If I recall correctly, we all thought the Oilers were going to win the Stanley on admission into the league, but really started thinking about it by Christmas 1980. That fall, Glen Sather would welcome 56 men—19 returnees from the 1979-80 Oilers—and the second wave of a stunning pair of draft hauls.
There were six new draft picks, two getting lots of attention. Paul Coffey was No. 6 overall and a defenseman who could help offensively. Risto Siltanen and Doug Hicks were the top offensive defensemen in 1979-80, Coffey would eventually emerge on another level after some growing pains. Siltanen had a crazy shot from the point, I can still remember the sound it made when missing the net by two feet—he did it a few times each game. Hicks was a rugged player who was a little more of a veteran amongst the mostly teenage group that first season.
The other draft pick was a Finn, LW Jari Kurri, who was noticeable because of the large population from the country—Siltanen, new arrival Kurri and acquisition Matti Hagman who had been with the Boston Bruins a few years earlier. All of these memories come from Jim Matheson who wrote about it here back in 1980.
FALL 1980 TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
- GOAL: Gord Garbutt, Peter Lopresti, *Ron Low, *Eddie Mio, Andy Moog, Bob Dupuis
During the 1979-80 season, Edmonton employed six goalies, but at training camp in 1980 only Ron Low, Eddie Mio and Bob Dupuis returned. Andy Moog was a seventh-round pick but he would play during the 1980-81 season.
- DEFENSE: Bryon Baltimore, *Colin Campbell, Paul Coffey, Jim Crosson, *Lee Fogolin, Mike Forbes, Larry Goodenough, *Doug Hicks, John Hilworth, Charlie Huddy, *Kevin Lowe, Mike McCann, George Pesut, *Pat Price, *Risto Siltanen.
Lee Fogolin was my favorite defenseman by 1980, he was very strong and tough plus he could play. Reliable, dependable. Pat Price could never outrun his past, whenever he’d get mentioned on the game broadcast the words would surround his early promise and current predicament as less than superstar. I always cheered for him because of that, but he didn’t hang around for the good times.
Kevin Lowe struggled as a rookie, there was a time when he could have been sent out early in 1979-80. He matured quickly though, Lowe was a very good player for a long time, he’ll eventually make the Hall. I could tell you stories about pretty much all of these guys (George Pesut was a former California Seal, Huddy was probably happy he didn’t get drafted because the signing bonuses were better for good undrafted free agents than for late picks) but let’s move along.
- CENTER: Dave Barr, *Wayne Gretzky, Matti Hagman, *Mark Messier, Paul Messier, Walt Poddubny, Kevin Redmond, Gord Stafford, Mike Toal, *Stan Weir, Mike Winther.
This is the original listing from Matty’s article, I didn’t move No.11 here. Messier and Weir spent time together, 99 played center and Hagman was coming in to replace Ronny Chipperfield (who had been dealt for Ron Low).
Today is the anniversary of the Gretzky sale, everyone will want to talk about it but the truth is there is nothing to say. Ultimate betrayal of a fan base. The entire story in six words. If you’re an Oilers fan, nothing about this story brings any joy at all, just searing pain. You’ll see chapter and verse about it everywhere today, but not here. Screw it.
- LEFT WING: *Don Ashby, *Brett Callighen, Scott Currie, Barry Dean, *Peter Driscoll, *Dave Hunter, Max Kostovich, Jarri Kurri, Dean Magee, Mark Miller, *Dave Semenko, Roy Sommer.
I always love looking back on these names, but am also always saddened when arriving at Don Ashby. Damn shame. Kurri is listed at LW, Roy Sommer was fairly well known among the group of newcomers. Brett Callighen was a great story, he lost his career to a fluke eye injury.
- RIGHT WING: Glenn Anderson, Shawn Babcock, Dale Baldwin, Blair Barnes, Rick Bourbonnais, Mike Kouwenhoven, Bill Joyce, *Dave Lumley, *Blair MacDonald, *Don Murdoch, Cal Roadhouse, Tom Roulston.
Glenn Anderson was pretty famous for his work with the Olympic team, I don’t think we had any idea how good he would be in 1980 fall, though. Between he and Jari Kurri, this position was turned over in the most incredible way.
2017 TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
- GOAL: Cam Talbot*, Laurent Brossoit*, Eddie Pasquale, Nick Ellis, Shane Starrett, Dylan Wells, Stuart Skinner.
I keep reading how vulnerable the Oilers are with Talbot and Brossoit, but how many teams could survive without their No. 1 goaltender? Counting on Talbot to perform at that incredible level of one year ago may not be wise (could be more wobble) but I think the Oilers are in excellent position at goaltender for the coming season. If Brossoit can perform well in his 25 games, maybe even better than that by season’s end. When it comes to Brossoit, I think people are confusing unproven with incapable. Let the man have his time at bat. Nick Ellis remains a curio but could be more.
- LEFT DEFENSE: Oscar Klefbom*, Andrej Sekera* (inj), Darnell Nurse*, Yohann Auvitu, Ryan Stanton, Dillon Simpson*, Keegan Lowe, Ziyat Paigin, Caleb Jones, Ben Betker, Dmitri Samorukov.
The big news here is Sekera’s injury, it could cost him half a season and even then we don’t know how well he’ll perform after return. Oscar Klefbom will need to repeat his breakout season and then some, Darnell Nurse will carry a heavier load and the club badly needs someone like Yohann Auvitu to emerge. The 2015 draft (defense division) arrives in pro hockey and we’ll see how it shines. I think the Oilers have high hopes.
- RIGHT DEFENSE: Adam Larsson*, Kris Russell*, Matt Benning*, Eric Gryba*, Mark Fayne*, Ethan Bear, Ryan Mantha.
Peter Chiarelli turned over the entire position last summer/early fall and all of the major players return. Possible Kris Russell moves to LH side for the Sekera absence, but the depth chart makes more sense to me having him here. I like the depth but part of that is based on Mark Fayne so I could be a stone alone.
- CENTER: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Letestu, Brad Malone, Joe Gambardella, Grayson Downing, Josh Currie, Kyle Platzer.
It’s an amazing depth chart at this position, absolutely stunning talent level. McDavid’s comments this summer have been music, he’s not the least bit satisfied and hungry for another chance at Stanley. We may find out this winter if Leon can push a line and Nuge could play top 6F at times when the club needs a different look. Among the lessers, Joe Gambardella is the most intriguing, his forechecking might find a home on the NHL penalty kill sooner than later.
- LEFT WING: Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Jussi Jokinen, Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Khaira, Joey Laleggia, Ryan Hamilton, Braden Christoffer, Evan Polei, Tyler Benson, Ostap Safin, Kirill Maksimov.
This is a terrific depth chart in my opinion, lots of veteran depth and utility, along with some promising youngsters who have varying areas of skill. The achilles for the youngsters is offense, making Benson’s development all the more important. Wise moves at the draft table to grab Safin and Maksimov this past summer.
- RIGHT WING: Ryan Strome, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian, Anton Slepyshev, Iiro Pakarinen, Ty Rattie, Mitch Callahan, Kailer Yamamoto, Patrick Russell, Greg Chase, Brian Ferlin, Chad Butcher, Dave Gust, Zack O’Brien.
The most difficult position on the roster to estimate, especially if LD stays at center. Some talk of moving Nuge here, the one major takeaway from summer activity is we’re going to see Jesse Puljujarvi in a feature role. If it doesn’t work, Kassian, Slepyshev and even Jokinen could slide in at 2R for a little or a long time. Rattie and Callahan remain distant but intriguing bells, Kailer Yamamoto is going to be heard from but my suspicion is the Oilers send him down early.
SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS
What really got us excited about 1980 was the continued development of established youngsters like Gretzky, Messier, Lowe added to the new rookies like Anderson, Kurri and Coffey. It had the impact of a takeoff at Cape Canaveral with all systems working. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since: Every bet worked out to the power of infinity. Crazy.
In modern terms, it would be as if Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto and Ethan Bear all arrived this fall and grabbed regular spots opening night—and then flourished beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. It was the impossiblest of times. We can’t get there from here, but even a success Jesse Puljujarvi will bring this team closer to the dream.
I don’t think the McDavid Oilers are going to have the breadth and depth of the 80s Oilers, but we knew that already. What this team badly needs is another Matt Benning, for Joe Gambardella to become Rem Murray in a quick hurry and for Jesse Puljujarvi to score 20 goals in a responsible season. Is that too much to ask? Probably.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy Wednesday, starts at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Mitchell, TSN. The Blue Jays are still hanging around, with bats heating up. Can they get there from here?
- Brad Janishewski. Legendary jet funny car driver tells tales and has a major announcement to make about he and wife Heather’s career in the sport.
- Andrew Bucholtz, Awful Announcing & The Comeback. We’ll talk CFL and Eskimos historic injury run.
- Brock Otten, OHL Prospects. Brock wrote about the Oilers OHL prospects the other day, we’ll review.
@Lowetide on twitter, 10-1260 text. Talk soon!