Damning Mark Fayne With Faint Praise

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It’s fair to say that Mark Fayne is a limited hockey player. He’s big but not a bone-crusher. He’s a defensive specialist, and lacks either high-end mobility or a robust passing game. He’s often cited as an example of Craig MacTavish’s poor contract work as general manager.

Despite those flaws there is at least one point in his favour. As he did in New Jersey, he’s shown of late in Edmonton that he can be an effective part of a shutdown pairing that plays brutally tough minutes, as long as his partner is a capable puck-mover. That’s something that has value on the Oilers’ blue line.

Playing with Andrej Sekera

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Andrej Sekera has played all 18 games since Oscar Klefbom got hurt, and he’s generally been matched against the toughest available opposition, even in contests where other players have gotten more ice time. He’s played with three different partners, and we can look at his results with each.

Sekera played five games on the right side with rookie Darnell Nurse. With that pairing on the ice at even-strength, the Oilers managed 54 shot attempts and surrendered 101 from the opposition. Basically, the other team fired two shots at Edmonton’s net for every one the Oilers managed. They got killed, because as it turns out Sekera on his off-side and a 20-year-old rookie shouldn’t be used as a shutdown pairing.

Sekera also played three games with Brandon Davidson, another rookie but a more polished and experienced defender than Nurse. In none of the three games did the pairing manage a 50 percent Corsi; the Oilers were on the wrong end of the shot clock in all three contests.

That brings us to Fayne. In 10 games with Fayne, the duo has had an edge on the shot clock six times. Overall, the shot attempts are 136-134 in favour of Edmonton; that’s a slight advantage, which is pretty impressive given who Sekera/Fayne have played against since Klefbom got hurt.

If we look over the season as a whole, the trend holds, both in the goals department and by Corsi. The following are Sekera’s numbers with the three defencemen he’s spent more than an hour with at five-on-five:

  • Fayne: 48% goal differential, 49% Corsi
  • Nurse: 38% goal differential, 44% Corsi
  • Davidson: 25% goal differential, 43% Corsi

Sekera/Fayne have basically broken even in tough minutes on a not-great Edmonton team this year. Sekera/anyone else have been crushed in the same role.

A Virtue of Necessity

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Fayne is under contract for two seasons after this one; he’s the only right-shooting defenceman on the team who is. His limitations, his non-trivial salary ($3.625 million cap hit), the term left on the deal and the likelihood of no cap growth this summer mean that he’s going to be very hard to trade. In all likelihood, Edmonton would have to take a bad contract back.

Unless I’ve misread Fayne’s value, that leaves the Oilers with a choice. They can keep a guy who we’ve just established is useful in a very tough role under the right conditions, or they can trade him at a loss.

To me, the answer seems clear. Edmonton has a bunch of mobile, puck-moving, left shot defencemen—Sekera, Klefbom, Nurse, perhaps even Davidson. All of those guys fit the basic mold of player that Fayne has had success with. I think it makes sense to hang on to him for another season. Sekera will probably move to his off-side, but Fayne might play a secondary shutdown role with the surprisingly smooth Davidson or he might play a mentorship role with the raw but obviously skilled Nurse.

He’s under contract and he can play. He’s a better fit on the right side than a bunch of the Oilers flashier young prospects. He probably can’t be traded except at a loss because of his contract.

It seems sensible to plan for Fayne to stay with the team for another year. This isn’t Nikita Nikitin or Andrew Ference, two players who have reached a point where they are on-ice liabilities. Fayne can legitimately contribute in a tough role, and since he’s under contract the Oilers might as well just make the best of it.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Spiel

    The advanced stats crew was practically doing cartwheels when the Oilers signed Fayne.
    Turns out the stats lied. Fayne is journeyman player who is not worth his contract.
    Now we get to read a series of articles to back track and try and dress up Fayne’s value and somehow justify the stats community’s misread on Fayne. Man up, and admit you guys were not right about this player.
    Fayne was a bad signing. That is all.

    • passenger

      That’s a pretty accurate take, though I don’t think the advanced stats community are apologizing for Fayne. They’re criticizing McLellan’s usage of him.

    • passenger

      Exactly…no one had ever heard of Fayne before he signed in EDM. The former Oilers brass jumped on the stats train and rode these team into the toilet with many of these awful signings and trades.

    • This is false. Analytics showed that Fayne was likely being carried by superior partners. The only “advanced stats crew” that were excited about him were the ones who only looked at the surface numbers. There was a lot being written at the time of the deal calling it a mistake.

      • Spiel

        Really? That was never mentioned on this site when the signing was made. Rewriting history now are we?

        Here’s some refreshers:

        Gregor’s article – http://oilersnation.com/2014/7/2/fayne-enjoys-playing-defence

        “There is no debating that Fayne is the Oilers best right-shot defensive defenceman.”
        “Fayne might end up being the Oilers most important off-season signing.”
        “..as the Oilers try to build a winner Fayne will be a solid piece of the foundation.”

        Cult of Hockey – http://edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/nhl/cult-of-hockey/edmonton-oilers-sign-d-man-mark-fayne-and-winger-benoit-pouliot

        “It seems to me if the Oil go with Fayne on the top pairing, Petry on the second pairing and Justin Schultz on the third, that is ideal, with not one of them being in over their head.”

        Willis – http://oilersnation.com/2014/7/6/mark-fayne-and-murderer-s-row

        “But the key point here is that Oilers aren’t bringing somebody in to play a role he hasn’t had success in before. Fayne’s spent significant time assigned to some of the toughest matchups in the league, and he’s done a nice job in the role. This could be a major add for Edmonton.”

        Just admit the numbers didn’t tell the whole story with this player or that (gasp!) the people interpreting those numbers might have made a mistake.

        • You are trying to prove that the entire analytics community thought Fayne was great so you use Gregor and Staples as examples while looking at nothing but Oilersnation articles? Ridiculous.

          Willis was a good example, but he’s hardly representative of all analytics, and he’d back me up on the fact that not everyone with an analytical approach agreed this player was great.

          To give one alternative example – Tyler Dellow wrote quite a bit showing Fayne was not what many thought he was.

          The numbers were not wrong, but too many people didn’t look at them deeply enough.

          • Spiel

            Of course I wouldn’t say every person had the opinion, but I think I have demonstrated that the majority opinion of the Oilers blogosphere (which is heavily analytically influenced) was that Fayne was a top 4 defender and the move was applauded enthusiastically.

            If you want to rewrite history that the Fayne signing was not generally thought of as positive, then that is your prerogative.

            So if people did not look deeply enough at the numbers, why don’t we see those same people with counter articles now? Hubris without humility.

  • McChickenpi

    Did anyone else see the Hockeycentral clip just now which showed Chiarelli up in a press box chatting with the Blues’ Gm…

    Not saying, just saying.

    Big trade coming up? My guess is Ebs + for Shattenkirk.

  • McChickenpi

    I wonder when some vet players from other teams are traded or brought in via free agency lower their own standards. They are coming to a terrible team so maybe they don’t have as much passion as they would playing for a contender. Just a thought.

  • This summer Oilers can go after Brent Seabrook (Chicago will keep him for playoff run), he’s UFA. Without trading any players for a top Dman.

    Then go after Stamkos (Tampa might trade him this season if he doesn’t resign), he’s UFA. Sign him $40 millions for 5 years, he’s 26 now, so he can be UFA again at 31 to sign anywhere he wants. Without trading players for him.

    Then trade RNH for other needs in the team, need salary cap space since he make $6 millions a year.

    Sign Lucic, he’s UFA also, I hate the guy but team can use him.

    Trade Eberle or Yakupov (I hope he turn his game around because he can score goals) for more players or draft picks. Need more cap space for Lucic.

    Byfuglien is also UFA, if there’s cap space then sign him.

    Then this team will be tough to beat in new arena next season. I say win Cup in 2-3 years before we pay McDavid tons of money.

  • bazmagoo

    In regards to Reinhart, the jury is still out. Leon had a goal and an assist in 6 games down in Bakersfield. Getting sent down didn’t light his fire – getting brought back up did. Maybe Griffin will react the same one day? Keep him down as long as possible, the more ice time he gets the better for his development.

  • Doesn’t Shea Weber have sub-50 Corsi when he was not playing with either Ryan Suter or Roman Josi? Nobody doubts that Shea’s a star dman. But he needs some help moving the puck sometimes.