Play Martin Marincin

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Something funny happened on Sunday. With the Edmonton Oilers down a goal and the net empty, Andrew Ference was sent over the boards to try and help the team make up the difference. It was suggested that this was evidence of how thin Edmonton was on the blue line (it certainly is) but it was that moment that I recognized that on merit Ference was the best left-shooting defenceman at Dallas Eakins’ disposal.

That’s a problem.

The Defensive Depth Chart

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On Sunday against Arizona the Oilers deployed their defencemen as follows:

  • RD Justin Schultz: 22:25 TOI total, 16:57 at evens
  • LD Nikita Nikitin: 21:05 TOI total, 15:49 at evens
  • RD Jeff Petry: 20:52 TOI total, 17:46 at evens
  • LD Andrew Ference: 19:33 TOI total, 16:19 at evens
  • RD Mark Fayne: 15:50 TOI total, 12:17 at evens
  • LD Keith Aulie: 12:47 TOI total, 12:33 at evens

That’s brutal, especially at the top end. We’ll ignore the problems on the right side, though they are significant (looking for offence or not, the usage of Justin Schultz and Mark Fayne this year has been difficult to understand) and instead focus on the left.

At the very top of the depth chart is Nikita Nikitin, who has been wildly inconsistent but was understandably allowed to try and play his way out of trouble. Andrew Ference sits second, and he’s actually been reasonably good this year, particularly with Jeff Petry (it’s almost like some of his struggles last year came from trying to cover for Schultz) but it’s a stretch to project him any higher in the lineup than he is already. At the bottom of the list is Keith Aulie, a limited player who has done a really decent job of surpassing expectations since being put in the lineup.

Oh, and Martin Marincin, who has been a healthy scratch since Ference returned three games ago.

Big Picture

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Martin Marincin isn’t a top pairing defenceman, but it wasn’t all that long ago that he was providing a pretty convincing performance in tough minutes. In 2013-14 he played 44 games (mostly with Petry), averaging 19:09 per game and dramatically out-performed the Oilers’ Corsi numbers despite brutal opposition and a tough zone start. A 6’4”, 203 pound defenceman with speed, smarts and a two-way game, Marincin was one of the most encouraging finds of 2013-14.

It’s easy to forget that, partially because Marincin hasn’t been great in the early going and partially because the Oilers have done a great job of putting him in a position to fail.

But in the big picture there is no question that Marincin should be playing.

For one thing, the Oilers need to find a legitimate top-four defenceman on the left side. Ference is a known quantity and in the back nine of his career; he’s been serviceable on the second pairing this season but isn’t going to get any better than he is right now. The organization seems to be holding out hope for Nikitin; given his contract there isn’t much choice in that regard. Aulie’s limitations with the puck makes it difficult to imagine him as anything more than a third-pairing option. And then there’s Marincin, whose range of skills means he probably has the most potential of any of these players.

From a winning right now perspective, it’s more important to find a competent top-four defenceman than it is to see if Aulie really has what it takes to be a No. 5/6 guy. Marincin at the top of his game is miles better than Aulie at the top of his, and the Oilers need a difference maker way more than they need to reclaim Aulie as a third-pairing guy. We know the current group isn’t good enough, even with Aulie at his best, so it’s worthwhile to take a chance that Marincin can get back to where he was a year ago.

It also makes sense from a long-term organizational perspective. Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are waiting in the wings for their chance, and it would be the height of stupidity for any team to run three totally unproven blueliners on the same defensive unit. Marincin’s window to establish himself is *right now* or else he risks getting lost when the organization inevitably promotes the guys it really likes.

Ideally, the Oilers would go out and get a good defenceman to stabilize the unit, but that’s going to be close to impossible at this point in the season. Failing that, they need someone internally to take a step forward and Marincin is their best bet. It’s just impossible for him to do anything when he isn’t able to find his way out of the press box.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • El Pindo

    WHY IS FAYNE NOT PLAYING 20/night??!!! Seriously I can’t seem to get my head around this, we watch Schultz Jultz as only he can for 22 min each night, limit our big free agents minutes, and then wonder why we’re down 3 goals at the end of the first 50% of the time

    • Fayne was a 18 min/game Player in NJ, we can agree hes a defensive guy, who handles tough zone starts and PK, like a RH Version of smid. hes not going to get PP time, hes not going to get more ice-time than Petry, who I think is just as good as him, just a better skater.

      So that leaves Schultz, who the Oilers see as the offensive guy, he gets PP time, and gets more minutes when the team is down a goal, which is a lot this year…

      • El Pindo

        That’s all fine but at some point (namely when the PP just simply isn’t working) you gotta try something else, allowing fewer goals is just as effective as scoring more…I’d just prefer to see more of Petry and Fayne than Schultz’s ridiculous attempts at defending in his own end, the kid is brilliant in the o zone no doubt, but how many times have we watched his man bury a goal this year that could have been prevented by someone that’s even moderately competent in the defensive zone?

      • El Pindo

        That was written coming off of a 4 game win streak almost 3 weeks ago now, the record has only gotten worse and we shouldn’t be changing up the deployment?

  • I like what Aulie has done when he has gotten the chance, he’s a big guy who can break up the cycle, has shown passion and care to stay in the lineup.

    What has Marincin done? Not much really, he hasnt been good in the NHL this year, he’s been soft and inconsistent, the only guy he could replace is Nikitin and due to his contract I doubt it will happen unless he’s injured.

    I do Agree we send him down, Mac-T got experience on the back end so the D prospects could develop some more in the farm…

  • pkam

    Analytics simply “over-rated

    http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2014/11/17/nhl_keeping_an_eye_on_las_vegas.html

    Burke said he didn’t see anything in it for hockey. “Baseball is a series of identical, repetitive events. Ours is a random game with contact.”

    Sitting with Habs GM Marc Bergevin in a symposium about running a team, he said analytics were no better than the third most important tool behind scouting in person and reviewing video.
    “This is an eyeballs sport,” said Burke.

  • pkam

    Trade J.Schultz and a lot of issues will go away (about 10-12 minutes of every game nights 22 minutes). Addition by Subtraction. Allows Fayne and Petry to take more minutes as they should.

    Too bad current Mgmt would never give away a “Norris” candidate like that.

  • Spydyr

    The Analytics fans think they are ahead of the curve, they try to say the right things but in reality all they do is use analytics. They have 1 tool in the tool box and that is what they use. You listen to lowetide and he says i don’t get it the corsi is good fenwick good and they are losing. Hmmm maybe just maybe analytics aren’t all that

    I think Analytics can be helpful when you have not seen a player play that much and don’t have much video on him. To date analytics is not much more than this.

  • Ugh, this team! Even if they had three more wins under their belt, which is not asking for much considering some of the teams they have played, much of the ire would be lessened. And yet, for some reason, they just can’t stop playing Schultz this much per night.

    What’s also perplexing is that they began by cutting Petry’s ice time. Now, given Mac T could get him under a long term contract, you think the team would at least want to showcase Petry to pump his value for something either at the deadline or before. Not playing him does little to accomplish that.

  • Marincin is going through the same meat grinder the Oilers used to develop all their prospects. The problem is they don’t have a plan to develop NHL players. If you don’t count our #1 overall picks. Drafted and playing for the team on a regular basis,

    Oilers- 3 players and then Marincin

    LAK – the champs have 12 NHL player

    Chicago – Who the rebuild is modelled after have 10 NHL players

  • so tired of watching them play poorly and without passion. and still marincin is not on the team. his play last year gave me hope for this team. i guess the coaching staff does not. maybe ill watch another oilers game next year if they sort the team out.

  • Corsi is the total number of shots attempted at the net for and against at even strength right? Is there any measure that tells you where those shots are coming from? I mean Shultz could limp his wristers in from the blue all night long but it’s not gonna translate into wins. Do the top teams in the league all have the top corsi numbers ?

    • BobbyCanuck

      Yes, I finally looked up this vaunted Corsi, to see what it was all about. Sounds like a tool for players to pad their stats during contract years.

      Corsi says an attempted shot on net is an attempted shot on net, no quantifying for quality, therefore a fundamentally flawed performance measure.

      If you trash this post, I can only assume that you think that a shot that sails into the bleachers, misses the net all together, or hits the goalie in the crest are just as valid as shots that:

      -hit the goal post
      -make the goalie move
      -create juicy rebounds

      So now that I have the definition of Corsi, I can surmise that it may be useful in situations where everything else appears to be equal, and some kind of statistic is required to help in decision making.

      A decision like…”Should I trade Wayne for Mario?”

  • Spiel

    JW, you are pissing in the wind ( so to speak) when it comes to suggesting that Eakins play the best defenceman !

    What makes you think you are smarter than he is? Stop suggesting he do the right thing in playing MM……..he is smarter than the entire hockey world and will do what he wants, in spite of how it affects the team.

    If Ray Bourke was playing for this team………Eakins would have benched him long ago. He has called up Steve Pinnazato and will bench one one of the fourth liners…….who have all played their hearts out.

    You see the problem with this team is the fourth line………plain and simple.

  • Spiel

    If Marincin is as good as all the bloggers say, why can’t the coaching staff see it?

    They even have blogger hero Dellow to help them?

    Maybe Marincin just isn’t as good as you all think he is? He’s played a grand total of 53 NHL games…

    • camdog

      If he isnt good enough for the NHL he should be playing in the AHL. Now one thing I know and that is that there are 29 GM’s in the league that would have sent our young centre back down to junior.

  • Young Oil

    I miss the summer time when all is good and we still had a chance. Nickitan is awful and he has been given enough leeway time to stand aside and get Marty back in. The left side on defence is woeful no wonder we are an awful team.