Tag: Mark Fayne

Barclay Goodrow, Justin Schultz

Are we there yet? Pondering Edmonton’s defense


If nothing else, the Edmonton Oilers seem willing to pay to improve their defense. Did they do enough to finally see some actual results, though?

In a way, Justin Schultz symbolizes the team as a whole: expensive, hyped-up and disappointing.

His possession stats have been disastrous at times. At a glance, his offensive numbers look reasonable enough, yet he’s really been given every opportunity to produce even more. The 25-year-old’s even been a healthy scratch on a defense that’s been downright terrible at times.

The Oilers haven’t done themselves any favors by pronouncing his potential to be Norris-level and boxing themselves into a corner with bloated contracts, including Wednesday’s one-year, $3.9 million deal. All in all, it’s been an ugly start to his NHL career.

Still, a lot of people believe that he still has a chance to be a difference-maker … in a good way, that is.

Long story short, the jury’s out regarding Schultz’s potential, but what about Edmonton’s defense as a whole? PHT’s Jason Brough took a quick stab at what the Oilers’ blueline might look at, while Mike Halford also threw Griffin Reinhart’s name in the hat:

There are a few things that stand out while pondering potential pairings:

  • Most obviously, that’s a pretty expensive group, especially considering the middling (at best) results. War on Ice pegs their 2015-16 defense spending at $22.92 million, and that’s assuming Darnell Nurse isn’t in the mix.
  • It’s highly mercenary. As much as the narrative revolves around the Oilers being built off of high draft picks, it’s remarkable just how many of their defensemen have come from free agency (especially if you count Schultz) and trades. There isn’t much “homegrown” talent involved.
  • Improvement is indeed feasible. Andej Sekera is a possession darling, while Mark Fayne came in with some solid credentials last summer. Nurse could very well be a gem, as his draft status would indicate. People continue to await Schultz’s growth. Maybe most importantly, Todd McLellan is arguably the most qualified coach the Oilers have employed in a long time.

Of course, it remains to be seen if “improved” means much, as there was a significant gap between the Oilers and the NHL’s defensive elite. Schultz remains a microcosm once more, as both the player and the group are absolutely at the “put up or shut up” juncture heading into 2015-16.

Parise ‘never would’ve predicted’ Devils would miss playoffs three years in a row

Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

Though they’re not mathematically eliminated yet, the New Jersey Devils won’t make the postseason this year. It’ll mark the organization’s third straight miss, a fact that took their former captain by surprise.

“I never would’ve predicted they’d miss the playoffs three years in a row. Just because of the way things are run,” Minnesota forward Zach Parise said prior to Tuesday’s 6-2 blowout win over the Devils, per the Star-Ledger. “I hope they can pull off something at the end of the year, or next year, and get back in.”

Parise, who spent the first seven years of his career in New Jersey, went to the playoffs six times with the Devils — the only time the Devils missed during the Parise era was the 2010-11 campaign which, not coincidentally, was the year Parise missed 69 games after a torn meniscus in his right knee.

New Jersey’s last playoff appearance, also not coincidentally, was in Parise’s last year with the club, when the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Los Angeles. The current team barely resembles the one that captured the Eastern Conference crown three years ago; gone are the likes of Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Carter, Petr Sykora, Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov and Martin Brodeur.

The club also made a coaching change, firing Peter DeBoer and replacing him with an unconventional three-coach setup comprised of Adam Oates, Scott Stevens and GM Lou Lamoriello.

Lamoriello has been the target of heavy criticism over the last three years, as a number of his veteran acquisitions — Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Damien Brunner, Tuomo Ruutu — have failed to pan out.

Parise wasn’t about join the list of Lamoriello critics, however, saying that part of the Devils’ issues could be chalked up to bad luck.

“Guys have good years. Guys have off-years,” he explained. “When you have a group of people having off-years, you might miss the playoffs. If you have a group of people having a great year, you’re in.

“It’s hard to predict.”

Nikitin’s availability for rest of season in question

Nikita Nikitin

The Edmonton Oilers acquired Nikita Nikitin over the summer in an effort to bolster the team’s defense during a period of cautious optimism. That optimism, at least as far as this season is concerned, has long since evaporated and while Edmonton has been somewhat better lately, the Oilers will face challenges in their attempts to avoid limping to the finish line.

Nikita Nikitin will miss a significant amount of time due to a shoulder injury. A more specific timetable hasn’t been provided, but given that we’re at the end of January, questions are being raised as to whether the 28-year-old defenseman will play again this season, per the Edmonton Journal.

His absence might be just be an early chapter in the depletion of the Oilers as they’ve settled into a seller role as we approach the trade deadline. Edmonton already got an early start by trading David Perron to Pittsburgh for Rob Klinkhammer and a 2015 first-round pick. Defenseman Jeff Petry might also be dealt in the coming weeks and there’s always the possibility that the Oilers will make a bolder move.

The Oilers have a 13-27-9 record, which still puts them four points ahead of the plummeting Buffalo Sabres. Edmonton will play eight of its next nine games on the road, starting with tonight’s contest against Calgary.

Keith Aulie will take Nikitin’s place alongside Mark Fayne.

Risk Factors: Edmonton Oilers edition

Edmonton Oilers v Phoenix Coyotes
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From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Edmonton Oilers

Is Dallas Eakins the right guy in Edmonton? Of all the coaching hires prior to the 2013-14 season, there was probably none that compared to the fanfare for Dallas Eakins. He’s now only 47 years old. He appeared ready to step up from the American Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies. He said a lot of the right things, especially when he was hired in June of 2013, vowing that his team was going to compete.

If he didn’t say the right thing, at least he was quotable.

But for all the hype surrounding his hire in Edmonton, and with the Oilers out of the playoffs for seven straight seasons following the 2013 campaign, the team was a disaster. It finished at the bottom of the Western Conference standings – by 10 points.

And you could certainly question his ability to get the best out of his players. The fans in Edmonton grew increasingly frustrated with the team’s performance. There was an incident in which a fan, so disgusted, threw their Oilers jersey onto the ice after a loss, prompting Eakins to publicly call that fan a “quitter.”

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton’s first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, struggled drastically under Eakins in their first year together.

He scored only 11 times, down from 17 the season before. And there seemed to be a running misunderstanding between the two. Another Edmonton player, Anton Belov, bolted for the KHL in the spring, after the Oilers were left out of the playoffs, because he reportedly didn’t want to play for Eakins.

The sophomore NHL bench boss appears ready to tone down his lengthy dialogue with the media.

“Listen, we’re in a passionate market. And I truly love it. For people who work in a non-traditional hockey market, I just feel like they’re missing out on a lot,” Eakins told the Edmonton Sun in September.

“With the passion, people care what you do every day. When there’s tough times, there’s going to be some negativity and people pushing you along.

“I don’t ever want to turn into a coach who says ‘work hard and give 100%.’ I think our fans deserve more than that. But I did find out about how people can shorten your quote or message and turn it into something else. So maybe I learned not to speak so much.”

That’s great. Maybe not for media types.

But the important question really is: Can he get the best out of his players?

Didn’t happen last season.

And even though he received a vote of confidence from management this past spring, what would it mean for his job security if the Oilers are either slow out of the gate or begin to falter to the bottom of the standings at some point in the season?


We touched on this already.

Nail Yakupov endured his share of struggles last season under Eakins. Not only that, but an ankle injury and a concussion meant two different disruptions.

Not to mention the healthy scratches and trade rumours.

There’s no denying Yakupov’s talent. And he’s just 20 years old, so there’s still plenty of potential for him and his career.

But that talent didn’t translate into much offence last season. His 11 goals in 63 games was a sharp decrease from the 17 he had as a rookie in the lockout-shortened campaign.

The Oilers are loaded with young forwards. They’ve got Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and another good prospect in the mix, Leon Draisaitl, the third overall pick from June’s draft.

The Oilers are still in the process of teaching the defensive side of the game to Yakupov. And that’s where some of the issues may have stemmed from last season. But it also sounds like the young Russian will get a chance to play with some of the top players on the team, including Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

At least the coach sounds confident.

“He’s come such a long way. there were times last year where there was maybe a misunderstanding of where he should be in the D zone,” Eakins told the Edmonton Sun.

“But I have no qualms about him in our defensive zone this year. He’s learned a ton. He continues to ask questions. His relationship with our staff is amazing.”


The Oilers went out this summer and signed Mark Fayne. They acquired and signed Nikita Nikitin. They already have Andrew Ference.

So, they’ve added some veterans to the blue line. Eakins was after some veterans, more experienced players in the off-season.

source:  Terrific.

The next concern: Can this team defend?

It’s pre-season, but certainly the example in the photo on the left – snapped seconds before Nick Bonino, left wide open in front of the net, scored for Vancouver – is how NOT to defend.

Four guys fixated on the puck while a guy coming off a 22-goal season roams free.

This came with the Oilers on the power play when these two teams met on Thursday.

And here’s the the play shook down:

Last season, the Oilers, with a more inexperienced group of defensemen, gave up a league-worst 3.26 goals against. Meanwhile, the top teams in the Pacific Division, the L.A. Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, finished in the top 10 in the league in this category.

“You start putting your lineup on the board and these are established NHL players that give you some comfort,” Eakins told NHL.com this summer.

“There’s not an unknown so much with them. For us, especially on our back end, I thought our biggest problem last year was breaking the puck out. That led to us spending a lot of time in our own zone. With the additions of those players, and then with all of our other guys getting another year of experience, it’s a step in the right direction.”

They have yet to take a step in the regular season. We”ll find out more beginning next week.


Oilers captain Ference suffers arm injury

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers

Andrew Ference sustained a right arm injury during Sunday’s preseason game and was shut down as a result, per the Edmonton Oilers.

Oilers fans will now have to hope that the injury isn’t serious. In addition to being the team’s captain, Ference is also a key part of the team’s defense. Edmonton did take steps to bolster their blueline over the summer by adding Keith Aulie, Mark Fayne, and Nikita Nikitin, but the absence of Ference would still create a significant void.

Ference, 35, was signed by the Oilers in the summer of 2013 to a four-year, $13 million contract. He brought a wealth of playoff experience to the young team as he reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 and 2013 and helped the Boston Bruins win it all in 2011.

He had three goals and 18 points in 71 contests last season while averaging 21:03 minutes per game.