Can Fayne Jump To The Top Pair?

We know the Oilers mismanaged their defense last year — from Marincin being sent down in favour of Brad Hunt, to the constant trotting out of Justin Schultz no matter his quality of
play, to the Petry saga — there was a definite disconnect between what the team
was doing and what many of us on the outside were seeing. Chiarelli has
changed the makeup of the defense, and added veteran coaching to the Oilers, so
perhaps the gap between what the club does and what we see won’t be so drastic.
Since Sekera was added to the roster the looming question has been who his
partner would be. One of the most common suggestions has been Mark Fayne. Is he
up to the challenge?

The seemingly unanimous viewpoint among pundits outside of the Oilers
organization is that Justin Schultz needs to play significantly less than he did last
season. Doing so should benefit both him and the team. He was at his best last
year when he was playing no more or less than Jeff Petry. I think the Oilers
can find ways to reduce Schultz’ minutes but it will require changing the role
of Mark Fayne.

Fayne is a complementary player who was put in the position
of complementing inexperienced or deeply flawed players while also soaking up
some brutal zone starts. In other words, the way the Oilers used him last year meant
he would find himself in a lot of bad situations. Still, by my eye, he finished
most games without too many black marks. He was in a role where if you didn’t notice
him it was probably a good night.

Fayne played 1088 minutes 5v5 last season for the Oilers. To break that down further, 331 of those minutes were with Marincin, 294 were with Nikita Nikitin, and 218
were with Oscar Klefbom. Those were his three most common partners. They are a far
cry from what he was used to in New Jersey when he played most often with first
pairing defender Andy Greene. Interestingly enough Fayne’s possession numbers
were best with Nikitin, suggesting that when he wasn’t being thrown to the
wolves with rookies in bad starting positions he could help keep the puck
moving in the right direction.

Mark Fayne spent four seasons patrolling the blueline for the
Devils. He played 3844 minutes 5v5 in that time with 1811 playing with Greene,
1081 with Tallinder, and 367 with Salvador as a distant third. Based
on how he’s been used in the past, we can safely assume that he would be
a solid choice to play with Sekera as a low event partner.

The interesting thing about Fayne playing the majority of
his time with high end defenders in New Jersey is that even then he wasn’t played
a significant amount. His primary playing partner consistently played more
minutes at even strength than with him on a TOI/G basis. Below I listed the average time on ice per game at even strength played by Fayne in each of his years with
New Jersey, as well as those of his most common partner. In years where his second
most common partner was very close to the first in overall minutes
played with Fayne, I included that player’s average as well. For example, in
2011-2012 Fayne split the season with Greene and Tallinder very evenly, so I
included both.

2010-2011: Fayne 16:32, Tallinder 19:37

2011-2012: Fayne 17:14, Greene 17:15, Tallinder 18:04

2012-2013: Fayne 15:30, Greene 18:36, Salvador 17:44

2013-2014: Fayne 16:16, Greene 18:39

Fayne with the Devils had a solid track record in regards
to possession and he played with some talented defenders. But even still his
coach wasn’t playing him step for step with them. If we assume that New Jersey
was competently deploying their defense over that period of time then we should
also assume that Fayne likely won’t play in lock-step with Sekera. Given what
we know about Fayne’s offensive shortcomings it is probably safe to assume that
in certain situations the Oilers might find it more beneficial to spot in
Sekera with someone like Schultz when they feel they need to score. That might
not be a sound idea, but it would be understandable.

That said, Fayne’s resume definitely suggests that he should
be able to be Sekera’s primary partner this coming season. Sekera should still
play more than Fayne — the former Devil might still never play more than 16-17
minutes at even strength — but when together Fayne should allow his
partner to shine. The Oilers didn’t have enough quality LHD in 2014-2015 to allow
Fayne to do what he does best, which is complement his partner by playing solid
if unspectacular defense. Instead he was forced into a shutdown role with
partners who weren’t ready for the challenge either.

Importantly, having a pairing like Sekera-Fayne can’t help
but relieve the pressure off of Klefbom and Schultz. If the coaching staff can
keep Schultz’ minutes down by utilizing a different pairing then the Oilers are
in a much better spot than most of last season.

At this point it looks like Fayne should be able to jump up
to the top pairing with Sekera. If it’s not him then it’s going to be Justin
Schultz and I’m not sure my heart is ready for that just yet.

    • stonedtodeath61

      No question that there are areas of concern in Schultz’s game and I would like to see him on the second pairing (or 1B)with Sekera. Klefbolm with Fayne and Nurse with Gryba. I think giving the kids ( Klefbom, Schults and Nurse) some solid stay at home D will provide more comfort and therefore more confidence. Nikitin and Ference can fight tooth and nail to grab a slot from game to game but not at the expense of the kids.

  • freelancer

    Fayne should be the most likely candidate to play with Sekera to start the season but I don’t think we should count Klefbom out either. While Klef should get some easier starts earlier, he was arguably Edmonton’s best defender last season and could fit that role sooner than later.

  • stonedtodeath61

    Think it probably depends on whether other defensemen are ready for bigger roles. Sekera-Fayne is probably your best top pair option if you want to reduce pressure on Klefbom and Schultz and start Nurse and Reinhart in the minors or on the bottom pair. You can give them tough starts, put Klefbom-Schultz on all offensive zone starts, and give Ference/Nikitin/Reinhart/Gryba mop up duty.

    Sekera has some pretty significant experience and success playing on the right side though. It’s not hard to imagine him and Klefbom being a really good pair that could do it all. That probably only works if Reinhart or Nurse can step up into either an offensive pair with Schultz or a defensive pair with Fayne though.

    This may be a better plan after the trade deadline. In my dream world the Oilers would spend the first few months of the season building up Nikitin, Ference, Gryba, and even Schultz and clear them all out for tangible assets. Then run Klefbom-Sekera, Reinhart-Fayne, and Nurse/Davidson/Musil as the third pair to give the young guys good late season experience. Add a good top four right side guy and you could have a real nice defense for 2016-17.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Hes not top pair worthy.

    And you talk about what “you and others” see from the outside but you and others are hilariously wrong over and over. It was the same when we traded others away and most fans were crying. I was calling for Smid to be gone long ago and when we finally got rid of him the crying from the fans like you was funny. Well we’ve seen he still can’t play. Same goes for the way you and others are very wrong about most other things.

    You and most fans have zero clue about hockey. You prove it daily.

  • Zarny

    McLellan’s player usage will be interesting. Edm D was the worst in the league last year and it appears only marginally better.

    Sekera-Fayne are the logical top pair next year. They won’t be sexiest in the league but should be competent. Fayne is complimentary defensive D better suited to 2nd pair deployment.

    Regardless, success will require “by committee”. No one on the roster is capable of logging 25+ min a night.

    • freelancer

      Bingo. If you look at McLellan’s D usage in San Jose, his top pairing was Braum and Vlasic, a veteran puck mover and defender. Sekera-Fayne is the obvious choice there.

      The “by committee” system is what is going to make or break this team this year. No true top pairing, just three defensive pairings that can split minutes and play responsible defence.

  • Two very good defense-men with experience, both under 30, both play well with others of the same age/experience rather than rookies. I hope they give these two a real shot for forming the top pair, it certainly can’t be any worse than we have had before. Until Nurse is ready for top pairing, I think this makes sense.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Ideally signing one of Erhoff or Franson is still in Chia’s OS plan.

    This would move Fayne and Shultz down to their natural spots (Fayne #4, Shultz #6).

    Sekera Erhoff

    Klefbom Fayne

    Gryba Shultz


    Start Nurse and Reinhart in the AHL as the top pair.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With nothing but B and C level moves on that blue line it looks as though losing is still an acceptable outcome for the Oilers.

    Feel a little bad that Connor has to endure yet another difficult season for the Oilers.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Fayne has proven he can handle 16-18 minutes in a defensive pairing and needs to be used that amount of time and no more. If with Sekera he can’t get his ice time but maybe with nikitin it can work. Problem is who plays with Sekera and that needs fixed first . Also expect this coaching group to use more team D not run and gun . 6 weeks from now we will have an idea

  • BobbyCanuck

    I am telling you, and I may be the only one in E-Town that thinks Nikki will have a break-out training camp, and play the best hockey of his life.

    Why? 29 yrs old, contract year, professional pride

    Prove me right Nikki

  • Tanker

    Seriously hoping Schultz gets sheltered minutes until he learns how to defend. He has skill, but is nowhere ready for the big boy minutes of the first line. Obviously. Fayne/Sekera would be solid first pairing. Unfortunately we still have Nikitin and Ference who shouldn’t play past the 3rd pairing, so until we dump some more of the past mistakes and establish a new, more legitimate defense corps, we are still in a defense conundrum. Would love to see Nikitin not on the Oilers period. Waste of a contract and a roster spot. Big time. He will be the anchor that holds us back especially if the “contract” guarantees him a roster spot. I would rather see Nurse and Reinhart over Nikitin and Ference any day of the week. Ference as 7D is fine with me. No Nikitin. Here’s to hoping we can dump him to a team with cap floor issues right before training camp.

    • mcjesus take the wheel

      See this is the stuff that makes me laugh.

      When we signed Ference I said it was a mistake. The blogging community and most fans touted him as a great vet signing that would stabilize our D and be our best dman. Same with nikitin. You all flip flop with your hindsight so much. It’s comical.

      • fran huckzky

        I would like you to produce one blog post from the time that unequivocally said Nikitin was a good idea.

        I recall opinion being a bit more split on Ference, although I don’t think anybody was saying he was going to be a real #1 defenseman. I personally thought that signing a veteran third pairing defenseman with a good work ethic and solid community spirit for a young team wasn’t the worst idea, but I immediately thought the term was way too long.

        But I don’t recall reading a single post saying anything other than Nikitin was a huge overpay for a player who had just had a bad year, and really only ever had one year where he even looked like he could play reliably in the NHL. Even MacTavish admitted that he overpaid to keep the term down. He’s the only one I remember ever saying nice things about Nikitin when he signed.

        Next you’ll be saying you were the only one that thought Khabibulin was a bad signing from the start.

  • Dan 1919

    “to the Petry saga” – Often blown way out of proportion.

    2015 second-round draft pick and conditional fifth-round pick is what we got for lost behind the net Petry. Not great but not bad for a player who couldn’t stay in the lineup of the worst defensive team in the NHL.

    Jeff Petry – the most overrated Oiler of all time. I’d take Jason Smith over Petry any day.

      • Dan 1919

        A valid comment, but I’m tired of settling for anything in Edmonton. If Gagner doesn’t want to take a check or even pretend to back check, or force his way to a scoring position, trade him. If Dubnyk doesn’t want to commit to the team enough to work his nightly weak goal out of his game, trade him. If Petry doesn’t want to play harder in his own zone and constantly be caught out of position, or just simply loosing battles because he doesn’t compete hard enough, trade him.

        Players took liberties when it came to nightly efforts in Edmonton. Just because they’ve had SOME (1 season for Dubnyk & Petry) success in other cities doesn’t mean I’m willing to pretend they didn’t float around the ice for years here in Edmonton just because they could get a away with it when there was no accountability.

        Let’s move forward with the guys who have shown grit the entire time and are still competing like Hall, RNH, Kelfbom, Hendricks etc.

        • El Pindo

          Lol, I agree the price was a bit steep, but he was/is a legitimate second pairing option, greater hockey minds than you can see that

          Edit: By greater hockey minds I mean the guys running the teams and dishing out contracts, not me

          • Dan 1919

            I agree he’s an NHL player, I just laugh when I see people act like it would be huge to have him back in Edmonton. He was here and it wasn’t anything special. Sure he’s better than lots of what we have, but the bottom line is we need a completely different mix to make the playoffs… hopefully we’re transitioning to that mix this year.

          • El Pindo

            That I can completely agree with, I hated it when we first let him go, but at the end of the day he will never be the guy to push a team over the edge, just a nice complementary piece, and at 5.5 over 6 it is too much for what he is

      • bradleypi

        We’ll see how high MTL is on that contract come season’s end. After reading some comments on ON about Petry and Marincin it can come as a surprise to see that there were in fact goals scored against the Oilers last season. They weren’t the answer last year and they’re no longer part of the equation so get over them already.

  • Spoils

    The way Petry was managed was horrible. We basically gave a perfectly good 2nd pairing right handed pro away for pennies on the dollar.

    Do you think Montreal could believe their luck when they realized what they got for a 2nd and 4th round pick?

    After the playoff run they signed him for 6 years at 5.5M.


    • Dan 1919

      Petry is not perfectly good 2nd pairing. He’s weak in his own zone, weak on the puck, panics, gives the puck away, and is often caught out of position.

      Don’t be a sheep, just because another team wants him today doesn’t mean he’s the greatest thing. Remember how Columbus was laughing at us as we overpaid for Nikitan who couldn’t stay in their lineup consistently. This is a very similar situation. Petry has good foot speed and is able to have shifts or entire games that make him look better than he is.

      6 years at 5.5M will see Petry traded or bought out before the end of that contract… write that down.

  • El Pindo

    Hamhius would be a nice addition to the oilers. He has 1 year remaining on his contract. Canucks will likely trade him at the deadline for picks. If we can have him before the season starts that would be amazing.

    Nikitan + 2nd round + prospect = Hamhius ???

    Salary stays the same.
    Canucks get 2nd round pick,a prospect and whats so ever when they trade Nikitan at the deadline.

    Problem is Hamhius is a Left handed D.

  • El Pindo

    I’ll be curious to see how players play in camp. Last season, certain players were pencilled into roles regardless of performance (like Jultz leading in TOI when that really shouldn’t have happened or Nikitin getting a lot of icetime after MacT said he was a top-4 defender).

    I wouldn’t pencil in either Fayne or Sekara as the top two. Make them earn it. We can guess that these will be in the top-2 but if Klefbom or Jultz make a leap over the others, then he should be there. (I’d put Jultz making the leap at 0.00001% but it could happen).

  • Dan 1919

    Fayne is another classic MacT UFA signing – bring in a player that is better suited as second or third pairing d-man and pitch him as a top pairing defender. Unfortunately, he is likely the best option to play the tough minutes with Sekera. Klefbom and Schultz should still receive sheltered minutes whether they are together or not, Gryba is a bottom pairing defender, and Nikitin or Ference will likely round out the #6 and #7 spots.

    I would like to see Nurse start out in the AHL, with a call up later in the season. I know that Chiarelli said he expects Reinhart to stick with the team, but I don’t see it. No need to rush him – let him start in the AHL and show that he can dominate at that level before bringing him up. Letting the young d-men develop in the AHL for longer than the Oilers have done in the recent past is not a negative.

    • bradleypi

      Why “shelter” a 25 year old dman? Schultz skill set clearly make him the teams best dman. Not sure why oilersnation rags on him for being bad defensively when we ALL KNEW what he brought to the table when he signed here. And especially when the Eakins led oilers were one of the worst defensive teams I have ever witnessed. Lol. Shelter a 25 year old in his prime. Good one. Schultz plays with the top line and if that’s not the plan for him, then why keep him if he’s as bad as oilersnation says he is?

  • camdog

    Lot of selective memory on here today. I feel sorry for the d-man whom gets the opportunity to draw Ference as their partner. Their numbers will surely suffer and the fan base will surely turn on them.

  • bradleypi

    So oilersnation believes fayne is the answer for the top pairing? Because that’s what every offensive minded team needs is a solely defensive dman that produces ZERO offence. I hope we can revisit this thread in dec/Jan when Schultz has triple the points fayne will. MH you say fayne had no black marks last year? I seem to remember him fishing the puck out of the back of the net waaaay more than Schultz. Fayne is a 2nd pairing guy at best.

  • fran huckzky

    Good defense is also a team game. In the past there were some wingers eg Yak, Ebs who provided absolutely no back pressure to support the defense. I am confident that everyone will have to buy in to whatever system Todd institutes or they won’t be playing/ This is a major advantage of having an experienced coach who isn’t afraid to make the stars accountable.

  • Dan 1919

    Fayne should be a solid D this year. It’s probably a little early to pencil him into the top pair.

    D by committee seems to be the answer for this year. Spread the butter more evenly on the toast. Less minutes for most D until someone like Klefbom or Reinhart grabs the brass ring and earns the minutes should work.

    Nurse has to be in the conversation. MVP in a Gold Medal Junior performance. No pouting going down but rather lacing them up tighter and playing ‘I’ll show you” hockey is a breath of fresh air for this roster. Gads when Nurse drops the shoulder into an opposing forward and he hits the ice hard the whole soft Oilers image will change.

    The two factors not mentioned are: McDavid & better goaltending. LA Coach D Sutter said possession is better than D and McDavid should deliver on that note. Talbot and Nilson have to be an upgrade on Fasth and that should improve Scrivens.

  • Dan 1919

    The only explanation for the cranky children on this site is the heat. If their mothers give them a cool bath and put them to bed early I’m sure they will feel better tomorrow. (hear me mcjesus and pi?)

  • Dan 1919

    The only explanation for the cranky children on this site is the heat.

    If their mothers give them a cool bath and put them to bed early I’m sure they will feel better tomorrow. (hear me mcjesus and pi?)

    • stonedtodeath61

      Well, last year the Sens had both A’s as healthy scratches in Phillips and Neil and the way that worked was a remarkable 21-3-1 run into the play-offs. Can’t let loyalty rule the day and get in the way of winning.

  • Ndustry

    Honestly, hopefully another team is interested in Fayne, if we can’t get rid of anyone else on D might as well open up a roster spot from Fayne. Why give Fayne top pairing development with Sekera (unless you truly believe were going to win) when you can give Klefbom, Nurse, Reinhart those lessons. If we really wanted to win we’d go after a UFA, or trade for someone who’s UFA after this season, and maybe pursued some bottom 6 forward depth but we didn’t. We’re going roll over some weak spots in the roster year over year and go from there, so Fayne is just as expendable as anyone else really and isn’t irreplaceable either.