(Seems Like) A Long Time

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:

  1. Doug Weight (24) 82gp, 25-79-104
  2. Zdeno Ciger (25) 78gp, 31-39-70
  3. Jason Arnott (20) 64gp, 28-31-59
  4. David Oliver (24) 80gp, 20-19-39
  5. Todd Marchant (22) 81gp, 19-19-38
  6. Miro Satan (20) 62gp, 18-17-35
  7. Dean McAmmond (22) 53gp, 15-15-30
  8. Marius Czerkawski (23) 37gp, 12-17-29
  9. Scott Thornton (24) 77gp, 9-9-18
  10. Ryan Smyth (19) 48gp, 2-9-11
  11. Kent Manderville (24) 37gp, 3-5-8
  12. Louie DeBrusk (24) 38gp, 1-3-4
  13. Ralph Intranuovo (21) 13gp, 1-2-3
  14. Jason Bonsignore (19) 20gp, 0-2-2
  15. Tyler Wright (22) 23gp, 1-0-1
  16. 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:

  1. Dustin Penner (27) 82gp, 32-31-63
  2. Ales Hemsky (26) 22gp, 7-15-22
  3. Ryan Jones (25) 49gp, 8-4-12
  4. Liam Reddox (24) 9gp, 0-2-2
  5. JF Jacques (24) 49gp, 4-7-11
  6. Zack Stortini (24) 77gp, 4-9-13
  7. Gilbert Brule (23) 65gp, 17-20-37
  8. Ryan O’Marra (22) 3gp, 0-1-1
  9. Andrew Cogliano (22) 82gp, 10-18-28
  10. Sam Gagner (20) 68gp, 15-26-41
  11. Linus Omark (23)
  12. Jordan Eberle (19)
  13. MPS (18)
  14. 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.
  • Souby

    @Souby

    Lots of teams let UFA’s go for nothing. The Oilers weren’t really in a position to trade him either. There’s a good chance they would have missed the playoffs that year if they had.

  • Souby

    “The Oilers pissed away a lot of quality on the 95-96 team. Satan for nothing. Lordy.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Let’s not forget that this is the same team that let Cujo walk away for nothing.

    “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.”

    Well put. This is a rebuilding process and rebuilds take time. Would I love the Oil to make the playoffs next year, of course. Do I think it will happen, not likely. Patience is the key. Give them the opportunity and support they need to develop and wait a few years. IMO.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i think our “cluster” of kids is every bit as good as back then. Hall, MPS, Omark, Eberle added to our other young guys Gagner, Brule and Smid makes me a believer!

  • Souby

    “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”

    I’m all for patience but don’t be so quick to state that it will be quite some time before the kids are dominating. How long did it take Stamkos to score 50?

    I’d say that’s pretty dominating and didn’t take very long to happen.

    You just don’t know for sure.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      I agree, I think we might be up for first pick overall next year. But how are the fans going to react? I heard season tickets holders dropped, can the Oilers afford another season finishing neat the bottom of the standings?
      The Esks and the Oilers both the worst in their leagues, I thought I would never see the day… it’s sad.

      • Let's Rebuild

        “I heard season tickets holders dropped, can the Oilers afford another season finishing neat the bottom of the standings?”

        I heard Season Ticket sales were just fine. Plus if you look at the Cap numbers we might be over 10 mil under the cap and the actual amount isn’t far behind. That would account for any potential lost season seat holders (but there won’t be any). Besides the allure of Taylor Hall will fill the seats.

      • Rogue

        Like I said, I’m all for being patient but what LT said was that the kids “WON’T” be dominating for quite some time.

        To me that doesn’t sound like there’s any chance of it happening. Either that or I don’t understand what the word “WON’T” means. I guess it depends on what the definition of quite some time is.

        Stamkos is not the only younger player to not take very long to contribute in a more than average way. Patrick Kane comes to mind, Tyler Myers, Nicklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews….just to name a few.

        I’m not saying the Oilers young stars “WILL” be dominating before too long but I’m not prepared to say they “WON’T”.

        • So you pick the best players to come out of different draft years… after the fact and say that because these guys had an immediate impact on the league… we should expect our “big 3” to do the same?

          But then your not saying that they “WILL” be impact players immediatly… but your not saying they “WON’T”. So what your saying based your expert opinion is that we have some prospects who may or may not become “dominant players” quite possibley very soon, but we should also be patiant because it might take time for them to “dominate”.

          GOOD TALK BUD!

          • BurkeTheTurd

            Holy crap man, where did I say that I “EXPECT” anything??? Show me please. T

            hat was the whole point of what I was saying…you jump all over me for saying we don’t know how the players will turn out and how quickly…that is the actual fact.

            What I was pointing out was that the writer of the article was already stating as though it was already a fact that it will be quite some time before our young players are dominating….that is what we don’t know is a fact yet he is saying it like it already is…

            Don’t jump on me…get on the guy who wrote the article..

            That is correct I am saying I don’t know that they “WILL” be dominant quickly or if at all nor am I saying they “WON’T”…..the whole thing of it is again, is, we don’t know…and neither does Lowetide.

            Do you get that? I didn’t have an opinion on it because we really have no way of knowing and neither does Lowetide.