|Mark Fistric (photo by Getty Images)
As an Edmonton Oilers broadcaster I can honestly say I never really liked Mark Fistric much, which in many ways is the ultimate form of compliment.
It seemed every time the Oilers played the Dallas Stars, the Edmonton-area product was working over a guy like Erik Cole in a melee, or laying out an Anton Lander with a hellacious hit.
Of course the Stars in-your-face style that has also featured the likes of a Steve Ott and Krys Barch over the years has led to a healthy, albeit one-sided rivalry, especially in Big “D” where the Oil have struggled pretty much since the Minnesota North Stars relocated.
So Fistric was one of the Stars’ bad guys -- emphasis on the word “was”!
Yesterday, the Oilers dealt from a position of strength to address an area of weakness making the type of subtle move which will help this organization.
After finishing 30th, 30th and 29th over the past three seasons the Oilers have accumulated a lot of prospects and, for that matter, picks. Obviously the Oilers have amassed a cavalcade of young offensive stars, but with Andy Sutton’s knee injury eliminating him from the mix, the Oil were in need of a big, physical, steady defensive defenceman.
As a result, Edmonton traded a third round pick in 2013 to pick up Fistric from the Stars.
The 26-year-old 6’2”, 233-pound rearguard finished in the top 20 in the NHL in hits last season, and was 10th in the NHL in 2009-10 with a +27.
The hard-nosed defenceman is indiscriminate in how he plays which is something that NHL coaches/managers and his teammates appreciate.
Make no mistake, Fistric is not a heavyweight enforcer the way his legendary father, Boris, was for Punch McLean back in the late 1970’s with the then-powerhouse New Westminster Bruins.
Boris Fistric had two 400+ penalty minute seasons with the Bruins and was a third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 1979.
The stories about Mark Fistric though started making the rounds back in his Bantam draft year when he was playing as a talented 6’1”, 210 pound... 14 year old playing for the Maple Leaf Athletic Club.
Fistric would end up being the first pick in Vancouver Giants Bantam Draft history going third overall in 2001 WHL Draft, two spots behind Kyle Chipchura and one spot ahead of former Oiler Cam Barker.
Ironically, the Oilers Devan Dubnyk would be a second round pick of the Kamloops Blazers in the same draft, and both Dubnyk (14th) and Fistric (28th) would end up being selected in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Fistric suffered two broken jaws during the 2004-05 season which limited him to 15 games playing for Don Hay and GM Scott Bonner in Vancouver, but bounced back and captained the Giants to the WHL Championship and a Memorial Cup appearance in 2005-06.
My guess is that the Oilers in their due diligence would have spoken to either Bonner or Hay to get some more intel on Fistric, who played parts of three seasons in the AHL before becoming a full-time NHL defenceman with the Stars in 2009-10.
The bottom line is the Oilers needed a player with Fistric’s unique skill set and professionalism that they could count on for this season.
As a pending UFA at the end of the year, Fistric will have a contract to play for and he has unique opportunity to join an emerging team and should provide character and gamesmanship.
And I, for one, will be a heckuva a lot happier seeing him as an Oiler than as a Star!
Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer