A Changing of the Oilers Rearguard

Mark Fayne

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Cam Talbot or Anders Nilsson got hurt or Connor McDavid for that matter? Well I’ll lay it out for you nice a simple…. The wins would start to dry up… The Oilers’ defence is simply not good enough and there are some bodies that need to be moved out and some brought in. And that my friends is what we’re going to discuss today. A changing of the rearguard.

At the time of writing the Oilers are 7th in the NHL for shots against per game. Meaning they’re the 7th worst team in the league for allowing shots on the net. They’re also the 6th worst team in the league for giveaways but the 3rd best team in takeaways. Not to pile it on and this has nothing to do with the defensemen themselves but they’re the 2nd worst team in the league to date on faceoffs winning a measly 45.9%…

I’d say they’re pretty lucky to be at three wins and 4 losses right now.

But getting back to the defence. Just from the eye test I’m seeing problems with almost all of the veterans more specifically Mark Fayne and that’s who we’re going to focus on right now.

Fayne seems to be way out of his depth, I don’t know if it’s the way McLellan is using him or he’s not used to this kind of system or maybe he’s just unable to do what the coach is asking of him. He’s been in the NHL long enough that he should be able to adapt to whatever changes the coaching staff makes to the team’s style of play be it breakouts, defensive zone coverage, or special teams. But to me it seems he’s getting eaten alive out there more often than not.

MArk FayneBut that’s not what the numbers are telling us. Sure he’s -4 and according to his PDO from Puckalytics.com (97.1) he’s not getting many breaks there either. His Corsi For % sits at 48.1% and that’s not bad for a dman that is getting the tough starts and is constantly getting put out against the other team’s best lines. If we looked at last year’s stats a 48.1 would put him in the Andy Green or Dennis Seidenberg area. Last season Faybe ended with a 46.2 CF% which place him around the likes of Niklas Grossman, Tom Gilbert, and Alexei Emelin.

But what does his Corsi Against tell us? That might open things up a bit as to why he looks a bit under par. Last season he had a 56.0 CA/60 and this season so far that number has gone up to 59.8 but he’s not the worst. Eric Gryba is at 62.9 followed by Andrej Sekera at 60.1. They’re leaking shots…

Now look, you don’t want your defense giving up shot attempts the clip those three are doing it at. The best in the NHL at it are the Los Angeles Kings. Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin are masters of the CA/60… They’re possession “Kings” of you will. The pair averaged around a 46.0 CA/60 last season and a 57 CF%… Damn good if you ask me and something the Oilers should thrive to achieve with their defenders.

It’s early in the year yet so we can expect all of those numbers to change but for the sake of getting in too deep with the numbers, let’s leave them where they are and figure out a way to improve the personnel on the back end of this Oilers team.

As we talked about on yesterdays Oilers Rig Podcast, there is going to have to be a sacrifice now that the team is experimenting with a harder and heavier element on that top line. Well “have to be” is a bit strong a term, I think a consideration will be made at that spot after Jordan Eberle is 100% healthy. IF the line is producing then just as the sun rises everyday, that line must be kept intact. But (folks this is a real possibility here) if that line fails to click in the system that Todd McLellan is attempting to instill, expect someone to be moved. And as I’ve spoken of before, the two options are Eberle and Yakupov.

Seeing either of those players moved would be akin to a swift boot to the nuts. Not something anyone would enjoy particularly. But if that kick to the junk got you $10 million dollars, you might consider it and that’s what I’m speaking to here. No matter how much you want it Oilers fans, you’re not going to get what you expect in return for these players. You’re not going to get a 30 goal scorer in return for Jordan Eberle and you’re not going to get a player that is equal to that of Nail Yakupov either. I imagine fans are still looking at and using Yakupov’s draft pedigree as some place to draw a line in the sand regarding his trade value. But that’s not how it’s done. His value probably lies somewhere around the middle-6 forward or 2nd pairing defenceman if not a sub top ten first round pick and a prospect.

Beer League Heroes Sunday Night Pint #5What we do know today is Yakupov is making a lot of people happy with his chemistry alongside McDavid. The two lead the team in scoring for Pete’s sake! The other thing we know is that Hall and Nuge are a pair that shouldn’t be separated. And Lastly, we know that forwards work in pairs not trios. The days of the Stastny brothers and the French Connection have been over for some time now and aren’t coming back.

Ipso facto Eberle is out. He’s out because if this new heavy forechecking in the offensive zone is a real direction the team wants to go, Eberle won’t cut it. He’s not tailored for that game and you can’t expect Hall and Nuge to do that 82 games a year and come out unscathed. Another player has to do it for them for the sake of their health if anything.

So where do we go from here? We go to Winnipeg and try and work out a deal for Dustin Byfuglien. Why Big Buff? Well consider these reasons:

  • What are the Oilers lacking on the PP? A huge bomb from the point.
  • What are the Oilers lacking on the blueline? A defender that can play 25 minutes a night and destroy the opposition.
  • How much more than the Eberle’s $6M will Byfuglien be asking for? $7M, $7.5M? He’s making $5.2M now and at season’s end he’ll be 31. Is he worth the $7 million that folks were willing to give Brent Seabrook per year long term?
  • Potentially there’ll be a lot of salary opening up this summer. Purcell, Gazdic, Klinkhammer, Miller, Gryba, Nikitin and Scrivens are coming off the books. That’s about $12 or $13 million set to be freed up with onlyTalbot, Nilsson, Jultz, and a few prospects needing to be signed.

So those are three VERY compelling reasons to go for the Jets defender apart from the highlight reel of hits above. But does Eberle fit there? What would a potential deal built around Eberle and Byfuglien mean for a player like Nik Ehlers? Would he be able to switch to LW and thus give center Mark Scheifele some very talented wingers to play with?

What are the Jets plans for their own defence. Losing Byfuglien would certainly open up a hole but is that something they’re anticipating? Could Jacob Trouba fill the void and therefore welcome the highly regarded Josh Morrisey to the squad? It’s worth pondering.

But all of this does nothing to the current core apart from add another NHL body to the contract list. So with that said I heard that Scott Howson was scouting the Islanders/Blue Jackets game the other day and a report came out detailing a Cam Atkinson to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson trade. Not only that but yet another post was published on The Hockey Writers discussing the Blue Jackets trade options at this point, you can view that here.

Now I’m seeing all of this and I’m hearing that the Blue Jackets are in the market for a defensive defenseman. The Oilers have two on the roster right now, Mark Fayne/Andrew Ference, and three if you include Nikita Nikitin within the definition of defenceman.

Listen below to what Jonathan Willis said on Lowetide’s show about which veterans tend to stick around when a new GM is hired. Skip to the 25:50 mark for the comment.


Blue Jackets Defence<—- Looking at Columbus’ d-core right now, it’s nothing to brag to your buddies about and I can see why they’d want to shake things up but if their goalie would stop doing his best impression of Devan Dubnyk circa 2013 they might win a few of these games.

So if I’m looking at players that simply don’t fit here, I’m looking at Goloubef, Prout and Tyutin as the sacrificial lambs. Ryan Murray is in the Nail Yakupov category of players meaning there’s a part of you that wants to move him but  you can’t because he was a high draft pick and there’s so much “potential” left to be had. Can’t see them moving on from Jack Johnson and Savard just signed a new deal.

Where do the Oilers come in? Well I suppose Fayne and Ference’s experience could come in handy. I think that the Blue Jackets would love to move on from Prout here and they’ve got about three and a half million in salary available, so what if they picked up Mark Fayne and tossed him up with Ryan Murray, demoted Goloubef to 3rd pairing and sent Prout packing?

What would the return from Columbus be? Well you’re probably not going to like it. It’d probably be right winger Rene Bourque unless the Oilers are adding on, which they very well could do given the amount of bodies they’ve got developing in Bakersfield. What would it take to pry a player like Oliver Bjorkstrand (RW) or Kerby Rychel (LW) out of Columbus? Oilers Director of Player Personnel Bob Green would be very familiar with Bjorkstrand given Green’s team in Junior (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Bjorkstrand’s team (Portland Winterhawks) squared up in some vicious playoff series’ a few years ago. But even then, would you give them another defenceman like Justin Schultz and bring Darnell Nurse up or would you deal some prospects ahead of Jultz? He is an NHL defenceman after all.

If the Oilers started the new year minus Jordan Eberle, Mark Fayne, Justin Schultz and prospects or draft picks; brought in Dustin Byfuglien, Rene Bourque, Kerby Rychel/Oliver Bjorkstrand AND had Darnell Nurse on the big team’s roster, would that be worth it to you if Edmonton could re-sign Byfuglien?

Let me know in the comments below!

Take Care!


Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • digger49

    Foolish to trade Eberle. Fill one hole but expose another, no net gain. Trade excess D men (if possible) for picks. Use picks plus First round pick plus upcoming cap space to upgrade. McLellan is proving masterful at assessing players and making them useful, he will even find value for Purcell. Add to the team, don’t swap, we will need the depth and that includes Ebs, Nial and Draisaitl.
    We need an excellent D; and fast, big, crashing forward. Even then, lets see what Iro can do and Sleppy after 25 games.
    Foolish to trade Eberle.

    • Beer League Hero

      Hi Digger49,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      I disagree in that the team is in dire need of defensive improvement and a winger is a helluva lot easier to acquire than top pairing defenceman. I will agree with you that McLellan is doing some pretty good things to date but we’ve yet to see if Eberle will thrive in his system.

      So in my opinion it is NOT foolish to deal Eberle IF it brings you back a top pairing defender in the vein of Dustin Byfuglien.

  • Mike

    No way do I trade Eberle! I’d trade Hall ten times
    Before I traded Ebs. He is the teams most productive player and was also the second leading scorer at the worlds under Mclellan. If he comes back and he doesn’t fit and is poor well then I guess that is something they may look at but right now ur making assumptions on Yakupov and McDavid taking over the scoring title based on 7 games. I have also watched all 7 of those games and yes defence could be better but every single one of those games with the exception of Dallas they could have won. You say they are lucky to be 3-4 it could be easily said that they could be 6-1

    • Beer League Hero

      Hey Mike, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      During that 0-4 stretch to start the year, they were in the games but by no means were they going to win any of them. You could tell after the 1st period in most of them how it was going to go. St.Louis is a far FAR superior team and they’re not the only ones… Washington just dismantled the Oilers and not a fresh Washington either. A team that was playing its third in four nights. Oilers tried to keep up but even with the amount of offense they have, they still couldn’t. The team needs an upgrade in defense. No amount of Hendricks, Reinhart, or Eberle is going to change the shortcomings on D. The team is also still too young in my opinion. So even if they didn’t cash in on say Eberle or Hall, perhaps dealing out the Slepyshev’s or other players that have aspirations of being top-6 players would be a consideration.