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.

Conclusion

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.