Ask Larry Gordon

Every once in a long while everything comes together and magic happens. Law & Order, The Simpsons, the Rolling Stones, Jill Hennessey’s parents. Once in a long while chemistry, the Gods and Darwin get it just right.

In the summer of 1967, the Boston Bruins were a poor hockey club. Sure they had an emerging Bobby Orr (the best player in the game’s history before Robbie Schremp) but he was just a kid; that summer, the Bruins lost future HOFer Bernie Parent to the expansion draft (Milt Schmidt made a big mistake). Between 1960 and 1967, the Bruins missed the playoffs every single season–and four teams out of six made it!


The thing about truly great teams is that you don’t necessarily know they’re great until they start winning Stanley’s. The Bruins can look back on the Phil Esposito trade (summer 1967, just before the expansion draft) and know it was a turning point, but little did they know that beginning in 1967-68 the team would win 2 Stanley’s, play in 7 finals by 1990 and finish in the playoffs from 1968 to 1996 inclusive.

Oiler fans can look back on the Gretzky plane ride, the 79-81 entry drafts or maybe the period where Glen Sather emerged from a group of candidates to become Pocklington’s "hockey man." Either way, a trip through history can show us the beginnings of all dynasties: Bruins (Espo trade); Habs (Pollock writes the expansion draft rules, 1967); Oilers (99, those wonder drafts), Islanders (drafting Potvin and about 30 WHLers 1972-76).

Then there are miles and miles of teams that should have made the step forward but never did it. Since expansion in 1967, the early 70s Rangers (GAG line, found Eddie Giacomin in the AHL), the 70s Hawks (found an entire team of excellent players in the NCAA), the 80s North Stars (great procurement, Ciccarelli wasn’t even drafted!), the 80s Bruins and 80s Flyers (great drafts and trades, Brian Propp must still have nightmares about the Oilers from that era). They never won the Stanley despite doing everything right and spening a large number of years "in the window" of opportunity. Their impact clusters burned out and there were no championships to show for it. This is also a possible outcome for the current Oilers kids. However, they could also romp through the next decade and post the second golden era of Oiler hockey.


Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Oilers are a 30th place team twice over and I don’t think the playoffs are just around the corner. Still, the groundwork for an excellent team rolling out over the next decade is near completion, with only a few wise trades, some impressive UFA signings and the right coach (he may already be here) to be added; mix in some maturity for the cluster and you’re good to go!

Even now we can begin to make the list of things that went right for this team (no matter the outcome of the playoffs 2013-2025):

  1. The Oilers have three draft picks in rd 1 of the 2007 draft and emerge with one hockey player. This paves the way for Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor to be elevated to the role of chief scout.
  2. Daryl Katz mentions the word rebuild sometime during the summer/fall of 2009.
  3. Taylor Hall is drafted.
  4. Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, Dubnyk, Peckham and Petry all emerge during the same season.
  5. Oilers draft RNH, making it two number one overall picks in a row. The last time an NHL team drafted two forwards #1 overall in consecutive seasons the foundation was being laid for the Colorado Avalanche team that won some Stanley’s.

There are other items we can check off moving forward: when the Oilers see an impact defender arrive (he might already be in the system–we don’t know) or when the Oilers finally find their starting goalie for the next several seasons. And history also offers us cautionary tales–Schmidt lost several goaltenders during the Bruins run (Parent in 67; Daniel Bouchard in 72’s expansion draft to Cliff Fletcher and the Atlanta Flames; Gerry Cheevers to the WHA) and the North Stars kept trying to draft the perfect American instead of finding the best hockey players.

However, the talent level of the top end for the Oilers currently is outstanding. They may never win the Stanley, but the playoffs are very likely by spring 2013 and if they can find a goaltender before then the Oilers might just make the second season way ahead of schedule.


This edition of the Oilers is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Like the 80s Oilers, this will be a high octane offensive team that maybe cheats a little too much for offense. The job of MBS and the pro scouts is to find a Charlie Huddy and a Randy Gregg to add to the drafted kids; the job of Steve Tambellini is to solve the goaltending and yes fix the defense. He also must find a way to sign these kids under the cap (no easy task).

The big item now is goaltending. It is an extreme disappointment that no effort was made in this regard over the summer. Timing your surge seems a little crazy, especially for an NHL General Manager. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

Ask Larry Gordon.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Anyone picking up White picks up his full contract, this isn’t a re-entry situation.

    LT, I missed your show on Saturday, any idea when it’ll be on the site?

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    I don’t see the Oil signing another top 2 pairing D-man this season…. next season more likely. I don’t think Tambo signs both Sutton and Barker thinking he was signing 5-6-7 d-men. One will skate with Smid on the second pairing. Open competition for 6-7 with Chorney and Petry makes for an interesting training camp.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      This really wraps up the poor job Tambillini has done.

      Most other teams aquiring Sutton/Barker know they are getting a 6 and a 7…. Tambillini figures he’s getting at least 1 Top 4.

      • SurfacetoAirMissile

        Good point but compare last years back end to this years with a healthy Whitney (crossing fingers) and the Oil are much improved. Props to Tambo ie realizing the Foster experiment failed.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          I don’t really think it is.

          Sutton is no better then Vandemeer and Barker, though he has more potential really isn’t better then Foster at this point either.

      • D-Man

        I disagree somewhat.. You’re right – Sutton is a 6/7 and that Barker could be a bust, but Tambo hasn’t been poor… His performance this season has pulled his grade to average or slightly above… He still gets a F for our goaltending situation – but asides from Josh Harding – I really didn’t see a decent goalie on the market that was a legit #1b goalie who could play 40 games… I also looked at all the UFA’s available on the point – there weren’t any defensemen available that were a) under 27 and b) would have been a top four defensemen…

        I don’t think there were huge upgrades out there for Tambo to sign… Sure we could have taken a flyer to pay Nick Lidstrom or Andrei Markov, but I’m not sure that would fit our rebuild model.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          Sorry but if you bring in a guy that was just bought out and another that was playing 7th (or worse) minutes on an average defensive team and plan on having either one play a top 4 spot, you’ve done a poor job.

          • D-Man

            Unless of course the guy was lacking confidence and needed a fresh start. Barker has the pedigree to be a top four defensemen – since being dealt from Chicago he definitely hasn’t shown it though.

            If Barker turns his game around – Tambo will have found a gem and get kudos. If Barker tanks, he’ll get another F and rightfully so. I’m just saying he didn’t have too many other options out there to upgrade the defence. He’s hoping that Whitney stays healthy and that Smid and Peckham continue to take steps forward. Not much of a risk when you think about the fact that we’re a rebuilding team, no?

  • Just wanted to point out that the same Bruins 60s team that lost Bernie Parent (whom I consider the best goalie of the 70s) and Cheevers was the same team that traded Ken Dryden to the Habs a few minutes after drafting him in 1964.

  • RexLibris

    Good read, LT. I’ve made the point to Flames fans over at FN about the Oilers being in a solid position in the future not because of perennial 1st overall, but more so because of good drafting down the line in later rounds. They have dismissed our team by saying that you can’t screw up picking 1st overall in back to back years, but there have been plenty of teams that have drafted high year after year and never done anything with it (*coughAtlantacough*). It seems that most of the fans/media around the league see only the flashy, first day selections that the Oilers have made without looking at their other talents waiting in the wings like Hamilton, Marincin, Bunz, etc. The stars will help up get to the playoffs, but it’ll be players like Hamilton, Pitlick, and our depth guys that’ll get us over the hump.