a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

01/14/12 How Fistric Helps

It was opposite day in Edmonton on Monday as the Oilers traded a draft pick for some immediate blueline help. Sometimes it's good to be wrong. Here's how Fistric helps upgrade the defense.

1) Hits

I know it sounds like a horrible cliche to measure a player's worth by using this stat, but in the Oilers' case it's of note. Our 2011-12 Oilers were led in hits by Ladislav Smid, who is a bit of a bruiser in his own right. Smid threw 186 hits in 78 games (2.4 per game). Fistric landed 235 hits in 60 games for Dallas last year (3.9 per game). For those wondering, Andy Sutton (who Fistric hypothetically replaces on the depth chart) had 112 hits in 52 games (2.2 per game). Theo Peckham? 1.7 hits per game.

Why is this important?

Take the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, for example. Dustin Brown led that team in the playoffs with 93 hits in 20 games (4.65 per game) and his physical presence was a major factor throughout the playoffs. Four players on that team averaged more hits per game in the playoffs than Ladislav Smid did in the regular season. Of course, that's a much shorter cross section of games, but it illustrates the point.

Fistric does not equal playoffs or a Stanley Cup by any means, but he does help keep other teams honest much more effectively than a player like Darcy Hordichuk or Steve MacIntyre ever will. Why? Because he can take a regular shift.

2) Penalty Kill

Fistric spent an average of 2:13 per game killing penalties for Dallas last year, which was fourth among regulars on the team and only 32 seconds behind the leader, Stephane Robidas. The Stars' PK finished slightly ahead of the Oilers at 82.8%, and Fistric did okay at it, as he was one of the more steady options for Big D. He's not exactly a go-to guy at even strength, and offense isn't his thing, which means the penalty kill will be his bread and butter.

That's not such a bad thing, as the Oilers climb their way out of the special teams abyss they were in just two seasons ago.

3) Depth

Let's face it, there's a gap between the actual NHL defenders on this Oilers team and the ones who are supposed to step in and replace them if something bad happens. Is Colten Teubert going to replace Ladislav Smid? That's a lot bigger stretch than Smid to Fistric. The same theory applies if a player like Nick Schultz were to go down. Fistric has played 101 more games than Peckham and 233 more than Teubert. If this teams is serious about winning right now, that experience will count for something.

3) Crazy

There's no diplomatic way to say it, but seeing Andy Sutton walk the line of legality in 2011-12 was a little bit refreshing. Let's be clear: nobody wants to see any player get hurt, by another player or otherwise. Nobody wants to see Oilers get suspended either. But before Sutton when was the last time there was a player in Edmonton who was known around the league for his ability to be a fierce and punishing player, who was sometimes unpredictable? Jason Smith?

A little crazy is a good thing on a team full of skilled, finesse players. Fistric isn't actually crazy (to my knowledge), but he seems to know what he's in the lineup to do, and isn't afraid to do it. That's an element that this Oilers team almost totally lacked.

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