• Oilers Trade For Mark Fistric

    by  • January 14, 2013 • Hockey • 16 Comments

    If you’re playing Tambo Bingo during his press conference to officially announce the Mark Fistric trade, you can probably expect the following words: “Edmonton native”, “hits” and “kills penalties.” Also, some sentences that are very hard to understand and, possibly, praise for Mark Fistric from Steve Yzerman.

    Honestly, I don’t follow a lot of teams outside of Edmonton particularly closely, so I had to look up some information on Fistric on behindthenet.ca. I think it’s awfully difficult to evaluate defencemen statistically but one thing that we can do pretty easily is see how the coach uses the player compared to his teammates, which tells us something about what kind of player he is. The table here compares Fistric to the other defencemen on the Stars who played at least thirty games in a given season:

    At ES, Fistric has been a guy who doesn’t play very much and who plays against nobodies when he does play. The two years in which his Corsi QualComp were bumped is nice but it didn’t move the needle with traditional QualComp, which leads me to suspect that it was just a sort of random fluctuation – in general, he seems to have been awfully hidden.

    What is more interesting about Fistric is something that doesn’t show up in that table – he was a top four D in terms of killing penalties for Dallas last year and seems to have acquitted himself respectably. Whenever I see a guy with usage like that – plays nobodies at ES and sparingly at that but then gets a shot on the PK and does ok, I tend to think that he’s probably a guy with skating problems. Defending on the PK, where you’re basically defending from your own blue in, is a different beast than defending from the other team’s blue line backwards.

    The Oilers start the season without a healthy chunk of their penalty killing defencemen from last year. Theo Peckham was absent from shinny yesterday and practice today, and is apparently injured. Andy Sutton is out for the year. From that perspective, you can understand why acquiring a player who has some demonstrated PK ability was of interest to them.

    What does this tell about the broader context of the Oilers defence plans? Well, they’ve now got a depth chart that looks something like this (don’t read anything in to where I’ve put Justin Schultz). Nick Schultz, Justin Schultz, Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Ryan Whitney probably get to play for sure, which leaves one lineup spot and two roster spots open for Corey Potter, Fistric, Colten Teubert and Theo Peckham. Peckham’s injury presumably means that he starts on IR.

    The smart money is probably on Fistric getting the spot in the lineup – nobody trades a third round pick for a guy who they expect to put in the press box – and Teubert being sent down to play games in OKC, since he’s nominally a prospect and has a real two way contract, two things that you can’t say about Potter. (Aside: it wouldn’t be a Steve Tambellini Oilers’ roster without someone making NHL money in the AHL, which will likely happen when Peckham is healthy.)

    The interesting thing about that to me is that it likely means that Nick Schultz has to move over and play on the right side, which he can do. I call that “interesting” because it leaves the Oilers a little weak on the left side – Smid’s fine but then you’ve got one of Whitney, who has yet to prove that he can skate like a professional hockey player again, or Fistric taking a spot in the top four at ES – and one of Nick Schultz or Justin Schultz playing outside of the top four at ES. This assumes that the Smid/Petry pairing stays together, something Ralph Krueger has indicated is likely.

    I’ve got no problem with Justin Schultz playing outside of the top four at even strength but it’s a shame that the Oilers couldn’t have found a right handed shooting defenceman who can play top four minutes at ES and kill penalties to pair with Nick Schultz and confine a Whitney/Justin Schultz pairing to playing third pairing ES minutes and first pairing PP minutes. The defence is a bit of an obvious issue of concern for the Oilers and Fistric, like Whitney, is a pretty big question mark on the right side in terms of his ability to play top four ES minutes.

    The identity and success of the fourth ES defenceman on the Oilers is one of the really fascinating questions of this Oilers’ season. I’m not really sure that bringing Fistric in does much to clarify that issue, although it seems likely to me that he’s going to get a shot at being some part of the solution there. Is it a good trade? A third round pick seems a lot to give up for a bottom pairing defenceman to me (pointing out that Fistric has already had more success than a typical third round pick is not an answer to this; bottom pairing defencemen tend to be free for the asking in the summer). We’ll see if the Oilers think that they’ve got more than a bottom pairing defenceman here and, if so, whether that works out for them.

    Update: This will teach me to ever assume anything about a player’s ability to play the off-side on defence. According to Jonathan Willis, Steve Tambellini said that Fistric can play either side at his press conference to announce the trade. Looking at Hockey Analysis, I see that Fistric played about 580 minutes or so last year on a lefty/lefty defence pairing. This means that a Whitney/Fistric pairing would seem like an option and that Schultz2 remains an option.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    16 Responses to Oilers Trade For Mark Fistric

    1. speeds
      January 14, 2013 at

      I think the cost of a 3rd rounder is a bit high myself, but the one thing I will say about that is EDM can probably get a somewhat similar pick back for him at the deadline, if they choose to deal him at that time.

    2. Doogie2K
      January 14, 2013 at

      Near as I can tell, he’s a younger, less-broken, and hopefully-less-suspended Andy Sutton. I can live with that for a third-round pick, I guess, though a new #6D doesn’t address the real issue. Unless Whitney’s canned the Forsberg Feet or J. Schultz really is the second coming of Paul Coffey – both of which seem super unlikely in 2013 – we’re still one proven top-four D short.

      If only we had a guy like that one in Minny. Not the expensive one, the other one. Brad Gilbert, is it? Anyway, he looks okay.

    3. RhysJ
      January 14, 2013 at

      Youtube is your friend here. Fistric is an absolute load of a defender that can out-muscle nearly anybody in the league. His hits are devastating, and generally clean, although he has shown no hesitation to hit high or late, concussing both Nino Neiderreiter and Shea Weber last year. Should be an upgrade on Peckham and fill the “protection” role too, despite not taking a lot of penalties.

      But as you’ve pointed out, he’s not exactly fleet of foot. Deploying him in a top-4 role would be a mistake, since there’s basically no offense there. I think he could be a good bottom-2 d-zone sponge, but if the Oil are counting on him for more than that, well, it’s going to be a long short season.

    4. Triumph
      January 14, 2013 at

      A 3rd might be a bit high, but I think that’s where the market is at right now – teams are scrambling for defensemen. The free agent market is ghastly and I imagine the trade market is expensive. Plus, a fair price is probably a 4th round pick – 30 places at that level of the draft isn’t *that* much.

      • Derek
        January 14, 2013 at

        The pick would’ve been wasted on Cole Benson anyway.

      • Derek
        January 14, 2013 at

        I don’t agree with the footspeed call at all. His skating is fine, might even be above average for his size. His in-zone play is okay, not great, but he throws himself around and blocks shots and such.

        His problem is that he’s a complete liability with the puck. He can’t move the puck up and out and he can’t handle the puck in transition. Think Steve Staios after all of the concussions – the hard-around to Smid year. He’s a terrible outlet passer.

        It’s why he’s above average as a penalty killer – he doesn’t have to worry about handling the puck – he just has to blast it out of the zone. Basically, he’s a better version of Peckham. Pair him with JSchultz and let Schultz carry 90% of the pucks out.

        • Derek
          January 14, 2013 at

          Sorry about putting this response in the wrong place.

        • Alan
          January 14, 2013 at

          Seems like an ideal pairing for Whitney as well if they have him on the right side.

          Whitney’s strongest skill is outlet passing, so just as you said. Let Fistric get the puck to Whitney and start the breakout from that side.

          A little predictable to defend, but a much better option than letting Fistric handle the puck more often.

          • Derek
            January 14, 2013 at

            That works, but only if Whitney can move.

            Though, given Tyler’s next entry, it seems like Tambo is slotting Fistric in as the seventh D

    5. John Denver
      January 14, 2013 at

      Kevin Westgarth was basically just traded for a 4th round pick. D men are in high demand right now hence the price for Fistric.

    6. Mr DeBakey
      January 14, 2013 at

      “but it’s a shame that the Oilers couldn’t have found a right handed shooting defenceman who can play top four minutes at ES and kill penalties”

      Oh you Tambo haters, will you never quit bemoaning the loss of Gilbert Gilbert?

      Fistric get the official “He-can-hit” thumbs-up from noted d-man expert “Spec”.

    7. custard
      January 14, 2013 at
    8. Pingback: Boys on the Bus » Mark Fistric: Great Defenceman or the Greatest Defenceman?

    9. Adam Dyck
      January 14, 2013 at

      Fistric is an NHL defender who can play a decent role on our PK. His footspeed (based on youtube, a couple of Defending Big D comments and an admittedly shoddy memory) seems to be okay, and he pushes Teubert and Peckham down the pecking order. While you’re right that a 3rd seems high, that seems to be going rate right now and I’m generally an advocate of turning picks into bodies.

      • Triumph
        January 14, 2013 at

        Not to mention he’s an Edmonton guy – a 3rd round pick is high for one year, but they have to figure they have a leg up on retaining him if he’s any good.

    10. Bank Shot
      January 14, 2013 at


      Fistric has down pretty well in that area. He’s played five seasons for Dallas and finished 1st 3 times, 3rd once, and 7th once. When he did finish last in GA/60 the save percentage behind him was .893%, worst on team.

      So he can play easy minutes and excel at not getting scored on, PK, as well as intimidate. I would say there is some kind of value in that. If you have someone to play behind your 4th line that keeps them from getting lit up, you are doing ok.

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