When news broke after the draft that the Edmonton Oilers were in discussions with soon-to-be free agent Mark Fayne, most fans could be heard saying, “Who?”. They weren’t unjustified. Fayne isn’t sue to make an appearance on the cover of EA’s NHL game any time soon. So, who is Mark Fayne, and is he a good acqusition?
One thing is certain; he wasn’t brought on board for his scoring prowess. Fayne posts similar numbers to Ladislav Smid and in many ways is the replacement for the role Smid left behind after his trade to the Calgary Flames. Smid and Fayne are the same height, same weight and are only a year apart in age. They are both shut down defensemen. Fayne will be tasked with protecting the house and allowing room for the likes of Justin Schultz and Nikita Nikitin to move the puck to Edmonton’s dynamic forward core.
I am sure I am not the only one who looks at the Smid trade with a bit of bewilderment still. Had he been retained the Oilers would have Fayne, Nikitin, Ference, Aulie, Petry and any of Marincin, Klefbom or Nurse. Now, they are still after another piece, while a top 2 defender lies in wait. Regardless, the question remains whether Fayne is appreciably better than Smid.
Harrison Mooney at the Puck Daddy blog had this to say about Fayne:
Fayne, too, is a possession wizard. He played for the seemingly not very good New Jersey Devils last season, and he didn’t provide much in the way of offense at 4 goals and 7 assists, but he put up an even-strength corsi percentage of 55.3%.
That reason above, my dear readers, is why he was signed. The Oilers want defenders who are able to drive the play and be a catalyst for scoring opportunities for the entire team, while putting up ferocious opposition in their own zone.
In looking at other free agency signings of defensemen league wide, many were critical of the bigger deals. The contracts for Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen were ridiculous and they had far worse possession stats than Fayne, at least as far as Orpik is concerned. Sure, Orpik may have post season experience and Niskanen had lots of points. But, they also played with two of the best players in the world—so there’s that. Look for their stats to nosedive in the U.S. Capital.
Fayne’s contract isn’t an extreme overpay. He is only 27, and appears to be hitting his stride. However, speculation is rampant a trade is in the works to move Jeff Petry. Fayne is a right handed shot and so is Petry and Justin Schultz. Should a move be made, it will be for a left shot defender or a second line center. We shall see.
For now, Fayne seems like the right move.