Edmonton Oilers: Examining the Past and Future of Mark Fayne | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

Edmonton Oilers: Examining the Past and Future of Mark Fayne

The Edmonton Oilers didn't land the "big fish" defenseman people were hoping for this summer.  But, they are doing the next best thing and adding depth on defense with veteran experience, skill, size and an assortment of talents. In doing so, the Oilers are also making it possible to move forward without relying on players who may or may not fill a role outside their comfort zone. One of those players may be Mark Fayne.

Photo By Lisa Gansky


Mark Fayne was brought over as a free agent signing in the summer of 2014. As a stay-at-home defenseman, he played in 74 games the following season and had 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points. He wasn't signed by the Oilers to produce offense, but he was signed to solidify the Edmonton's blue line and was one of two analytic-driven signings — the other being Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot has, for the most part, worked out well for Edmonton. Fayne, on the other hand, has struggled. Coming from New Jersey, it was expected that Fayne would bring to the Oilers some much-needed attention to defense. Sharpening his teeth in a defensive-minded system like the one employed by the Devils, then joining a team that was so bad in their own zone — like the Oilers have historically been — Fayne's skill set made him look like a valuable signing. The hope was that Fayne would be a piece meant to move Edmonton forward. Most would suggest he hasn't lived up to his billing.

But What About His Advanced Stats?

The easiest way to describe Fayne's move from the Devils to the Oilers is from a statement in a piece done by Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal. In it, McCurdy describes Fayne's troubles in two entirely different systems. The quote is below:

Because in 2014 the Oilers were learning that plus/minus wasn't the greatest indicator of possession and effectiveness in many situations, they used advanced statistics to target in on Fayne. In Jersey, he was tops in the NHL among shot suppression. Therefore, looking at his numbers, that decision made sense.

In 2012-13, Fayne had a CF% of 55.1% with Andy Greene and a CF% of 55.8% with Bryce Salvador. In 2013-14, Fayne played almost exclusively with Greene and had a CF% of 57.6%. The problem was, somewhere between 2013 and 2014, Fayne became so heavily reliant on Greene that when playing without him, Fayne's numbers started to suffer.

By the time Fayne reached Edmonton, he was used to playing with smart, steady and experienced defensemen. To be then shoved into the fire with players like Martin Marincin, Nikita Nikitin and a young Oscar Klefbom, Fayne wasn't prepared to handle the load that came with a much less talented and much less experienced group of players. He had a CF% of under 50% all year and was drowning.

Signs of Progress?

Things got so bad in Edmonton that during the 2015-16 season, Fayne was sent down to Edmonton's AHL club in Bakersfield in an attempt to help him get some of his game back. He wasn't there long and upon his return started to make improvements. By the end of the season, Fayne was in a better place mentally, had improved possession numbers playing with Andrej Sekera (CF% of 49.6%) and a more experienced Klefbom (CF% of 50%) and ready to play a more prominent role.

This coming season, Fayne will be asked to do what he does best — defend alongside more experienced NHL players like Sekera, Klefbom and Brandon Davidson. All of these players post better underlying numbers than any blueliner Fayne started his Oilers career with.

Fayne will also have the luxury of not being thrown into the fire. He's coming back to a team that has at least one right-handed defenseman (Adam Larsson) more suited to handle the big minutes and a defenseman in Sekera who has shown he can move to his off-side effectively. Fayne simply needs to fit into a system and not try to do too much.

Fayne's 2016-17 Season

There are a lot of people writing off Mark Fayne. I would suggest it's too early to do so. If he does come into camp in better shape and if he does come in with the knowledge he's not going to be asked to carry the entire right-side of the Oilers defense, he could have a bounce-back season.

Edmonton also isn't planning to put the same kind of pressure on Fayne they did in years past. They will be asking him to play a complimentary third-line to second-line role with the team. They're adding depth on right-side defense and while camp is only days away, are still looking to improve a historically weaker position.

Playing alongside either Davidson or Sekera, it wouldn't surprise me to see Fayne's possession numbers pop back up above the 50% marker. At 29 years of age, he's not too far gone to make a go of it in Edmonton. This will be a season that means everything to his future. Something tells me he'll make the most of it.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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