The single-worst play by an Oiler this year?

Jonathan Willis
March 25 2013 10:23PM

The last time the Oilers played Nashville, it was Sergei Kostitsyn making an awful play on a goal in a 3-2 Oilers win. On Monday night, Kostitsyn was excellent, so it was Mark Fistric’s turn to cede a gorgeous scoring chance (and ultimately a game-winning goal) to the other team in a 3-2 game with a stunningly bad sequence.

The play starts with the Oilers in good position: defending a 2-on-2 rush at their own blue line. Corey Potter (44 for Edmonton) has the puck carrier, Brandon Yip (18 for Nashville), a player who has never hit 30 points in the NHL. Mark Fistric (45 for Edmonton) is watching Chris Mueller (17 for Nashville), a 27-year old journeyman of no particular note.

Ryan Smyth (94 for Edmonton) is now in the frame, coming back as a good centre should (at this point in the game, he has replaced Eric Belanger as the fourth line pivot). The head position of the defenders is the first indication there might be trouble – Potter sees Mueller breaking to the outside, while Fistric has isolated Potter’s man Yip, who still has the puck.

Mike Brown (13 for Edmonton) joins his three teammates to give the Oilers four guys in the frame to Nashville’s two, but at this point it’s all over. Yip has passed off to Mueller, who is in the process of blowing past Fistric. Fistric is either unaware or indifferent, still totally focused on lining Yip up for the big hit. Corey Potter sees Mueller, but Fistric’s position means he’s basically boxed out of the play. Smyth’s been gliding back, so maybe deserves a little criticism here – though with Fistric where he was, Smyth has no reason to expect Mueller to beat him around the outside.

And here we are. Potter can’t get there in time, Smyth can’t get there in time, and Fistric’s still looking at Yip for the hit. The Predators have a breakaway.

Smyth’s skating now, but he’s too far back. At the top of the screen, Yip avoids Fistric’s big hit.

Mueller scores.

It’s just an awful sequence for Fistric; it really looks like he got locked in for the big hit and tuned out the play happening around him – including the fact that the guy he should have covered coming into the zone had the puck. In fariness, it’s a single play, and Fistric has been pretty steady in a third-pairing role for the Oilers this season; generally those big hits result in cheers rather than a goal against. Like Kostitsyn’s play just over a week ago, though, it will probably take a little while for Fistric to live this particular sequence down.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 vetinari
March 25 2013, 10:34PM
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Well, it's early in the season and these things happen and will be corrected in the future... WHAT-HOLY-HELL-IT'S-THE-31ST-GAME-OF-THE-SEASON-AND-THEY-ARE-STILL-BLOWING-FREAKING-COVERAGES-THIS-BADLY!!!!CRIPES!!!!

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#2 Rick
March 26 2013, 11:54AM
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@Jonathan Willis

The fact that Krueger has Potter in the lineup any night would suggest that his his judgement is open to question.

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#3 Eddie Shore
March 25 2013, 11:13PM
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@DSF

You're going on and on about Schultz Jr.....Should we not have signed him? What was your opinion back in the summer when we signed him? I forget, please enlighten me.

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#4 VK63
March 25 2013, 11:44PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The Dubnyk centre ice goal is the other main contender for worst play of the year for sure.

What is it with these games against Nashville? Dubnyk, Kostitsyn, Fistric... I guess the upside for the Oilers is it's Rinne's turn to do something embarrassing.

I also like the one where Dubnyk tried to race Patrick Kane for a puck near the blueline.

That one was hilarious as well.

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#5 jeanshorts
March 25 2013, 10:35PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I think worse than that play was Debrusk and Quinn trying to pin that on Potter even though it was Fistric that decided he didnt need to watch the guy who was clearly going to get the puck.

I like Fistric, but its like he didnt even know Kostsitsyn was there even though he was right beside him.

EVEN WORSE than that was DeBrusk kept calling Fistric Smid. I mean, I know the team is looking for any leverage they can to sign Smid to a smaller contract, but, come on...

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#6 dawgbone
March 25 2013, 10:50PM
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DSF wrote:

Now take a look at badly J.Shultz blew his coverage on the 2-0 goal.

Taking a skate around the net while Nashville forwards crash the net should be an immediate demotion to the AHL.

He's not a team worst -12 for nothing.

You mean the play where he chased Erat down and then marked him while Erat picked up the puck like he's supposed to do?

What would have him do, just stop and let Erat walk out in front with the puck?

If anything, take a look at Mike "The Turnstile" Brown doing 360's into the ice.

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#7 Tyler
March 25 2013, 11:33PM
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Holy cow DSF.

I mean, I must be missing something here. Schultz is pressuring Erat after he knocks the puck off his stick. He gets to him in plenty of time. Erat passes to SK74. At this point, SK74 is in front of two OIlers, with Schultz Sr. and another Pred down low.

SK74 blows his shot, which actually buys him some time - Gagner and Brown both reacted to the shot attempt. He then goes to his left and Brown should go with him - Brown's completely gassed because he stayed on the ice for about 1:20 at this point and does a lousy job of turning and keeping SK74 and the puck outside.

Schultz Sr. scoots across the crease to tie up the Predator and leave Dubnyk to deal with the shooter. As Brown didn't turn and get pack, SK74 can cut to the net. Note Schultz Jr. who has continued to mark Erat as he came back around.

All Gagner has do is seal off the lane against the cross-ice pass and SK74 is left with only a shot. He doesn't do it and the Preds score. To me, that's on Gagner and Brown, not the guy who broke up the breakaway and then marked Erat.

Oh and funny (but true) - the Oilers have a .914 save percentage with Schultz on the ice and a 5.6% shooting percentage, which means their opponents have a .944 save percentage with him on the ice. If his problems are defensive, it's kind of odd how his save percentage is right around league average but the Oilers can't finish with him on the ice.

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#8 OilLeak
March 26 2013, 03:43AM
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People here are actually defending Fistric and blaming Potter on this play? Wow just wow. Potter is no defensive stalwart, but Fistric pulls this crap all the time(throws himself out of position to make the big hit) it just doesn't always manifest into an obvious blunder.

Ugh, I hate this defense.

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#9 Rick
March 26 2013, 08:54AM
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This is just a bizarre breakdown of who's at fault for what.

It was an ill timed pinch by Fistric but it was an equally bad play by Potter.

What kind of effed up game plan tells a defenceman to leave the lane he is in complete control of and start chasing from behind like that?

Isn't biting on a cross over play the type of stuff you get away from in Pee Wee? Not to mention that Potter should know his partner's tendancies which makes it an even more perplexing decision to cross over to his area of coverage.

The way I see it is if Potter stays in his lane he atleast retains a chance to make a play down low. If a goal is still scored then Fistirc wear all of the egg for going after but missing the big hit.

But he didn't, he made an inexplicable play of his own and with that both defenders looked like amateurs.

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#10 match16
March 26 2013, 10:53AM
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No way this is Smyth's fault. It's a 2v2 and the center's job is to cover the high slot for a late 3rd man. Not sure what kind of system they're playing but looks like Potter's fault to me for leaving his lane.

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#12 Racki
March 25 2013, 10:38PM
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Yah, I immediately thought.. wow.. "what are you doing Fistric?" when I saw that (in spite of DeBrusk repeatedly saying it was Smid). It was a huge brain fart. I think Fistric is like anyone.. he's going to make a mistake now and then. I don't think he makes a lot, and this was just one of those really bad moments, like Dubnyk watching the puck bounce past his glove (which was at least on par with this one as he played that horribly).

It was clear to everyone watching who Fistric's man was, and he went for the big hit on Potter's man.. that was just odd. But like I said, I don't think he's prone to making a lot of mistakes.. it was just a woopsie move on his part. He has to look past it and move on. I don't think he's going to make many stupid mistakes like that

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#14 dawgbone
March 25 2013, 10:56PM
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Toro wrote:

I blame that goal more on Potter then Fistric , Potter had no need too be that far on the left side if he would have stayed in the middle this goal would have probably been avoided.

I don't know about that, Yip still would have gotten behind Fistric.

Potter, with 2 F coming back hard wants to force the puck to get a quick turnaround. Fistric is supposed to mark Yip and not only does he not do it, the puck is passed and Fistric still goes for the hit despite being 6 feet away.

pic.twitter.com/PWvhSUdlNO

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#15 Slats
March 25 2013, 11:35PM
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Willis you should call this piece "Oilers in Blunderville".

I watched all 3 goals and there was at least 3 blowned basic D-coverages per goal.

Oilers Team ready for the biggest 4 game stretch of the season? Bullsh$t. Skate their butts off. im tired of this crap.

If I want to watch crap like this I will watch 1980s games on ESPN classic of any "Mickey Mouse" Devils games.

We're becoming a joke.

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#16 Slats
March 25 2013, 11:42PM
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shonn wrote:

what the hell was potter doing, if fistric at first thought he was going to hit him, was potter following him to hit fistric, that is all potter

it's a 2 on 2 with Brandon Yip (not Datsyuk or Crosby. . .YIP!)

push the puck away into the corner, fall down on his stick, hold your lane and skate backwards (also known as do nothing) . . .would have worked here

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#18 Racki
March 26 2013, 12:01AM
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I'm sorry, but people claiming that goal was Potter's fault (for the reasons given) are clearly uneducated in defensive coverage. JW is being overly nice to some people here by saying things like "I see how you can think that".... I sure don't.

Yip was Potter's man, and Mueller only became his man at the point that Fistric decided to throw a basic defensive coverage out the window and go for the glory hit on the man Potter was clearly covering. Potter reacted fairly quickly, all things considered, when it became clear that Fistric was abandoning his cover and going for the big hit on Yip.

I could MAYBE see a case for blaming Smyth for not getting back in time to help, but even that would be a stretch.

All Fistric had to do was simply shadow Mueller, an NHL nobody, and that play dies quickly.

But again, as JW put it, I don't think Fistric should be crucified for it. He is a pretty solid D most of the time and I am a big fan of him, but this is clearly a case of a fan whipping-boy being wrongly ripped on when people pin the blame on Potter. Yikes. Check your bias at the door once in a while, people.

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#19 messy EH!
March 26 2013, 01:43AM
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Willis, Why do you hate Fistric so much?

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#20 michael
March 26 2013, 08:18AM
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When the Oilers make their pitch to Dekeyser this week this should be part of the sales pitch.Look kid we need you,this is an example of our current NHL defence.Ithink we might have a spot for you on the bigteam.

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#21 james_dean
March 26 2013, 08:55AM
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I try this play in nhl13 all the time

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#22 David Staples
March 26 2013, 11:59AM
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This is such a simple play. A two on two rush. Potter takes his man.

Fistric then decides to ALSO take Potter's man and trouble erupts.

Terrible read by Fistric, little Potter could do, though if you want to quibble he might have been tougher on the puckcarrier at the blueline, stood him up a bit more.

But in a two on two, you cover the guy in front of you.

The suggestion that Potter should cover Mueller way over by the wall makes little sense.

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#23 David S
March 26 2013, 12:10PM
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David Staples wrote:

This is such a simple play. A two on two rush. Potter takes his man.

Fistric then decides to ALSO take Potter's man and trouble erupts.

Terrible read by Fistric, little Potter could do, though if you want to quibble he might have been tougher on the puckcarrier at the blueline, stood him up a bit more.

But in a two on two, you cover the guy in front of you.

The suggestion that Potter should cover Mueller way over by the wall makes little sense.

YEAH! What this guy said. ^

Also, please note this is the REAL David Staples gracing our comment section.*

*So in other words, the idea that I'm David Staples is now officially debunked.**

**PHEW!

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#25 Rick
March 26 2013, 12:16PM
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@David Staples

I admit I didn't read every comment but who is suggesting that Potter takes Mueller?

The decision is chase the player or maintain the lane and collapse to the front of the net.

Here is a hint, you should never abandon good position to start chasing a player from behind. You can't make a defensive play from that there.

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#26 Pucker
March 26 2013, 01:06PM
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Mr. Willis . . . any chance of you doing one of these on the first goal St. Louis scored against the Oilers last weekend?

Two defensemen caught up leaving Gagner the only guy back. Being at the game I didn't have benefit of replays but as soon as they started the breakout, I figured there was going to be trouble, and I'm certainly no expert, but I sure enjoy these break downs.

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#27 vetinari
March 26 2013, 02:42PM
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My nominee for the single worst play this year: Tambellini's three-year contract extension in June 2012. I now drink alone in dark, quiet rooms when I think of another two and a half years of Tambellini at the helm...

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#28 Archaeologuy
March 25 2013, 10:29PM
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I think worse than that play was Debrusk and Quinn trying to pin that on Potter even though it was Fistric that decided he didnt need to watch the guy who was clearly going to get the puck.

I like Fistric, but its like he didnt even know Kostsitsyn was there even though he was right beside him.

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#29 michael
March 25 2013, 10:34PM
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The good news is that there are less and less of these plays occuring recently.But this one sure rates as a blunder of enormous proportions.It'll take Fistric a while, like 20 years,to live this one down.

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#31 DSF
March 25 2013, 10:40PM
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Now take a look at badly J.Shultz blew his coverage on the 2-0 goal.

Taking a skate around the net while Nashville forwards crash the net should be an immediate demotion to the AHL.

He's not a team worst -12 for nothing.

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#32 Hoping4betterdays
March 25 2013, 10:44PM
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Does anyone get the impression Ebs just isn't happy playing lately? Maybe he's not buying into RK system anymore. Time for Krugs to let the kids go out and just play. Yuk needs to be unleashed.

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#33 Copperblueandwhite
March 25 2013, 10:45PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I agree that the guy shouldn't be crucified - I like the player in his role, and he's had a pretty good season. Just a massive brain cramp there.

Brown was basically waiving at Erat on the second goal too...catastrophic second period failures seem to kill the team every night....Fistric would probably love to relive that moment.

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#34 Toro
March 25 2013, 10:50PM
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I blame that goal more on Potter then Fistric , Potter had no need too be that far on the left side if he would have stayed in the middle this goal would have probably been avoided.

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#35 Racki
March 25 2013, 10:51PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I agree that the guy shouldn't be crucified - I like the player in his role, and he's had a pretty good season. Just a massive brain cramp there.

Yah, I've been really pleased with Fistric most of the year and prefer him being in the lineup, so when that happened, it surprised me.

Also surprising, again, was that DeBrusk thought he was Smid. I couldn't 100% make out it was him (by jersey number/face), but the way he locks in on a guy and slides across like that is as marquee a move as a Savardian-spinorama, so I knew right away who it was.

Anyways, glad you agree too that he's generally pretty solid!

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#36 Racki
March 25 2013, 10:57PM
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It's a two on two.. I love Fistric as much as any of our D, to be honest.. but Fistric left his man to throw a hit on Potter's man.. pretty simple. Potter is not at all at fault here. Fistric let a guy beat him along the boards, let the puck get past him to that guy.. left his man unprotected.. not sure how anyone can blame Potter here. He stayed on his man until the wacky decision Fistric made, in which case he was basically caught with his pants down with no way to recover.

It's a pretty simple man to man coverage play here.

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#37 DSF
March 25 2013, 10:58PM
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dawgbone wrote:

You mean the play where he chased Erat down and then marked him while Erat picked up the puck like he's supposed to do?

What would have him do, just stop and let Erat walk out in front with the puck?

If anything, take a look at Mike "The Turnstile" Brown doing 360's into the ice.

Spin it however you like...he went for a skate while the Preds crashed the net.

Watch the replay...he was in no man's land.

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#38 Quicksilver ballet
March 25 2013, 11:01PM
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Well, you get what you pay for... we can't say they're underperforming the value of their contracts. It's all part of managements tanking plan.

The goal from center ice on Dubnyk last week was by far the most disappointing play this year. Fistric leaving his post to lay someone out is the kinda play that happens a dozen times a game. Not guilty, by reason of "Seduction by way of a Trophy Collision"

#FreeFistric

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#40 shonn
March 25 2013, 11:36PM
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what the hell was potter doing, if fistric at first thought he was going to hit him, was potter following him to hit fistric, that is all potter

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#41 jdrevenge
March 25 2013, 11:45PM
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I watched it over and over again.... He wasn't screened and had his head up the entire time. Two ridiculous breakdowns in this game had me up and yelling at the tv.

After it was all over I ate ice cream. FML.

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#42 TonyT
March 25 2013, 11:53PM
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Any of San Jose's pick 6 in the home opener have to be considered for worse of the year.

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#43 Sanaa Montana
March 25 2013, 11:54PM
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That goal was Gagner's fault. It was as much Fistric's fault as it was Potter's and Brown's.

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#44 Crusty Grit
March 26 2013, 12:01AM
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This ---

http://video.intelligencer.ca/video/featured/latest/1569514787001/raw-lockout-over-oilers-laforge-tambellini-and-dubnyk-comment/2078137561001

Tambolow needs to go.

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#45 Racki
March 26 2013, 12:05AM
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One thing I will say though, and not pointing fingers at any specific players... teams repeatedly expose flaws in our man-to-man coverage. It seems to happen frequently where something even as simple/common as two opponents crossing over each other end up in chaos for our defenders.

And also, with extreme frequency, I'll notice an opponent hanging out in front of our net untouched too.

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#46 shonn
March 26 2013, 12:58AM
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in that situation, fistrics job was to push the puck cattier to the outside or the boards and potters job was to control the middle of the ice

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#47 Oil99
March 26 2013, 01:11AM
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Let's sign Smid for 4.5 million per for 10 yrs and Gagner for 5.5million per for 10 yrs . Then miss playoff next 10 yrs .If you gonna overpay these two guys then making playoffs is long term project. There is so much love for these players in the media. In last 6 yrs what so common in oilers organization is Kelly Buchburger, Gagner, Smid and Tambo is missing playoffs. As long as thsese people are there-till then good luck making the playoffs.

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#48 Toro
March 26 2013, 01:23AM
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I get the point that Fistric let his man go too make the big hit , but if Potter would have stayed in the middle and let Smyth who was really close back checking cover his man it could have been prevented , I'm not disagreeing that Fistric was part of the reason the goal happened I'm saying Potter is just as much too blame if not more.

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#49 Walter Sobchak
March 26 2013, 01:25AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The Dubnyk centre ice goal is the other main contender for worst play of the year for sure.

What is it with these games against Nashville? Dubnyk, Kostitsyn, Fistric... I guess the upside for the Oilers is it's Rinne's turn to do something embarrassing.

I can think of about 4 Whitney play's this year alone that qualify as equally if not worse.

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#50 WinterNightSky
March 26 2013, 05:01AM
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You're all being far too nice to Fistric. I would've stapled him to the bench with actual staples for this.

All Potter did was follow his man. Didn't keep his head up and look around to see what everyone else was doing, just stared Yip in the chest and covered him.

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