Better With Popcorn

For One Night, Tom Sestito Sheds His Goon Role

Maybe there is something Peter Laviolette knew that no one else possibly could.

Two years without any goals? No problem. A reputation of being a goon that can’t do anything else? Players can change.

Brought to Philly in a controversial trade that no one agreed with? You have to work with the players you have. 

Laviolette has been scrutinized every time he has worked Tom Sestito in the lineup. He is a player that Flyers fans usually love to hate. His reputation is terrible, and he has never given people a reason to think otherwise about him.

But with the injury to Wayne Simmonds, Sestito was placed into the lineup again. And as cliché as it is, it was a reason for him to prove himself.

We learned last week that Tye McGinn was much more valuable to the team than Sestito, but one question remained: Is Tom Sestito capable of jumping into the lineup to replace an injured forward, or should he just be buried in the AHL?

One would have to believe that last night gave us that answer.

What did Sestito do in his second straight game played because of the Simmonds injury? Well, he scored the only two goals for the Flyers in their 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay of course!

"It is great Tom chipped in like that," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "He’s a big body that goes up and down the wing. He does a lot for our club and for him to get the two goals tonight, it made him feel good. Makes us feel good too."

Sestito beat Lightning goalie Anders Lindback with a pair of back-handers that squeezed through his five-hole.

"Yeah, I’ve got one," Sestito joked. "Hopefully no goalies catch on to that. If it works once, then I’m going to keep doing it until it stops working."

The goals were a huge shock to his teammates and fans, but probably especially to Sestito himself.

"I think he was [shocked] too by the look on his face," said Danny Briere after the game. "It’s good to see different guys stepping up and being a part of it. It hasn’t been easy since the start for Tom but he finally got a chance to get in the lineup and he scores two big goals like that."

Since Sestito looked like a new player out there, maybe a name change would do the former enforcer some good.

"You know, we talk about scoring like being a sniper," said goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. "And he said if I became a sniper, he would change his name for the Russian last name from Sestito to 'Sestitov.'"

Name change aside, clearly Sestito is no Matt Read or Brayden Schenn, and he may not be talented enough to have a permanent spot in the lineup, but he is certainly capable of shedding his terrible reputation. 

"Yeah, it’s great to contribute like that, to not just fight all the time," Sestito said. "It’s being with great line mates, Jake [Voracek] made a great pass."

The role of a pure goon is all but dead in the NHL today. Enforcers still exist, but they must have some hockey skills to go with their toughness.

Fourth lines are way more skilled than they were in the past. It’s the reason Riley Cote simply could not make it in this league anymore. 

The new role that is always welcome is the pest role. Pests get under the skin of the opposition at the right time. They drop the gloves to protect their teammates. And they score an odd goal every once in a while. 

Former Flyers Steve Downie and Dan Carcillo had to change their game to survive in the NHL today.

They learned to control their temper for the most part and they also learned that they can be rewarded for their spark and their energy. Even players like that can get thrown with players from the top two lines. 

The talent level in the NHL is incredible, and Sestito recognizes that. He knows that team success comes first, but when he is given the opportunity to play, he must grab that opportunity and use it as a chance to do more than drop the gloves.

He cannot abandon his “style” completely, but he can shed his reputation by taking small steps towards being seen as a pest and not some talentless goon. Without his two goals, we are not talking about the Flyers winning back to back games.