The single-worst play by an Oiler this year?

Jonathan Willis
March 25 2013 10:23PM

The last time the Oilers played Nashville, it was Sergei Kostitsyn making an awful play on a goal in a 3-2 Oilers win. On Monday night, Kostitsyn was excellent, so it was Mark Fistric’s turn to cede a gorgeous scoring chance (and ultimately a game-winning goal) to the other team in a 3-2 game with a stunningly bad sequence.

The play starts with the Oilers in good position: defending a 2-on-2 rush at their own blue line. Corey Potter (44 for Edmonton) has the puck carrier, Brandon Yip (18 for Nashville), a player who has never hit 30 points in the NHL. Mark Fistric (45 for Edmonton) is watching Chris Mueller (17 for Nashville), a 27-year old journeyman of no particular note.

Ryan Smyth (94 for Edmonton) is now in the frame, coming back as a good centre should (at this point in the game, he has replaced Eric Belanger as the fourth line pivot). The head position of the defenders is the first indication there might be trouble – Potter sees Mueller breaking to the outside, while Fistric has isolated Potter’s man Yip, who still has the puck.

Mike Brown (13 for Edmonton) joins his three teammates to give the Oilers four guys in the frame to Nashville’s two, but at this point it’s all over. Yip has passed off to Mueller, who is in the process of blowing past Fistric. Fistric is either unaware or indifferent, still totally focused on lining Yip up for the big hit. Corey Potter sees Mueller, but Fistric’s position means he’s basically boxed out of the play. Smyth’s been gliding back, so maybe deserves a little criticism here – though with Fistric where he was, Smyth has no reason to expect Mueller to beat him around the outside.

And here we are. Potter can’t get there in time, Smyth can’t get there in time, and Fistric’s still looking at Yip for the hit. The Predators have a breakaway.

Smyth’s skating now, but he’s too far back. At the top of the screen, Yip avoids Fistric’s big hit.

Mueller scores.

It’s just an awful sequence for Fistric; it really looks like he got locked in for the big hit and tuned out the play happening around him – including the fact that the guy he should have covered coming into the zone had the puck. In fariness, it’s a single play, and Fistric has been pretty steady in a third-pairing role for the Oilers this season; generally those big hits result in cheers rather than a goal against. Like Kostitsyn’s play just over a week ago, though, it will probably take a little while for Fistric to live this particular sequence down.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 non descript
March 26 2013, 06:16AM
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Slats wrote:

Willis you should call this piece "Oilers in Blunderville".

I watched all 3 goals and there was at least 3 blowned basic D-coverages per goal.

Oilers Team ready for the biggest 4 game stretch of the season? Bullsh$t. Skate their butts off. im tired of this crap.

If I want to watch crap like this I will watch 1980s games on ESPN classic of any "Mickey Mouse" Devils games.

We're becoming a joke.

becoming a joke?

my friend, this team is long past becoming a joke.

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#52 Rama Lama
March 26 2013, 07:03AM
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Time to fire the coach.......he is obviously no good.

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#53 outdoorzguy
March 26 2013, 07:11AM
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THe worst play of the year was the play not made. Firing the idiots running this team. Timid Tambellini, Loser Lowe, and Moronic McTavish. THen to top it off, we bring back Howdy Howson. Until people start standing up to these buffoons, this is what we get. No media will stand up or challenge them. Bags on heads, chants of "out with Lowe" and "out with Tambellini" would be a good start. Not sure Burke is the answer, but at least you know he's aware of whats happening on the ice compared to these management morons.

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#54 outdoor guy
March 26 2013, 07:24AM
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My big fear, as Katz adds to his living hockey card collection, is that he thinks Mark Messier would be a good choice to be the next GM. God help us all!

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#55 Oiler Al
March 26 2013, 07:47AM
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My vote for play of the year is Dubnyk playing center ice up against Kane. Beauty.

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#56 Neal
March 26 2013, 08:01AM
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Continuing great job on the screen captures. Despite the blunder Fistric isn't our biggest problem on D. Too bad for him - just a bad decision to focus on the hit. And I found myself more occupied with screaming at 83 for turnovers most of the game anyway.

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#57 BingBong
March 26 2013, 08:36AM
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Sorry off-topic, but what would you guys say to an Eberle, Hemsky, and a 1st for Myers, Stafford and Miller trade?

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#58 BingBong
March 26 2013, 08:39AM
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I too like these screen captures entries; great idea. Fistric looks horrible in that play no doubt, but I think after that loss to the Blues Saturday night the season was over anyways.

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#59 outdoorzguy
March 26 2013, 08:39AM
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Never heard of this Dekeyser guy. Bob Stauffer thinks he's the greatest thing since...Loser Lowe.

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#60 Phixieus666
March 26 2013, 08:42AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

My assumption goes something like this: Potter has Yip, and believes Fistric has Mueller. Therefore he follows Yip. By the time he realizes Fistric is going to let his man go, there's nothing he can do about it.

I know Fistric's popular while Potter's just a popular whipping boy, but this play is all on Fistric.

I felt that fistric maintained positioning and was going to take who ever was on the left side. Potter however was all over the place and should have maintained position at right/center ice, if he had maintained position he likely would have been able to get back to prevent the goal.

On another note one play that stood out to me was the first goal. Hemsky blind passes it behind the next where his teammate is clearly out manned and then hemsky gets caught standing still spectating right beside the goal scorer. To me this is worse, at least fistric and potter were trying.

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#62 gcw_rocks
March 26 2013, 08:54AM
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I think you let RNH off the hook on the initial breakout. He was only a step behind the Pred player breaking out of his own zone, with a legit chance to catch him, and instead headed for the bench.

I think Potter and Smyth deserve blame here as well. All Potter had to do was hang back and cover the middle and this would have been a non-event. He should know Fistric is not a great skater and been hanging back in case someone blew by him. Again, not absolving Fistric, but Potter should have known better. Two players against the board are not a threat. One of them getting to the middle is.

Smyth should have recognized he defensemen did not have great position on the play and gotten back deeper, I think. He is a vet and he should have a sense that the play was headed in an ugly direction.

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#63 oliveoilers
March 26 2013, 09:01AM
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Better in 3rd period, but still looked flat and out of ideas. RK is trying to sell this brand of cold, clinical, calculated hockey. We have neither the skill set or players for this. It's like hitching a racehorse to a wagon; sure it could pull it, but what a waste of talent. Let the kids of the leash. If we're relying on Hall, Ebs et al to be making great defensive plays instead of lighting up the opposition goalie, then we're missing the point. Somebody said it best earlier this week - we're playing not to lose, instead of going for the win.

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#64 JL
March 26 2013, 09:43AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

My assumption goes something like this: Potter has Yip, and believes Fistric has Mueller. Therefore he follows Yip. By the time he realizes Fistric is going to let his man go, there's nothing he can do about it.

I know Fistric's popular while Potter's just a popular whipping boy, but this play is all on Fistric.

My recollection is that in most man systems if players crossover the responsibility is switched from one man to the other.

I understand that the second Pred was still skating down the one part of the ice but why was Potter so drawn to the outside?

Both players made no sense to me. Equal responsibility if I had to choose.

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#65 OilersBrass
March 26 2013, 10:40AM
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How was this on Fistric?! Potter was the one completely out of position going for Fistrics man, and he left the zone WIDE OPEN. This was all Potters fault, it was his man that scored.

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#66 Ducey
March 26 2013, 11:02AM
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Meh, happens every night in the league. Lucic made Franson look like a pylon tonight too.

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#67 nunyour
March 26 2013, 11:23AM
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VK63 wrote:

I also like the one where Dubnyk tried to race Patrick Kane for a puck near the blueline.

That one was hilarious as well.

At least he was up off his knees for a few seconds

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#68 Racki
March 26 2013, 11:56AM
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Rick wrote:

The fact that Krueger has Potter in the lineup any night would suggest that his his judgement is open to question.

This actually gave me a good laugh...

But really, again, fault on that play is all Fistric's. I'm not sure you need to bench a guy for a guy to realize a mistake though.. especially when he's been reliable all year (Fistric).

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#69 DDP
March 26 2013, 01:36PM
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I can't believe there is actual debate on this play. It is clearly Fistric's fault for wanting the hit instead of playing his position.

@JW I love the goal breakdowns after games. Maybe you can expand it to one goal against and one goal for per game?

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#70 rabulrouser
March 26 2013, 01:41PM
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@David Staples

I call BS, FISTric shouldn't have gone for the hit, BUT smyth not hustling back and Potter chasing his guy didn't help. regardless of who Cougar took out it was a breakdown at every position. when your team sucks like this you can't read into every lineup change.

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#71 match16
March 26 2013, 01:49PM
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This is what I think Fistric was thinking:

He sees 2 preds, 1 in his lane, the other in Potter's. Yip crosses to his lane, so he targets puck carrier. He doesn't see Potter crossing to his side as he already has Yip locked on for the hit. Going for the hit would leave Mueller to go 1v1 with Potter who he thought was still in position.

Unfortunately, Potter is out of position and they both get burned. Either way you look at it, I think they're both somewhat at fault for lack of communication, but Potter should not be crossing to the same side as Fistric.

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#72 lefty37
March 26 2013, 04:31PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Perhaps we could also analyze the first Nashville goal. Pay special attention to the center on that line and where he was when the puck was stripped in the corner.

I'm no NHL'er, but I do believe by the time you are 9 years old you are taught as a forward which of the 3 lanes you are responsible for in your own zone.

Our Captain seems to love to preach "veteran leadership" yet can not do simple things such as covering his man in the slot.

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#73 Death Metal Nightmare
March 26 2013, 04:32PM
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no joke - i just turned on the game cause i was busy. sat down and seen this play happen about 2 real time minutes later and shut the TV off.

this team is as annoying as the NHL lock out was and im pretty much done wasting my time on them this year.

/not going out of my way to watch until next year after changes occur

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#74 Pucker
March 26 2013, 04:37PM
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It's Fistric.

At 8:30 Fistric is starting his move on Yip - Potter is already behind any play to Mueller.

I'd still take Fistric in my line up anytime. I hope he's not being benched because of this play. There were others just as bad (Hall turnover).

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#75 Curcro
March 26 2013, 06:05PM
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The problem I have with Potter on this play is he coasts back to the net after Mueller breaks through. He needs to be there to clear the rebound should Dubnyk make the save.

The other issue is that Fistric crossed prior to Nashville crossing. And even if there wasn't a goal on that play. If he makes his check, that is Interference.

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#76 Pucker
March 26 2013, 06:08PM
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Pucker wrote:

It's Fistric.

At 8:30 Fistric is starting his move on Yip - Potter is already behind any play to Mueller.

I'd still take Fistric in my line up anytime. I hope he's not being benched because of this play. There were others just as bad (Hall turnover).

I'm wrong. Bad play by Fistric compounded by a bad play by Potter. It looks like he did go for a skate before trying to get back into position.

At 8:29 he's gone too wide and is in chasing mode.

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