Since the boys of winter have decided to lock the game away, it gives us some free time to look back on a simpler time when men were men and money took a back seat. 🙂
The Oilers lost 4 straight to the Islanders in the spring of 1983, but they were already an outstanding team and actually played well in the 4 losses to the Islanders.
For Oilers fans it was only a matter of time, and yet until your team wins Stanley it isn’t official (ask Canucks fans today. Or yesterday. Or 1975). The 82-83 Oilers scored at will, but the 70-71 Bruins had done the same and fallen short.
For this Oiler fan–on his honeymoon the day after the Islanders raised Stanley–an article in the Hockey News struck a nerve and is an item I have had in my possession since then. In an article called ‘On the Contrary’ Fischler compared the Islanders victory over Edmonton in 1983 to the Battle of Britian and the Battle of Midway, with the Islanders representing Churchill and America, respectively.
- Fischler: There are those who believe that someday the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup. Do not believe it. As long as Glen Sather runs the Oilers, they can be stopped. Wayne Gretzky is Ted Williams–a winner but not a champion. That’s an important distinction. Williams has no World Series ring and Gretzky–with all of his style and grace–may never have a Stanley Cup ring. It (a SC) may never come if Gretzky persists in taking the dives and then bawling at the officials. Nor will it come if the Oilers play the same guttersnipe hockey–Gretzky, Kurri and a few other clean ones excluded–played by their glory-less leader when he was tramping around the NHL.
Sather entered the summer in need of a strong, gritty C (they had traded Laurie Boschman for Willy Lindstrom at the deadline. A good trade, but it left them weakened up the middle) and more toughness and experience on the wing.
Among the major stories that summer? Paul Coffey was apparently off to Montreal for Doug Wickenheiser and Gilbert Delorme, and another young member of the blue was possibly on his way out of town.
The Oilers would sign Lowe to a 4-year deal in early September of that year, at what was reported to be in excess of $150,000 per season.
The lineup the 1983 playoffs didn’t need a lot of tinkering:
- Goal: Moog (16); Fuhr (1)
- Defense: Coffey, Lowe, Gregg, Fogolin, Jackson (all 16); Huddy (15); Gary Lariviere (1)
- Center: Gretzky, Linseman, Tom Roulston (all 16); Ray Cote (14); Don Nachbaur (2); Garry Unger (1)
- Left Wing: Hunter (16); Lindstrom (16); Messier (15); Semenko (15); Jaroslav Pouzar (1)
- Right Wing: Kurri, Anderson, Pat Hughes, Dave Lumley (all 16)
My memory of that era had some of the wingers playing C (Messier, Hughes) and Roulston and Cote may or may not have played center. I do know the C’s were 99, Linseman, Boschman and Roulston before Sather traded Boschman.
The Oilers had several hopefuls, the skilled men (Habschied, Summanen) and some toughness in the system but nothing immediate to help fix the holes where the rain comes in. They entered the summer with two well regarded goalies, 6 pretty good to stellar defenders and the heart of the offense that would bring Stanley to town 5 times. The Oilers made a move at the deadline (Lindstrom) to add some help on the wings but looked in-house for other solutions.
Up next: opening night 83-84, a flurry of signings that are similar and ineffective, a small trade that brought big results and a position change that unleashed a fury that would punish NHL teams for over a decade.