By 1990, Gretzky headed for the coast and the Boys On the Bus were buying airplanes and making real life decisions. For Glen Sather and the Oilers it was a case of replacing superstars and impact players with the best available talent. The kids were alright.
Some of my all-time Oilers were rookies in the ’90s. Seriously, there’s something for everyone. Sublime skill and gritty talent, characters and feet of clay. It was quite a ride.
THE ROOKIES 89-90
- Martin Gelinas (46, 17-8-25)
- Vladimir Ruzicka (25, 11-6-17)
- Geoff Smith (74, 4-11-15)
Gelinas was part of the kid line and had a lot of try every shift throughout 1990 spring as the club went on to win their 5th Stanley. Why they traded him has been a myster for over 2 decades. Gelinas scored 20 goals for the Oilers in 90-91 but struggled when the team nosedived through the mid-90s. He would go on to a long and productive career as a 2-way winger. Smith had a solid career as a dependable rearguard.
Ruzicka had mad scoring ability. He also drove coaching staffs crazy with "defensive indifference". One of the most unusual hockey players to ever don an Oiler uniform.
THE ROOKIES 90-91
- Anatoli Semenov (57, 16-15-31)
Semenov was a famous international player based on many tournaments in which he represented Russia. He played in the ’84 and ’87 Canada Cups and the 1988 Olympics. The Oilers drafted him on the strength of those tournaments and his strong performances in the Russian Elite league and he arrived in time to play a couple of games during the ’90 run. Although too old to qualify as an NHL rookie, I included him because of his unique position as a drafted Russian who also played for the Oilers.
THE ROOKIES 91-92
- Josef Beranek (68, 12-17-29)
- Louie DeBrusk (25, 2-1-3)
Beranek was a slick forward who was a wonderful passer and could score goals too (he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time). A native of hockey hotbed Litvinov, he was one of few of the Oilers Czech draft picks who made it in the NHL. DeBrusk was very effective in his role.
THE ROOKIES 92-93
- Shjon Podein (40, 13-6-19)
- Vladimir Vujtek (30, 1-10-11)
- Brad Werenka (27, 5-3-8)
- Steven Rice (28, 2-5-7)
- Shaun Van Allen (21, 1-4-5)
Podein was a tweener for the Oilers, never getting enough NHL to be considered a regular but getting a couple of extended looks over a 4 year period. Signed as a free agent by the Flyers, he would emerge as a gritty 2-way winger who was especially adept as a penalty-killer.
Steven Rice was partial payment for Mark Messier and to be honest I never gave him a chance. I was so upset over the Messier deal it took a long time to actually completely immerse myself in fandom again. Probably the Marchant goal versus Dallas. That trade was an absolute killer.
THE ROOKIES 93-94
- Jason Arnott (78, 33-35-68)
- Boris Mironov (79, 7-24-31)
- Ilya Byakin (44, 8-20-28)
- Dean McAmmond (45, 6-21-27)
- Kirk Malthy (68, 11-8-19)
- Brent Grieve (27, 13-4-18)
- Adam Bennett (48, 3-6-9)
- Peter White (26, 3-5-8)
- Fred Braithwaite (19, 3.54 .889)
That’s a terrific bunch of rookies right there. Arnott came straight from the ’93 draft and he’s still playing NHL hockey. Tremendous career. Mironov came over late in the season in a trade with the Jets (Sather fleeced them badly) and remains one of my all time favorite Oilers. BoBo should have been from Texas because everything he did was large to the point of being legendary. McAmmond was fast and had a nice career, Maltby ended up with a famous career but he was just another hopeful at the time.
Looking back on that group from 93-94, you can see the seeds of that 97-03 team being sewn. They had a ways to go, but man there was some young taken on that team.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It was not a strong 5 year period for the Oilers, and in fact was a period of transition. The Stanley teams of the 80s hung in for a couple of nice playoff runs but by the summer of 1993 the Oilers were in need of some new stars. It would take some time, but eventually the impact players would arrive from the draft and New York City.
WHAT ELSE DOES IT REALLY REALLY MEAN?
- GOAL: Fred Braithwaite
- DEFENSE:Boris Mironov, Geoff Smith
- CENTER:Jason Arnott, Shaun Van Allen
- LEFT WING: Martin Gelinas, Dean McAmmond, Shjon Podein
- RIGHT WING: Josef Beranek, Steven Rice, Kirk Maltby
Short on Jacks and Kings and long on 6’s and 7’s, the quality (Arnott, Mironov, Gelinas) would be joined soon by a new crop of youngsters. Glen Sather continued to trade off the veterans and the scouting department would have some good moments.
This five year period is about equal to the previous group in quality and exceeds it in quantity:
- DEFENSE: Steve Smith, Craig Muni, Jeff Beukeboom, Chris Joseph
- LEFT WING: Esa Tikkanen, Raimo Summanen
- RIGHT WING: Kelly Bucherger
However, the king of the hill is the original 5 year period.
- GOAL: Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog
- DEFENSE: Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg, Risto Siltanen
- CENTER: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Pat Conacher
- LEFT WING: Jaroslav Pouzar, Dave Hunter, Dave Semenko
- RIGHT WING: Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Dave Lumley