Edmonton played its final playoff game of 1980 on April 11. During the series (Flyers swept them) the right wing depth chart consisted of Blair MacDonald, Dave Lumley, Donny Murdoch and (I believe) Peter Driscoll (Edmonton had 3 natural centers and right wings, and six natural left wings in the series).
MacDonald went 3, 0-3-3, Lumley 3, 1-0-1 (scored while playing the right point on the power play) and Murdoch who scored twice in those three games and looked right at home in an intense series against Philly that featured Bobby Clarke’s harpoon and Pat Quinn behind the bench.
If you watched the series, it would be easy to make the case for all three feature right wingers to return and to patrol RW for years. Instead, two of the three were a year (or less) away from being traded. Why? Progress.
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On October 10, 1980 the Oilers began the second NHL season in team history with a loss to the Quebec Nordiques. The right wing depth chart looked a little different: Blair MacDonald (1-1-2), Dave Lumley (0-0-0) and Don Murdoch (0-0-0) were the holdovers, with Glenn Anderson (0-0-0) and Jari Kurri (0-1-1, got a point on a Gretzky power-play goal and may have been playing left wing) also in the lineup.
Coach Bryan Watson lost his first two at home, and sat Kurri (plus Matti Hagman) in game three. Edmonton got a goal from rookie Glenn Anderson (Watson said he was the best player on the ice) but the club was 0-3-0 to begin 1980-81. Kurri drew back in and scored in New York next game, a contest Paul Coffey saw from the pressbox.
MacDonald was traded in March 1981, Murdoch in August of 1981 and Lumley was claimed on waivers in October of 1984. Kurri would play a decade in Edmonton, Anderson 11 seasons.
DISTANT BELLS (15)
Some of these names won’t be here for camp but could play in the NHL later this season, as European teams finish their playoffs in the spring. It’s also true that impressions will have to be made pretty damn quick, so this list is under pressure starting now. I’ll mention Patrick Russell and Ryan McLeod as players of interest, and am curious about Adam Cracknell’s signing and possible strategery that would involve his skill set.
Speaking of 10-year careers with the Oilers, Klefbom is on a run of seven seasons in a row that is in jeopardy. His 378 games with the Oilers ranks the Swede No. 14 among all-time Oilers blue. The guy who is going to post a big number if he hangs around is Darnell Nurse, who at 350 games ranks No. 15 just seven years after his draft day.
UNCERTAIN OILERS (14)
Word this week that the NHL is talking about an increased roster (26) and four aces who will stand by in case of injury. Edmonton may not have enough cap room for 30 names, but could (as I understand it) run a roster of 20 players for cap purposes and then park four names on the taxi squad. Dangerous and unlikely, but it might happen for some cash strapped teams. One player who could be a 10-year option on this list? Evan Bouchard.
CERTAIN OILERS (18)
Barring injury, I think these players are going to make the team. Not sure of the pairings and lines but pretty sure Koskinen will play the majority of the minutes this season. The right side is better than the left side defensively, but Nurse-Jones on the left side is a solid solution until Klefbom returns. By the way, when that happens, Edmonton will have some difficult decisions. Nurse’s next contract is going to be a massive moment, especially with Broberg and Samorukov coming up behind Jones.
I don’t see any Kurri or Anderson but will tell you that in my opinion Evan Bouchard is a player to watch during 2020-21.
As fans and observers, we tend to deal in a black and white world. Bouchard is blocked by Larsson, Bear and Barrie, so therefore isn’t going to be a factor. Things can change in a heartbeat for defensemen.
Kurri got benched after two NHL games because the Oilers were giving up goals and (quoting Peter Gzowski) “Finns, the wisdom goes, don’t play a strong defensive game.” Jari bleeding Kurri was an amazing player without the puck. Ask anybody.
Watch out for Bouchard. I don’t know how they find room for him but when there’s a window expect Bouchard to make the most of it. I have him playing 30 (of 82) games this season in the reasonable expectations series.