He arrived in Edmonton as the next generation’s saviour, and he left town a disappointment. The Jason Arnott story begins in Edmonton, but the heart of the matter belongs on America’s eastern seaboard and the south–and Jason Arnott hockey story is a ringing success.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
Jason Arnott was a star player in junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals. Marshall Johnston, at the time director of player personnel for the New Jersey Devils, said "it looks like a deep draft, and if you’re looking for players with speed or size, finesse or strength, there seems to be something for everybody."
The Oilers grabbed Arnott 7th overall, and he was (along with Doug Weight, Steven Rice, others) instantly adopted as ‘the future.’ And why not? He scored in his first game, scored 33 as a rookie, and did all the things we normally associate with a developing impact player.
Arnott’s rookie season was a dream, tremendous skill married to impressive size and an ability to make things happen. As a fan, there is nothing like a rookie who scores 30+ goals to ignite the imagination–Arnott’s rookie season remains one of the greatest (forward edition) in team history:
- Jari Kurri (80-81) 75gp, 32-43-75
- Jason Arnott (93-94) 78gp, 33-35-68
- Dave Lumley (79-80) 80gp, 20-38-58
- Glenn Anderson (80-81) 58gp, 30-23-53
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11-12) 62gp, 18-34-52
- Sam Gagner (07-08) 79gp, 13-36-49
- Andrew Cogliano (07-08) 82gp, 18-27-45
- Jordan Eberle (10-11) 69gp, 18-25-43
- Taylor Hall (10-11) 65gp, 22-20-42
- Raimo Summanen (85-86) 73gp, 19-18-37
For Glen Sather and the Oilers, Arnott was a perfect fit: skilled with size, and he could handle himself:
Arnott scored well as a young NHL player, but did not go ‘super nova’ and did not become the centerpiece of the organization (Doug Weight was the team’s young leader by the mid 1990’s). Added to that were injuries, inconsistent play and some very, very bad publicity.
There were several events–the Corson assist fiasco, the "I just wasn’t into it" gaffe and the circumstances surrounding George Burnett’s dismissal (and Ron Low’s elevation) soured the organization on the young player. The biggest item might have been choice of mentor.
At some point, Glen Sather either decided to get the kid out of town to save him or felt he wasn’t going to deliver on the early promise, and he sent him away.
- Stanley Cup (2000, New Jersey)
- Stanley Cup winning goal (video above)
- NHL All-Rookie Team (1993-94)
On January 24, 1998 the Edmonton Oilers sent Jason Arnott to the New Jersey Devils for Billy Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin. He would win his Stanley there.
Jason Arnott as a prospect had it all: big, tough center with exceptional skills and a scorer’s touch. His only real sin was arriving in Edmonton during a time when the organization lacked veteran leadership, a strength just a few months before his arrival.
Arnott was young, immature and in Edmonton he paid in full.
After his Edmonton experience, Arnott settled in to a career as a 2-way center with a nice range of skills. His rookie season was perhaps his best in terms of boxcars (owing to an outstanding shooting percentage), but the mature Arnott was a load and a major reason for his team’s success in New Jersey, Dallas and Nashville.
For Edmonton fans, Jason Arnott was an opportunity missed, and a cautionary tale for the organization.