Marchant Retires, Along With Other Stories

Former Oiler Todd Marchant announced his retirement earlier today. After more than 1000 games in the best league in the world, Marchant will move directly into the position of Director of Player Development for the Anaheim Ducks.

When fans of the Oilers think about Todd Marchant, odds are really good that one moment stands out above the rest:

But while that overtime goal was the icing on the cake, there was plenty of substance underneath. Marchant ranks sixth all-time among Edmonton Oilers in short-handed goals, 11th all-time in games played (six games back of Shawn Horcoff, who passed him earlier this season to move into 10th place). A superb defensive forward, Marchant had both legendary speed and legendarily poor hands (among the 64 forwards in Oilers’ history to score more than 30 goals, only one has a worse shooting percentage than Marchant).

Ben Massey put together a great write-up on Marchant last fall (check it out here), and his description of a trademark play rang true for me:

Even better, for a defensive forward, Marchant was so exciting to watch it could turn a young man to sin, twist him onto a road of high speed and quick chances and narrow escapes. To watch Marchant kill a penalty was to watch a predator as sure as any on the Discovery Channel: cruising near the blue line, always in the right part of the box, his eyes following the puck and yet never failing to track the player, one false move and crack, like lightning his stick would flash out and corral the puck, sending it smoothly out of the Oilers zone or, even better, corralling it onto his stick and turning on that ridiculous speed, speed that, the first time you saw it, you realized you’d never really understood speed on a hockey rink before, those jets that humiliated the best players in the National Hockey League.

Marchant embodied a lot of what was excellent about the late-90’s Oilers. It isn’t an era that gets a lot of love (the typical quote trotted out these days is ‘nobody wants to be a playoff bubble team every year’) but for fans of a certain age it was easy to fall in love with that team: underdogs every year, fast, tough and competitive despite an underfunded roster. They were the kind of team that was easy to root for. Marchant was no exception; he gave it his all, night after night, and fought a desperately one-sided battle against the best forwards in the National Hockey League.

Other Stuff

I’ve hoped for Dwayne Roloson to have success since the day the Oilers acquired him from Minnesota, and his departure from the organization did nothing to change that. I was glad he performed so well in Long Island, and I cheered for the Lightning to come out of the East this year. Naturally then, I’m delighted that he has managed to earn another NHL contract, for one season at $3.0 million.

Also retiring today was Paul Kariya, who suggested stiff punishment for concussion-causing plays:

“If you start at 10-game suspensions and go to 20, that sends a message to the players. But if you start fining the owners and suspending the coach, then it’s out of the game.”

With Oilers management working on an unspecified ‘exit plan’ for Sheldon Souray, it might make sense to give Colorado or Florida a call. Kent Wilson points out that both teams are way short of the salary cap floor, and suggests Souray as a possible solution – with only one year left on his deal, it would be a low-risk move for either team.

Am I the only one who grinds his teeth when people start talking about the need for an Oilers’ “grit transplant?” While Tychowski isn’t wrong to suggest that the Oilers have lost some of their third-pairing/fourth-line muscle, there are plenty of higher priorities for the Oilers. After all, enforcers are all but useless in the playoffs, the presence of fourth-line toughness doesn’t stop something like Taylor Hall getting hurt in a fight, and the Oilers are a 30th-place team that probably need to key in on scoring and preventing goals. I like the idea of adding Zenon Konopka, but not because I think the Oilers desperately need a fighter – I’d like to see him on the team because he’s been used as a defensive zone specialist the last few years and the Oilers are going to be spending a lot of time in their own end again this season.