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.