Watching a team being built with a plan and vision can be a lot of fun. The Minnesota Twins are often referenced on this blog because they’re an excellent example of five years well spent.
The 1981 Twins was 17 of their first 56 games, and were mostly miserable save for brief appearances by young men like Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner and Gary Gaetti. The ’82 Twins saw all three kids emerge as regulars, along with power bat Tom Brunansky and talented lefty starter Frank Voila. Kirby Puckett would come along a little later and these names formed the foundation for the World Series winner in 1987 and 1991.
Small victories are big steps.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Lowetide: Revisiting the Oilers’ 2016 draft and the opportunities missed
- New Lowetide: Examining the potential waiver-wire opportunities at hand for the Oilers
- New Lowetide: Cooper Marody’s utility gives him an edge for an Oilers roster spot in 2019-20
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s roster construction options for the Oilers over the next seven months.
- Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto has the talent to win a job with the Oilers on merit, if he’s healthy.
- Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi still has upside and the Oilers’ patient approach is the right one
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Dave Tippett on rounding out his coaching staff, fixing Oilers’ special teams and using Connor McDavid
- Lowetide: Handicapping the Oilers’ young defencemen and their chances of replacing Andrej Sekera
- Lowetide: Is Kirill Maksimov progressing as the Edmonton Oilers’ next great hope for a true homegrown sniper?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers ease pressure on crowded defensive pipeline by trading John Marino to the Penguins
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2021-22 Oilers might look like after their steady build toward contender status
- Lowetide: Joel Persson is ideally situated to win an opening night roster spot with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2019-20 Oilers might look like without trade missteps.
- Lowetide: Finding the best candidates for the final two spots on the Oilers skill lines in 2019-20.
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ opening night lineup, line combinations and more.
- Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
OILERS 2012-13 FORWARDS (GOALS)
After the 2012-13 season, Craig MacTavish talked about the forwards and the work ahead: “The year we went to Cup final  we had lots of guys who could contribute offensively and last year we really didn’t. We had a lot of one or two or zero goal scorers who were out there a really the best you could hope for was they were a non-negative factor. We have to let the core players continue to develop a and we have to build that supporting cast around them.”
MacT’s moves that summer (he traded Shawn Horcoff to move him along, plus dealt Paajarvi and a pick for David Perrson) were designed to improve the supporting cast and to make room for D-zone faceoff specialist Boyd Gordon. Did it work? Well, the Oilers did have four men who scored 19+ goals and five more who scored between 8-11 goals, but the team remained below average offensively.
Building a group of successful forwards is difficult but Edmonton has all of the hard work done courtesy Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Glen Sather spent the early ’90s trading the remnants and roll ends from the dynasty team for useful pieces. It wasn’t perfect in every single transaction but did have an impressive impact over the rest of the decade.
The 1991-92 Oilers scored 295 goals, 17 goals more than NHL average that season. However, the 1992-93 club scored 242, a total that was 63 goals underwater. Trades of Glenn Anderson (September 1991), Mark Messier (October 1991), Vincent Damphousse (August 1992), plus losing Adam Graves for nothing, left Edmonton without an established impact forward in 1992-93. Craig Simpson, the closest thing to it, was battling the injuries that would end his career miles too soon.
Slats big move came at the deadline in 1993, as he traded Esa Tikkanen to the NY Rangers for Doug Weight. That kind of trade doesn’t happen anymore, teams don’t trade players who are 21 and have 40 points in 65 games. Still, the template for the trade (valuable vet dealt at the deadline) remains and Edmonton should be all over those deals at the 2020 deadline.
Edmonton had some good draft picks, both early (Jason Arnott, Ryan Smyth) and late (Miro Satan) but these trades 1993-1995 were key:
January 1993: Bernie Nicholls for Zdeno Ciger and Kevin Todd
February 1993: Joe Murphy for Dean McAmmond (and Igor Kravhcuk)
March 1994: Craig MacTavish for Todd Marchant
August 1995: Two first-round picks for Curtis Joseph and Mike Grier
January 1996: Bill Ranford for Mariusz Czerkawski
September 1996: Scott Thornton for Andrei Kovalenko
Not all of these deals worked out, and Sather dealt Satan and Martin Rucinsky in a time when they would have helped a great deal. That said, the additions of Weight and Marchant solidified the center position, and the wingers who auditioned (incredible list of talent) during the years 1993-1996 represent an outstanding pool of possible solutions.
I have noticed some hope emerging since Ken Holland arrived and that’s good (hope is a good thing). It’s also important to be realistic. Yes, acquiring James Neal for Milan Lucic was an enormous positive if only because of the buyout math. Yes, it would be good if Neal scores 20, too.
The names to follow are Puljujarvi (if he stays), Benson, Yamamoto, Maksimov, Lavoie. Maybe the team acquired someone who can score 20 for a season or two, or maybe Alex Chiasson chimes 20 times again. History tells us that a team that is 42 goals below average in a season has a tremendous amount of work to do.