Mark Fayne and the Edmonton Oilers Backend

On a night in which the Edmonton Oilers spotted the Calgary Flames multiple two-goal leads but still found a way to get themselves back into a game they really had no business being in, Cam Talbot picked the worst possible moment to cough up an absolute stinker of a game-winner. While the Flames Michael Frolik may have been the star of the show, with as ugly a three-goal effort as anyone has witnessed in some time, it was the Oilers starting netminder who ended up with the spotlight squarely on him in what was a rather disheartening 5-4 loss.

[Related Article: Don’t Expect Trade Market To Help Oilers Defense]

As tough as dropping a game in the dying seconds on bad angled goal is, the fact Todd McLellan decided to sit defenceman Mark Fayne when Edmonton dressed a defence with the likes of Brandon Davidson, Andrew Ference, Eric Gryba, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and  Andrej Sekera, was frankly the biggest eye-opener of the evening. With both Griffin Reinhart, and Justin Schultz unavailable due to injury, almost no one was expecting the Oilers to sit one of their few experienced rear guards in a game against their provincial rival.

While it was widely speculated that Edmonton had originally planned on having Fayne take a seat against the Montreal Canadiens during their thrilling come from behind 4-3 win against the Habs on Thursday night, they ultimately decided to dress seven defencemen on that night. Considering he saw just ten minutes of ice-time against Montreal, by far and away the lowest total of the bunch, perhaps Saturday’s decision wasn’t quite so shocking after all.

Clearly the coaching staff was not happy with where the former New Jersey Devils’ game is currently at and it is hard to blame them. While there are those who appear to be under the impression the 28-year old has been among the Oilers better defenceman this season, those people would be incorrect. Anyone who has actually watched this team play with any sort of regularity can tell you just underwhelming the play of the former fifth-round pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has been.


A Lack of Depth Continues To Be the Issue

Heading into the season, the hope was that a pairing of Fayne and Sekera would give the Oilers a solid tandem they could turn to in high leverage situations. Unfortunately, both have struggled out of the gate and have yet to find any sort of chemistry. Add to that, Fayne’s inability to transition the puck up ice and his questionable decision-making throughout the opening few weeks of the season and one can certainly understand the coaching staff’s disappointment in his play. However, using players in situations they are ill-suited for is something this organization has specialized in for far too long and it has to stop.

In a perfect world, Fayne would be used in a bottom pairing role with the possibility to jump up the depth chart should the need arise due to injury and/or poor performance. In other words, we are essentially talking about a N0.5 defenceman. Problem being, the Oilers do not have the luxury to use him in such a manner and not surprisingly, the results have fallen well short of expectation. Obviously, McLellan felt he had to do something but, that did not make the move any less of a head scratcher.

Sending messages to players is all well and good but as Mr. Travis Yost so astutely pointed out  via twitter, playing the likes of Ference and/or Gryba over a guy like Fayne is rather mind-numbing. While this is not the first nor will it be the last time a coach uses ice-time as a tool to get his point across to a player, with Edmonton’s blue line being in the condition it is currently in, one can easily question the timing of said decision. To make matters worse, the coaching staff went ahead and did the unthinkable…using the aforementioned duo of Ference and Gryba together on the Oilers third pairing.

With a cap hit of $3.625 million tied to his name and a backend with nearly no veteran players who are still capable of making a meaningful contribution on a nightly basis, the Edmonton Oilers can ill-afford to have Mark Fayne playing at the level he currently is. With that said, having him sit on the sidelines and eat popcorn is certainly not they way to go.