Fayne enjoys playing defence

Jason Gregor
July 02 2014 10:47PM

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Even in hockey crazed Edmonton, Mark Fayne could walk into a bar tonight and 99% of the people wouldn't recognize him. That will change very quickly, however, as fans become familiar with Fayne he likely will never receive a lot of publicity for his play, and that is a good thing, because it means he's excelling in his role.

Fayne isn't flashy. He is an old-school stay-at-home defenceman, who won't crush you physically, can make a quick, accurate outlet pass and admittedly won't bring much offence.

"I feel more comfortable starting in the defensive zone," said the 155th pick in the 2005 entry draft.

"It’s where I feel most comfortable. Over the past few years I’ve developed into more of a stay home, shutdown guy playing against tougher opposition on a nightly basis. I think I’ve done my best when I am challenged the most, and I have to be aware of who is on the ice at all times. It’s a good challenge that I like taking on," Fayne said in an interview on TSN 1260 two hours after being signed by the Oilers.

Fayne will have ample opportunities to challenge himself against the best forwards in the western conference. There is no debating that Fayne is the Oilers best right-shot defensive defenceman. Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry have struggled against top lines, and adding Fayne will allow them to improve their defensive zone coverage without having to face the best opposition shift after shift.

Fayne might end up being the Oilers most important off-season signing. The Oilers gave up a league-worst 267 goals, 3.26 goals-per-game, last season. Meanwhile Fayne was part of a Devils team that surrendered the 6th fewest goals, 195.

WANTS THE HEAVY MATCHUPS

The Devils play excellent team defence, so I don't expect Fayne to magically solve the Oilers defensive woes, but he enjoys playing defence, something many of the Oiler players have yet to grasp, and he is looking forward to battling against the big boys of the west.

"From the games that I’ve played against the west it is a different style from what I’m used to playing against back in Jersey. I think with my size and my ability to move (skate), the bigger forwards in the west won’t be as challenging for me, whereas small guys seem to give me the most difficulty," Fayne said.

Fayne is 6'3" and 215 pounds. He doesn't punish people physically, but he plays good angles and has an active stick. It is good that he feels confident against bigger forwards because he will get a consistent dose of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Joe Thorton, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jamie Benn, Jarome Iginla and many other elite western forwards on a nightly basis.

The one aspect Oilers fans should be most excited about Fayne is that he knows his role, understand how to play his position and he won't try to do much.

"I think we are past the days of defensemen really skating [the puck] up the ice themselves. It’s a lot better when we can get the puck to the goal scorers. Hopefully we can follow the play up, and if there is an opportunity to jump into the rush we can do that, but mainly I just want to shut down the opposing team and get the puck back up ice and hope that something good can happen," explained Fayne.

I can't recall the last time I interviewed an Oiler who was this confident and understanding about his play in the defensive zone. It is exactly what this team needs.

You need forwards and defencemen who are confident they can score, and who want to be on the ice when you need a goal, but you also need skaters who want to be on the ice protecting the lead and facing the best players.

Fayne will never be a #1 D-man, because he doesn't possess the offensive ability of a Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty, but as the Oilers try to build a winner Fayne will be a solid piece of the foundation.

Ask the Hawks, Kings and Bruins how important Niklas Hjalmarsson, Willie Mitchell and Dennis Seidenberg were to their championships teams. You need players who are sound defensively, and Fayne played that role for the New Jersey Devils during their 2012 Stanley Cup run.

I don't expect Fayne to have the same possession numbers in Edmonton that he had in New Jersey, because the Oilers simply aren't as good of a defensive team, but I believe he will play a major role in reducing their goals against.

The Oilers were -66 in GF/GA against ratio (not including EN goals for or against). Only Florida (-69) and Buffalo (-86) had a worse ratio. I went back and looked at the first 25 games of the season, when the Oilers goalies really struggled, and I noted 21 goals that I'd say were due to bad goaltending. Over the final 57 games, when the goaltending was much more consistent, the Oilers were still -45 in GF/GA.

You can't simply blame the defensive woes on the goalies. 

Last season, 15 of the 16 playoff teams had a + GF/GA ratio (excluding EN), while 13 of the 14 non-playoff teams had a - GF/GA ratio. The Detroit Red Wings and Fayne's Devils were the exceptions. 

You can look at a team's Fenwick and Corsi ratings and there are more exceptions as far as making or missing the playoffs compared to GF/GA ratio.

For me, goals for and against are still the most important factor in winning games, and the focus in Edmonton over the past few seasons has seemingly leaned more towards scoring goals than preventing them.

It hasn't worked.

The Oilers need to produce more offence, but that should come when they start spending less time in the defensive zone. This team needs must improve inside their blueline, and Fayne should be one of the leaders in the pursuit of better defensive play.

His attitude, commitment and excitement towards defence is a welcome addition to an organization that has lacked defensive prowess for the past eight seasons.

Recently by Jason Gregor:  

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 Rama Lama
July 03 2014, 09:31AM
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I wonder if Eakins thinks that this guy would be a better forward?

I love all of Mac T moves so far, the only one left is moving Eakins to an assistant role where he can learn how to coach properly from a veteran coach. No more spending thirty games trying to figure out who plays where.........no more sitting with the media while practice is going on listening to the sound of your own voice.

Make the move Mac T!

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#52 vetinari
July 03 2014, 09:31AM
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Forget about Smid, he's so last season... look at the current projected defensive lineup... they are better than last year (which is not saying much) but still lack a true #1 stud... at least with this defence, if they can play by committee, we may move up a few places in the standings and actually have meaningful hockey in February (or "MHIF" for short)... if MacT can land an experienced 50-65 point 2C and a 1/2 defenceman from another team on a salary dump, we might actually make some noise in the West (of course, that noise could be AAARRRGGGHHH, but y'know it's better than nothing)....

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#53 Zarny
July 03 2014, 10:15AM
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Burnward wrote:

Smid will always have bad Corsi numbers because he plays on bad teams and has a "keep them to the outside, if they beat the goalie from there...then hat tip" style.

Hate that damn stat.

Umm no. Smid will always have bad Corsi numbers because he's just not very good.

He's a bad skater with a "let them skate around me on the outside while I manage to not even brush their jersey" style of game. And that's against 3rd and 4th line competition.

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#54 camdog
July 03 2014, 10:48AM
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I tried it at home wrote:

OK, so just for gits and shiggles, lets welcome R. Hextall to the job by offersheeting Couterier and anyone else that will take the smirk off his face. I guess he just never got over that Stanley Cup final where he got wave after wave of Oiler coming in. Can we call him No-rings?

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?

Hextall won the Stanley Cup in LA as an Assistant General Manager. As an executive he's got more cups then the entire Oilers management team. Guessing by the thumbs up you got I can only assume that many Oiler fans are still in the 80's...

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#55 backup bob
July 03 2014, 10:53AM
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I like Fayne the most, out of the four new players to join the Oil. New Jersey plays a tight defensive style of hockey. He will need to adjust to the Oilers "loose" style and lack of back checking.

A good addition to the team.

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#56 TigerUnderGlass
July 03 2014, 11:02AM
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@vetinari

if MacT can land an experienced 50-65 point 2C

One of the biggest problems surrounding the Oilers is one of expectation.

People rate 50 points as the low end for a second line center, but it isn't. How many 60 point second line centers do people think play in this league? Off the top of my head I can think of only 3.

60 point 2Cs are very rare. 50 point 2Cs are hard to come by.

A 50 point second line center is a very good second line center but fans of this team deem it barely adequate for the position.

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#57 Danger Pay
July 03 2014, 11:06AM
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Playing defence as a solid stay at home is the most under rated/ under appreciated position in hockey. (trust me, I'm the stay at home on my beer league team). After the game No One and I mean No One remembers that amazing box out of an attacking forward (denying a second chance) or when you check the forwards stick and calmly put the rebound into the corner. But they sure as $@3t Notice when you miss the stick check or don't box out the forward and he taps in a rebound for a greasy goal.

You really end up playing defence for yourself and your goalie, you get use to playing well and not getting any of the accolades.

This is why it's a good thing when Fayne says he's looking forward to the challenge and enjoys playing defence; and well noted by Gregor when he say's that if you don't notice Fayne he has done his job!!

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#58 Clyde Frog
July 03 2014, 11:06AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:
if MacT can land an experienced 50-65 point 2C

One of the biggest problems surrounding the Oilers is one of expectation.

People rate 50 points as the low end for a second line center, but it isn't. How many 60 point second line centers do people think play in this league? Off the top of my head I can think of only 3.

60 point 2Cs are very rare. 50 point 2Cs are hard to come by.

A 50 point second line center is a very good second line center but fans of this team deem it barely adequate for the position.

What he said x10

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#59 ubermiguel
July 03 2014, 11:11AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:
if MacT can land an experienced 50-65 point 2C

One of the biggest problems surrounding the Oilers is one of expectation.

People rate 50 points as the low end for a second line center, but it isn't. How many 60 point second line centers do people think play in this league? Off the top of my head I can think of only 3.

60 point 2Cs are very rare. 50 point 2Cs are hard to come by.

A 50 point second line center is a very good second line center but fans of this team deem it barely adequate for the position.

There were 21 60-point centres in the league last year. And some teams had more than their fair share (PIT, COL, BOS).

But your point stands. 50 points gets you in the top 40 centres. 40 points gets you in the top 60. So it's reasonable to expect your #2 centre to get you at least 40 points. Unfortunately our #2C got 37 last year, and was a defensive liability.

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#60 Casey
July 03 2014, 11:17AM
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Lots of good things coming from Devils fans. "He is the most underrated defensemen" and "he is better than most think" is what ive been hearing

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#61 Oilbaron
July 03 2014, 11:51AM
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Thank God Steve Smith is no longer here to ruin Fayne as a player. Ramsay and Fayne could be the biggest difference makers to this club next year

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#62 TigerUnderGlass
July 03 2014, 11:58AM
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ubermiguel wrote:

There were 21 60-point centres in the league last year. And some teams had more than their fair share (PIT, COL, BOS).

But your point stands. 50 points gets you in the top 40 centres. 40 points gets you in the top 60. So it's reasonable to expect your #2 centre to get you at least 40 points. Unfortunately our #2C got 37 last year, and was a defensive liability.

I didn't say there were 3 60 point centers. I said there were probably 3 60 point second line centers.

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#63 Spydyr
July 03 2014, 01:03PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I didn't say there were 3 60 point centers. I said there were probably 3 60 point second line centers.

Looks like 18 third line centers got 60 points last year than.

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#64 ubermiguel
July 03 2014, 01:24PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I didn't say there were 3 60 point centers. I said there were probably 3 60 point second line centers.

So you did. We're total agreement then. 60pt 2Cs only show up on COL, BOS and PIT that I can see.

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#65 TigerUnderGlass
July 03 2014, 01:25PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Looks like 18 third line centers got 60 points last year than.

I can't even guess what you're trying to say.

I just said that there are likely only 3 second line centers scoring 60 points in the NHL.

If you are suggesting it follows from my comment that there are 18 third line centers doing the same then you should probably elaborate, because you aren't making a lot of sense.

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#66 TigerUnderGlass
July 03 2014, 01:31PM
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ubermiguel wrote:

So you did. We're total agreement then. 60pt 2Cs only show up on COL, BOS and PIT that I can see.

San Jose had a lot of points out of the center position too, and maybe we're missing somebody else.

So even if we say 4-6 second line centers - pretty rare.

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#67 Smokey
July 03 2014, 01:32PM
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Zarny wrote:

Umm no. Smid will always have bad Corsi numbers because he's just not very good.

He's a bad skater with a "let them skate around me on the outside while I manage to not even brush their jersey" style of game. And that's against 3rd and 4th line competition.

Have you watched Oilers hockey in 8 years. Smid was drafted I believe 9th overall because he was a profficient skater. He skates well for 6'4''. He is no Bowmeester, but he wheels just fine. However his high draft slot was due to having some offensive accumen.

Smids 2 problems were 1) bad teams and 2) bad outlet passes, easy to break up our breakouts. He was never a great top 4 option unless paired with sublime talent.

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#68 Spydyr
July 03 2014, 01:32PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I can't even guess what you're trying to say.

I just said that there are likely only 3 second line centers scoring 60 points in the NHL.

If you are suggesting it follows from my comment that there are 18 third line centers doing the same then you should probably elaborate, because you aren't making a lot of sense.

1

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#69 pkam
July 03 2014, 01:33PM
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A big loss to the Oilers, Derek Laxdal leaves us to join the Texas Stars as their HC.

Good luck with your new career Laxdal, you earn it.

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#70 pkam
July 03 2014, 01:38PM
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Spydyr wrote:

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I am surprised you didn't trash the old boys club for not having even one 60 pts centers in our roster.

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#71 WHH
July 03 2014, 01:48PM
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Spydyr wrote:

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How about this Spydyr, maybe their were 18, 60 point first line centers. You are one of the last posters that should be taking cheap shots at someone's logic. We have suffered through way too many of your posts.

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#72 CT12
July 03 2014, 01:57PM
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Spydyr wrote:

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what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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#73 pkam
July 03 2014, 02:04PM
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CT12 wrote:

what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Relax, it is a good thing. Spydyr very seldom has the mood to make joke.

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#74 Kevin Blowe
July 03 2014, 02:28PM
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Amazing title Gregor did you come up with it all by yourself?

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#75 Zarny
July 03 2014, 07:26PM
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Smokey wrote:

Have you watched Oilers hockey in 8 years. Smid was drafted I believe 9th overall because he was a profficient skater. He skates well for 6'4''. He is no Bowmeester, but he wheels just fine. However his high draft slot was due to having some offensive accumen.

Smids 2 problems were 1) bad teams and 2) bad outlet passes, easy to break up our breakouts. He was never a great top 4 option unless paired with sublime talent.

Yep I've watched ~ 350-400 Oiler games over the last 8 years.

And yes, Smid was drafted between Alexandre Picard and Boris Valabik. I know...who?

His draft slot was wrong. It happens, Chi took Barker 3rd that year. Offensive accumen? That was always the line wasn't it? This would be the year. He's never topped 15 PT.

He was never a good skater but he wasn't bad 5 years ago. I don't know what happened. He's only 28 but he's gotten worse. Especially his lateral movement and pivoting. He's been getting walked around the last 2 years.

I liked Smid; he's plays the game the right way. But he's never lived up expectations. He's simply not a top 4 option.

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#76 Burnward
July 03 2014, 08:33PM
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@Zarny

On a team with a real NHL defense is Fayne?

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