ALL-TIME ROSTER: EDMONTON OILERS

wayne-gretzky-stanley-cup

Since we have to endure the lockout for the time-being, I’m going to have some fun.  I have “discontinued”, for the time being due to the lockout, my posts evaluating each team’s current roster.  There’s just not a lot of point in it right now.

Instead, and this might be slightly “Bleacher Report” of me, over the next little while I’m going to go over all 30 teams in the NHL and pick out their All-Time rosters.  Not just a starting line-up, but full rosters, i.e. 23 of the best players in those teams histories at each position, 4 forward lines, 3 defensive pairings, and 2 goalies, plus a 13th forward and a 7th D-man if the situation necessitates.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree on something like this, it would be boring if we all did, and so I do realise that some of my choices will be contentious and there will be some players I either can’t fit it or forget about.  Please point out such disagreements in the comments section.

I’m going to be judging these players based on what they did in the uniform of the team which is being discussed.  For example, I wouldn’t include Peter Forsberg with the Flyers as by the time he returned to the team that drafted him, he wasn’t as productive as the years spent in an Avs uniform.  Some players might be eligible for 2 teams, such as Chris Pronger.

I will be starting with the team I obsess about, the Edmonton Oilers.

FORWARD LINES

oilers cup NHL

L-R: Tikkanen, Smith, Messier, Gretzky, Lowe

1ST LINE:

ESA TIKKANEN—-WAYNE GRETZKY—-JARI KURRI

  • This was a bit of a no-brainer really: this line was dynamite in the mid-to-late 80s, one of the greatest ever seen.  Kurri and Gretzky are both in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Tikkanen: 522 Games, 178 G – 258 A – 436 P (+/- of +100)
    -Gretzky: 696 Games, 583 G (!!!!)- 1086 A (!!!!!!!!!)- 1669 P (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) (+/- of +551!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
    -Kurri: 754 Games, 474 G – 569 A – 1043 P (+/- of +351)
  • Gretzky and Kurri were a match made in heaven from the get-go, but they were unable to find a full-time left winger until Tikkanen came into play in the 1985-86 season (he’d already had some time in the playoffs in ’85 though).
  • Gretzky, as we all know, was the most terrifying player ever seen – The Great One, as they call him.  He wouldn’t be stronger, or faster, or more skillful than the other players, but he would out-think them.  As he himself said, he could see plays developing before they even happened, such was his complete mastery of the game.  Gretzky was both sniper and playmaker, being the only player in NHL history to notch 200 or more points in a season (something he accomplished 4 times), and holding the single-season record with 92 goals in a year (the same year he scored 50 in 39).  He’s the league’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points.My favourite fact about how good he was, however, is that if you took away every goal Gretzky ever scored, and just used his assists, he would STILL be the all-time points leader in NHL history!!!  Now that’s a dominant player.  He changed the game of hockey forever.
  • As an Oiler, Gretzky won:
    -4 Stanley Cups (84, 85, 87, 88),
    -7 Art Ross Trophies as the Leading Scorer (81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87 – he also tied for the lead in 1980 but lost to Marcel Dionne due to scoring less goals),
    -1 Lady Byng Trophy (1980) for Gentlemanly Play at a High Standard
    -2 Conn Smythe Trophies for Playoff MVP (85, 88)
    -8 Hart Memorial Trophies as Regular Season MVP (80-87)
    -5 Ted Lindsay Awards as the Player Judged To Be The Best By His Fellow Players (82, 83, 84, 85, 87).
    -He also would have won 6 Rocket Richard Trophies as Leading Goal Scorer (81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87)  had the award existed at the time.
    -He served as Captain of the Oilers from 1983 to when he was traded in 1988.
    -He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and has had his famous No. 99 jersey retired not only in Edmonton, but around the entire league.
  • Kurri was an outstanding 2-way player.  And I mean outstanding.  Not only was he a brilliant sniper, the only one truly capable of putting away Gretzky’s insane passes, but he also developed into one of the best 2-way forwards in the league.  He also showed he could play without Wayne, putting up seasons of 102 points and 93 points in the 2 seasons after 99 was traded; his performance in the 1990 playoffs is the stuff of legend.  Kurri had highs of 71 goals and 135 points in 1984-85, and won 1 Lady Byng Trophy (1985) and 5 Stanley Cups (84, 85, 87, 88, 90) with the Oilers.  He also would have won the 1986 Rocket Richard Trophy as Leading Goal Scorer had the award existed at the time.  He had his No.17 jersey retired by the Oilers following his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  He is regarded as the first NHL superstar who was born and bred in Europe, and one of the greatest Finns and Europeans to ever play the game – Teemu Selanne has arguably overtaken him in this regard, and Jaromir Jagr is certainly the greatest European scorer of all time.
  • Tikkanen was later to the party, as mentioned above, but still more than did his part.  He was more playmaker than goalscorer, but his primary job was to be the defensive mind on the Gretzky-Kurri line.  He was absolutely brilliant in that role, shutting down the best players the opposition could muster, whilst offering top-notch complimentary scoring (he scored over 70 points 3 times).  He was also a pest-extraordinaire, pissing off the opposition to no end with chippy play and his own brand of the Finnish language, dubbed “Tikkanese” by his peers.  After Wayne was traded, it was Esa’s job to shut down the greatest player the game had ever seen, and he did it damn well.  He won 4 Stanley Cups with Edmonton (85, 87, 88, 90), and was runner-up for the Selke Trophy as the League’s Best Defensive Forward 3 times.

2ND LINE:

CRAIG SIMPSON—-MARK MESSIER—-GLENN ANDERSON

  • Another no-brainer – Messier and Anderson are both Hall of Famers, and Simpson is the last Edmonton Oiler to reach 50 goals in a season (1988).
  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Simpson: 419 Games, 185 G – 180 A – 365 P
    -Messier: 851 Games, 392 G – 642 A – 1034 P
    – Anderson: 845 Games, 417 G – 489 A – 906 P
    • Messier is regarded as one of the greatest leaders ever to take to NHL ice.  He actually started as a left-wing, but gradually transferred to centre over the years, providing Edmonton with a 1-2 punch of Gretzky-Messier.  If you didn’t get burned by one, you’d be burned by the other.  Messier finished his career as the second all-time leading scorer in NHL history, behind only Gretzky, and had his best single season in 1989-90, out of Gretzky’s shadow, when he put up 45 goals and 129 points.  He is also the all-time leader in NHL games played.  He is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and has his jersey (No. 11) retired by the Oilers.
  • As an Oiler, Mark’s accomplishments were as follows:
    -5 Stanley Cups (84, 85, 87, 88, 90)
    -1 Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP (1984)
    -1 Hart Memorial Trophy as League MVP (1990)
    -1 Ted Lindsay Award as Players Player Of The Year (1990)
  • Glenn Anderson was the sparkplug, the guy who had such great energy, speed, aggression and skill that opposition goalies would fear the moment when he came barrelling down the wing and turn in towards the net.  He would have been the “power forward” type that is so coveted nowadays.  Whilst he may not have had the individual accolades that the other Oiler Hall of Famers had, he was just as important to that team as any of them.  He scored 54 goals twice, had another two 40+ goal seasons, and another five 30+ goal seasons, also hitting the 100 point mark 3 times (also getting to 99 point in 1984).  Not bad for a 4th Round Draft Pick.
  • Where he really had value was in the playoffs.  He scored 5 career playoff overtime goals, behind only Joe Sakic (with 8) and Maurice Richard (with 6) in NHL history, as well as 17 playoff game-winning goals, which is 5th all-time. He was one of the most popular players on the team, although he was noted as something of a wild-child.  After being traded to the Maple Leafs with Grant Fuhr in 1991, during the demolition of that great Oiler team, Anderson went on to win another Cup (his 6th) with the Rangers in 1994, and eventually returned to Edmonton (albeit briefly) for a stint in 1995-96.  As an Oiler, Glenn won 5 Stanley Cups (84, 85, 87, 88, 90), and after being inducted to the Hall of Fame had his No.9 Jersey retired by the Oilers.
  • Craig Simpson might not be the most obvious choice in this spot amongst such highly revered players (and if Taylor Hall gets his way Simpson will move down the list before long), and some may not like him due to the fact it was Paul Coffey that was sent the other way in the trade to get him, but he remains the last Oiler to hit 50 goals in a season, way back in ’88, and won 2 Cups with Edmonton (88, 90) as a hard-nosed powerplay specialist.  Simpson was renowned for being fearless, planting himself in harm’s way in front of the net and shovelling in “garbage goals” that weren’t pretty but did the job.  Not many were better than Simpson at that job, but that style of play did unfortunately lead to back problems which ultimately ceased his career at age 30.  Simpson was outstanding during the 1990 Cup run, when he put away 16 goals and 31 points in just 22 games; he also had 2 more 30+ goal campaigns and 3 more 20+ goal seasons.  His place in NHL history is primarily defined by having one of the highest shooting percentages ever, maintaining an average of 23.7%.  That means nearly 1 in 4 of all his shots went in the net!!  He later became an assistant coach for the Oilers, helping lead them to another Cup run in 2006.

3RD LINE:

RYAN SMYTH—-DOUG WEIGHT—-ALES HEMSKY

  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Smyth: 852 Games, 284 G – 311 A – 595 P
    -Weight: 588 Games, 157 G – 420 A – 577 P
    -Hemsky: 559 Games, 124 G – 307 A – 431 P
  • This is where things get a little less obvious.  I had to weigh up whether to swap Simpson and Smyth, but in the end I decided that Simpson – despite playing half the number of games in an Oilers uniform than Smyth – deserved the spot on the 2nd line due to having a 50 goal season, winning 2 Cups, and having a superior points per game (0.87 to Smyth’s 0.69).
  • That’s certainly not to disparage Smyth.  The guy is a consummate Oiler, and some would say the epitome of what it means to be an Oiler.  Never the most skilled guy, but always one of the most passionate, Smyth was (and still is) a fearless competitor who has made a career out of planting his backside in front of opposition goalies, screening shots and tipping pucks into the net.  And since he entered the league in 1994, he’s been one of the best in the league at that unenviable task.  He hasn’t won any individual hardware in the NHL, and hasn’t won a Cup anywhere, but during his time as an Oiler he has won World Junior Championship Gold (95), World Championship Gold (03, 04) and Silver (05), World Cup Gold (04), and Olympic Gold (02), many of those tournaments spent as captain, hence the moniker “Captain Canada”.
  • Smyth also helped lead the Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, and after an emotional (and disastrous) trade to the Islanders in 2007, demanded a trade back to the Oilers in 2011 to see out his career.  He’s had four 30+ goal seasons as an Oiler, and another four 20+ goal seasons as an Oiler. He’s 36, and is still putting up the points, scoring 19 goals and 46 points last year.
  • Doug Weight is regarded as the finest centre to play for Edmonton not named Gretzky or Messier.  He remains the last Oiler to put up 100 points in a season – he had 104 in 1995/96 – and hovered around the point per game mark for most of the rest of his time as an Oiler, also being the last to have a 90 or even an 80 point season when he put up 90 in his final season (2000/01).  He was a playmaker extraordinaire: he only had six 20+ goal seasons in his entire 19 season NHL career, yet scored 1033 points (577 of those as an Oiler), and was renowned particularly for his accurate and hard “saucer pass”.  He served as captain for several seasons, and by all accounts was absolutely outstanding in that role – a true leader, as well as being the clubs top player.
Doug Weight NHL Oilers

Doug Weight

  • Weight had particular chemistry with Ryan Smyth, and the duo formed a dangerous line with fellow scorer Bill Guerin in his short stint as an Oiler, as they briefly led the league in scoring before Guerin was traded to Boston partway through the 2000/01 season.  Whilst an Oiler, he won Silver at the 2002 Winter Olympics with Team USA, as well as a Gold Medal at the 1996 World Cup.  He played in 3 All-Star Games as an Oiler, and finally won his only Stanley Cup in 2006 – as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, ironically playing against the Oilers in the Final.  Everybody in Edmonton cheered as Weight lifted the Cup.  That’s a guy who did some good whilst wearing the Oil-drop.
  • Hemsky is nowadays something of a lightning rod amongst Oiler fans, but not for those of us who realise what he can do.  Between 2005 and 2011, Hemsky was hands-down one of the best right wingers in the league, as well as one of the best Czech players in the World.  In that period, he put up 0.92 points per game, and much like Doug Weight was (and is) a stunning playmaker.  Hemsky dazzles fans game in and game out with his sensational skills and elite skating ability, yet his contributions have been somewhat forgotten due to the fact that he has spent most of the last couple of years struggling with injury.  Even this past season when he was mostly in the line-up – but clearly still recovering from shoulder surgery – fans turned on him due to his lack of output.  I would bet on Hemsky bouncing back somewhat, perhaps not to his previous level, but certainly to a high-quality secondary scoring winger.
  • As an Oiler, Hemsky was brilliant in the Stanley Cup run of 2006 (where he put up 17 points in 24 games and scored perhaps the most important goal in Oiler history since 1998, in Game 6 of the 1st Round against Detroit to win the series), was selected to play in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game (forced to withdraw due to injury) and would have been selected in 2008 if not for injury (again).  He led the Oilers in scoring every year between 2005 and 2009, and in the two years beyond that he still posted the best points per game average on the team.  The great thing about Hemsky?  He does what he does against the best the opposition can offer, and he dominates.  He constantly pushes the puck in the right direction, and that’s exactly what you need your elite players to do.  During his time as an Oiler, he has also won a World Championship Gold Medal (05), an Olympic Bronze Medal (06), the Czech Extraliga Championship (05) and it’s Playoff MVP Award (05).

4TH LINE:

TAYLOR HALL—-SHAWN HORCOFF—-PETR KLIMA

  • The tricky decisions really came to the fore here, and no doubt will cause some controversy amongst Oiler fans, but I stand by my reasoning, explained below.
  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Hall: 126 Games, 49 G – 46 A – 95 P
    -Horcoff: 765 Games, 155 G – 280 A – 435 P
    -Klima:  274 Games, 119 G – 90 A – 209 P
  • Taylor Hall has only worn an Oiler uniform for 2 seasons and is still only 20 years old, but I see him already as one of the most talented left-wingers this organisation has ever had.  He is absolutely stunning as a player, having already posted two 20+ goal seasons and already showing the ability to dominate the toughest opposition thrown his way, all whilst on a terrible Oiler squad.  He’s kind of a hybrid of Messier and Anderson: absolutely fearless (almost to a fault), with a booming shot and is a strong leader (likely the Oiler’s future captain).  He has struggled with injuries, but having had corrective shoulder surgery this past offseason, hopefully that is behind him.  The first No.1 Overall Draft Pick in team history, he has not disappointed one iota, and was on pace for a 36 goal season had he not gone down with injury in 11-12.  He has not won any individual or team awards in his time as an Oiler, but it must be noted that he is the only player ever to win back-to-back Memorial Cup MVP honours, when he played for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL before he was drafted.  Already the sure-fire number 1 winger for the Oilers for at least the next 8 years, Hall should only get better, and will likely end up amongst the Oiler greats already listed.
  • Shawn Horcoff will be hated by some as an inclusion on this list, but I feel it entirely justified.  He is fourth all-time on the Oilers scoring list for centres, and has played his entire career as an Oiler: he has worked his way up from being a 4th Round Draft Pick, to a college scoring star, to a dominant AHL player, to a 4th Line NHL grinder, and eventually to the 1st Line, where he had great chemistry with Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky.  He has had two truly great seasons, in 05-06 where he scored 73 points and helped lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990, and then he had 50 points in 53 games in 07-08.  Like Smyth, Horcoff was never the most talented guys but was (and is) one of the most hard-working and professional players you’ll see.
  • Unfortunately, his large contract (signed after the 07-08 season) has blinded most of the fans to all the other things Horcoff brings.  He is not worth what he is paid (north of $5m per year), but he is a strong two way player who has been asked by every coach he’s had to take on the toughest opposition possible whilst starting a majority of his time in the defensive zone.  That’s a warrior, and yet he’s taken an unbelievable amount of criticism from fans because he doesn’t score enough to justify the contract.  Ignore the contract, and Horcoff is a great 3rd line centre, who has been an outstanding mentor – and captain – for a young Oiler squad going through the darkest times in team history.  He stands a good chance of being the first player to play his entire NHL career with the Oilers, and I can’t think of many more deserving of that honour.  As an Oiler, he was selected to the 2008 NHL All-Star Game (where he won the Fastest Skater competition).
  • Petr Klima is the last Oiler player to reach 40 goals in a season – he scored 40 in 1990/91 – and is particularly noted for scoring the Overtime Winning Goal in the 3rd OT Period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1990.  He had two 20 goal seasons and one 30 goal season for the Oilers aswell, showing himself to be one of the most talented goal scorers the Oilers have had since the “Glory Days” of the 80s ended, although his Stanley Cup win with the Oilers in 1990 connects him to that group significantly.  He was something of a colourful character, and was perhaps inconsistent as a player, but that didn’t stop him from having some great seasons as an Oiler.  Of all the right wingers in Oiler history, Klima is 6th in scoring – despite being 12th in Games Played – a pretty good assessment of how good he was.

13TH FORWARD:

BILL GUERIN

  • I really had to wrestle with who to put here – many would argue for someone like Jordan Eberle or Todd Marchant, and it was very close, but I think Guerin was the most talented player for an extended period during his time in Edmonton.  Guerin only spent 211 games over parts of 4 seasons with the Oilers, but scored 79 goals and 161 points, including 30 goals in 1998/99, 24 goals the following year, and 12 goals in only 21 games in 2000/01 before being traded to Boston.  As mentioned above, his line with Weight and Smyth was leading the league in scoring at the time of the trade, but the Oilers had money issues at the time and couldn’t afford the services of all three.  Nevertheless, in his short time as an Oiler, Guerin was fantastic.

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

1ST PAIRING:

PAUL COFFEY—-CHRIS PRONGER

  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Coffey: 532 Games, 209 G – 460 A – 669 P
    -Pronger: 80 Games, 12 G – 44 A – 56 P
  • Coffey is, like some of the forwards mentioned above, a no-brainer.  I will simply list his accomplishments first:
    -Is second all-time in scoring by defencemen, and had his best years as an Oiler.  He is 13th all-time, out of forwards and defenceman.
    -Holds the record for most goals in a season by a d-man with 48 (in 1985).
    -Holds the record for most points in a single game by a d-man with 8 (also an Oiler record shared with Gretzky and Sam Gagner).
    -Holds the record for most shorthanded goals in a single season by a d-man with 9 (in 1986).
    -Most assists in a single game by a d-man with 6.
    -Longest point-scoring streak by a d-man at 28 games (1985/86).
    -Most goals by a d-man in one playoff year with 12 (in 1985).
    -Most assists by a d-man in one playoff year with 25 (in 1985).
    -Most points by a d-man in one playoff year with 37 (in 1985).
    -As an Oiler, he posted three straight 100+ point seasons (126, 121, 138 points respectively from ’84 to ’86).
    -He also posted an 89 point season (1982) and a 96 point season (1983), as well as a 67 point season (1987) in just 59 games.
    -As an Oiler, he had two 40+ goal seasons, one 30+ goal season, and two 20+ goal seasons (where he scored 29 goals each year), as well as a 9 goal rookie year effort and a 17 goal effort in just 59 games in 1986/87.
    -He won three Stanley Cups with Edmonton (plus one more in Pittsburgh).
    -He won three Norris Trophies as the NHL’s Best Defenceman, including two as an Oiler (85, 86, 95).
    -He played in 14 NHL All-Star Games.
    -He was named to the NHL 1st All-Star Team 4 times, and to the 2nd All-Star Team 4 times.
    -He won three Canada Cups, two of them during his time as an Oiler.
    -Is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and had his No.7 jersey retired by the Oilers.
  • If that doesn’t impress then I don’t know what will.  And remember, this guy, who scored over 40 goals and 100 points multiple times, WAS A DEFENCEMAN!  Those totals are just insane.  Bobby Orr may have transformed the way defence was played in hockey, and was for sure an overall better player, just as Ray Bourque was, but no-one could match Coffey for overall offensive skill.  His blazing speed meant he could essentially act as a fourth forward, whilst having the ability to get back and defend if need be.  One of the best d-men ever to play certainly commands top billing on the Oilers All-Time Roster.
  • Pronger will for sure be a controversial choice on this list, particularly given that (a) he only spent one season on the team, in 2005/06, and (b) he left in the worst way possible – by demanding a trade.  However, the one season he did spend here was tremendous.  Whilst he was good in the regular season, he really turned it up a notch in the playoffs, absolutely dominating games and really dictating the pace of play, whilst asserting his will physically, offensively, and defensively.  The guy did it all, and was a definite candidate for the Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP that year had the Oilers managed to win.  I just couldn’t not put him on here, as he is simply one of the best defenders ever to pull on an Oiler jersey, and a lock for a Hall of Fame induction after he retires.  The Oilers have been left reeling ever since he left, unable to find a replacement.

2ND PAIRING:

KEVIN LOWE—-CHARLIE HUDDY

  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Lowe: 1037 Games, 74 G – 309 A – 383 P
    -Huddy: 694 Games, 81 G – 287 A – 368 P
  • Kevin Lowe owns the record for most games played by anyone in an Oilers jersey, with Ryan Smyth a distant second.  He was the Oilers first ever NHL draft pick, scored the first NHL goal in franchise history, won 5 Stanley Cups with the team (and a sixth with the Rangers), and despite being a defensive defenceman played in six NHL All-Star Games as an Oiler (and a 7th as a Ranger).  Particularly in the high-scoring 80s, that is testament to how good he was.  Nicknamed “Vish”, for “Vicious”, he was renowned for being a fierce competitor, doing whatever it took to win – including playing through broken ribs in the 1988 playoffs to win the Cup.  He served one season as Captain of the Oilers after Mark Messier was traded to New York, and before he himself was traded to the Rangers.  He then returned in 1996 to play another season and a bit for the Oilers, before being made Head Coach following retirement, followed by being named General Manager. He held this post until 2008, when he was promoted to President of Hockey Operations.  His tenure in Oilers Management is a mixed bag, highlighted by a run to the 2006 Stanley Cup, but since then his record got pretty bad.  Still, this is judging him as a player, and as a player he was outstanding.  Many believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.
  • Charlie Huddy is the third leading defence scorer in Oilers history, and whilst not nearly as at the forefront of things as players like Lowe and Coffey were during those wonderful days of the 80s, Huddy was possibly just as important, filling a two-way role by being very good both defensively and on offence.  He tallied over 50 points twice, and over 40 points a further four times.  He won 5 Stanley Cups as an Oiler, and also won the very first NHL Plus/Minus Award in 1983.

3RD PAIRING:

STEVE SMITH—-RANDY GREGG

  • Stats in an Oiler Uniform:
    -Smith: 385 Games, 46 G – 172 A – 218 P
    -Gregg: 453 Games, 40 G – 148 A – 188 P
  • Smith was a big, two-way defenceman drafted late in the 1981 NHL Draft.  Whilst he is unfortunately most remembered for scoring an own goal in the 1986 playoffs against arch-enemy Calgary, a goal which knocked the twice-defending champion Oilers out of the post-season (and on his 23rd birthday, in his rookie year, no less), Smith was a talented defender who, like Huddy, was equally talented on offence and defence.  As an Oiler, he had three 20+ point seasons, a 40+ point season, and two 50+ seasons, and was known for being extremely physical – and piling up the PiMs each season despite not being a fighter.  He was certainly a force to be reckoned with on the Oilers blue, and he won three Stanley Cups with them (87, 88, 90).
  • Gregg is about as close as it comes to being a career Oiler, having played all but 21 of his 474 career NHL games with Edmonton, winning 5 Stanley Cups in the process.  He remains one of the most underrated players in Oiler history, but for those that know the team, he is highly regarded.  More a defensive d-man than an offensive one, he was a stalwart on the Oilers blue, who came into the NHL via the weirdest possible route – and it’s worth briefly talking about it here:As OilersLegends says, he never really considered a pro hockey career as a teenager – he instead went to Medical School at the University of Alberta, but tried out for the U of A Golden Bears hockey team. He didn’t expect to make the team, but make the team he did, and in 4 years there helped the team to two National Championships and was named Collegiate Player of the Year.  Despite intending to continue with his medical career, he was then approached to join the Canadian Olympic Team (which back then was amateur, i.e. no NHLers) in 1980.  He intended to take part in the 1984 Olympics, and ended up playing in Japan for 2 years to retain his amateur status, but the Canadian Olympic system was changed and as a result Gregg decided to turn pro, wishing to play in his hometown of Edmonton, who offered him a contract.He was straight away an important member of the team, and won his first two cups (84, 85) before deciding to retire before the ’86 season.  He was having a contract dispute with the Oilers, and intended to continue his medical career which back then could have earned him more money than by being a pro athlete.  However, Gregg and the Oilers made up, and he came back, ultimately helping them to win the 1987 Cup.  He then retired again, and after playing for a second time in the Olympics, he returned to the Oilers to help them win another two Cups.  He retired again, and the Oilers exposed his rights to the NHL Waiver Draft.  He was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks, but didn’t accept a contract offer until the following year, where he finished out his career.  He then became a full-time doctor, still practising in Edmonton today.
  • Gregg was big and defensively very sound, a perfect compliment to the high-scoring stars on the team.

7TH D-MAN:

JANNE NIINIMAA

  • Niinimaa is the 6th leading scorer (34 G – 154 A – 188 P) amongst defenders in Oiler history, despite only playing in 399 games for Edmonton.  He was consistently Edmonton’s best defenceman from the time he arrived via trade from Philadelphia in 1998 to the time he left via trade to the Islanders in 2003.  That was a difficult period for Edmonton – they were struggling to make money and were threatening to leave town – although they did manage to make the playoffs for several of those years, in large part due to the contributions of players like Niinima.  He was a +40 over his time as an Oiler, and (aside from his 11 game stint after being traded there) never scored less than 28 points in a season.  He was named to the NHL All-Star Game in 2001.

GOALIES

STARTER:

GRANT FUHR

  • Stats in an Oilers Uniform:
    -Fuhr: 423 GP, 226 Wins, 117 Losses, 54 Ties, 4 Overtime Losses
  • Gretzky called him the greatest goalie he ever played with.  Drafted 8th Overall in 1981, the fact he was selected by Edmonton was something of a surprise given the Oilers had already drafted the surprisingly good Andy Moog the year before.  But draft him they did, and boy did they never regret it.  As Bruce McCurdy states in his article at the Cult of Hockey blog, Fuhr was outstanding in his rookie season winning 28 games out 48, along with 14 ties and only 5 losses.  He even went on a 23 game undefeated streak, a record that still stands for rookie ‘tenders.  He struggled in the playoffs that year however, and didn’t have a great second year.  By the 83-84 season, Fuhr was back to his best, although still splitting time with the talented Moog.  He would then come alive in the playoffs in 1984, the year of the Oilers’ first Stanley Cup win.  He posted 11 wins, a 0.910 SV% and a 2.99 GAA – incredible numbers in the 80s, when scoring was mega-high – and despite not being the starter in the last couple of games due to injury, was hailed a hero amongst a whole roster of stars due to his ability to raise his game just when it mattered the most.
  • It can’t have been easy to be the goalie on a team that paid little attention, by and large, to the defensive aspects of the game, but he had lightning quick reflexes, was one of the best puck-handling goalies ever seen at the time, and as mentioned would truly raise his game at the most important times, winning 74 of 111 playoff games for Edmonton.  He gradually took over completely the role of No.1 goalie for the Oilers, and Moog was traded in 1988.  As an Oiler, Fuhr won 5 Stanley Cups (4 as a starter, due to an injury in 1990 that allowed Bill Ranford to take over), the 1988 Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, named an NHL 2nd Team All-Star in 1982, an NHL 1st Team All-Star in 1988, played in 6 NHL All-Star Games, won two Canada Cup Championships with Team Canada, has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (the first, and so far only black man to do so) and had his No.31 jersey retired by the Oilers.

BACK-UP:

ANDY MOOG

  • Stats in an Oilers Uniform:
    -Moog: 235 GP, 143 Wins, 53 Losses, 21 Ties
  • When Moog was drafted, he looked to be the goalie of the future for the Edmonton club, despite being drafted in the 7th Round in 1980.  Unfortunately for him, Fuhr was drafted the next year and took the league by storm.  Yet he still put together several good-to-great seasons in Edmonton, after making the team full time in 82-83 and sharing time with young star Fuhr.  He then averaged around 27 wins per season for the Oilers until he was traded in 1988 to Boston, as he desired more of a full-time starting role – something he had more than earned.  Him and Fuhr formed one of the most formidable goal-tending tandems in the league for the majority of the 1980s, and Moog would win 3 Stanley Cups with the Oilers.  He also played in two NHL All-Star Games as an Oiler (85, 86).  He would face the Oilers in two more Cup finals (88, 90) with the Bruins but would lose on both occasions.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • Tommy Salo – continued Edmonton’s tradition of having good goalies, only once winning less than 27 games in a season in 5 full seasons as an Oiler, although was mediocre in the playoffs.  Twice named to NHL All-Star Game (2000, 2002).
  • Vincent Damphousse – came over in the Fuhr/Anderson trade to Toronto, and played in one brilliant season as an Oiler (38 goals, 89 points).  Was a star before Edmonton, a star in Edmonton, and a star after Edmonton.  Played in the ’92 All-Star Game.
  • Jimmy Carson – the primary return (other than cash) in the Gretzky trade sale, hopes were high for Carson.  He didn’t disappoint, with 50 goals and 103 points in 84 games as an Oiler, but was traded 4 games into the ’89 season because he was unhappy.
  • Bernie Nicholls – a near point-per-game player in parts of two seasons (91-92, 92-93) in Edmonton, scoring 28 goals and 89 points in 95 games, Nicholls was outstanding in helping the ’92 Oilers – reeling from the trades of most of the Glory Oilers – to the Conference Finals, with 19 points in 16 games.
  • Zdeno Ciger – scored 155 points in 204 games as an Oiler, he had a 22 goal season in 93-94, and a 31 goal season in 95-96.  Also scored 4 points in 5 games in 94-95.  Didn’t have success anywhere else in the NHL, really, but was a good scorer for the Oil.
  • Blair MacDonald – A stalwart on the WHA Oilers, was Gretzky’s first NHL linemate and did extraordinarily well, posting 137 points in 131 games as an (NHL) Oiler from 1979 to 1981.  Probably more a product of Gretzky than anything else, but still worthy of mention here without a doubt.
  • Dave Lumley – a big tough winger who spent 386 games as an Oiler, he won 2 Cups (84, 85) with the team.  Most remembered for an incredible 12 game goal scoring streak, where he scored 15 goals and ended the season with 32 goals and 74 points.  He’d never approach anything close to those numbers again, but definitely worthy of mention here.
  • Dwayne Roloson – a welcome addition to the Oilers in 2006 after the debacle that was Markkanen and Conklin and Morrison (“Conkannen”) in goal, and he went on to lead the Oilers on an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals that year.  Would have been the likely Conn Smythe winner had he not been injured in G1 of the final, such was his incredible play.  Went on to have 3 more seasons in Edmonton, the last of which he was likely the team’s MVP once again.
  • Jussi Markkanen – was an OKish backup goalie for the duration of his NHL career, but had his moment of stardom in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.  Roloson had gone down to injury, and Conklin replaced him only to make a huge gaffe to lose Game 1.  Markkanen was put in, and promptly lost G2 5-0.  From then on, he was outstanding, even posting a 4-0 shutout in G6.  Held Carolina to 2 goals in Game 7 but the team in front of him couldn’t get it done, but nonetheless “The Juice” was hailed as a hero in a losing cause.
  • Tom Gilbert – a controversial player in Edmonton, many despise him for his lack of physicality (despite his large size, he was more a finesse player) and his apparent poor defensive play.  Yet he was actually one of the best defenders, both on defence and on offence, the Oilers had during his tenure from 2007 to 2012.  He occasionally played well enough to be considered one of the best d-men in the league by a few.  Broke Paul Coffey’s rookie scoring record for a d-man in 07-08.
  • Fernando Pisani – Pisani has a special place in the hearts of many an Oilers fan, primarily for what he did in the 2006 Cup run.  A quality penalty killer and depth scoring option, Pisani exploded in the 2006 Playoffs to the tune of 14 goals to lead all NHLers, including 2 goals in Game 6 against Detroit in Round 1, and a stunning shorthanded overtime goal in Game 5 of the Final against Carolina that kept the Oilers season alive and stopped the ‘Canes from winning the Cup for a few more days.  Continued for a few more years as an Oiler, but struggled with injury and poor health, primarily being diagnosed with a bad case of Ulcerative Colitis, which earned him a nomination for the Masterton Trophy for commitment to hockey.
  • Jason Smith – the longest serving Captain in Oilers history in terms of games played, Smith was a tough, snarling defensive defender from 1999 to 2007 (captain from 2001).  Led the team to the Cup Final in ’06, the man known as Gator was as respected as anyone could hope to be in Edmonton.
  • Roman Hamrlik – former 1st overall pick acquired from Tampa Bay for two notorious failed draft prospects (Steve Kelly and Jason Bonsignore), Hamrlik spent two and a half solid seasons in Edmonton, posting 103 points in 196 games.
  • Boris Mironov – notorious for being a hell-raiser, Mironov provided quality offensive defending for 320 games as an Oiler, posting 160 points, including two 40+ point seasons.
  • Todd Marchant – an outstanding two-way centre, had his best years in Edmonton.  Skated like a bullet, but noted for not having the best hands when it came to scoring, he defied that notion in the 1998 playoffs where he scored one of the most famous goals in Oiler history on a breakaway in OT in the first round against Dallas.  Scored 343 points in 648 games as an Oiler, and was in serious consideration for the 4th line spot on this All-Time Roster.
  • Curtis Joseph – one of the best goalies of the 1990s, and had some great moments over 2 and a half years in Edmonton, including one of the most famous saves ever made, in overtime of Game 7 in the first round of the 1998 playoffs against the Dallas Stars’ Joe Nieuwendyk – moments before Todd Marchant scored his winning goal.
  • Jason Arnott – had an outstanding rookie season, putting up 33 goals and 68 points in the 93-94 season and coming 2nd in voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.  Was less dominant in his further three and half seasons in Edmonton, but was still very good and most now wish he was never traded.  Very close to earning a spot on this roster.
  • Dustin Penner – controversially acquired as a Restricted Free Agent in 2007 via the offer sheet route from Anaheim, many saw it as an overpayment by a team desperately searching for scoring.  Which it was, but in my opinion Penner didn’t disappoint, despite frequent allegations by fans (and Craig MacTavish) of laziness.  Had two 20+ goal seasons and a 30+ goal season, and was frequently the Oilers’ best player.  Surprisingly good defensively, with advanced stats showing just how good he was at making everyone around him better.
  • Jordan Eberle – has the potential to be one of the Oilers’ best ever draft picks.  Has led the Oilers in scoring in each of his first two NHL seasons, and playing a starring role amongst a bevvy of young Oiler stars, and is still only 22.  Played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2012, and scored 34 goals this season.  Future potential still somewhat unknown, but it’s looking pretty good.
  • Craig MacTavish – came to Edmonton after a tumultuous time spent in Boston, during which time he spent a year in prison for manslaughter via drink driving, but earned the forgiveness of the victim’s family whilst becoming a hard-nosed, face-off winning, quality defensive centre for the Oilers on three Stanley Cup teams (plus a 4th with the Rangers).  Was Captain of the Oilers for two years (92-94), and is renowned for being the last NHLer to play without a helmet.  Later served as Head Coach for the Oilers for almost a decade, leading them to the 2006 Cup Final, and recently came back in a management role.
  • Jeff Beukeboom – a huge, physical defenceman who formed part of the “Twin Towers” duo with Steve Smith, was a force to be reckoned with for three Stanley Cups with the Oilers, as well as the 1994 New York Oilers Rangers Cup-winning team.
  • Ken Linseman – affectionately known as “The Rat”, Linseman was a pest who was renowned for making cheap and dirty plays, but he was a very talented forward who put up 142 points in just 144 games, also winning the Cup with Edmonton in 1984.
  • Bill Ranford – acquired in 1988 in the Andy Moog to Boston trade, Ranford won his first Stanley Cup as backup goalie to Grant Fuhr that same year, but in 1990 – with Fuhr injured – Ranford took the reigns in the playoffs.  He was astonishing, posting 16 wins in 22 games, and a 2.53 GAA along with a 0.912 SV%, gaudy numbers for those high scoring days.  For his efforts in helping the Oilers to their 5th Stanley Cup in 7 years (and first without Gretzky), Ranford was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP.  He spent 6 more seasons in Edmonton, mostly as the starter, before being traded back to Boston.  As an Oiler, he also played in the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, and won the Canada Cup MVP Award that same year.  The last hero from the Glory Days.
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