The 2010-2011 Player Review: Mark Fayne
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Mark Fayne.
The New Jersey Devils’ defense entered the preseason under one of the biggest question marks in recent history. The organization watched as Paul Martin, arguably one of their best offensive defenseman, left to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his place came Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, and Andy Greene became the top threat along the blueline. Colin White and Bryce Salvador figured to anchor the defense. But things, of course, never work out as planned.
A spot opened along the blueline after Salvador suffered a concussion in the preseason. Ex-coach John MacLean gave several rookies a look. Matt Taormina took the spot, starting the first 17 games of the season. The injury bug would get him too, opening the door for Mark Fayne.
Nobody had terribly high expectations for the Providence product. The rookie made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on November 22, and the experience proved to be “nuts.”
“My first game was kinda nuts playing against Ovechkin,” he said to me in an interview. “I wasn’t matched up against him, but a few times I was out when he was at the end of his shift and I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s Alex Ovechkin.'”
Clearly, the experience of playing in the NHL didn’t overwhelm Fayne. He became the best rookie defenseman, starting 57 games and providing solid minutes. He contributed offensively, played smart defensively and took care of his job on the ice. The rookie exceeded expectations, making him one of the best defenseman this season.
Fayne At Even Strength
Fayne finished among the top three in almost every important even strength category. That means he outproduced players like Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson in his first season. Fayne averaged 17:50 of ice time, ranked 14th among all rookie skaters. That number was the highest of all the rookies on the Devils this season. His plus-1.02 rating ranked first among skaters with at least 50-games played. He’s the only player to crack a plus-1 rating, and only one of eight to finish positive. He produced those numbers despite facing better quality of competition (plus-0.04) with lesser teammates (minus-0.071).
Despite a down year for several players, Fayne helped provide scoring and played responsible defensively. While on the ice, the team averaged 2.30 goals for per 60 (35 total). That average tied him for second on the team with Travis Zajac. He only allowed opponents 1.77 goals against per 60, tied for lowest on the team with Mattias Tedenby. His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.52 ranked first on the team and was just one of three plus ratings on the ice.
With Fayne off the ice, the team worsened in every category. Goals for per 60 dropped to 1.73 and goals against per 60 rose to 2.23. His off-ice plus/minus fell to minus-0.49, almost a full point lower than his on-ice production.
Shot production followed a similar trend. On the ice, Fayne helped the team average 25.5 shots on net. He limited opponents to 22.4 shots against per 60, third best among defenseman with 50-plus games played. Off the ice, both numbers suffered. Shots for per 60 dropped to 23.7, almost a two shot difference. Shots against per 60 rose to 23.8, which is a small yet noticeable difference.
Fayne’s Corsi rating confirms his strong even-strength performance. His on-ice rating of plus-7.7 ranked second among all defenseman, just seven-tenths of a point behind Tallinder. Off the ice, that number dropped to plus-0.6. Fayne exceeded expectations on even-strength play. He helped produce offensive opportunities, limited opponents chances, and became a solid player. Outproducing some of the bigger names on the roster, including Ilya Kovalchuk, shows the potential for him to grow into a top four defenseman.
Fayne On The Powerplay
Fayne’s strong even-strength play earned him powerplay time during the second half of the season. His time on ice per 60 checked in at 0.77, which isn’t a ton of time. Remember, Fayne had to compete with both Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston playing the points on the powerplay. He still recorded a plus-1.92 rating, highest among regular powerplay contributors. He once again posted solid numbers despite facing the highest quality of competition (plus-1.102) of all skaters.
The team’s offensive production improved with Fayne manning a point. New Jersey averaged 5.47 goals for per 60 (four total) with him on the ice. Fayne had a hand in all four goals, recording assists on each tally. On the ice, the shots for per 60 stood at 56.1, ranking among the top powerplay skaters in production. Off the ice, the numbers dipped slightly. Goals for fell to 4.92 per 60, and shots dropped to 44.3 per 60.
The Corsi numbers don’t sway Fayne’s performance one way or the other. His on-ice rating of 83.47 was a solid yet unspectacular number. The off-ice rating improved to 83.71, a slightly better rating. The difference, however, doesn’t show any real improvement. Once again, Fayne turned in a solid performance. It wasn’t spectacular, but he turned in solid play. He did what the coaching staff asked him to do and produced beyond expectations.
Fayne On The Penalty Kill
Fayne didn’t receive regular time on the penalty kill, and it stood as his only weak point. His time on ice per 60 stood at a measly 0.53, and he managed to finish with a minus-3.37 rating. During the penalty kill, his quality of teammates (plus-.440) actually outweighed the quality of competition (minus-0.367), but he couldn’t translate that into positive numbers.
The defensive numbers weren’t pretty. With Fayne on the ice, opponents averaged 7.87 goals against per 60. That number improved to 5.07 with him off the ice. Shots followed the same pattern. On the ice, teams averaged 47.2 shots against New Jersey. With Fayne off the ice, that number fell to 35.5
The Corsi rating confirms his struggles. On the ice, Fayne recorded a minus-78.73 rating. Off the ice, that number dropped to minus-63.63. It’s clearly a small sample, but Fayne will need to improve his penalty killing next season. His quality of teammates were strong, so blame can’t be assigned to them. He’s a rookie, so I didn’t expect the complete package in his first 57 games. Any improvements made defensively should help to improve these numbers.
Fayne had one of the best rookie campaigns for the Devils this season. He made the most of an opportunity, taking advantage of the injury situation to become a solid producer. It’s not a coincidence that he outperformed veterans and other rookies this season. His success depended on his ability to listen and respond to the coaching staff.
“Just trying to do everything the coaches ask, right down to the way I’m warming up and cooling down after,” Fayne said.
Fayne’s superb year shows nicely through his GVT rating. Fayne’s 5.1 rating meant, as a rookie, he was worth five goals more than a replacement player. That’s higher than any other rookie on the team. His Val D number of 3.6 didn’t rank high on the defense but showed his efficiency in his own end.
The Devils’ rookie defenseman surpassed all expectations this season. He stabilized a defense beset by injuries, making a somewhat smooth transition into the NHL. The coaches clearly had faith in him, starting him in the last 27 games and 36 of 37 overall. He finished first in plus/minus with a plus-10. His four goals tied him for second among all Devils defenseman. His stats and performance warrant another season on the blue line.
As a second-year player, Fayne will need to prove himself next season. With players like Alexander Urbom fighting for roster spots, nothing is guaranteed. If he can replicate this season’s performance, expect Fayne to once again play a major role next season.