Any fool watching the Oilers this season can see that the futures of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are going to be very good to splendid to something else again (barring injury). The test for Oiler management has to do with the support players, the plumber’s and the 6′s and 7′s and 9′s.
Auditioning youngsters can be fun for prospect junkies like me, but it can also be heartbreaking. Don Ashby was going to be a part of the Boys on the Bus but met with a tragic end; Tom Roulston looked like a player to me, but could never do enough to get past the pack; Marc Habscheid did some nice things, Ken Berry too, and Ray Cote had a memorable spring one year.
By the time the Oilers won the Stanley, the forwards were Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Anderson, Linseman, Pat Hughes, Dave Hunter, Willy Lindstrom, Jaroslav Pouzar, Dave Lumley, Kevin McClelland, Dave Semenko, Pat Conacher and Raimo Summanen. The role players mostly came from Montreal’s draft crop (Hunter, Hughes, Lumley) and Glen Sather found a way to tip his hat to the inspiration for the style of the team (Lindstrom).
The thing is you remember them all. I remember how sad it was to hear of Ashby, the surprise of finding out that Tom Roulston was traded; hell I spent about 5 months back in 79-80 bitching and moaning about the Oilers getting robbed of Bengt Gustafsson (ask Bruce, it was highway robbery).
The great Oilers did not have 12 angry men, or 12 small skilled men or a dozen men who could play it any way you want it (despite some historic accounts). They had a legendary enforcer (Semenko), stunning skill (Gretzky, Messier, Anderson, Kurri), 2-way types (Linseman, Hunter, Lumley, Pouzar, McClelland) and a speed burner to fill out the skill lines (Lindstrom).
We can identify a few Oilers from the current group who would certainly qualify for long term employment on a very good team. I’d offer Hall, RNH, Eberle as absolute keepers and then Gagner, Lander, Paajarvi (who has a similar scouting report to Gustafsson’s) as being good to great candidates.
What say you? How appealing is this group?