TOP 100 OILERS: BLAIR MACDONALD (47)

For those too young to remember, stand-up comic and actor Rodney Dangerfield carved out a nice career in the 1970s and 1980s with his bug-eyed, tie-tugging “I don’t get no respect” shtick. For those who don’t remember Blair MacDonald, he was pretty much hockey’s version of Dangerfield as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton GM Glen Sather made sure of that with his infamous quip that a fire hydrant could score 40 goals playing on the wing with Wayne Gretzky. That was in reference to MacDonald, who spent parts of two NHL seasons playing the part of the hydrant alongside The Great One, including 1979-80, when he scored 46 goals. 

Blair MacDonald

Right Wing

Born Nov 17 1953 — Cornwall, ONT 

Height 5.10 — Weight 180 [178 cm/82 kg]

Drafted by Los Angeles Kings

Round 6 #86 overall 1973 NHL Amateur Draft

Drafted by Alberta Oilers

Round 3 #30 overall 1973 WHA Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

Lg

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1973-74

20

EDO

WHA

78

21

24

45

34

1974-75

21

EDO

WHA

72

22

24

46

4

14

155

14.2

1975-76

22

TOT

WHA

85

26

16

42

-6

22

214

12.1

1975-76

22

EDO

WHA

29

7

5

12

-8

8

72

9.7

1975-76

22

INR

WHA

56

19

11

30

2

14

142

13.4

1976-77

23

INR

WHA

81

34

30

64

10

28

253

13.4

1977-78

24

EDO

WHA

80

34

34

68

-12

11

237

14.3

1978-79

25

EDO

WHA

80

34

37

71

35

44

259

13.1

1979-80

26

EDM

NHL

80

46

48

94

1

6

266

17.3

1980-81

27

TOT

NHL

63

24

33

57

-7

37

172

14.0

1980-81

27

EDM

NHL

51

19

24

43

-8

27

134

14.2

1980-81

27

VAN

NHL

12

5

9

14

1

10

38

13.2

1981-82

28

VAN

NHL

59

18

15

33

0

20

116

15.5

1982-83

29

VAN

NHL

17

3

4

7

-1

2

29

10.3

5 yrs

EDO

WHA

339

118

124

242

19

111

723

13.4

3 yrs

VAN

NHL

88

26

28

54

0

32

183

14.2

2 yrs

EDM

NHL

131

65

72

137

-7

33

400

16.3

2 yrs

INR

WHA

137

53

41

94

12

42

395

13.4

Career

NHL

219

91

100

191

-7

65

583

15.6

Career

WHA

476

171

165

336

31

153

1118

13.4

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

Lg

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

1973-74

20

EDO

WHA

5

4

2

6

2

1975-76

22

INR

WHA

7

0

0

0

-3

0

1976-77

23

INR

WHA

9

7

8

15

11

4

1977-78

24

EDO

WHA

5

1

1

2

-2

0

1978-79

25

EDO

WHA

13

8

10

18

1

6

1979-80

26

EDM

NHL

3

0

3

3

0

1980-81

27

VAN

NHL

3

0

1

1

2

1981-82

28

VAN

NHL

3

0

0

0

0

1982-83

29

VAN

NHL

2

0

2

2

0

Career

NHL

11

0

6

6

2

Career

WHA

39

20

21

41

7

12

NOTABLE

I’ve always thought that comment by Sather was a bit of a cheap shot – there’s no way a fire hydrant would score more than 20 goals playing with the Great One. Still, there’s a measure of truth in it, especially in retrospect when you consider MacDonald never came close to replicating the one special season he spent keeping that right wing spot warm for Jari Kurri.

That said, only five other players in franchise history have scored more goals than the 46 MacDonald potted that season – Gretzky, Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey. Craig Simpson had a 56-goal season with the Oilers in 1987-88, but 13 of those came as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Impressive company, no matter who you slice it.

MacDonald wasn’t big, he wasn’t fast and he didn’t have even a little bit of grit in his game – he was a Lady Byng candidate with just six penalty minutes during his 94-point season in 1979-80 – but he could finish. His 17.3 shooting percentage that season was a career-best. He had the sense to go where Gretzky could find him. That’s a knack that dated back to MacDonald’s days as Gretzky’s right-hand man with the WHA Oilers. 

THE STORY

BlairMacDonald

When Kurri arrived for the 1980-81 season and put up 75 points, including 32 goals, as a rookie to finish second in team scoring behind Gretzky, MacDonald’s days as the designated right-side triggerman for the Great One were numbered. He’d scored 19-24-43 in 51 games when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in March of 1981.

MacDonald would play just 88 games over parts of three seasons with the Canucks before his NHL days were done. MacDonald was the very definition of a complementary player and he never did find a fit, and certainly nobody remotely close to Gretzky, to mesh with on the west coast – even so, he managed 54 points in those 88 games. He finished his pro career with three seasons in Austria.

With good reason, everybody remembers the dynamic and prolific duo of Gretzky and Kurri during the glory days, but MacDonald occupied that prized RW spot first and he was damn good at it in Edmonton’s very first season in the NHL. All told, MacDonald’s tenure in Edmonton saw him score 65-72-137 in just 131 games. That’s one helluva fire hydrant.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • ubermiguel

    MacDonald’s post-Oilers career proved Sather right (he went from over a point per-game to 0.6 points per game; and only lasted 2 more seasons). But that was a good couple of seasons with the Oilers.

  • vetinari

    MacDonald is the first guy in your series that I honestly have no memory of playing– likely because I was a toddler when he was in his heyday next to Gretzky.

    Slats always was a quote machine and unfortunately, like ubermiguel notes, MacDonald’s stats dropped once he went on to Vancouver.

    I hope that we one day talk about the “McDavid effect” like we do with the “Gretzky effect”– playing average or above average players with him to bump their stats and then trading them for better assets to stock the team.

  • Serious Gord

    Robin:

    I really don’t see the case for MacDonald being ranked so highly on this list.

    For example Risto siltanen would seem to be a much better oiler than Macdonald was.

  • notarealdoctor

    Ah the GMC line – Gretzky, MacDonald, Callighen. It was obvious from the start that the wingers were placeholders until more talented players could be found. That said, it was a pretty terrific line.

    The thing I remember most about MacDonald was that his shoulder pads never seemed to fit properly. He was always shrugging his shoulders back and forth to get them to settle. Funny what sticks with you.

    • I don’t think it’s a disservice, but your point is taken. In any cluster of 5-10 players outside the top 30 or so, I think there’s room for movement up or down the list based on perception and personal preference.

      • Rob...

        Thanks for responding. I think in this particular case my issue is that you focused on the points scored instead of ‘intangibles’ that added value and cemented his ranking. Randy Gregg put up 40 points in his peak scoring season on Gretzky’s Oilers; Charlie Huddy put up 57. So stating that MacDonald put up 94 points in his peak on a forward line with the Great One just doesn’t seem impressive.

        So far your list has had many names from the past, some of whom had bit parts to play, but your arguments were more robust and subsequently raised less scrutiny.

  • KACaribou

    Sadly (because I am old), I remember those comments by Sather after trading BJ. I don’t think Sather was being disrespectful, but I do think he was taking a little heat at the time for trading a 46 goal man. As he tends to do, Sather said it like it is (or was), with no head editor.

    At the time I thought he was crazy. But when fire hydrant #237 scored 50 goals the next season I had to agree with him (kidding).

    It does reminds me of Dan Lucas however, a junior linemate who managed 50 goals and 117 points in 61 games with Wayne. He was drafted 1st round, number 14 overall and only managed to stay in the minors a few years I believe. The Great One inflated stats of linemates.

    I must admit I was quite surprised that BJ had as many decent seasons as he did according to your stats. Though scoring then would be about x .7 of now I am guessing.