Down One Huddy

Two of the men in this photo made a living playing defense in the National Hockey League. They went about their business in very different ways and both of them had long, productive careers.

One of them spent his career as one of the two or three best skaters in the game. That beautiful stride along with incredible balance made him breathtaking with the puck. He could turn on a dime, made butter passes and when he had possession you’d have to look long and hard to find negatives.

Defensively he was error prone because he took all kinds of chances, challenged oncoming forwards with low percentage plays and generally pissed off pretty much all the coaches he played for by doing things that are/were verboten in the game of hockey defense. Of all the great defensemen in NHL history you’ll find more scathing comments from coaches about him than any other.

As a fan, I loved watching him play. It didn’t matter if he made a mistake in the first period because he was going to score 2 more in the second period. The problem with that usually comes in the playoffs and Paul Coffey saw his minutes cut back in a few playoff games over the years. When Scotty Bowman traded Coffey, he told the media “you can’t win playing like that.”

Charlie Huddy was never drafted. It’s a little misleading because the year he was eligible (1979) also happens to be the year that the NHL decided to cut back the draft by many, many rounds. In 1979 the NHL 126 drafted kids, but in the season before they’d selected 234 and in 1980 the NHL drafted 210 men. The fact that the Oilers signed Huddy September 14, 1979 which was a month after the 1979 draft (it was held very late, August 9th, because the league had to figure out a way to fold in underagers like Mark Messier while keeping out other kids his age) tells me they had him rated right behind Blair Barnes.

Huddy on defense was a warm blanket on a cold winter night. He was solid, secure, stable, reliable, balanced. A coach’s dream. He read plays very well, broke up 100,000 trips across the blueline with his intelligent plays, and generally played hockey like a middle linebacker. Read, react and execute.

The Edmonton Oilers have Charlie Huddy and they could use a younger version on their blueline. Still, beggars can’t be choosers and I’m happy with the one we’ve got. Huddy gave an interview with Dan Tencer (on the Oilers site) today and gave his wish list for the D pairings:

  1. Sheldon Souray-Steve Staios
  2. Lubomir Visnovsky-Tom Gilbert
  3. Ladislav Smid-Denis Grebeshkov
  4. Jason Strudwick

Huddy also talks about Joni Pitkanen with reference to Paul Coffey and looks forward to a life with Lubo. It’s an interesting article and the pairings are certainly worthy of conversation. That defense needs a Huddy.

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45 Responses to "Down One Huddy"

  1. Oilman says:

    LT….who, in your mind, represents the closest thing to a Huddy in the league today?…don’t say Jan Hejda:o)

  2. Doogie2K says:

    You wonder sometimes, with all the bright souls who coached Coffey, why no one ever thought, “Hey, this defenceman is a disaster in his own end but a genius with the puck. Let’s try him at forward.” Or did they?

  3. Dennis says:

    After checking out the Oilers official site for the first time in a long time, I have two questions:

    1: who’s gonna move the puck from that 24/44 pairing?

    2: how long before Jen Sharpe has her first stalker?;)

  4. Oilman says:

    dennis, I think you’ve answered your 2nd question by asking it;o)

  5. Paper Designer says:

    I can understand the need for a Huddy type, but… whatever. Give me six riverboat gamblers and watch entertaining hockey. The new NHL is trending increasingly towards defence again (ultimately, you simply can’t beat goalies anymore), so I’d rather have an oasis of entertaining hockey in a dull league.

  6. raventalon40 says:

    1. Sheldon Souray-Steve Staios
    2. Lubomir Visnovsky-Tom Gilbert
    3. Ladislav Smid-Denis Grebeshkov
    4. Jason Strudwick

    I find the 2nd pairing a bit questionable, because they are both offensive guys. Unless that’s the whole point of having them together, that is.

  7. spOILer says:

    Smid is the closest thing we have to a Huddy, IMHO, but he’s certainly not being paired the same.

    Why doesn’t he skate backwards better?

    Not enough practice, perhaps.

  8. Jamie says:

    I was a d-man growing up and have always gravitated to watching and admiring defensemen closely, among them: Randy Gregg, Kevin Lowe, Coffey, Huddy, Jeff Beukeboom, Luke Richardson, Craig Muni.

    My favourite would have to be somewhere between Muni and Lowe. Perhaps we could call this a “Huddy”.

    Muni could lay out guys. He could lay down an open ice hit like no other (and clean too, unlike Marchment).

    As much as this year’s team needs a Huddy, they could also use the solid d-sense and hit making abilities of a Craig Muni.

    Strudwick, you up to the task?

  9. Vic Ferrari says:

    That alignment makes sense at evens. Staios and whoever his partner is are going to be playing tough minutes including taking a bunch of own zone draws. (looks like Souray to start, which makes sense, for a stretch there last season Huddy was getting Souray out with the puck heading north a lot, and he didn’t make any hay. Gilbert and Grebeshkov did).

    The forwards are going to have to come back and support the puck instead of hovering for stretch passes. Partly because of this D pair but mostly because the other team’s best forwards are probably going to be on the ice as well.

    I think that everyone knows that you have a point LT, this team needs a high quality defender. Just generally they need a top D pairing. But it’s not going to happen. Methinks that the quality veteran centre that you, HBomb and others pine for … that isn’t going to happen either. Young guys are going to have to grow into those roles. Which is probably for the best in the long run.

  10. Vic Ferrari says:

    On Coffey. I was a Flames fan when he was in his prime. And I never minded seeing him come over the boards for the Oilers. Especially if the Flames were trailing.

    When the local media were fretting about Coffey being out of the lineup one time, didn’t Muckler remark something to the effect that it wouldn’t affect their chances of winning? Some remark along the lines of “check our record with and without Paul in the lineup”, or similar anyways.

    I don’t imagine anyone Muckler up on his challenge. That was pre-internet, it would have taken a day of going through old newspapers to see if he was right or not.

  11. digger says:

    Regarding the Oilers’ record without Coffey in the lineup before he became a Pen, I do recall that it was surprisingly very good, bordering on ridiculous even (my mind wants to say it was something like 18-3, but that’s likely not accurate). But, I also recall that after he was traded, it seemed to take the Oilers nearly the entire season before they adjusted to not having the luxury of Coffey breaking up opposing forechecks all by himself. Their offensive flow wasn’t what it was, but by the end of the regular season they seemed to finally adjust, and put it together in the playoffs and went on to another championship.

    IMO their strong record without Coffey before they traded him was partly to do with everyone putting forth extra efforts to take up the slack, with the knowledge that it was only a temporary measure before he got back into the lineup. It’s a whole other kettle of fish when that same player is gone, and you know that he’s never coming back.

    We saw a somewhat similar thing occur with the Smyth debacle. The team usually managed to keep their heads above water during the times he was out with injuries, but they took a fair bit of time to find their way after he was traded.

  12. Sean says:

    Shit LT, both I and a buddy at work read the title of your post and thought Huddy got a new coaching gig. Good thing we’re only missing a dman ;)

  13. digger says:

    When we’re talking about getting a ‘younger version of Huddy’ though, aren’t we basically asking for a slightly younger version of Staios? When I look at Staios, I see some similar qualites…average size, average speed, defends more with his brain than with any dominant physical quality, good leadership (though IMO Staios seems to be a more vocal leader than Huddy ever was) skills…put Staios in the mid-80′s as Coffey’s dman partner, and I’d bet he’d have gotten 40-50 points/year too.

    For my money the Oilers don’t need another Charlie Huddy, they need another Lee Fogolin. Now there’s a dman that doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to quality dmen this organization’s had. It’s too bad he had to leave in the way he did.

  14. pboy says:

    Huddy was a very, very good passer though and Staios is merely average and that makes a huge difference. Both guys were solid in their own end but when Coffey would allow Huddy to have the puck for a bit, Huddy was capable of making that nice stretch pass to Wayne, Mark, Andy or Jari and send them in alone.

  15. HBomb says:

    I think that everyone knows that you have a point LT, this team needs a high quality defender. Just generally they need a top D pairing. But it’s not going to happen. Methinks that the quality veteran centre that you, HBomb and others pine for … that isn’t going to happen either. Young guys are going to have to grow into those roles. Which is probably for the best in the long run.

    Well, personally, the guy I think we have on this team who is a legit first-set guy is Visnovsky, and I also think Gilbert’s 1-2 seasons away from having first set upside.

    So playing those two together makes sense. They’re going to be taking on more and more responsibility as Staios and Souray age and have to take on less, at least when it comes to ES play.

    But yeah, high quality defender, I’d love one, there is no lie. I’m dead serious when I say I’d pay the incremental cost of “Cogliano” to turn “Souray” into “Boumeester” for the next 5-8 years at around 7 million per. But then again, I like Boumeester a lot more than many and think he’s going to be in the Pronger/Lidstrom tier pretty soon here (i.e. ACTUALLY there, not just assumed to be there by the media in Phaneufian fashion).

  16. Scott says:

    Ah… the “turn Souray into Bouwmeester” pipe dream. I just want it to happen or have my hopes crushed already.

    I think he’ll be in the top tier of defenders in three years. I’d also be willing to pay Cogliano + Souray to get him here, and I really like Cogliano.

  17. Suneil Parmar says:

    looking at Souray’s even strength stats, I’d hate to see him get a lot of 5v5 minutes like he did last season. I’ll be going more into this later in September on my blog, but his PP and PK stats are very very good, but his even strength numbers are brutal. I hope either the coaching staff is working on this with him, or will recognize it and limit his 5v5 ice time. The differences between his even and odd strength numbers are staggering.

  18. Bruce says:

    LT: No shit we could use “a” Charlie Huddy. Every team in the league could use a Charlie Huddy. If not six of them. An all-around, all-ice defenceman. The only current Oiler who reminds me of him even a little bit is Gilbert Gilbert. Well, maybe Staios a little when he’s battling for defensive position on the edge of the crease, otherwise not so much.

    Huddy was an absolute beauty of a player, one of the best free agent steals of all time. A very Smart player who understood the value of moving the puck in the right direction. (Vic woulda loved him.) Often that involved the Smart, simple play to get the puck to Coffey with space, and by the time Coff got to wherever it was he was going pretty much everybody would’ve forgotten who started the play.

    Except the scorekeeper. Charlie racked up some pretty nice point totals, 6 seasons over 40 points, 2 over 50. Huddy had some good options to whom to pass the puck, but I reckon he got a lot of “third assists” which don’t show up in his nonetheless-impressive points numbers. They do, however, appear in the plus column, an area where Huddy excelled. (I realize it’s been a little discredited today, but at that time +/- was the “new” stat on the block and of great interest to the hockey cognoscenti. I have always considered it an important measure for defencemen in particular — and still do. It’s not the be-all and end-all, tough minutes must be factored in, but it’s damned important. Somebody‘s gotta be an outscorer.)

    His first full season, 1982-83, was Huddy’s best statistical year as he posted an awesome 76 GP, 20-37-57, +62. His budding and soon-to-be-permanent defence partner, Paul Coffey, potted 29, making this one of the very few — I’m guessing the only — defence pairs in history with two 20-goal scorers. (I’m almost certain they are the only two Oiler defencemen to ever reach this plateau.) Charles had an unsustainable Sh% of 13.2% that season (his career rate was 5.5%) something that might give Tom Gilbert fans in the audience pause.

    Anyway, for that one magic year everything went in for Charlie and everything stayed out too. His +62 won him the first Emery Edge award for the best +/- in the NHL, just ahead of Gretzky (+60) and Coffey (+52 IIRC). Some thought it a fluke, but Huddy backed it up with two more seasons of +50, and ended his career an outstanding +241 in 1017 GP. Better than that, he posted a career +82 in the post-season, which ranks him #1 on the “all-time” list. Post-season +/- has only been published since 1984, disqualifying generations of players; Huddy’s own number is incomplete and likely short a few plusses. Still, it’s no mean feat to be atop this list (courtesy hockey-reference.com):

    NHL Leaders
    Rank Player +/-
    ——————-
    1. Charlie Huddy +82
    2. Jari Kurri* +73
    3. Randy Gregg +71
    4. Wayne Gretzky* +67
    5. Glenn Anderson* +63
    6. Mark Howe +54
    Peter Forsberg +54
    8. Steve Smith +49
    9. Scott Stevens* +48
    Chris Chelios +48
    11. Claude Lemieux +42
    Mark Messier* +42
    Paul Coffey* +42
    14. Jaromir Jagr +38
    Kevin Lowe +38

    No fewer than 9 Oilers in the top 15, 5 of them defencemen. Every one of them a great player; in my view, there’s not a player on that list who doesn’t have at least a claim to the Hall. Interesting to see the distrubution of the Oilers list, perhaps a cautionary on how hard it really is to project hockey players:

    1. Huddy +82 — undrafted free agent
    2. Gregg +73 — undrafted free agent
    3. Smith +49 — 6th round, 111th overall
    4. Coffey +42 — 1st round, 6th overall
    5. Lowe +38 — 1st round, 21st overall

    Obviously there’s some randomness in there, especially due to where these guys went later in their careers, but even if you look at their stats just with the Oilers, Huddy (+73) and Gregg (+70) are well out in front. Both were of the type one had to watch often to fully appreciate, but this ex-goalie sitting in the right defensive corner for 2 periods every home game for their entire Oiler careers very much appreciated what those guys brought, night after night. (Fogey too, Digger!)

    If you happen to catch the Oilers on one of those classic NHL Network games, Huddy won’t stand out, just a Smart steady player in good defensive position who understood the important principle (especially on that team) of letting the puck do the work. Subtly, he was of the keys to the Oilers famed transition game. His one outstanding skill to keep an eye out for was his his uncanny ability to keep the puck in at the offensive blueline.

    Wow, that sort of turned into an essay, didn’t it? Sorry ’bout that. You get me started on some of my old favourites and if you’re not interested you have to find the Page Down key …

  19. Say No to Mike Johnson says:

    Well it’s pretty easy to see which pair looks out of place. I think our 2nd and 3rd pair are average or better in relation to other teams 2nd and 3rd pairing. Souray-Staois however is definitely below average. Tack on a Chorney and Brule with Staois and get a guy that can handle #1 minutes.

  20. denis.crotty says:

    A bit off topic, but the pairing of Lubomir Visnovsky-Tom Gilbert does not make any sense to me.

    Didn’t Visnovsky blame Crawford for his subpar season last year because he made him play left? I know he is a lefty, but I believe he has had his best years playing on the right side…

  21. Oilman says:

    bruce…why you don’t have your own blog is beyond me. good stuff man.

  22. Dennis says:

    There’s no one on the Oilers D that projects to be a JB and with 89 already in house and 10 signed longterm, it would make sense to dangle 13 in return for JB.

    On the one hand, it looks like he’s gonna walk from Fla so they have to try and get something for him and maybe Cogs would be enough; OTOH, if you read Matty’s piece on him today and saw his McCabe-related quote about how the “TO media blows everything out of proportion” you get the idea that JB wouldn’t exactly cotton to living in Edm.

  23. Vic Ferrari says:

    I never bought into the Coffey love, Bruce. Not at the time and not now.

    I wish the NHL would publish the gamesheets for back in the 80s and early 90s. We could see who these guys were playing mostly with and against. I don’t remember that kind of context for most of the Flames in the 80s, much less the Oilers.

    I have to think that the Coffey/Huddy tandem must have played a bunch with Gretzky, though.

  24. Vic Ferrari says:

    Dennis:

    Didn’t JBo tell a local journalist that he wouldn’t like playing for the Oilers, too much of a fishbowl. A summer or two ago when he was doing off ice training in town.

    I think he got a DUI later that summer and it made the papers, so maybe he had a point.

    Joe Thornton loves San Jose for that reason, he can live like a normal person in California, I guess that wasn’t the case in Boston. How many people live in the Bay Area? Ten million maybe? They get TV audiences in the 20 to 30 thousand range, so i think it’s fair to say that he’s anonymous there unless he’s at the rink.

    I don’t imagine it’s any different for JayBo in south Florida. What are the odds of him turning on the radio and hearing his name? Hell, what are the odds of him being recognized at Safeway?

  25. Scott says:

    Our only hope is that his opinion has changed with age (see Laraque and playing in Montreal). But, yeah, the comment about TO media makes you think twice.

  26. Scott says:

    For those who didn’t see the quote that Dennis and I referred to:

    “I don’t critique people like some people do, but for whatever reason he got a bad rap there,” said Bouwmeester. “You handle the puck a lot and you’re going to give it away sometimes. I think he got a tough break being in Toronto and taking all that heat.

    “It’s good for a guy to go to Florida and just play hockey. It’s one extreme to the next. There’s lot of media in Toronto who blow things out of proportion.”

  27. Bruce says:

    I never bought into the Coffey love, Bruce. Not at the time and not now.

    Vic: Note that above I said you would have loved Huddy, not Coffey. But since you mention it, let’s just review how much Coffey there was not to love:

    1981-82: 80 GP, 29-60-89, +35
    1982-83: 80 GP, 29-67-96, +52
    1983-84: 80 GP, 40-86-126, +52
    1984-85: 80 GP, 37-84-121, +55
    1985-86: 79 GP, 48-90-138, +61
    —————————————
    5 seasons: 399 GP, 183-387-570, +255

    … and if you want to ascribe all that to Wayne Gretzky, well, be my guest.

    Hockey-reference.com confirms Coffey was on the ice for a ton of goals, for and against, but way more for than against. In fact during the above five seasons Coffey was on the ice for an astonishing 1,111 goals for, of which “just” 333 were on the powerplay and the rest at evens, shorthanded, or at Coffey’s particular specialty, 4-on-4 situations. Coffey was on the ice for at least 203 goals in each of those seasons, which just happen to correspond to the Oilers’ five 400-goal seasons, the only such seasons in the history of the league. The string ended when Coffey had his first serious health issue, back problems in ’86-87.

    Sure Coffey was in a great situation — they ALL were, and they all benefitted from playing on a great team with a permissive coach. But to downplay Coffey’s contribution as one of those great players would be foolhardy in my view.

    I wish the NHL would publish the gamesheets for back in the 80s and early 90s. We could see who these guys were playing mostly with and against. I don’t remember that kind of context for most of the Flames in the 80s, much less the Oilers.

    I’d love to see those game sheets too. Going from memory — and bear in mind that I attended virtually every game in that era — Sather didn’t seem to much care who the other guys threw out there, he was more interested on matching up his own guys. Generally speaking the Randy Gregg-Don Jackson duo would play quite a bit with McClelland-Hunter-Hughes or similar; while Coffey-Huddy and Lowe-Fogolin got the cherry minutes with the top guns. For sure Coffey got big powerplay time, and he was one of the weapons on that deadly PK unit as well (9 shorties in 1985-86 alone). At a guess he may have played around 25 minutes a night through those five healthy years.

    I have to think that the Coffey/Huddy tandem must have played a bunch with Gretzky, though.

    Yes of course they did. Coffey was one of the best weapons Gretzky had, and Sather would’ve been nuts not to use them together. When the discussion comes up of great lines in hockey history, I like to make a case for the great triangle of Gretzky-Kurri-Coffey, a trio which combined for an astonishing 2804 points the 7 years they played together. 400 points a year, starting when all three were 19 or 20.

    Coffey and Huddy played quite a bit with Messier and Anderson. They also played a lot with each other, and with Grant Fuhr. So it was no accident that their QualTeam was almost always better than their QualComp. But judging from their huge plus numbers, they didn’t exactly blow the opportunity.

    Speaking of huge plus numbers, in Oilers first two Cup runs Coffey posted a net +47 in just 37 GP. I consider Coffey’s performance in the 1985 playoffs, when he battled through about five different injuries to set numerous NHL records that still stand (including all four of these post-season numbers: 12-25-37, +26) to be the greatest performance I have ever seen from a player who didn’t win that season’s Conn Smythe. And that’s from someone old enough to remember the great Jean Beliveau winning the first one. There have been transcendent performances over the years, but never were there two players so dominant as those ’85 Oilers.

    Oilman: Thanks.

  28. Bruce says:

    One other comment about Charlkie Huddy which is actually germane to the present: self-made as a player who always made his team better even at the cost of rendering himself nearly invisible, he is the absolutely perfect Assistant Coach. He’s the next-generation Jacques Laperriere. I can’t imagine who I would rather have standing behind the blue end of the Oiler bench.

  29. godot10 says:

    Paul Coffey won the Stanley Cup while playing for the Oilers, the Penguins, and the Red Wings. He also won two Canada Cups, and made THE PLAY of the 1984 Canada Cup.

    The Oilers had to keep hauling Rexy Ruotsalainen back from Europe in February because they NEVER replaced that “je ne sais crois” that Paul Coffey gave the hockey teams he played for.

    If one had a core of franchise players, Coffey was the icing-on-the-cake. An elite (non-franchise) complementary/role player, perhaps one of the best ever. Elite teams have other complementary players who would compensate for Coffey’s weaknesses.

  30. HBomb says:

    Paul Coffey won the Stanley Cup while playing for the Oilers, the Penguins, and the Red Wings. He also won two Canada Cups, and made THE PLAY of the 1984 Canada Cup.

    One correction: Coffey was traded at the outset of the 1996-97 season for Brendan Shanahan, so he never won a cup in Detroit.

    That being said, the trade in question may have put the Wings over the top in terms of adding the ingredient they needed to go all the way for the first time in 42 years…..

    Dennis/Vic (re: Boumeester): just from random things I’ve heard “here and there”, I think JBo may have softened his stance a bit and would be more willing to consider playing in Edmonton than he was two years ago.

    Now watch him go asshole and sign in Anaheim to play with Pronger as Niedermayer’s replacement, or take below-market-value to join his boyhood team, the Wings…..either scenario would disgust me, although the latter is a lot more palatable than the former.

  31. Vic Ferrari says:

    The thing is, Bruce, Gretzky was a nutso +386 over the same timeframe. I’m thinking I could have been about +200 playing behind the guy.

    I think a lot of your point is that it was a great team and all ships rise with the tide. My point is that Gretzky WAS the tide.

  32. Oilman says:

    vic, are you really saying that Coffey was only +255? Come on.

  33. Vic Ferrari says:

    Exactly, I suspect that every regular Dman on that team had a much better plus/minus than Messier over the same time, if you prorated for games played. And the reason is simple imo, and it rhymes with Schmetzky.

    And Kris Russell will likely have a much better plus/minus than Jan Hejda this season. Not because he’s a better defenseman, but because he’s far worse, and brings a different skillset too.

    And after Coffey left Edmonton he was a +23 total over the rest of his career, playing mostly on very good teams.

    That’s +78 at home and -55 on the road, for those scoring at home.

    Bowman was right.

    I shudder to think how good Gretzky’s +/- would have been if he’d had Brad McCrimmon playing behind him those years. He might have hit the Bobby Orr type levels.

  34. HBomb says:

    I shudder to think how good Gretzky’s +/- would have been if he’d had Brad McCrimmon playing behind him those years. He might have hit the Bobby Orr type levels.

    True, but maybe he never scores 215 points in 80 games either if that happens.

    Sure, he’d still probably have put up numbers not paralleled by anyone not named Mario Lemieux, but shit, there would be some drop-off….

  35. Vic Ferrari says:

    Bruce:

    I’ll second oilman’s point. You should start your own blog. A few other folks the same. It’s dead easy to do.

    A lot of good stuff get’s missed in the comments sections.

  36. RiversQ says:

    Didn’t Visnovsky blame Crawford for his subpar season last year because he made him play left? I know he is a lefty, but I believe he has had his best years playing on the right side…

    Am I nuts or were those comments all about the PP?

    At least that’s how I interpreted them Left point vs. right point can make a huge difference – especially for this team.

  37. Bruce says:

    Vic: thanks.

    And after Coffey left Edmonton he was a +23 total over the rest of his career, playing mostly on very good teams.

    .. and after Gretzky left Edmonton he was a -35 total over the rest of his career, playing mostly on fairly good teams. During the seven years Gretzky and Coffey were in Edmonton, Wayne posted a net +446; in his other thirteen years combined, he was +1. So who was leaning on whom?

    I’m not saying, I’m just saying. That was a very organic thing those guys had going here, and they were all diminished thereafter. But for years the Oilers simply overwhelmed the NHL, and Paul Coffey was a huge part of the unstoppable force.

  38. Bruce says:

    I suspect that every regular Dman on that team had a much better plus/minus than Messier over the same time, if you prorated for games played.

    Oilers +/- 1981-86 (3+ year Oilers)
    ————————
    Gretzky +386
    Coffey +255
    Kurri +244
    Huddy +209
    Anderson +190
    Fogolin +160
    Lowe +155
    Messier +124
    Gregg +112 (4 seasons)
    Hunter +106
    Jackson +69
    Lumley +57
    Pouzar +40 (4 seasons)
    Semenko +39

    PS: Glenn Anderson was a helluva player.

  39. Vic Ferrari says:

    Damn, Coffey must have played with Gretzky a tonne.

    What happened the next year? I honestly don’t know. Coffey played 59 games, Gregg 52 and Huddy 58, so some injuries in there. A dramatic shift in the plus minus distribution amongst the D though:

    Gretzky: +70

    Craig Muni: +45
    Kevin Lowe: +41
    Randy Gregg: +36
    Charlie Huddy: +27
    Paul Coffey: +12
    Steve Smith: +11

    Wayne must have had a real mixed bag of forward linemates as well. Tikkanen well back at +44, then another big drop to Anderson at +27, Krushelnyski at +26 and Messier at +21.

    Wayne’s talents really would fade quickly after his first year in L.A though. His shooting percentage just went in steady decline over the next several years, presumably the shooting% while he was on the ice did too. And he always gave a lot back the other way, so that didn’t go so well for +/-.

    Still one of the best offensive players in the game for a long while after, but not the dominant player, the true difference maker, that he had been in the 80s.

    People who saw him play in the 90s only ever saw a shadow of the player he had been imo.

  40. Oilman says:

    Wayne’s talents really would fade quickly after his first year in L.A though. His shooting percentage just went in steady decline over the next several years, presumably the shooting% while he was on the ice did too. And he always gave a lot back the other way, so that didn’t go so well for +/-.

    Wayne was what, 27 when he was traded. He honestly should have been in his prime through his years in LA. The game was changing though and the supporting cast was just never the same. But anyone who saw what he did against Toronto in 1993 pretty much saw the Greatest at his greatest.

  41. Bruce says:

    What happened the next year? I honestly don’t know. Coffey played 59 games, Gregg 52 and Huddy 58, so some injuries in there.

    Lots of things happened, one of them being an embarrassment of riches on the blueline. The following 10 guys played defence for the Edmonton Oilers in 1986-87:

    Player | GP season / career
    ——————————
    Muni | 79 + 14 / 819 + 113
    Lowe | 77 + 21 / 1254 + 214
    Smith | 62 + 15 / 804 + 134
    Coffey | 59 +17 / 1409 + 194
    Huddy | 58 + 21 / 1017 + 183
    Gregg | 52 + 18 / 474 + 137
    Beukeboom | 44 + 0 | 804 + 99
    McSorley | 41 + 21 | 961 + 115
    Fogolin | 35 + 0 | 924 + 108
    Ruotsalainen | 16 + 21 / 446 + 86
    ———————————

    Scary, what? 10 guys who played an average of 891 GP in the season and 138 more in the playoffs. Over 10,000 GP for the ten of them.

    Steve Smith was the seventh defenceman, but the Oilers posted a 14-1 record in the games he played in the post-season. Sather dressed 7 in Game 7, a departure from his usual practice, but one that paid off when Gretzky handed Steve the Cup later that evening.

    Marty McSorley played a lot of forward in 1986-87 and not so much defence; he famously made a goal line save in Game 7 of the SCF but was playing RW, since the Oil dressed Coffey, Lowe, Huddy, Gregg, Smith, Muni and Ruotsalainen. But he played the blueline, and played it pretty well, for most of his career.

    Lee Fogolin, great player that he was, got squeezed off the team. And ultimately, so did Paul Coffey, who picked a bad time to hold out on his contract.

    Wayne must have had a real mixed bag of forward linemates as well. Tikkanen well back at +44, then another big drop to Anderson at +27, Krushelnyski at +26 and Messier at +21.

    Tikkanen was indeed the LW on the big line. Jari Kurri finished second in NHL scoring with 108 points, and led the league in ES goals for the third consecutive season with 44. His +/- was uncharacteristically low at +19 but I can assure you he was Gretzky’s running mate as usual that season. Looking at his stats on Hockey-reference.com there’s something screwed up with Kurri that year, he scored 108 points but was only on the ice for 75 GF?
    So there may be an issue there. (I sent them a note)

    [Vic] People who saw him play in the 90s only ever saw a shadow of the player he had been imo.

    [Oilman] But anyone who saw what he did against Toronto in 1993 pretty much saw the Greatest at his greatest.

    Gotta agree with Vic on this one. Certainly Wayne had flashes of greatness throughout — he led the league in assists an astonishing 16 times, in points 10 times — but for night-after-night domination he never really approached in Tinseltown what we saw routinely here during his younger years. What a prodigy he was.

  42. Oilman says:

    no doubt Bruce – I just don’t think Wayne wasn’t dominant at 30….just not as much so as with the Oilers

  43. Bruce says:

    he led the league in assists an astonishing 16 times, in points 10 times

    My mistake … 10 Ross Trophies plus The Tie; Gretzky led the league in points 11 times, including all 8 of his (consecutive) Hart Trophy seasons here in Edmonton.

  44. Doogie2K says:

    @Riv: You’re right, that was PP-specific. He also called Rob Blake a puck hog.

  45. Sean says:

    Vic Bruce and oilman. Excellent read! The little facts in this thread are gold.

    –signed oilers diehard whose first hockey memory is Gretzky getting traded

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