Andy Sutton is out for the season, Theo Peckham is out for the near future, Colten Teubert isn't an NHL defenseman, and Taylor Fedun is getting a mangled leg back into shape. The result? Steve Tambellini made a trade for a tweener defenseman from the Dallas Stars, Marc Fistric.
I noticed a number of incorrect takes on Fistric's game popping up in various places yesterday, so I turned to an old friend, the outstanding Brandon Worley, Managing Editor at Defending Big D, for a breakdown on Marc Fistric.
Copper & Blue: For some reason, Edmonton fans think Fistric is slow, or a poor skater. Given my viewings of him, I don't agree, but can you speak to his skating abilities?
Brandon Worley, Defending Big D: Fistric isn't exactly the most fleet of foot when compared to some of the more mobile and offensively-gifted defensemen in the NHL, but he's far from the Adam Pardy level of a defensive pylon in his own zone. One of his better assets is his ability to anchor and stand his ground physically, either along the boards or in front of the net and while maneuvering in tight spaces can sometimes be difficult he's not exactly out of place in his own zone against NHL competition. He's not going to win a speed skating contest but he also doesn't get beat much or allow forwards to get behind. To sum it up: he's an average skater for a defenseman.
C&B: He's a big and strong and known for his hits - what about his positional game? What about his offensive abilities?
Worley: Last season the Dallas Stars relied heavily upon Nicklas Grossman to anchor the penalty kill; after Grossman was traded, Fistric slid into that spot, and he performed relatively admirably. Fistric is at his best when asked to secure the defensive zone, where he can use smart positioning and his big frame to frustrate the offense. Where Fistric would struggle is when the puck was on his stick; moving the puck in transition was never easy for Fistric and he seemed to battle confidence the past few years in this area. He won't jump into the play very often and he's hesitant to risk pinching at the wrong moment.
C&B: It looks like he was on the second penalty kill unit, was he effective in the role?
Worley: Yes, he was effective. As stated above, when Grossmann was traded he was asked to fill in on the second unit and he was more than adequate. He's willing and more than capable of blocking shots and he's quick to cut off passing lanes along the boards. Most importantly, he was the best of all the Stars defenseman at clearing away the front of the net when Sheldon Souray wasn't on the ice. In fact, it seemed as if Fistric was able to learn from Souray about how to be more physical around the crease.
C&B: Given he's never played 70 games in a season, does his purported physical style lead to injury concerns? He has numerous short-term injuries listed on his profile, though none that appear repetitive. Is that an accurate assessment?
Worley: I'm having trouble remembering any particular injuries to Fistric, so it's tough for me to say there are any injury concerns with him. The reason Fistric have never played more than 70 games in a season has more to do with he was always riding the line between a No. 6 and No. 7 defenseman and there were stretches where he was a scratch more often than not. Most of that came the second year of Marc Crawford's tenure, when Stars fans would cry bloody murder that Jeff Woywitka was seeing constant ice time instead of Fistric.
C&B: With Fistric the Oilers have four left-handed defencemen. Was he mostly used on the right or left side in Dallas? Is he capable of playing both sides?
Worley: He was mostly used on the left side, although I'm sure there were times he played on the right depending on the third pairing the Stars would choose to roll with. I don't think there's anything about his game that would preclude him from being able to play either side, especially since he -- as I've stated -- is more concerned with defense than actually moving the puck up the ice.
Worley's report makes Fistric out to be a slight upgrade on Theo Peckham and Corey Potter, but given Steve Tambellini's curious statements yesterday, Fistric seems slotted for the 7th defenseman spot on the roster.