The Edmonton Oilers were once the team to beat. They had everyone dreading the prospect of playing them, because they would annihilate any team they played. Over time, the Oilers began their slow decline into obscurity, now almost altogether forgotten about except for their glory years.
What will it take to force hockey fans to once again remember the Oilers, and perhaps even fear them like before? A Stanley Cup? We were close in 2006 and had everyone talking, but after that the buzz surrounding the Oilers seemed to die off completely. Why? Maybe because we haven’t made the playoffs since?
The Oilers need to be consistent if they want to be remembered. We don’t have that one amazing player like we used to in Gretz to take us to the cup. We don’t have an amazing coach who dreams up inventive plays. So what do we have going for us?
Well, we have much the same thing that the 1990 Stanley Cup winning Oilers team had. We have youth on our side.
The Oilers kid line of 1990 was the second greatest of all, following Toronto’s line of Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau, and Busher Jackson.The original Oilers kid line it consisted of Joe Murphy, Martin Gelinas, and Adam Graves. These players brought the Oilers to the Stanley Cup in 1990, where they beat the favoured Boston Bruins.
This was the first year that the Oilers weren’t favourites to win the cup; they went in as the underdog and proved everyone wrong. Sound familiar? The three players were huge contributors to the run, and without them, we may have one less banner hanging from our rafters.
The kid line of today consists of Robert Nillson, Andrew Cogliano, and Sam Gagner. In the final 20 games of last season, the line had a combined total of 50 points. These three are offensive powerhouses.
So what if they can’t seem to play defense and get the puck out of their zone? That’s not their job. Their job is to score goals and get in the face of that goalie, and make him shake in his skates.
So is their really a difference between the team of 1990 and the one of 18 years later? Well, we are still the underdogs. Even more than we were back then.
In the 1990-91 cup run, Grant Fuhr was injured (yet again-he had spent most of that season watching rather than playing), so the Oilers were forced to play their back up, Bill Ranford. Ranford was not their star, and he was not expected to win the cup for them. But he did, and he went on to win the Conn Smythe trophy.
Well, I am putting Rolly on the same level as Ranford on this one. He is not the sensation that Fuhr was, yet he is a solid goaltender, and one who really shines through when the pressure is on. He led us within reach of a 2006 Stanley cup, and when he was unfortunately injured, our hopes were lost.
This 1990 team had no true star, Gretzky had been traded just two years ago, and as a result no one believed the team could go on to win the cup without him. Well, our team now has no true star. They had good players, and we have good players now.
The roster of the 90’s team included Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Craig Simpson, Mark Lamb, Esa Tikkanen, Jari Kurri, Petr Klima, Kelly Buchberger, Craig MacTavish, Adam Graves, Joe Murphy, Martin Gelinas, Dave Brown, Steve Smith, Randy Gregg, Craig Muni, Jeff Beukeboom, Charlie Huddy, Kevin Lowe, Bill Ranford, Grant Fuhr and Pokey Reddick.
None of these players were sensational, with the exception of the Moose, who was a fabulous leader and a consistent goal-scorer. Our captain today has the same attitude, perhaps not the same level of skill, but he sticks up for his team whenever he needs to. What was so special about the 1990 team is the way they all played together. This was a tight-knit team, and they seemed to know each other inside and out.
Perhaps this is where the biggest difference comes in. our team of today does not seem quite as close as the prior teams. But this is partly due to the fact that several of our veteran players had been traded and fresh faces were acquired.
However, the team is coming together. The lines are started to play well with each other, and bonds are being formed. We could use a couple more skilled players, but the most important thing is that the team clicks.
With last season’s team, sure we might have had more goal-scorers, but the team was very much divided. There were the younger, party hard guys, versus the older and undoubtedly wiser players who chose to stay out of the limelight. This year, everyone seems to be on the same page.
I really hope that Tambellini doesn’t get rid of too many of these talented youngsters in the off season. Our team needs to become as close-knit as the team of the 1990s.
Once that happens, I don’t see why the underdogs can’t strike once again. Hold on to your helmets folks, the kids are coming!