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The Fate of Mark Fayne

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Last offseason, the Devils let Mark Fayne test free agency, and he ended up signing elsewhere. There were people who hoped he would be resigned, given his solid play with the team. How has he done this year, however, and was it good to let him go?

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As you all know, Mark Fayne was a quality Devil the previous couple seasons.  He provided positive possession, quality passing, and a shutdown mentality on a pairing with Andy Greene.  The two worked well together, and it really benefitted Mark.  He signed a deal with the Edmonton Oilers that keeps him in the far northwest through the 2017-2018 season, making at least 3.5 million each season.  That is a quality deal for Fayne, and pays him well for his services.

However, since donning the blue, orange and white jersey, Fayne has not really lived up to the expectations of what he did while playing for the red and black here in New Jersey.  He was never an offensive powerhouse, but his game was always solid, and apparently that may not have been the case this year.  Let's look at Fayne's numbers this year, and compare them both to what he did in New Jersey before leaving, and also to the young Devils' defensemen who have taken his place on the roster this year.  How much worse has he gotten, and how much more production have the Devils gotten from those that have filled in for him this season?

Fayne This Season

First, we have to see how Fayne has been doing this season.  That way, we can then compare these numbers to his prior self and to the other younger Devils for quality comparative purposes.  These stats come from a mix of NHL.com and Puckalytics.  All stats are at 5v5 play except for goals, assists, +/-, and ATOI.

14-15

G

A

+/-

ATOI

GF%

FF%

CF%

PDO

OZFO%

NZFO%

DZFO%

Mark Fayne

2

6

-21

17:56

35.9%

45.6%

46.2%

96.0

27.55

36.35

36.10

So right off the bat, you can see that his production has not gotten any better in terms of points.  8 points in 74 games played is a low number.  As I mentioned above, however, he was never a point producer in New Jersey, and certainly was not signed to a good deal in order to score points.  Therefore, the drop off from previous seasons has to come with possession.  Fayne was a positive possession player for the Devils.  He was great at zone exits, and great at giving his team opportunities to move the puck forward and get attempts on net.  With the Oil, however, he has a 45.6% Fenwick and a 46.2% Corsi.  Those are very low numbers.  Edmonton's team Corsi is two whole percentage points higher at 48.2%.  When you are a possession anchor on a team that has no possession, that is a really bad sign.

Of course, Edmonton is not a good team at all.  They are one of the few teams in the league that have less points than the Devils.  This shows with Fayne's -21.  In fact, only four players on the entire team have a +/- in the positives, and of them only Beniot Puliot has played more than 30 games.  The same is true with Goals For percentage.  Only Puliot is above 50% with at least 30 games played.  Not even their young studs like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, or Jordan Eberle have a positive GF%.  So it should definitely be noted that his poor performance is due in part to playing on an exceptionally poor team.  Nonetheless, I think it is also clear that he is not helping to make this team better in any way, and that is a bad sign.

Fayne Last Season

Before comparing Fayne this year to the likes of Damon Severson and Jon Merrill, let's compare how Fayne has done this year to what he did last year.  Last year he played 72 games for the Devils, and he has played 74 so far this year for Edmonton, so this is a good time to look at the stats for comparative purposes.  Again, statistics will come from the same sites linked above.

13-14

G

A

+/-

ATOI

GF%

FF%

CF%

PDO

OZFO%

NZFO%

DZFO%

Mark Fayne

4

7

-5

18:19

45.1%

54.9%

55.3%

96.6

28.36

40.45

31.18

The stark difference with these numbers as compared to the ones above is most definitely the possession stats.  Last year Fayne was a possession giant, hovering around 55% for both Fenwick and Corsi.  Both of those stats were above team average, despite the Devils ranking 3rd in the league in Corsi and 5th in Fenwick.  He was a driver of possession on a team that possessed the puck very well.  Playing with Andy Greene all year really worked wonders for him.

Similarly, he also had a much higher GF%, despite playing for a team that was plagued by an inability to score goals.  This also speaks to better play.  He played slightly more minutes per night last year, but not a crazy amount more.  He did take more neutral zone faceoffs last year as opposed to this year, where he has taken more defensive zone draws.  That could make a difference somewhat, but the percentages are not drastically different.  Plus, his PDO was just as bad last year as it was this year, so luck was not really a factor.

Fayne vs the Young Guns

I think it is pretty clear from just the stats I listed that Fayne was indeed better last year.  There are other stats that could back this up too.  Now, however, we need to look at how he fared this year as compared to the defensemen on New Jersey that replaced him.  Just how much better off have the Devils been without Fayne?

Theoretically, we should strictly be looking at Damon Severson and Adam Larsson, as they both have been the ones playing alongside Andy Greene.  For the sake of comparisons, however, I will also throw in the stats for Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas, as they were kept on this team and given quality ice time in place of Fayne, who could have taken up one of their spots had he been re-signed.

14-15

G

A

+/-

ATOI

GF%

FF%

CF%

PDO

OZFO%

NZFO%

DZFO%

Adam Larsson

3

20

3

20:46

50.0%

47.1%

46.9%

100.6

23.68

37.79

38.53

Damon Severson

4

12

-7

22:15

47.8%

49.4%

50.8%

99.6

28.20

36.95

34.86

Jon Merrill

2

11

-9

20:38

43.6%

45.1%

45.1%

100.0

29.95

36.86

33.19

Eric Gelinas

6

12

-3

16:19

54.4%

46.3%

46.5%

102.2

39.13

33.70

27.17

First, as I did not place it in the chart...Gelinas has played 57 games, Merrill has played 63 games, Severson has played 46 games, and Larsson has played 59 games.  These are all less than the 74 games that Fayne has played this year, but nonetheless the stats are still telling.  All of them have scored more points than Fayne; in fact, all of them have more assists than Fayne has points.  Again, Mark is not a guy that scores points, he was more known for being a solid defender.  But still, that difference does need to be noted.

Next, it is interesting to note that most of the Devils' youngsters average more ice time than Fayne.  Despite his contract and rather veteran standing on Edmonton's blue line, he plays less than 18 minutes a night.  Only Gelinas averages less than that, while Severson averages significantly more.  While there can be many reasons for someone's average ice time being where it is, one reason is usually confidence that a team has in that player.  Fayne has not gained the confidence of Edmonton's coaching staff.

Most of the Devils also have better possession.  Merrill is on a similar level with Fayne this year, while the others all really have better percentages.  Severson especially has better numbers.  Both the Oilers and Devils are bad possession teams, so it is a stat worthy of comparison, and Mark does not look all that good here.  He also looks bad with the goals for percentage, as all of the Devils far outstrip him here.  This relates to his lack of offensive production to a degree, but still a defensive-minded defenseman can have a decent GF% if he drives possession, which Fayne does not.

The one thing that Fayne is not, however, is sheltered in his starts.  His zone start percentages put him on a similar level to Severson and Merrill.  He has much tougher minutes than Gelinas, but then again so do most defensemen in the NHL, as Eric is very sheltered.  Larsson, on the other hand, is given much less offensive zone starts than anyone else, Fayne included.

Conclusions

In the end, I feel a little bad for Mark Fayne.  Yes he got paid, so there is no reason to really feel bad for him, but he went to a team and a system that does not really fit him well.  His possession numbers have plummeted, and if he is spending most of his time playing in his own end, it won't end well for him.  I am not sure how he would have fared if he had stayed in New Jersey, where the possession has also done severely downhill, but I am sure that if he were still playing alongside Greene, he would be at least somewhat better off.

However, I have to feel that the Devils did the right thing by not signing him to a similar deal as the one he got in Edmonton.  Both Larsson and Severson have played admirably while paired with Fayne's old partner, and have produced more offense to boot, which is something the Devils desperately need.  With the plethora of young defensive talent this team has (its only position of abundance), Fayne was certainly expendable, and the money that would have been spent on him should instead be spent on forward help.

Your Thoughts

After looking at how Fayne has done this season up with the Oilers, what do you think about what the Devils chose to do last offseason?  Having the gift of hindsight, would you have wanted to bring him back, or is it better that they let him go?  Do you have any other numbers to bring to the table?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.