Mark Fayne’s Narrow Window of Opportunity


Some minor-league stints are longer than others. Less than
24 hours after clearing waivers and being assigned to the Bakersfield Condors,
veteran defenceman Mark Fayne is on his way back to Edmonton.

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Fayne clearing waivers wasn’t a surprise. He still has this
season and one more left on his $3.625 million/year contract, and there are precious
few teams in the league capable of taking on that kind of money at this point
in the year without also sending dollars back the other way.

It also wasn’t a surprise that the Oilers sent him down. Head
coach Todd McLellan showed last season that he had some issues with Fayne’s
game, and given that with injury the defenceman has played only 2:27 this
season giving him some time in the minors to find his legs undoubtedly seemed
like a logical choice. It’s something that another player in similar circumstances—Drake
Caggiula—might have benefited from.

Nevertheless, Fayne will have to make do without an
adjustment period. There would seem to be a window of opportunity here for him
to reclaim a steady NHL job, and it’s not one that he can afford to waste.

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On the right side, Adam Larsson is pretty close to
bulletproof in his position on the team’s top pairing. Left-shooting Kris
Russell is a more polarizing figure, but the guy he has to convince is McLellan
and he seems to have done so. That leaves one job somewhat open.


Brandon Davidson should have it, but he’s hurt. Eric Gryba
now joins him on the injured list, but the truth is that he seems to have been
pegged for a reserve role anyway—he hasn’t played since November 17, and when
Russell’s injury opened up a second-pairing job earlier on it wasn’t Gryba who
got it.

Instead, Matt Benning has taken over that spot, and he’s
generally played pretty well. Unfortunately for him, the last few games have
seen the Darnell Nurse/Benning pairing get lit up by opponents, culminating in
a particularly unfortunate play on Toronto’s game-winning goal Tuesday night:

At his best, Fayne can be a stabilizing influence.

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Fayne’s 2015-16 performance is generally remembered for him
getting unceremoniously dumped in the minors after an ugly PDO run, but what’s
really telling is what happened after his return: From December 20 on, Fayne
played on the shutdown pairing with Andrej Sekera (meaning against both the
best opponents and with a lot of shifts starting in the defensive zone) and the
unit worked brilliantly, holding the opposition to a draw in terms of both
goals and shots.

That’s a hard thing to do. Even this year’s tandem of
Klefbom/Larsson isn’t particularly outperforming that Sekera/Fayne run—the shot
metrics are better, but on a better team and in less severe usage, and they
certainly aren’t breaking even on the goals side of the equation (though that
should come around).

Unfortunately for Fayne, last year’s post-Christmas success
doesn’t really matter. If and when he gets his shot at a spot in the lineup he’ll
need to deliver. If he can’t, he’ll be looking forward to a longer stint in

  • ziyan94

    I would reunite Sekera and Fayne. They played well together last year given the minutes they were force-fed, so they would be more than steady together on the second or third pairing.

    Would also be interested in seeing Nurse with Russell

  • Spydyr

    With Fayne sitting for so long. He has been a good soldier the entire time maybe he requested to be put on waivers in a effort to continue his NHL career.It is pretty obvious he is not in the Oiler’s plans any longer.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Mark Fayne is a stabilizing influence? Maybe as ballast in a canoe but in the NHL he can’t crack the top 7 of the worst defence in league history. I get that there is no Oiler game tonight and you’re scraping for topics but Fayne? How about commenting on the big effort in Calgary tonight, how a team without their ‘star’ puts forth a winning effort that should cause the oil to disband their team in shame. THAT would generate traffic.

    The oil, flushing seasons down the crapper since 2007.

    • RJ

      Kind of sad that this has almost as many likes as thumbs down.

      But in a way, it’s not far off.

      What’s this team needed forever? A solid puckmoving defenceman, preferably one who could anchor the PP. What do they add instead? A defensive defenceman whose idea of puckmoving is to wrap it around the boards every time. And of course, Chiarelli’s too smart. The Oilers don’t need one. Platooning different players has worked so well for the past ten years.

  • dsanchez1973

    Prediction: Fayne enters the lineup, plays 10 straight solid, low event games. Team does ok. Game 11, Fayne gets beat wide for a goal. Waived again, with a smug Chia “see, I gave him a chance” smile.

  • TKB2677

    Mr. Willis. You are not the first person who calculates and is a believer in the underlying numbers in what I call spread sheet hockey to say that Fayne was good last year even though to most who watch him he left a lot to be desired and didn’t look that good on the ice.

    – Doesn’t skate very well and his lack of foot speed causes problems.
    – Doesn’t move the puck very well. Doesn’t have a good first pass. He’s more of a off the glass type that advanced stats guys usually hate.
    – Produces zero offense and has no shot.
    – He’s not tough, physical or hard to play against.
    – He doesn’t break the cycle up overly well.
    – He doesn’t have a high level of compete so he doesn’t win a lot of puck battles.
    – He’s got good size but doesn’t use his size to his advantage at all.
    – He doesn’t stand up at the line which the coaches seem to like. He’s more of a back in type.
    – He’s a defensive dman who nobody would say is an overly great defender. When he doesn’t get burned due to his foot speed and when he find himself in the right position which doesn’t always happen, he’s a passable defender.

    So I have to ask. If Fayne shot left, would you and the few that stick up for him still be making the case for him?

    Everything I listed that he doesn’t do isn’t me being overly hard on him, they are things which I have seen and that people like yourself, Lowetide and others in the media have all said he doesn’t do. So while I totally agree that the Oilers defense still needs some work, when I look at the 6 guys in there now, everyone of them seems to do more things than Fayne. So the only thing I see in Fayne’s favor is he shoots right.

    • dsanchez1973

      You list a lot of things. None of them say anything about “the team gives up a lot of shots and goals when he’s on the ice”. It doesn’t say that because it doesn’t happen. When he’s out there, the team does fine no matter how you think it looks.

      The same would be true whether he was right or left handed. That he’s right handed is an added bonus.

      • TKB2677

        Did you or the people that run the numbers factor in who the Oilers had on defense last year? I believe Klefbom when down around the time Fayne came up, hence the call up.

        They had guys like Schultz, Gryba, Clendening, Oesterle, Pardy, Nikitin, Reinhart playing games. Davidson was just starting out, Nurse was in his first year and played a lot.

        Look at that list. Schultz is a 3rd pairing, Gryba is a 6/7. Clendering is a borderline NHLer. Oesterle is an AHLer. Pardy isn’t an NHLer. Nikitin isn’t an NHLer. Reinhart is an AHLer. Nurse was a rookie.

        So for people to come out and say “well he and Sekera had better numbers than most others” well thank god, I should hope so. Being better than 5 or 6 guys that probably shouldn’t be in the NHL and a rookie isn’t something to brag about.

        • dsanchez1973

          No doubt, and if I was referring to his RelCorsi, you’ve have a very good point. Instead, look at these two stats:

          His Corsi last year: 49.1
          His Goals for last year: 44.9

          What that means is that when he was on the ice, the Oilers got basically even in terms of shots. However, they gave up 11 goals for every 9 they scored when he was out there off basically the same number of shots.

          So, there’s two potential causes for this.

          1) He’s a bad defenseman who gives up a ton of high danger chances/doesn’t generate any offence so the average shot for when he’s on the ice is much worse quality than the average shot against, leading to higher goals against.

          2) He’s had some bad luck in terms of either opposing goalies playing well when he’s on the ice and his own goalie not playing well.

          Maybe it’s a combination of both. It’s generally accepted based on a lot of historical data that this kind of disparity tends to resolve itself barring underlying causes (since bad players tend to give up a lot of shots, and not just ONLY high danger shots). I guess we’ll see.

          • TKB2677

            In looking at the personnel this year vs last year. Last year regardless of a persons opinion good or bad, it’s pretty hard to argue that other than Davidson, Fayne was better than a pretty much everyone I listed. So the fact that he played with Sekera and they had better numbers than most other combinations is a bit of a no brainer to me.

            This season the Oilers have: Klefbom, Larsson, Sekera, Russell, Nurse. All of whom I think are better and have way more tools in the tool box than Fayne.
            Davidson when he comes back, would slot higher than Fayne. Too bad he’s a left shot.

            So if all are healthy, Fayne isn’t better than any of those guys.

            Then you have Benning the rookie. He’s a right shot. BUT he moves the puck better, has more offensive ability, skates way better, has OK size but he actually uses it. He is competitive and has a physical edge to his game. So again, he has more tools in the tool box. If he was struggling, then I would say take him out but for the most part he isn’t. In fact according to one of Lowetides numbers buddies who was on his show today – Woodguy – he compared Benning to Davidson last season in that he burst on the scene and has great numbers.

            I think we are kind of on the same page in that, who is Fayne better than this season that you want to take someone out. For me, no one. Right now, a person can argue that Fayne is in the top 7. I think it’s a saw off between him and Gryba and I would go with Gryba only because at least Gryba does something else with his physical edge. But when Davidson comes back, Fayne isn’t their 7th best dman. When healthy, one of Davidson, Benning, Nurse or Russell will be sitting.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    What we all want is defensive responsibility. I do not care if Fayne scores a single goal just limit the other team to tough looks at the net, no gifts like I saw with Toronto 3 times that ended with the puck in the net. Just good “D” is all we want.