Fayne enjoys playing defence


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.

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

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.

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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.

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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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  • Retsinnab5

    Hopefully Fayne and Nikitin can really boost the defense and get us out of the basement in the west and maybe the playoffs*

    *Throws up in mouth, The Oilers in the Playoffs thats not happening.

  • Zarny

    @Jason Gregor

    1) Can you explain how Fayne is an upgrade on Smid? From my understanding Smid was also a shutdown guy but was also physical and blocked a ton of shots. What does Fayne have that Smid didn’t?

    2) Do you have an explanation as to why the Oilers were only -8 with Ralph Krueger and -76 under Eakins? If you pro-rate the shortened season and correct for poor goaltending they would have finished -15 in 2013, and finished -50 last year. Why the major regression?

    I know this is off topic slightly, and it it’s too early to judge Eakins, but I still feel that MacT’s biggest mistake was getting rid of Krueger. He was the only coach that we’ve seen the Oilers improve. Firing him just created more turnover and a new system for the kids, and how we must wait even longer to judge if Eakins is the right coach.

    • Retsinnab5

      Disagree with part 1

      Agree with part 2, Krueger should have gotten at least another year.

      Other than Firing Krueger and the Grebs signing really think MacT is doing a great job.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          WTF are you talking about? Hall, Yak and Ebs did better with Krueger.

          Anyway, Gregor, update your calendar. It’s 2014, not 2004. Iginla isn’t elite.

          • Grant

            Iggy scored 30 goals last year…. if that’s not elite, not sure what is. Sure, he’s not potting 50 anymore, but perpetual 30 goal years is something hardly any NHLers can do.

          • Jason Gregor

            Iginla averaged 2nd most minutes of any Bruins forward, and he was tied for the highest Quality of competition. But you say he was sheltered. Incorrect.

          • Clyde Frog

            Agree with part A. Disagree with part B: Iggy had yet another 30 goal season last year. He may be starting to lose foot speed but there are very few players that have had his top end scoring consistency.

          • Zarny

            Umm no…WTF are you talking about?

            Under Krueger, Hall 50 PT in 45 games which pro-rates to 91 PT. Under Eakins, Hall played against much better competition and still put up 80 PT in 75 games which pro-rates to 88 PT. 88 PT against much better competition the better season.

            Under Krueger, Eberle had 37 PT in 48 games which pro-rates to 63 PT. Under Eakins, Eberle had 65 PT in 80 games which pro-rates to 67 PT…once again Eberle played against much better competition under Eakins than he did under Krueger. Last year was the better year.

            Yakupov’s problems last year were not coaching.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        is that what stauffer said or did you watch a lot of devils games? im reserving judgment til I see how this all plays out on the ice. im not getting my hopes up again.

    • bazmagoo

      #1 – The difference is three fold

      a) Smid was a left sided defenceman, the Oilers have prospects galore on that side, Fayne is a right sided defenceman
      b) $250,000 savings in cap hit
      c) Laurent Brossoit

      #2 – You are most likely right, Dallas isn’t the answer in my opinion. There really is no escaping the fact that the team was better under Krueger. It just can’t be argued otherwise without looking foolish. Eakins needs to get his poop together pronto.

      • CMG30

        I think it can be argued. We don’t have a large enough sample size to say the team was better under Krueger as he was in charge for only half a season. The Oil went on one hot streak under his tutelage while Eakins started they year with Hall at center, a goalie in the middle of an epic career meltdown and his top two centers on IR, one of whom never recovered.

        I grant you that none of this is proof one way or the other as to the better coach but that’s kind of the point. Claiming one coach was better than the other doesn’t make sense because we saw so little of Krueger. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that I’d have preferred to have stuck with Renney than these last two. Or going back futher MacTavish was a better coach than the whole lot since.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      To answer your first question, yes Smid was physical and blocked a lot of shots, but he didn’t have the ability or confidence to make an outlet pass. Fayne does. With Smid on the ice, opposing teams knew the outlet would come from his partner and had a much better chance of breaking up the breakout.

    • Grant

      Smid was a tough in your face guy that played against top guys but had a ton of giveaways and made a lot of mistakes. Heart and soul guy . “From a cattlemans point of view .. All a steer can do is ” try ” with not much success .
      That was Smid!

    • Joe Mamma

      1) Fayne is a right D that can make a first pass and doesn’t get turnstiled nightly.

      2) Krueger is gone. Might as well quit beating that dead horse, because that debate has zero impact on the future of the club. They’re not bringing him back, Eakins is the coach for better or worse, so why waste our breath. It is what it is.

    • #1 Smid was a black hole when it came to possession. Fayne has had great possession numbers for a long time, with and without Greene. When Smid was on the ice the puck stayed in the d zone, when Fayne is on the ice the puck tends to stay in the o zone.

    • Jason Gregor

      Fayne moves puck quicker and more accurately. Oilers value that more. Also Fayne is a right shot and Oilers felt Smid was tradeable due to young lefties in organization.

      Hard to compare a shortened season to a regular one.

      Time to move past Krueger. Oilers possession numbers were not great with him either.

      Under Krueger Oilers finished horribly. In the most important 10 games of the year, when they were in playoff hunt, they went 1-9 and were outscored 33-13.

      Under Eakins they started horribly, 4-15-2 in first 21. Season was over then.

      Both had warts, time to focus on now rather than worrying about what ifs. Krueger finished 24th in short season and Eakins 28th. I don’t see anything that suggests team would be drastically better.

      Coaches are one part of the problem. Getting capable NHL players is more important than the coach at this point. IMO.

    • Smid was atrocious at times. Yes, he blocked a lot of shots but the Oilers ALLOWED a lot of shots. Smid was a collapse first player that premeditated blocking shots, the worst kind of shot blocker. Blocking shots should be your last resort and done out of desperation, it should never be your go to move like it was with Smid (collapse and go on knees). A defenseman should take all measures to prevent the shot, not allow the shot.

      Smid’s “toughness” was also exaggerated as he was tough after the whistle blew and not so much during play, when it matters. He was always ready to give a face washing or cross check to a player after a whistle blows … to make up for allowing that player to be in his goaltenders face for the prior 30 seconds (during the play).

      I may come off as biased as I wasn’t a Smid fan, but there are reasons why I wasn’t a fan. Fayne is a major upgrade, a safe and responsible player and he’s not hiding behind anything.

    • Zarny

      It’s simple to explain #1…Smid wasn’t a shutdown guy. That’s just a myth some Oiler fans like to cling to because he was a good guy who would block a truck with his face.

      Smid and Fayne averaged almost the exact same ice time last year; 18:12 min and 18:18 min a night respectively.

      Fayne played against considerably better competition than Smid with a 55.3% corsi; his relative corsi was +1.5%.

      Smid played against 3rd and 4th line competition with a 41.6% corsi. His relative corsi was -7.1%. Mark Fraser had a better corsi rating than Smid.

      Mark Fayne is not Shea Weber. He’s not going to get 50 PT or win a Norris. He does play defense very well though; much better than Smid. For a man who is 6’3″ 215 lbs he is a good skater; much better than Smid. Fayne also consistently makes a good first pass; once again much better than Smid.

      Comparing Mark Fayne to Smid or N. Schultz borders on absurd.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I think there’s definitely room for debate on who the best RHD on the team is. Petry’s had to play the same minutes Fayne has, but Fayne had a stud partner in Andy Greene and Petry still did quite well relative to the team.

    Both are miles ahead of Schultz, though

    • Jason Gregor

      Go look at Fayne’s numbers without Greene. They are just fine.

      Fayne excels at one thing, being a solid stay-at-home D-man.

      Petry doesn’t excel in one area yet. He isn’t great defensively, he isn’t outstanding offensively.

      Petry might have more potential, but he has yet to reach it. I bet we see Fayne on the ice in the last minute when the Oilers are protecting a lead, not Petry.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    He’s an Oiler, not much to dilly dally over now. Let’s just hope this thing gets turned around.

    There has to be something that can be done with Philly. Sean Couturier isn’t even one of their top 2 centers. Wonder what the price is that he suddenly is available. He’s no Stastny or Seguin, that’s for sure. If Berglund is the next best option, then pass thank you.

    Give them Petry and Mirincin/or Simpson, and take back a dump player or two like Coburn and whoever else the Flyers want to dump.

  • @kahmad92

    If we do not get that big center we badly need for the 2 spot we will be in the lottery again. What happens if nuge gets hurt…What a mess we will be in..we need depth..having arco as fourth liner ready to move up in case of injury is good but not as a regular…

  • I’m excited for Fayne. I think Eakins will handle himself better this year with Ramsey on board. Many players mentioned several times, they are happy the same coach is back so they can follow the same systems and style.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Overall I’ve been pleased with the player acquisition moves that MacT has made both this and last season upgrading the team more often than not. On the other hand, hiring Eakins has seemed to be a potential mis-step but I love the hiring of Ramsey.

  • Grant

    Edmonton did a fine job this summer so far!

    They added key players that are in a supporting role , not a big superstar that would have torn this team apart.

    The guys they have added all have good size, an average of about 6’3″ and 210 pounds.

    They still kept the nucleus intact,yet added quality supporting players and that is how you must do it in today’s market.

  • Chongler

    It’s a bit trickier to understand the value and impact a player like Fayne brings to this team, since no one makes highlight reel youtube clips of stickchecking, slot protection and positional awareness. If you haven’t specifically watched Devils games, it’s easy to miss out but this is exactly what the Oils D-core has been missing. I think he will only make the rest of the team better, especially the Offense-minded guys, in having that sense of security behind them. Combine that with the MAJOR goaltending upgrade and you have the base for a very solid back end.

    Smid is an awesome guy, hard worker, loves the city and was truly grateful to be an Oiler, but he just didn’t have the quality and consistency that Fayne brings to the table. Well done MacT!

  • Bishai in the Benches

    Hey Gregor, probably an off topic comment, but I enjoyed this article very much and I think a big reason was the style. Integrated quotes and comments are so much easier to read and flow way better than simply writing out an entire interview in the format it was presented. Don’t get me wrong, I still read those articles, but I find myself skipping over the quotes and reading your italicized thoughts. Just my two cents haha. Write more articles like this!! A+

  • Richard Cranium

    Gregor that -45 should be over the entire season unless you are saying that they played even hockey for those first 25 games except for goalie at fault goals.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    How much better Smid would have looked in LA or Cnicago. He’s a solid 5-6 defender, and his warts such as not being able to move a puck are not noticed as badly when playing with a puck mover such as Lubo, Gilbert, Petry.

    Mark supposedly strength are he can make a good first pass, and keep pucks in. His skating is good as well I heard. I think we got a vood second pairing defender.

  • Wax Man Riley

    The more I look at the current defense the more I think something else is going to happen. The pairing just don’t add up. This is the only thing that makes sense to me right now.

    Nikitin – Fayne

    Marincin – Petry

    Ference – Schultz

    But I can’t see the Oilers pushing Schultz down to 3rd line duty. The more I look at it the more I think Rishuag is right that Petry may be on the move.

    Marincin – Fayne

    Nikitin – Schultz

    Ference – ?

    Just looks like a more realistic situation.


  • Burnward

    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.

    • Zarny

      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.

      • ubermiguel

        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.

        • Zarny

          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.

  • Burnward

    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!

  • vetinari

    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)….

    • 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.

  • Clyde Frog

    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.

  • 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 [email protected] 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!!

  • Clyde Frog

    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