This is David Oliver. Once upon a time he was part of a quality cluster of young forwards in the Edmonton Oilers system. Is the current group as good–or better–than the Weight-Arnott-Smyth cluster?
I’m a big believer in developing prospects in clusters. Any Oiler fan old enough to remember the Boys On The Bus probably feels the same way, because Edmonton’s hockey fans had a bird’s eye view of the power of the cluster 30 years ago. That tremendous group had terrific sustain, retiring 20 or so years later with multiple Stanley’s in multiple towns.
I don’t think it benefits us to compare the current group of young Oiler forwards to the 1984-85 Oilers because comparing any group in the history of the game to the 99 group would just end up in depression. However, the Oilers did have a strong cluster of young forwards 15 years ago that is worthy of a look. Here are the 95-96 Oilers forward group and their numbers:
- Doug Weight (24) 82gp, 25-79-104
- Zdeno Ciger (25) 78gp, 31-39-70
- Jason Arnott (20) 64gp, 28-31-59
- David Oliver (24) 80gp, 20-19-39
- Todd Marchant (22) 81gp, 19-19-38
- Miro Satan (20) 62gp, 18-17-35
- Dean McAmmond (22) 53gp, 15-15-30
- Marius Czerkawski (23) 37gp, 12-17-29
- Scott Thornton (24) 77gp, 9-9-18
- Ryan Smyth (19) 48gp, 2-9-11
- Kent Manderville (24) 37gp, 3-5-8
- Louie DeBrusk (24) 38gp, 1-3-4
- Ralph Intranuovo (21) 13gp, 1-2-3
- Jason Bonsignore (19) 20gp, 0-2-2
- Tyler Wright (22) 23gp, 1-0-1
- Dennis Bonvie (22) 8gp, 0-0-0
That’s an exceptional group. They never reached the finals (the `06 team had only Smyth left) but there`s a lot of quality on this list. No HOFers but a few marginal ones (Weight, Arnott, Satan, Smyth) and a nice range of skills in there.Now let’s have a look at the current group:
- Dustin Penner (27) 82gp, 32-31-63
- Ales Hemsky (26) 22gp, 7-15-22
- Ryan Jones (25) 49gp, 8-4-12
- Liam Reddox (24) 9gp, 0-2-2
- JF Jacques (24) 49gp, 4-7-11
- Zack Stortini (24) 77gp, 4-9-13
- Gilbert Brule (23) 65gp, 17-20-37
- Ryan O’Marra (22) 3gp, 0-1-1
- Andrew Cogliano (22) 82gp, 10-18-28
- Sam Gagner (20) 68gp, 15-26-41
- Linus Omark (23)
- Jordan Eberle (19)
- MPS (18)
- Taylor Hall (17)
A few observations:
- The 95-96 is better and more established. Doug Weight–the leader of the group–was an exceptional player by 25 although injuries would impact him in later seasons. There’s size and grit on the 95-96 team and they are deeper in terms of 2-way players (although in fairness some of the current group may emerge).
- Penner and Hemsky are really cut off from this cluster. The heart of the order is Gagner-MPS-Hall-Eberle (imo) and that means Hemsky/Penner are basically 10 seasons removed from the center diamond.
- The Oilers pissed away a lot of quality on the 95-96 team. Satan for nothing. Lordy.
- This list really highlights just how careful the organization needs to be with kids like Cogliano. He’s not going to be Marchant unless he learns the finer aspects of the game and three years in it isn’t happening. Could he be a small m McAmmond? Don’t know, but he’s an asset the club needs to grind into something useful.
- We need to be patient. Very patient. Hall, MPS, Eberle and Gagner won’t be dominating the hockey business for quite some time. They’re just kids, folks.