RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 2000-01 SEASON

NHL2001

**The first post in an ongoing series – Robin Brownlee re-lives the 2000-01 Oilers season **

Aside from Edmonton’s unlikely run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, Craig MacTavish’s first year as head coach after moving up from assistant coach and taking over from Kevin Lowe was probably his most successful behind Edmonton’s bench.

The Oilers would lean heavily on captain Doug Weight, in what would be his final season in Edmonton, and Ryan Smyth for offence, and on goaltender Tommy Salo, who played in 73 of 82 games.

Weight, with 90 points, and Smyth, with 70, were the go-to guys on the attack after Bill Guerin was traded to Boston for Anson Carter. Guerin had 22 points in 21 games when dealt. While Carter would produce 42 points in 61 games with the Oilers, he wasn’t the same caliber of offensive threat as Guerin (who finished the season with 40-45-85), who played in tandem with Weight during his time in Edmonton.

As for Salo, his 73 appearances marked a career high as did his eight shutouts, which is a good thing as the Oilers had no options behind him in the form of back-ups Dominic Roussel and Joaquin Gage.

With Roman Hamrlik dealt away, Finn Janne Niinimaa was the driver for offence from the back end. The problem with Niinimaa was he was equally dangerous at both ends of the ice. While Niinimaa finished third in team scoring with 46 points, he was a mistake-prone adventure too many nights.

Outside of Niinimaa and Tom Poti (12-20-32), there wasn’t anybody else who could be counted on to make a significant offensive contribution in a physical bunch of blueliners that included Igor Ulanov, Jason Smith, Frank Musil and Sean Brown. That said, with 21-year-old Eric Brewer in the mix, it was a decent group that was pretty well built for playoff hockey.

The problem with the playoffs, again, was the Oilers would run into Ken Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars (106 points) for the fifth consecutive post-season in the Western Conference quarter-final. It was a series the Oilers had a chance to win — one that was tied 2-2 through four games after a 2-1 OT victory in Edmonton on a goal by Comrie, but didn’t.

In a classic case of close-but-no-cigar, Salo played goal in all six games in a series that would require overtime in four games. The experienced Stars won three of those on OT goals by Jamie Langenbrunner, Benoit Hogue and Kirk Muller on the way to a 4-2 series win.

RECORD: 39-28-12-3 93 Pts .567 6TH Conf.

Goal Differential: plus-21

SH% 11.3

SV% .899

PDO: 101.2

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

2000 DRAFT: Alexei Mikhnov 17th overall, Brad Winchester 35th overall.

TRADES

June 24, 2000 – Oilers acquire Eric Brewer, Josh Green and the 35th overall pick (Brad Winchester) from the New York Islanders for Roman Hamrlik.

Nov 10, 2000 – Oilers acquire Anson Carter, 2001 first-round pick (Ales Hemsky) and 2001 second-round pick (Doug Lynch) from the Boston Bruins for Bill Guerin and 2001 first-round pick (Shaone Morrisonn).

Dec. 18, 2000 – Oilers trade Chad Kilger to the Montreal Canadiens for Sergei Zholtok.

March 13, 2001 – Oilers trade Dan LaCouture to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Sven Butenschon.

UFA

July 15, 2000 — Domenic Pittis signed as UFA

July 5, 2000 — Scott Ferguson signed as UFA

COMRIE SIGNS

Mike Comrie, 20, drafted 91st overall by Edmonton in 1999, left the Kootenay Ice of the WHL after 37 games and signed a contract with the Oilers in December 2000. Comrie was deemed to be a free agent (Mike Van Ryn precedent) after leaving the University of Michigan and playing a season in Kootenay as an overage player. Comrie would see action in 41 games, scoring 8-14-22.

LEADING SCORERS

Doug Weight 25-65-90

Ryan Smyth 31-39-70

Janne Niinimaa 12-34-46

Anson Carter 16-26-42

Todd Marchant 13-26-39

Mike Grier 20-16-36

Rem Murray 15-21-36

Daniel Cleary 14-21-35

Tom Poti 12-20-32

Georges Laraque 13-16-29

RETHINKING THE 2000-01 OILERS

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In what was a season of significant transition with Glen Sather leaving, Lowe taking over as GM and MacTavish moving into Lowe’s spot as head coach, the Oilers accomplished about as much as anybody could reasonably expect from a small-budget team under the ownership of the EIG.

Weight was terrific in his swan song as an Oiler, leading the team to 243 goals during the regular season, which ranked ninth in the NHL. The wheels had yet to fall off Salo, who was overworked. The blue line group was more than adequate. The bottom line is this was about as good a team as limited money could buy in the pre-salary cap era.

In hindsight and in the short term, Lowe might like the Guerin trade back, even though it would yield Hemsky in the 2001 draft. While Carter was far from a bust, 2000-01 turned out to be the most prolific season of Guerin’s career, most of it was spent in Boston. Fast, tough and skilled, might Guerin have been enough to get the Oilers past the first round? We’ll never know.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    The “Doug Weight years” were some of the best in Oiler history, imo. Small market team with everything to prove gave the Stars and Avs fits in the playoffs, even though they lost the series the Oilers never quit.

    I hope, with this new era on the horizon, the team gets back to that “never quit” attitude.

    The Oilers could surprise a lot of teams in the very near future, it’s going to be fun to watch!

  • NJ

    its to bad this was the era of the Betman Dallas Stars. The Stars were going to get a Cup come hell or high water. Betman made sure of it. The stars could do what ever they wanted without penalty.

    • Butters

      I am not sure why all the Bettman hate. IMO he is a big reason the Oilers are still here. Endorsing the EIG bid, rag-tag as it was, and later instituting a hard salary cap saved this team. In fact, the Bettman era has already seen the return of the Jets and maybe even the Nordique.

      I will never boo Bettman.

      • ubermiguel

        This 1000x. Bettman’s stubborness about Arizona is the same stubborness that saved the Oilers. The EIG and Bettman saved the Oilers. Any discussion about the Oilers of this era has to include the context of the terrible Canadian dollar, bad CBA, terrible contracts signed by the haves of the league and the crazy ownership structure of the Oilers. The fact the team could still compete in this environment was a minor miracle. It also really highlights the incompetence of the last 9 years where budget, economics and ownership were not barriers to competing.

    • WTF2

      Lots of Betman lovers on here. Please explain what he has done for this league? Expanding into the states is fine to a point but ignoring Canada in the past is another fault as is keeping Arizona on life support.

      Getting Winnipeg back and potentially Quebec are big positives though.

      • “Ignoring Canada in the past.”

        In what way has Bettman done this? Simple answer: he hasn’t. Had Bettman and NHL governors not put in place an equaliization program that saw US teams make payments to Canadian teams when the Cdn dollar was at 64 cents, the Oilers might have been gone before 2000.

        Teams that were lost, Winnipeg and Quebec, left because they needed new buildings and didn’t get them. Bettman was a huge supporter of Edmonton when this franchise was in real danger of being sold to US interests. He fought to keep the team here.

        Bettman has his faults, but “ignoring Canada” is not one of them.

      • walljordan

        This is nice. I was only 13 through most of this season, so I was yet to fully develop my love for this team. It’s nice to see the names and have the memories come back.

        I know most of the players but certainly didn’t follow the team like I do now.

        Keep up the great work, keeps the appetite at bay until October.

  • walljordan

    crazy to think that this is stil their best regular season finish in 20+ years (6th in Western Conference)

    goes to show you how mediocre (and putrid lately) they’ve been since 1990…

    loved this team…Dougie Weight is my all-time favorite Oiler

  • Butters

    It would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of the current roster compared to past rosters. What players are better, worse or comparable. Was the 2000-2001 first line better than last years first line?

  • Butters

    That Benoit Hogue goal… arrrrgh. I think it was Janne who didn’t quite get the puck up high enough. Like you said Robin, dangerous in both ends. I still love Ghost, he is a beauty.

  • NJ

    We can figure out the pecking order around here based on the assigned years. For example, whoever gets ’06 is at the top. Whoever gets the Eakins years is at the bottom. Brownlee is probably the #2 man on the totem pole or everyone is scared of him. 😛

    (For those who have issues identifying the tone of a post, this is a joke.)

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    This was also the one of Lowe’s first massive GM mistakes, this is where he lets Wieght go figuring Comrie could move into Weights roll at half the cost.

    Keep in mind Comrie has already made his intentions known that he didn’t want to be drafted by the Oilers, we all see this play out in the next few years.

    Lowe trade the wrong player and signed the wrong player.

    He should have locked weight up gave him his money.

    • First, there was zero chance, none, of re-signing Weight with the EIG as owners. Those are the cards Lowe was dealt. Weight’s pay jumped to $9M in St. Louis. There was no option to “give him his money.”

      Second, this idea that Comrie didn’t want to be drafted by the Oilers is pure fantasy. The issues came after the draft — lack of privacy, pressure etc.

      • Butters

        If I remember correctly, there were at least 2 cash calls during the EIG era just to keep the team afloat. They did pretty well with what they had. I guess people forget the whole thing was held together with spit and binder twine.

        • When Weight’s salary went from $2.3M in 97-98 to $3.450 in 98-99 and $4.3M in 99-00 and 00-01, that was as far as the Oilers could go.

          I remember interviewing owners as they came out of a cash call at the Petroleum Club and it was as grim as you could ever imagine.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    So in hindsight, the woes started when KL was made GM. Apart from the 2006 fluke, it really all went south when he took over. Thank goodness for the changes this off season.

    • Actually, you couldn’t be more wrong.

      In Glen Sather’s last five seasons as GM, the Oilers had points totals of 68, 81, 80, 78 and 88. The Oilers made the playoffs in four of those five seasons.

      In Lowe’s first five seasons as GM, the Oilers had points totals of 93, 92, 92, 89 and 95. The Oilers made the playoffs in three of those five seasons.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Thanks for this RB. I’ve been a huge anti MacT and Lowe for the last little bit. It’s nice to get a reminder that once upon a time, those two did some great things for the organization off the ice. Weight was awesome!

  • vetinari

    Wow. Forgot about how hard working that team was and would love it if we could find the next Cleary, Laraque, Marchant and Grier for the bottom six. I remember the cups but I still have a soft spot for these guys. They gave an honest effort every night and even if some of them weren’t the most skilled, they played hard. And the battles with Dallas were fantastic.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I remember, must have been 12 yrs ago or so, one of Laraques last years with Edmonton. A buddy and I were having a hot dog on lunch break from renovating what’s now the Arts Barns, anyway I looked over and saw George get out of his vehicle to go into a yoga place, dude was dressed in spandex! Never thought I’d see a guy like him dressed in that lol. He was gracious enough to shake my hand before he went to his yoga class.

    His hands could have popped my head like a zit they were that big lol

  • Romance14

    That was the deepest team the Oilers had outside of 2006. I remember they went on a 9 game run in February/March of that year. Tough series, losing 3 of 4 in OT! Good memories, thanks Robin!