I’ve been wondering about the Edmonton Oilers and their gifted kids. Folks, I don’t think there’s a way to screw this up to any significant level. Unless the Oilers pull an “Arnott” or trade one of the kids on an entry level deal for a Bouwmeester it seems to me this train should drive deep into the first division.

Playoff success is less predictable.

How many of the current Oilers could we answer ‘yes’ to when applying their name to the following question:

  • Could the Oilers win a Stanley with (player name) as their (position on the roster)?

The hard part is done. Right? The Heart of the Order is Hall, Nuge, Yakupov, Eberle, Petry, Schultz. Veterans like Hemsky, Smyth, Horcoff, Smid, added to quality young talents like Gagner, Paajarvi, the coming blue, Dubnyk?

By 1980-81, the Oilers had:

  • C: Gretzky, Matti Hagman, Stan Weir
  • L: Messier, Brett Callighen, Dave Hunter, Dave Semenko
  • R: Kurri, Anderson, Blair MacDonald, Dave Lumley, Donny Murdoch, Curt Brackenbury

It’s interesting to look back and see which of these men played on special teams. This is from hockey reference, goals for on the PP and GA on the PK

PP GF (on ice)

  1. Gretzky 67
  2. Kurri 36
  3. MacDonald 27
  4. Callighen 25
  5. Hagman 19
  6. Messier 17
  7. Anderson 16
  8. Semenko 11
  9. Murdoch 11

I remember this team well, look at those Gretzky wingers–old and new–on the ice for the magic. The kids (Mess and Andy) doing well with their time and Murdoch matching Semenko in half a season. Fun group there, Hagman’s long forgotten but he was a nice player.

PK GA (on ice)

  1. Weir 44
  2. Messier 30
  3. Hunter 29
  4. MacDonald 18
  5. Gretzky 17
  6. Anderson 13

Weir played the current Horcoff role, and we can see Messier–even as a young man–doing the tough work. Hunter is on this list but not Lumley–I was surprised but do remember Lumley being in the doghouse one long damn time and this might have been the winter.

We can match today’s forwards to the legendary team pretty well–99, Messier, Kurri, Anderson would be Nuge, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov–and we can match some of the others (Weir=Horcoff, Smyth=MacDonald or Callighen) but I keep coming back to the third line–Hunter, Lumley, even Callighen–those checkers who may not score but also don’t give up a score while the best players get a breather.

That little area right there–the Weir/Hagman/Callighen/Hunter/MacDonald group–that’s the next step for Steve Tambellini. I expect some will come from the group of kids that includes Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen and Pitlick, but also believe that acquiring a player or two with some experience–like Hunter and Lumley by 1981–is a very good plan.

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  1. Ducey says:

    I love Lenny. My favourite TV character of all time.

    I will hold my excitement until I see N64 and Schultz play 50 NHL games and prosper.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Loved Law & Order, still watch it but I’ve seen them all so many times. Agree on Lenny, great role for a great actor.

  3. sliderule says:

    Other than how much effect Gretsky had on the old guys group this group could end up being better.

    Hall at this point in his career is better than Anderson or Messier.From here forward who knows.

    Nuge will never be the great one but he so far shows similar power play skill and way more and I mean way more defensive awareness and checking skill..

    Eberle is way better than Macdonald or Weir or any of those other guys

    The wild cards are Yak and Schultz.Can they come close to Kurri and Coffey ?

    One of my buddies always said to me we don’t know how lucky we were to have all this on front of us in Edmonton.

    If it all works out with injuries and Improvement maybe we can say that again.

  4. Woodguy says:

    Hagman’s long forgotten but he was a nice player.

    Matti and Jari made me think that Finland produced hockey players like Canada did when I was a kid.

    I think Matti played with 99 and 17 that year (I might be wrong)

    I remember thinking that every LW who played with Gretzky wore 10 (Hagman, Pouzar)

    MacDonald was shipped out that year, and Pat Hughes came in from the Pat Price trade to PIT.

    Hughes was 3C after Weir and Unger went away no?

    I remember Hughes hanging 6 goals on Calgary one night. Was there with a buddy, was 11 or 12 and took the 3 buses to get to the rink and found out 2 of the buses stopped running after 7pmand had to do a lot of walking to get home after getting as far as Westmount.

    Callighen was almost done as a player by this time too as he got his eye injury in Feb 1980.

    Horcoff and Smyth are good guys for that spot and you nailed the guys coming in.

    I think PRV has a Sykora type career in him and that’s a good thing. Harski might be a Rosie/Lumley. Lander a Hughes (Hughes was better offensively Lander is at this time, but its early) and Pitlick is still too new to pigeonhole yet, he could be something else entirely. (good or bad)

    Out of all those guys I think Pitlick *might* have the best shot at top 6 time on the OIlers given his size and speed and the Oilers praying to every god imaginable for a large man in the top 6. PRV scored 15 as a teenager, so maybe the new coach can pick him up, but he’ll never be a large man.

    Oilers are deep in wingers eh?

    Wingers that came move up and down the line up are valuable.

    Right now only Smyth and Jones can, and only Smyth does it with any kind of effectiveness and his effectiveness is waning greatly.

    Inter-line competition will keep everyone sharp give carrots to kids who might drive better results for everyone with their enthusiasm and desire to move up the chart.

    Bowman was a master of using ice time as a carrot, even with the 70′s Habs who had more talent at every position than everyone else. If you were going, you got the ice time. As it turns out, using that method results in more players going than not going. Good strategy.

    Rambling post…….

  5. Woodguy says:


    Eberle is Kurri.

    Kurri’s shooting percentage over time:

    1980-81 15.8
    1981-82 15.2
    1982-83 20.6
    1983-84 26.8
    1984-85 27.2
    1985-86 28.8
    1986-87 25.6
    1987-88 20.8
    1988-89 20.6
    1989-90 16.4
    1991-92 13.8
    1992-93 12.9
    1993-94 15.7
    1994-95 11.9
    1995-96 11.4
    1995-96 13
    1995-96 3.7
    1996-97 11.9
    1997-98 8.2

    Career 19.1


  6. bookje says:

    Too many small euro puffs on that team to have any success, woof woof.

  7. bookje says:


    Tom Renney dished out ice time like he was playing pinochle, at least that is the best I can make of what he was doing.

  8. sliderule says:


    Eberle is Kurri.

    Kurri’s shooting percentage over time:




    Man I never realized how accurate a shooter he was.

    All I can remember is pass across from Gretzky and one timer GOAL.

  9. LMHF#1 says:

    Trading Eberle, which seems a lot more popular/acceptable around here than it should be, would screw this up in a damn hurry.

  10. hags9k says:

    Agree that Eberle is the Kurri.

    Just read the other morning that Kurri averaged 52 goals and 110 pts/yr over a 7 year period. That damn near had my coffee coming out the nose.

    Here’s to Yak being the Anderson, Schultz being the Coffey and all of Oilernation bathing in glory for years to come.

  11. DSF says:

    LT, you should know better than anyone that this team is hugely out of balance.

    Save the odd Cinderella tip toe through the tulips, (the 2006 Hurricanes) championship teams are built from the back end out with an above average goaltender, a dominant top pairing and depth at centre.

    The Oilers have NONE of these.


    If you realize that the Oilers are likely at least two years from even making the playoffs, Whitney is done, Horcoff is done, Belanger is done, Smyth is done and the young men lined up to replace them are at best second pairing defensemen, bottom 6 forwards and a couple of licks and promises in goal.

    To be successful, the Oilers have to have better talent at multiple positions.

    They don’t.

    They have one very good centre, some dynamic top 6 wingers and a bunch of blah.

    Perhaps Tambellini will shake off his somnabulance and start filling holes with talented players in positions of need but it’s likely going to take trading one of the uber kids to get the job done.

  12. DSF says:

    Trading Eberle, which seems a lot more popular/acceptable around here than it should be, would screw this up in a damn hurry.

    Hall will be the one traded. And, so it should be.

  13. gd says:

    If we’re looking at how the 80s team was built, they really didn’t depend on any significant vet additions other than 3rd liners. The D was pretty much all homegrown and the core learned to win on their own. Even Linseman was under 25 when he was brought in. The Pouzars/Lidstroms were helpful, but I believe they stil would have won every cup with an average 3rd and 4th line.

    I think we forget how bad the team was for their first year and three quarters considering they had Gretzky scoring 130 & 160pts. They only made the playoffs each year because 16 out of 21 teams made it. They became a top team in 1981-82, with only one sig vet, Unger, and he took the worse penalty in franchise history in the “Miracle on Manchester”.

    I don’t know if that means this team is okay not bringing in any vet leaders, but that team didn’t need many.

    Ps: I knew Kurri’s shooting percentage was unsustainable. Look at how it fell off once he got to his mid-30s. I will be pissed if they sign Eberle through 2025.

  14. Lowetide says:

    I honestly don’t recall a lot of trade Eberle chatter. Did I miss that?

  15. bookje says:

    D S F – yes, the Oilers suck, got that, move along now.

  16. Woodguy says:


    Both Tyler and Zona floated the “sell high on Eberle” as they are wont to do from time to time and some of that made its way here, but not much.

    At least they said it should be a #1 Dman coming back.

    Oilers have a lot of wingers so if you are going to trade for a #1 Dman, that’s where its coming from.

    I like keeping him.

    His % may not be sustainable, but I think its too early to know where his true median lies.

  17. commonfan14 says:

    Woodguy: Kurri’s shooting percentage over time:

    Were shooting percentages generally higher across the board back then though? I’m asking because I don’t know where to find historical shooting percentage data and because goalies seemed to get beat by unscreened slappers from the blueline with some regularity back then.

  18. Ribs says:

    I said that I’d have to think long and hard about Eberle for Hedman a while back.

  19. BONVIE says:

    Not nearly as good a my favourite Oiler. Who basically had his carrer end at 26 years of age.

    1985-86 18 14.9
    1986-87 19 19.5
    1987-88 20 31.6
    1987-88 20 22.0
    1987-88 20 36.4
    1988-89 21 28.9
    1989-90 22 22.5
    1990-91 23 21.0
    1991-92 24 18.8
    1992-93 25 26.4
    1993-94 26 28.6
    1994-95 27 20.0
    Career 23.7

  20. justDOit says:


    Wow. 12 seasons, and really only one that was considerably less than 20%. This is Simpson?

  21. Ribs says:

    You mean Dennis Bonvie isn’t your favourite (5.9 Career S%)?

  22. spoiler says:

    Craig Simpson couldn’t wash Kurri’s jockstrap.

    I remember it the same way as WG, except I think Hagman spent more time with Anderson and Mess.

    Callighen and McDonald were Gretz’s linemates the year before, and despite their stellar numbers, replacing them was a priority. It’s stuff like that that makes me wonder about stats (some days.. and yes, that was a very long time ago and things are different now).

    I loved those guys. But man, when guys like Kurri, Hags, Rozy, Hughes started arriving on the scene I was blown away, the old guard was easily forgotten. It’s stunning actually, the amount of moves Sather was able to make during the early days of the coming Dynasty. A feature the NHL for some reason would prefer is not part of the CBA era.

  23. Reg Dunlop says:


    I thought for a second that you said Hall is better at this point in his career than Mess and Andy. Did you mean that Hall is better than these two hall-of-fame greats when they were 20? If not, and you really think that Hall is better than Messier and Anderson, I just don’t know what to say… are you maybe on PCP or undergoing intensive psychotherapy?

    As far as comparing goalies today to 30years ago, nowhere else in sport has increased equipment size had a larger impact. Todays shin pads are wider and offer more protection than Ron Low’s goalie pads did.

    Matti Hagman did a good job here but I am pretty sure that he was the guy Don Cherry said he had to sic his dog Blue on to get him on the ice in Philly.

    Finally, I want to thank DSF for pointing out that the oil have no chance to be competitive. Saves me from wasting my time watching them. Now I know that Petry is just a bunch of blah. I thought he was an up-and-comming top 2 defenceman. Silly me. One question though. Why do you spend so much time and effort discussing them if they are so lacking talent and promise?

  24. gogliano says:

    This team is out of balance inasmuch as it has 3 #1 draft picks that are or will be way better than most NHL players and thus are way better than the rest of the team.

    + Eberle, Petry, Schultz, Hemsky for good measure.

    Kind of like any team with Gretzky on it was out of balance; if he was on the ice it was a whole different team.

  25. Dominoiler says:


    Eberle is Kurri.

    Kurri’s shooting percentage over time:




    Oh my, had to quote the whole post.. wow.. 28.8%, incredible..
    but when someone gets 13%, its bah!.. unsustainable..
    Of course, this example is an exceptional player and unparalleled conditions for success..

  26. Woodguy says:

    commonfan14: Were shooting percentages generally higher across the board back then though?I’m asking because I don’t know where to find historical shooting percentage data and because goalies seemed to get beat by unscreened slappers from the blueline with some regularity back then.

    Yes SH% were higher, but I don’t have league totals.

    The year Kurri shot 28.8% the OIlers shot 16.1% as a team.

    This past year they shot 9.5% as a team.

    Here’s the Oilers SH% for the year Kurri shot 28.8%.

    Lumley put him in the shade. :)

    Larry Melnyk 50
    Dave Lumley 33.3
    Jari Kurri 28.8
    Jeff Brubaker 25
    Raimo Summanen 22.9
    Glenn Anderson 22.2
    Mark Napier 20.5
    Craig MacTavish 19
    Mark Messier 17.4
    Gord Sherven 16.7
    Mike Rogers 16.7
    Mike Krushelnyski 16.3
    Esa Tikkanen 15.9
    Paul Coffey 15.6
    Marty McSorley 15.3
    Wayne Gretzky 14.9
    Dave Hunter 13.6
    Ken Solheim 12.5
    Dave Semenko 11.8
    Kevin McClelland 10.6
    Don Jackson 5.9
    Lee Fogolin 5.6
    Steve Smith 5.4
    Charlie Huddy 4
    Randy Gregg 3.6
    Kevin Lowe 3.5
    Team Total 16.1

  27. Ribs says:

    It’s pretty crazy to look at the top 30 Goal scorers last season and see that Eberle is the only guy to take less than 200 shots. He finished 16th overall.

  28. Dalton says:

    DSF: championship teams are built from the back end out with an above average goaltender, a dominant top pairing and depth at centre.

    The Oilers have NONE of these.

    You lie!

    - Dubnyk is not only above average, but he’s top-20 in the league.
    - A dominant top pairing? Check! Petry and Smid are the bomb diggy
    - Depth at centre? CHECK. RNH, Gagner, Horcoff, Belanger? Ever heard of them?

    Thanks for validating that we have a championship quality team again!

  29. russ99 says:

    I wouldn’t be averse to an Eberle deal, but only if Eberle isn’t buying into the Hall 7-year plan and we were getting a heck of player in return.

    A large part of this season will be getting good tradeable assets back to their usual level to bring their trade value up to where it should be expected.

    Horcoff’s play vs. contract, Whitney’s feet, Hemsky’s shoulders and Gagner’s half season of slumpage are a big reason that the Oilers couldn’t get anything done to bring in better talent so far.

  30. art vandelay says:

    College boy who hasn’t played a single game of NHL hockey.
    Vs one of the most prodigious all-time offensive defencemen and arguably the game’s greatest skater.

    I realize it’s been hot in Edmonton this summer, but was there also a shortage of chapeaus?

  31. BONVIE says:


    You guessed it is Simpson. Like Kurri it took him a few seasons before he really started putting up lofty shooting percentages. Simpson did it in his 3rd year and was away from there. The big difference for him is his third year on he was playing with extreme talent Messier and Anderson, and Gretzky on the Power Play.

    I would expect Eberle to shoot around 20% this year as he is that same type of skilled player that likes to shoot the puck from scoring areas right in front of the net, and he will be fed those sweet passes in scoring areas by the likes of Nuge and Hall.

    80′s oilers were about puck possession, not about seeing how many shots they could put on the net.

  32. BONVIE says:


    I would agree with this statement, as i am sure Joey would not allow it.

    Seriously though they only played 3 seasons together and there numbers are very similar and Kurri was in his prime. Simpson was in his early 20′s

    First year Simpson was in Edmonton he scored 43 Goals in 59 Games, 56 if you count his games in Pittsburgh before the trade. Kurri also scored 43 Goals took him 80 Games though to get it done. Playoffs that year Kurri lead the team with 14Goals and Simpson had 13 for second.

    Second year Kurri had 44 goals in 76 games and Simpson had 35 Goals in 66 games. Playoff came and Kurri had 3 goals and Simpson only 2 both players played 7 games played.

    3rd season Kurri 33 and Simpson 29. Playoffs Simpson lead the team with 16 goals and Kurri had 10.

    Summary is that their goal scoring was pretty much a wash. Simpson played with one of the greatest in Mark Messier. Kurri played with the best player ever. Kurri did have an advantage of a two way game, killed penalties and was probably good enough defensively that he should have won a Selke. Simpson was an agitator and drew a load of penalties he also was punished in front of the net at a time when there was no such call as a crosscheck. His career subsequently ended about the time he should have been entering his prime, basically he never played healthy again after the age of 25.

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