RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 2001-02 SEASON

NHL2002

**The second post in an ongoing series – Robin Brownlee re-lives the 2001-02 Oilers season **

The 2001-02 season really began in the summer with the trade of captain and leading scorer Doug Weight, who became yet another casualty of economics during a difficult era of tight budgets and cash calls for team ownership.

It ended with the Oilers coming up two points short of a playoff spot in the Western Conference as the Vancouver Canucks won five straight games during a torrid 8-1-1-0 stretch in their final 10 games to jump ahead of the Oilers into eighth place.

The trade of Weight and first-round bust Michel Riesen, the Swiss Miss, to the Show Me State for Jochen Hecht, utility man Marty Reasoner and defenseman Jan Horacek proved yet again that moving quality for quantity seldom pays off. 

Weight, the team’s leading point producer in seven of the previous eight seasons, was due for the huge raise on the $4.3 million he was making in Edmonton and the Oilers couldn’t afford to pay him. The Blues could, upping Weight’s pay for the 2001-02 campaign to $9 million. Oiler fans saw that movie more than once during the early 2000s.

Hecht was a decent second-line player who’d produce 40 points during the season. Reasoner, a reach by the Blues as the 14th overall pick in 1996, was a well-liked glue guy in the dressing room, but he produced just 11 points in 52 games. Horacek would spend the season in the AHL with Hamilton and never would play an NHL game – for the Oilers or anybody else.

With Weight and running mate Bill Guerin, traded the previous season, gone, the Oilers not only lost considerable veteran leadership, they lost their best two top-end players and point producers. While the Oilers trimmed 40 goals from their goals against, dropping to 182 from 222 the previous season, that gain was mitigated in the end of the rink where Weight and Guerin did their business. The Oilers scored 205 goals, down from 243 the previous season.

Instead of having Weight and Guerin to tap on the shoulder, second-year coach Craig MacTavish relied on Mike Comrie, just 20, Anson Carter, who’d come over in the Guerin trade, and reliable Ryan Smyth, who was limited to 61 games by a fractured ankle. Offensive help was supposed to come at the deadline in the form of Mike York, but he didn’t produce and getting him cost GM Kevin Lowe Rem Murray and whipping boy Tom Poti, an early version of Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry who was better than fans ever gave him credit for.

The Oilers, who got off to a 6-2-1-0 start and were 21-13-6-2 at the halfway point of the season, stayed in the hunt because of goaltending and defensive play. Tommy Salo, who’d play 69 games after seeing action in 73 during the previous season, had help in the form of youngster Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen. The 182 goals the Oilers allowed ranked second in the league and represents a franchise-best for a full season.

Much of the credit for that goes to the blue line, a group that included Janne Niinimaa, who led Oiler D-men with 44 points, hardnosed captain Jason Smith, Steve Staios and Eric Brewer. 

When the Oilers won six straight games March 14-26, they looked bound for the playoffs. Shutout twice in their final five games while the Canucks kept winning, they’d miss the playoffs for first time in six seasons.

RECORD: 38-28-12-4 92 Pts .561 (9TH Conf.)

Goal Differential: plus-23

SH% 9.1

SV% .916

PDO: 100.7

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

2001 Draft: Ales Hemsky 13th overall.

TRADES

June 30, 2001 – Oilers trade captain Doug Weight and Michel Riesen to the St. Louis Blues for Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner and Jan Horacek.

March 19, 2002 – Oilers trade Rem Murray and Tom Poti to the New York Rangers for Mike York and fourth-round draft choice in 2002 (Ivan Koltsov).

March 19, 2002 – Oilers trade Sean Brown to the Boston Bruins for Bobby Allen.

UFA

July 12, 2001 – Steve Staios signed as UFA.

LEADING SCORERS

Mike Comrie 33-27-60

Anson Carter 28-32-60

Ryan Smyth 15-35-50

Janne Niinimaa 5-39-44

Jochen Hecht 16-24-40

Todd Marchant 12-22-34

Daniel Cleary 10-19-29

Mike Grier 8-17-25

Eric Brewer 7-18-25 

Rem Murray 7-17-24

RETHINKING THE 2001-02 OILERS

Oilers

Simply put, the Oilers came up short on scoring – only one team allowed fewer goals (the Colorado Avalanche with 169), but 19 teams scored more goals. Might the Oilers have had enough offensive pop to hold off the Canucks even without Weight had Smyth not missed 21 games and York not gone cold after being acquired at the deadline (2-2-4 in 12 games).

The worst part for Oiler fans, who were on the edge of their seats the whole way, is the Oilers would eventually come up short in their playoff bid thanks to a 2-0 loss at home to the Calgary Flames in their 81st game of the season. 

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

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Hey RB, any chance you can include the general line combos that were used? I love comparing the teams of the late 90s, early 2000s to today’s Oil on a line by line basis. Complete opposite teams, once Guerin and Weight left – today we’re all skill, no grit. Back then, it was miles and miles of sandpaper with nary a toedrag in sight.

    • That’s not a bad idea. I used to record the lines every day, not just during games, at the top of the pages in my notebooks.

      Unfortunately, those notebooks are long gone now and so is any accurate recollection of who played together, especially outside of the top one or two lines.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Upcoming summer articles on Flames Nation:

    Prospect Update: Mark Jankowski – why the “best player” from the 2012 draft is quitting hockey to concentrate on competitive beer pong

    Summer with the Stars – documenting a day in the life of Johnny Hockey as he shops at WalMart looking for a booster seat for his Ford 150

    Gio Watch 2015 – will Gio separate his shoulder playing Scrabble this summer?

    Gio Watch 2016 – will the Flames spend $34 million of their salary cap on defensemen?

    Flames Arena Update – the Glade air fresheners have been installed and are fully operational. Musty smell is ALMOST gone. Still no sign of Harvey the Hounds Head.

    Flames Nation Reader Feature – ultrathinzigzag and the GREAT Walter White: brothers or Cousins? Actually, they are both!

    Flames Advanced Stats Corner: how to win a game without actually managing a shot on goal.

    Things I Combed out of My Beard by Kent Wilson

    Flames’ Playoff Victories Since 2004-2005: a one part “series”

    • The Soup Fascist

      To be fair it’s tough to make a Penguin look “mean” so the Pens jerseys will always be flawed.

      You are correct, The “Great Pumpkin” yellow and orange jerseys were by far the worst. Halloween costumes that best summed up the joke that the franchise always has been.

      The “Captain Highliner” Islanders jerseys were no bargain either. The Ducks have had some God awful jerseys as well. Plus don’t forget the “Puff the Magic Horsey” and Ronald McDonald jerseys that the Flambes wore. VERY sporty!!

      Not a fan, but I have to hand it to the Black Hawks. Best jersey ever, IMO.

  • vetinari

    The ’01/’02 team looks like the start of the period of turbulence when we couldn’t pay players the big bucks. I remember that we always seemed to be fighting an uphill battle against deep pocketed teams who could buy talent and bury failures while we had to thread the needle and get career performances out of our team just to get close to the playoffs.

    I wonder what a salary cap in ’01/’02 would have done for the team? Would it have stabilized the ownership group and would we have had to trade Weight if top-end talent would have been capped at about $6M/season?

    Also wouldn’t have thought in ’01 that Cleary would go on to play more games than our points leader, Comrie.

    From this edition of the team, I remember liking Carter, Smyth and Niinimaa the most.

    • ubermiguel

      It really started with the Guerin trade. This series has been a reminder of how the salary cap and revenue sharing has really helped Edmonton. Keep in mind in 2001 the Canadian dollar was 0.66 of USD, and players get paid in USD; so that $9 million for Weight was actually $14 million CDN. You have to sell a lot of popcorn and crack-beer to pay that.

      And Cleary needed to get out of Edmonton to turn into the great role player that he did. His career was not headed in that direction here.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    man, those are some awful trades….what really turns out to be Weight for Hecht and Reasoner….2 fair scorers for our leading scorer and Murray and Poti, one of our top d-men at the time for Mike York….blech! i hated these two trades at the time and i still hate them now!!

    • Reg Dunlop

      They sure were. Little more than salary dumps. At the time, things seemed to be as bad as possible. I would never have guessed that 2007 to present could happen. Is the nightmare over for oil fans? Finally? I’m not so sure with Niki, Andrew and Schultzie still here.

  • 916oiler

    That box cover brings back some good memories. If I remember correctly the Oilers won the Stanley Cup that season. We were able to add Mario Lemieux and Owen Nolan in a couple of preseason moves ( I was a pretty persuasive GM on my PC)and brought in Scott Stevens at the trade deadline to shore up the D and give Martin Broedeur (yeah, I traded for him too)a bit of help.
    Great year and I never even learned to spell OIG.

  • Butters

    “they’d miss the playoffs for first time in six seasons.” Wow.

    Thinking back, I remember saying the Oilers could get somewhere with better coaching. I was a smidge(mile) away on that one. Looking at that roster, MACT squeezed out every drop.