This is Gord Sherven. By 1984, the Edmonton Oilers were aiming at Stanley from October to May, and counted 5 of them in the seven years between 1984 and 1990. Not much room for rookies.
In our previous look at the Oiler rookies, we had a chance to introduce the Boys on the Bus and what was probably the most amazing 5-year run of new hires in modern NHL history. The second group–rookies from 85 to 89–do not shine as brightly as the previous crew but have their own story just the same.
The five year run that began in 84-85 gave Edmonton some quality additions to the young, emerging Oilers. It also gave the team some trade assets that were cashed in each spring in an effort to go deep into the playoffs. It was the golden era of the Edmonton Oilers.
THE ROOKIES 84-85
- Gord Sherven (37, 9-7-16) traded during season
Gord Sherven is from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan and was drafted in the Gravelbourg section of the draft (10th round). When he turned pro, Sherven impressed as a member of the Canadian National Team to get a real shot in the Oiler organization at 21. Edmonton was all about pushing for the playoffs during this time, and offloaded young Sherven to Minnesota in a deal for the more experienced Mark Napier.
It’s another lesson we can learn from the old Oilers: when this team is really in contention for a deep Stanley Cup run, we’ll see solid young prospects dealt for rentals and short term additions. The 2006 trades for Dwayne Roloson, Jaroslav Spacek, Sergei Samsonov and others would be a more recent "Sherven" example.
Sherven was dealt to the North Stars, but in typical Glen Sather fashion re-acquired almost exactly one year later.
THE ROOKIES 85-86
- Raimo Summanen (73, 19-18-37)
- Steve Smith (55, 4-20-24)
- Esa Tikkanen (35, 7-6-13)
Two top quality rookies arrived in 85-86, and a third (Summanen) was sent away for veteran help (Moe Lemay) in pursuit of another Stanley.
Raimo Summanen had been on the radar for some time, and in fact Oiler fans were very aware of Summanen because he was touted as a "possible" solution to the Gretzky LW mystery (99 and Kurri went together like PB & J, but finding a third was a process). Summanen was a skilled Finn, and although long forgotten a fun player to watch.
Steve Smith played a tough, rugged game and was a fine addition to a team that had already won a championship (Smith would be around for three rings). In the ’90 run, Smith led all of hockey with a +15 during the playoffs.
In the history of the Edmonton Oilers, Esa Tikkanen is easily the most unique personality and also the most difficult to explain. Tikkanen irritated the opposition but he was no bargain for his own team, either. The legendary stories about the Finnish chatterbox go on forever and most appear true. It’s important to remember that he was also an exceptional 2-way winger, combining skill with the ability to shadow the other team’s best forwards. I can tell you Oiler fans enjoyed Tikkanen when he was here, and no one expected to see another.
We’re still waiting, and not surprised.
THE ROOKIES 86-87
- Craig Muni (79, 7-22-29)
- Jeff Beukeboom (44, 3-8-11)
The Oilers have had a few former Leafs turn into solid contributors over the years, and Craig Muni is one of them. Cast aside by Toronto and acquired by the Oilers for nothing but dollars, Muni was a solid defender on three SC teams. As an Oiler rookie, he finished +45.
Jeff Beukeboom was 21 when he arrived, 6.05 and 230. He blocked out the sun, intimidated during the anthem and generally made life miserable for the opposition during his time in Edmonton. Beukeboom was part of two SC winners before being part of the tragic Mark Messier trade to the Rangers.
THE ROOKIES 87-88
- Steve Graves (21, 3-4-7)
The 87-88 season was interesting on all kinds of levels (SC finals were interesting to say the least) and of course in the summer of 1988 the Oilers would be changed forever (99 deal). Graves was the only player who reached rookie status, as one again the club rode the famous veterans to their 4th SC in 5 seasons.
THE ROOKIES 88-89
- Kelly Buchberger (66, 5-9-14)
- Chris Joseph (44, 4-5-9)
Buchberger took about 10 minutes to become a favorite among the fanbase. "Take it wide, Bucky!" became one of the most famous crowd sayings in hockey (approaching "Potvin sucks" levels in its prime) and Buchberger arrived in time to win a couple of SC’s and played as an Oiler late enough to be a teammate of Ryan Smyth’s. In a very real way, Buchberger is a direct connection from the Glory Oilers to today’s team.
Joseph came over from Pittsburgh in the Coffey-Simpson trade and hung around as an extra D over several seasons, but couldn’t establish himself as a regular.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The previous 5-year run of rookies gave the Oilers a ready made SC contender. I think it was a truly unique run, as most dynasties from that era (Habs, Islanders, Bruins) had outside procurement as major contributors to their success. The 80s Oilers bought Gretzky and then drafted a roster–goalies Fuhr and Moog, defensemen Lowe, Coffey, Huddy (although he was signed undrafted) and the forward group that included Messier, Kurri, Anderson and on it went.
The Oilers would add major items like Craig Simpson, but most often these players were acquired in exchange for stars drafted by Edmonton and then deemed too expensive as the winning kept on unabated through the 80s.
The five year period of rookies 85-89 is certainly inferior to the previous group. However, the roster has some very nice players.
- DEFENSE: Steve Smith, Craig Muni, Jeff Beukeboom, Chris Joseph
- LEFT WING: Esa Tikkanen, Raimo Summanen
- RIGHT WING: Kelly Bucherger
This group makes complete sense when you factor in the impact of the 79-84 drafts. The Oilers already had two quality goalies and star power galore at center, but needed some help on the blue and some grit and sandpaper on the wings. Those players are the exact group that flourished in this five year period.
WHAT ELSE DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Along with the truly fetching Audrey Horne, maybe Steve Graves and all those first round forwards were better men than history suggests. After all, being a forward selected by the 80s Oilers was no blessing. Even quality players like Summanen were sent away because better (drafted) options were available.
Still, this five year run had some very effective players. The current Oilers would probably jump at the chance to add those defenders plus Tikkanen and Buchberger to the mix.