Edmonton Oilers: Top 5 Unsung Heroes of All Time
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The Edmonton Oilers have been fortunate enough to have on their roster some of the best players that the National Hockey League has ever had to offer.
With names like Gretzky, Messier and Fuhr hanging from the rafters in Rexall, it's easy to remember some of the exciting moments that these stars have provided for the fans.
But for every Wayne Gretzky there was a Dave Semenko, for every Doug Weight there was a Ryan Smyth...players who may not have always put up the best statistics, but have been every bit as important to the success of the franchise as the marquee names.
Here is a list of the Edmonton Oilers' top five unsung heroes of all time.
5. Dave Semenko
Dave Semenko was a tough guy who was always willing to oblige someone and drop the gloves.
Perhaps the most intimidating tough guy in Oilers (if not NHL) history, Dave Semenko was the guy tasked with the responsibility of protecting the best player who ever set foot on the ice.
While Semenko may not have got the credit he deserved for his invaluable role to Edmonton during their dynasty era, those with knowledge of the Oilers knew that if you went after Gretzky, you would have to answer to Semenko.
A player like this may not have a role in today's style of NHL, but back then it was imperative that every team had an enforcer, and no one wore that mantle quite like Dave Semenko.
4. Esa Tikkanen
Tikannen was a hard-nosed player and a valuable member to the Oilers dynasty in the 80s.
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While Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri were charged with providing the offense on the Oilers' No. 1 line during the 80's, it was Esa Tikkanen who had the responsibility of providing the defense and physicality for the team's top unit.
A member of five Stanley Cup teams (four with the Oilers and one with the Rangers in 1994), Tikannen was a no-nonsense type of player whose defensive prowess led the Finnish star to be a finalist for the Frank J. Selke trophy (awarded to the best defensive forward in the NHL) on several occasions.
It was this defensive prowess and his blend of Finnish/English dubbed "Tiki-Talk" that Oilers fans will most remember.
3: Craig MacTavish
Craig MacTavish was a both a good player and a good coach for the Edmonton Oilers.
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Perhaps known best for being one of the last players in the NHL to not wear a helmet, Craig MacTavish was a valuable member of three championship Oilers teams in the 1980s.
"Mac T" was never much of a point scorer, but his physical game and particular brand of nastiness endeared him to the blue-collar fans in Edmonton.
MacTavish was also a great captain for two seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers prior to the 1994 season.
MacTavish also deserves recognition for his work behind the bench as the Oilers head coach, guiding the team to within one win of the Stanley Cup in 2005-06.
2: Bill Ranford
Bill Ranford still remains one of the best goalies in Oilers history.
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Many may have questioned the Oilers when they traded All-Star goalie Andy Moog for a young goaltender out of Brandon, Manitoba, but what the team got in return was a goalie who went on to be an extremely valuable piece of the post-Gretzky era Oilers.
With names like Fuhr and Moog already in the minds of Oilers fans, Ranford helped cement his status as an Oilers hero with his remarkable play during the 1988 playoffs and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy (given to the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs) for his efforts.
1: Ryan Smyth
Ryan Smyth is perhaps the most unsung hero in Oilers franchise history.
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No one seems to represent the Oilers better than Ryan Smyth.
The kid from Banff who served as a stick boy for the Oilers and grew up to play for the team he loved.
When players like Doug Weight and Bill Guerin left for richer pastures, it was Smyth who remained loyal to the Oilers.
When the team traded the gritty left-winger in 2007 due to contract negotiation problems, it was a gut-wrenching scene as Smyth bid farewell to the fans at the Edmonton International Airport.
Smyth has since found his way back to the Oilers, and though it may have cost him a Stanley Cup, "Smytty" is back where he belongs.
There is just something wrong seeing Ryan Smyth in anything other than a copper and blue uniform.