A surprise from the Oilers this morning, they've placed defenceman Mark Fayne on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to Bakersfield. You know, because the Oilers have so many NHL calibre defencemen already on the roster.
But wait, it gets better.
If Mark Fayne clears would not surprise me if Nikita Nikitin gets a look back in Edmonton at some point— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 9, 2015
And with that second tweet I go from puzzled to flat out confused.
Fayne signed with the Oilers last summer for four years and $14.5M, an average of $3.625M annually. Since then he hasn't done much to wow that fans in Edmonton. Last season he scored two goals and six assists in 74 games and in 24 games this season (he was a healthy scratch a few times) he has just one assist. One lousy assist. Even Luke Gazdic has scored a goal this season. Fayne is also a -8 (worst among Oilers defenders) and has six penalty minutes.
The counting numbers aren't particularly flattering but with Fayne they never have been, the underlying numbers tend to put him in a better light. This season the Oilers' Corsi percentage (CF%) with him on this ice is 49.3%, the only time it's better is when Brandon Davidson is one the ice. And every player that's been on the ice with him for more than 902 minutes this season has a better CF% with him than without him.
What might be causing Fayne some problems is that when he's on the ice this season the puck ends up in the back of the net a lot. At 37.0% his goals for percentage is the lowest of the Oilers regular defenders and not very good league wide either. Is that on Fayne? Some of it likely is, as you can see in the image from war-on-ice below the Oilers give up more high danger shots with Fayne on the ice. This probably helps explain his 0.9066 on-ice save percentage. But Fayne is still just one player, laying all of this at the feet of a single player would be wrong.
So why have the Oilers waived Fayne? Right now it's hard to say. He hasn't played wonderfully this season and, as mentioned earlier, was a healthy scratch a few times already this year. For whatever reason he and McLellan don't seem to be on the same page, so this could be about sending a message to the team about accountability more than anything. Or it could be the precursor to a trade. Or it could be the Oilers trying to set some sort of AHL record for most salary buried in the AHL at one time.
We'll have to wait to find out for sure, but in the meantime it's a puzzling move if for no other reason than the Oilers simply don't have six defencemen better than Mark Fayne. On it's own this is a move that doesn't appear to make the Oilers a better hockey team.