sill’s one goal and one assist as a negative on the season if you want to, but how can one deny his impact on the fourth-line?

When you look at the aforementioned list of qualities, does Zach Sill not meet each and every one of those?  Also, does he not meet them exceptionally well?  Add in his physicality and propensity to make the smart play more often than not, Sill excels in his role.

Just watch the horrific outing against Vancouver on February 7 and tell me if one player stood out, as a positive in that game, more than Zach Sill.  Yes, he was a minus-1 in that game, but no one was a plus and the only reason he was a minus in that contest was because of one of Evgeni Malkin’s many ill-advised turnovers in his own zone that tilt.

Fan Criticisms

Below are several tweets begging the question why Zach Sill is still on the Penguins roster:

My question is what has Arcobello done this season that is much better than Sill? Is it because Arcobello has played in the National Hockey League longer than Sill? Is it because fans knew his name longer than they have Sill’s? Or is it because Zach Sill was not an NHL player when he got resigned this offseason?

There seems to be this notion in Pittsburgh fans recently that if you were not a NHL player when you were signed by the Penguins, you do not belong, yet, they continue to say how they want to see their prospects grow and develop and see them reach the NHL. Zach Sill is exactly that; someone who worked his way through the AHL and found himself on the fourth line through hard work and making the most of his opportunity.

Who Else Would Fill His Role?

When you look at the Penguins forward depth, it is clear to see that it is nowhere near as deep as their defense.  For those who wonder why Zach Sill is still in the line-up on a nightly basis, let’s look at potential replacements in the fourth line spot:

Bobby Farnham

bobby farnham

Simply put, Farnham is a spark plug.  He is a high energy, North-South player who likes to throw his body around whenever possible.  He quickly became a fan-favorite, almost cult status, when he was unleashed in his short tenure with the big club.  He drew penalties and fought when needed, again endearing him to the Pittsburgh crowd.

Unfortunately, he does not possess an overall game like Sill does.  Farnham would not kill penalties with regularity, he would not be as dominant along the boards as Sill, nor would he add much more of an offensive talent.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Bobby Farnham as much as the next guy, but he simply is not ready to be in the NHL for an extended period of time just yet.

Mark Arcobello

A waiver wire pick up from Nashville, Arcobello has been a ghost on the ice.  Yes, we see his number 26 jersey skating on the ice, but is he doing anything productive?  Not really.  His best games were his most recent playing alongside Evgeni Malkin and right there is the reason they were his best games.

He is a speedy winger who tries to play with grit, but easily gets moved off of the puck and has not gelled in three different systems so far this year (Edmonton, Nashville, Pittsburgh.)  Replacing Zach Sill with Arcobello would in fact be worse for the team.

Andrew Ebbett

Ebbett is a veteran who brings speed and tenacity to the Penguins.  As one of the top scorers for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, he adds a bit more offense upside to the Penguins.  The only problem with subbing him in for Sill is that those two have a tremendous chemistry built with one another over the last two years, sharing time in WBS and Pittsburgh.

Ebbett is nowhere near as physical as Zach Sill.  Sill ranks fourth among forwards on the team in hits with 105 despite playing, on average, 8:06 a game.


Sure, one could make the argument for Beau Bennett or Blake Comeau, but it is clear to most Penguin fans that those two players possess talents better suited for a top-nine role.  Presumably, Comeau will line up with Malkin and Patric Hornqvist and Bennett allows the Penguins some flexibility in their third line set ups.

Zach Sill  (Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Sill (Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports)

With the three potential names listed, can one person honestly say they would prefer Arcobello, Ebbett or Farnham over Sill?  And when thinking about that, before you start the “Well, Farnham is more of an enforcer and he would help us win fights” kind of argument, how many fights are in the playoffs?  Also, when was the last time a team won a Stanley Cup solely because they had an enforcer?

None come to my mind either.

Closing Thoughts

Zach Sill paid his dues in the AHL.  He dressed in 277 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and accumulated 73 points (33G, 40A) from 2009 to 2014.  He did his time just like Deryk Engelland and Engelland was welcomed with open arms.  Zach Sill is more or less, a forward equivalent.

While Zach Sill will not score ten goals a year, he brings everything else you look for in a fourth line player.  He brings speed, aggressiveness, tenacity, the ability to fight.  He wears down the opposition, agitates players, and draws penalties.

He is not the make or break player for the Penguins, but he certainly adds more than he’s given credit.

So, instead of looking for reasons to get rid of one of the most consistent players on this team, someone who has contributed one way or another in every single victory, think about the little things he brings to this team that Penguins’ fans have been clamoring for for years.

Do you want a demo reel on why Sill is perfect for the playoffs?  Watch the following video and you’ll understand all of the things Zach Sill brings to this Penguins’ team that can be a plus for a long, successful run throughout the spring.

You finally have the perfect fourth line player.  Let him play his game and keep your expectations to a realistic standard.

22 thoughts on “Zach Sill Proving Why He Deserves To Remain in the NHL”

  1. Love your comments tknoodle.

    I spent sometime yesterday looking at every team in the league’s stats. They all have a Sill in the line up. I had the privilege to coach Zack when he played Major Midget AAA here in Cole Harbour Nova Scotia, yes Cole Harbour. I can tell you that a big part of why he’s on that team is because of his excellent defensive game and for his PK ability. But even more important then that it’s his character that he brings to this team. It’s just as much what he offers this team off the ice as on that keeps him with the big boys. All the stats on paper in this world don’t show what he brings off the ice.

    So just maybe when the Pens brass looked at who would be best suited as a 12th forward on this team they looked past some guys who might get a few more points but had no character like Zack. Just maybe they decided to take a guy who would add a lot to the team in another way then the stats would show.

    All I know is on opening night this season when he fought Stoner at center ice and the roof was coming off the rink the kid was doing something right and the sold out crowd was LOVING him.

  2. I like to count myself amongst the small group of Sill supporters, because despite his lack of offensive talent he does tend to play well defensively, and of course he brings that “character, grit, and speed” aspect that Lemieux and Burkle espoused this summer. He is the good old fashioned 4th line “energy” guy and fits the blue collar mentality of the city of Pittsburgh.

    Of course he’s not perfect, if he were better he would be getting more minutes, but as a 4th liner who tends to face lesser opponents he is solid defensively. I would like to see more of him on the PK, he seems to have a tendency to make the opponents waste time cycling in their own zone preparing for another breakout, and seems to be more aggressive in attacking the puck than most of the other guys (in years past the major complaint about our PK was how passive they have been).

    Of the 15 forwards that have stuck around long enough this year to surpass 300 5-on-5 minutes he is 2nd on the team with a 1.59 GA60, 7th with a 26.8 SA60, 2nd with a .941 Sv%, 8th with a 37.7 FA60, and 2nd with a .969 CSv%. So he is quite capable of playing in his own end, in addition to the intangible aspects and things that either are not or cannot be accurately quantified such as hits, takeaways, and board play that result in gaining or maintaining possession for the team.

    Of course one must also point out that he is dead last in all relevant offensive metrics (although individually he is just slightly ahead of Adams in G60 and TOI% plus Spaling in S60 and F60), which is primarily where the arguments against him stem from. But even at the AHL level his game was never built upon offense. He is what he is, a physical defensive forward best suited for PK and 4th line minutes. Although I do admit I would prefer to see just one of him or Adams in the lineup (Sill-Lapierre-Downie would make a very physical and defensively sound 4th line).

    • “He is the good old fashioned 4th line “energy” guy and fits the blue collar mentality of the city of Pittsburgh.”
      ” But even at the AHL level his game was never built upon offense. He is what he is, a physical defensive forward best suited for PK and 4th line minutes. Although I do admit I would prefer to see just one of him or Adams in the lineup (Sill-Lapierre-Downie would make a very physical and defensively sound 4th line).”

      Exactly my point, just written WAY longer. Stats are stats and that’s fine, but sometimes stats don’t tell the whole story. I’d rather have someone who knew his role, no questions asked, and just did his job rather than have some wingers who are still seeking out their game and trying to see what line they slide into. Sill knows the player he is and does his job quite well, despite what the analytic stats may say.

      • What does he do well exactly? I thought that a 4th line is supposed to possess the puck in the offensive zone and wear opponents down through their play down low? How can you do that when the puck is in your defensive zone the majority of the time? And to call him the 2nd best player along the boards other than Sid is easily the most laughable and absurd comment I’ve ever seen. That statement alone made this entire article a joke.

  3. If I a million dollars for every time the fourth line established a forecheck, I’d still be broke. Seriously, not sure where you’re coming from with this one. I agree Zach Sill isn’t nearly as awful as people would love to believe, but he’s still awful and not an NHL player.

  4. Holy shit this article is a joke. I don’t know what to say beyond what was already said re: the 5 or so 4th liners that have better corsi than Sill, but this is some really horrible, half-assed writing. Lost a lot of respect for this website after reading this shit.

  5. I keep coming back because I feel like this article was from a dream, there is no way this can be real. Every time I click on the article I’m waiting for a GIF of Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber To “Got ya!”

  6. Just some easy stats you could of pulled up if you actually tried on this article:

    Player CF% CF% RelTM
    Arcobello 52% 2.3%
    Rust 51.6% -0.8%
    Adams 50.6% 1.7%
    Ebbett 49.6% -.8%
    Sill 45.7% -5.6%
    Megna 45.5% -5.9%
    Farnham 44.8% -6.3%

    Thanks to we can see that our top three candidates are Arcobello, Rust, and Adams. BTW our current 4C at 43.6% and -8.5%, and Goc was at 50.4% and 0%. So don’t worry your likely going to keep your Sill or Adams playing considering they signed Spaling, traded Goc for Lapierre, and waived Arcobello. So out of our current options the best would be Rust, Adams, and Ebbett. Finally, solid tangible numbers really help your arguement.

    • As you’ve noticed, there were not stats like that in my piece. Simple answer to that, is because this was not a piece on Zach Sill’s statistics. This was an article written on the qualities he brings to the team. If you think I believe that statistically, Sill is better than a lot of the Penguin players, then I’ll take all of the flack in the world, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m trying to point out is that, character wise, Sill is a solid option for this Penguins squad. When I look forward to the playoffs, I don’t want a frail, injury prone lightweight winger like Beau Bennett on the boards. I want an in-your-face, hard-nosed grinder who can shift the momentum of a game with his presence. Granted, is that a stretch? Possibly, but when I think of Beau Bennett, I think of a good regular season performer. When I see Sill on the ice, I see a guy who can frustrate opponents in the playoffs with his constant chirping and willingness to do absolutely whatever it takes to do what he needs to do each and every shift.

      Clearly this was not a statistical piece and that’s made very clear throughout, but, thanks for the numbers anyway.

      • The NHL is a numbers league… you win games by scoring goals and putting up points. If a team is going to focus on character and grit, it is better served to focus on players with character or grit that can put up points. Take Tampa Bay for example… Paquette, Boyle, Morrow, Connolly all rotate in the 4th line… Morrow is awful, he’s essentially Craig Adams, which is still a better hockey player than Zach Sill. But Paquette, Connolly and Boyle all have over 10 goals, Boyle can play on the PK, and he brings a decent in your face attitude. Beau Bennett should never be looked at to play a 4th line role. You have to put the players in the best chance to succeed… Zach Sill isn’t going to be doing a lot of hard-nosed grinding when the puck is in the defensive zone the majority of the time, and thats all the while Johnston gives him offensive zone faceoffs… literally after the drop, the puck almost always heads to the Pens zone. If the Penguins are going to succeed in the playoffs, they need a 4th line that can maintain possession, cycle the puck download, and tire the opposition out. A line consisting of Sill and Adams cannot do that. If you fall into the character/grit/intangibles line of thinking… you’re going to fail, much like Bylsma and Shero did in recent years. The Penguins are plenty tough enough. Their problem has always been trying to out-muscle the opponents when they need to just stick to their game. Regardless, there are better options out there than Adams, Sill, and Lapierre.

  7. arcobello was 100% useless to the penguins period. Sill at least adds a bit of toughness that they are sorely lacking, even with him. Without him, their uniforms may as well be pink. And for the record farnham is an agitator, and tiny. he is no “ENFORCER” and to state such is absolutely hysterical. Almost as hysterical as saying he will help the team winning fights. The guy is a tiny punching bag. He plays an entertaining role, but enforcer isn’t it. lol. They DO need a guy bigger and tougher than sill & farnham BADLY, and it doesn’t matter that there aren’t many fights in the playoffs. There are plenty in the reg. season when a teams identitiy is made and swagger is gained. And the penguins lose a lot more than they win. And yes there are even a few fights in the playoffs. But as for the reg. season, it would also help with the penguins other issue, being so soft and beaten on and physically dominated and embarrassed all the time, and also having more man games lost since 2010 than any other team in the entire nhl. This team has been made soft by shero, and Rutherford is doing his part to keep it that way. That needs to change, or its going to just continue being one wasted year of malkin and crosbies prime after another with no cup, or even being a real, legitimate contender, which they are not, and have not been for some time now despite the thoughts of some over optimistic homer fans.

  8. Penguin fans wouldn’t mind Sill playing if we didn’t also have Adams on the same line. Sill is just a younger version. Dump Adams and Sill can stay…just not both!!!

  9. No. Just no.

    You’re basically saying that Sill deserves his roster spot because of intangibles like passion and a never say die attitude when they’re down. But how about some actual stats? Like the fact that it took him 47 games to put up even one point in the NHL? Or that in 59 career NHL games he’s only got 2? Sure, you’re not going to get 20 goal scorers on your bottom line, but Rob Scuderi and Robert Bortuzzo both have more points this season than Sill has in his entire NHL career. His Corsi for this season is around 45, and his career Corsi for is an abysmal 38.

    We don’t dislike Sill because he’s occupying a roster spot that could have been Kapanen, Farnham, or lately even Bennett’s. We dislike Sill because, statistically speaking, he’s terrible.

    Mind, you, I’m not saying that Arcobello was great and we shouldn’t have waived him. Arcobello was a placeholder until Comeau got better. And yeah, it is stupid to suggest that Bennett or Comeau replace Sill on the 4th line because you’re right, they are top 9 players. Which is why it makes sense to put Comeau back with Malkin, Bennett back with Sutter, and move Downie to the 4th line, which not only puts our “enforcer” on the line traditionally for enforcers, it adds a bit of a scoring touch to the 4th line, something that elite NHL teams have.

  10. Kenneth, I think you should go watch his fights on if you REALLY think he can’t fight. Never scared to fight much bigger guys. No one wins every fight but his average is better than most. And to say he’s lackluster at best on defense, really shows the rest of us readers how much you don’t know about the game. He’s probably the most responsible guy defensively in the Pens line up right now. Just how GREAT do people expect fourth line players to be making $600,000.00 a season.

    Adam Williams, I think this was a great read. Good on you for putting a target on your back for all the people who really don’t understand how this team game is played and don’t appreciate an all around great team player. Rumor has it he’s a leader around the dressing room and that’s something they’ve been lacking.

    Cheers :)

  11. Not quite sure how you’re employed? This is one of the worst pieces I’ve ever read and the last straw for this site. You arguments are absolutely laughable…”fans don’t like him because he hasn’t played in the NHL yet.” and “he beat out Kapenen”.

    He has ZERO offensive talent and will NOT develop that at his age. He can’t fight and he’s lackluster at best on defense.

    The “positives” you claim he brings, “energy, forcing turn overs, etc.” How bout you cite some actual numbers instead of throwing out a complete baseless statement.
    You take shots at Arcabello, whom played 10 games in Pittsburgh and collected more points and showed more talent that Sill has in X many games he’s played.

    And lastly, the most egregious claim you make is his “killer instinct” and him “passion” having more passion that the rest of the squad, “looking dazed, confused, and out of focus.” That’s just fucking stupid. You don’t make it to the NHL without passion, and to say he’s more focused than Crosby, Malkin, Perron…you’re an ABSOLUTE IDIOT.

    Please stop writing.

    • “ZERO” would suggest he does not have points in the NHL. Plus, he’s 26. Not too old to develop that facet. Again, not a 20 goal scorer; a role player. Sill has five fighting majors this year, two behind Downie. Sill averages a fight every 62:37, while Downie is at 88:38, per ESPN.

      Arcobello collected two assists in his time with Pittsburgh, so the two amassed the same amount of points, despite Arcobello playing alongside Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter at times. Can I have some examples of Arcobello’s talent you claim he possesses more of than Sill?

      105 hits, 14 blocks, and 10 takeaways.

      When the team is down by a couple or several goals, I do not see nearly the same compete level from the stars of this team, aside from Crosby, than I do Sill or the other bottom six forwards. Again, the Vancouver game is a shining example of that.

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