The All-Time Oilers Roster

Over the past week I locked the Nation writers in a room to battle and argue over who would make the all time Oilers roster. What is an all time roster? We’re talking about the absolute best 23 players that the Oilers have to provide. We argued. We slapped. We struggled to find the wifi password. Finally, after days of debate we put our votes to paper and came up with a list of the best Oilers team imaginable. Will you agree? Probably not. Neither did we.

Before I get to the list I wanted to give you guys the rules that we were working with. We asked each writer to come up with the Oilers equivalent of an Olympic type roster. All I mean by “Olympic roster” is that we weren’t thinking about who would play first line/fourth line/wherever, we were just thinking about the best possible group of guys that you could ice using players from the past and present. After the votes were in, I counted them up and compiled the roster based on the lists provided. Each writer’s list consisted of the top four centres, top eight wingers, three extra skaters, six defenceman, and two goalies. The only catch was that the players had to have played at least one full season as an Oiler. Easy enough, right? Cool.

Now let’s suspend disbelief and pretend that all these guys do not have ages varying from 20something to 50 something and make up the best possible Oilers team in the history of the world! 

TOP CENTRES

  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Mark Messier
  • Doug Weight
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 

Could we ever have a list of top centres for the Oilers (or the NHL) that didn’t include Gretzky and the Moose at the very top? No. No we could not. Not surprisingly we all agreed on the first three centres that should make the team – the votes for Gretzky, Messier, and Weight were unanimous. Although Doug Weight may not necessarily be in the same category as the first two, he was easily the best Oilers player in some of those lean 90’s years. The interesting part of the top four centres vote came with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sneaking into the fourth spot. Lil Nugey snuck on by making four of the six lists provided by the writers. 

Other notable votes went to Vincent Damphouse and Andrew Cogliano.

WINGERS

  • Jari Kurri
  • Glen Anderson
  • Ryan Smyth
  • Esa Tikkanen
  • Taylor Hall
  • Ales Hemsky
  • Craig Simpson
  • Jordan Eberle

Coming up with a list of the best wingers to play for the Oilers ended up being tougher than I thought. There were some strong Oiler performers omitted from the list, but when you can only have eight players that’s bound to happen. The first two wingers – Kurri and Anderson – were easy to choose with 2497 career points between them. From there, the rankings of 3-8 changed considerably based on who’s list I was looking at. Guys like Smytty, Tikkanen, and Taylor Hall made appearances on every writer’s list but in varying positions. The final three spots was where the list got really interesting. Hemky, Simpson, and Eberle all had votes in four of six lists and just narrowly edged out guys like Petr Klima and Bill Guerin. 

Players mentioned in the “close but no cigar” category include the aforementioned Petr Klima and Bill Guerin.

EXTRA FORWARDS

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  • Shawn Horcoff
  • Jason Arnott
  • Jimmy Carson

The extra forward category went to the players that could be called upon to fill in when/if needed. These players all have a well rounded game and would be able to play up and down our all time list when injury struck. Some of you will be unhappy to know that the unanimous vote in the “extra skater” category went to Shawn Horcoff. Yes, that’s the same Shawn Horcoff that we all blamed for years of Oilers hardships. To be fair to comrade Horcoff, this is a guy that was defensively sound, and able to chip in a few points here and there, so it’s hard to knock this selection. Jason Arnott and Jimmy Carson both rounded out the list of extra forwards by getting votes from two of six writers. When you have a team with Jason Arnott (938 career points) and Jimmy Carson (561 career points) as your extra forwards, you’re in a pretty good spot. 

Other notable mentions in the extra forward category include Georges Laraque and Dave Semenko

DEFENCE

  • Paul Coffey
  • Chris Pronger
  • Kevin Lowe
  • Charlie Huddy
  • Steve Smith
  • Randy Gregg

As you will see by our list of the top six defenceman in Oilers history, there aren’t any current Oilers on the list. It makes a lot of sense when you think about the fact that keeping the puck out of the net has been a major problem over the better part of the last decade. The top three – Coffey, Pronger, and Lowe – were all unanimous votes by all six writers. As much as I didn’t want to include Pronger on my ballot it’s hard to argue with the work that he did in his season as an Oiler. Same goes for Kevin Lowe — you can question his work in management all you want, but it’s pretty hard to find fault with his playing career. Charlie Huddy, a solid two way defender, ranked fourth in the voting (making five of six lists) with Steve Smith following at number five. Despite the fact that most of you youngins know Steve Smith as the guy that scored on himself, he was a very solid defender. Randy Gregg (that’s DOCTOR Randy Gregg to you) snuck into the final spot by making three of six lists. 

Other mentions in the defence category include – Jason Smith, Janne Niinimaa, and Sheldon Souray. 

GOALIES

  • Grant Fuhr
  • Bill Ranford

The goalie category finished with Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford making almost every list with mileage varying from person to person. Grant Fuhr narrowly edged out Ranford as the best goalie in Oilers history because of his entry into the Hall of Fame and amazing 80’s porn moustache. To me, you can’t go wrong with either of these guys stopping the puck for your all time team. Both goalies backstopped the Oilers to a Stanley Cup, and both goalies make a fine choice for our list.

Other mentions include – Curtis Joseph, Dwayne Roloson, and Andy Moog

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

YourTurn

For some of you (likely many of you) you may not agree with all the players or goalies that we chose to make our roster of the top 23 players in Oilers history. Now is the time to make your own list in the comments section. I’m asking you to submit your roster below and see how your list compares to ours. Think you’re smarter than the Nation writers? It’s time to prove it. 

  • crackerjack14

    Where is the love for Bernie Nichols

    Funny story after getting traded out of town he got a speeding ticket on his 2ay to the airport.

    After taking the ticket and basically telling the cop he wasn’t ever going to pay it the cop followed him and gave him a second ticket for…….speeding lol

  • Johnnydapunk

    Again im biased (probably) but assuming we are talking about players when they were in their prime, I would add one of the greatest rental players ever in the NHL Reijo Ruotsalainen. Only came out in the playoffs and because of him and well Sather, there is the rule existing waiver rule that if you wish to sign a player who has started the season in Europe during the season or for playoffs, he has to clear Waivers first. It’s informally called the Ruotsalainen rule.

    So I think he should be on the list as a designated playoff player 🙂

    I would also have thrown in Lumley for a giggle, somehow he was a part of 2 Oiler cups and what does it say about the rest of the team when there was a spot for him. If there was one thing he offered was the Lumley shuffle after he scored the empty net goal in 84. I remember that as much as the commentary (from the video as I was a pretty small child then)

  • The Soup Fascist

    Hellooooooo? Clyde? Waiting for the list of 14 Flames in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    And before you try it, you can’t count each one of Al MacInnis’ toes as a Hall of Famer.

    Clyde? Are you out there? Clyde?

    • The Last Big Bear

      Anyone who is interested can tell you MacInnis’ loyalty is to the Blues. I believe he has already declined some form of recognition from the Flames (jersey retirement maybe?) in favor of the Blues, and he still works in their org.

      On the other hand, Lanny may have had success in Toronto, but is a Flame to the core. He won his cup in Calgary, and as pointed out he still lives there and works with the team. He even put his hat in to become the GM, but was passed over in favor of Sutter. Because giving the GM spot to players just because they were part of your club’s glory years is a really bad idea…

      Joe Nieuwendyk was drafted by the Flames, played more games for the Flames than any other team, and has played for the Flames alumni team. He’d for sure be counted as a Flame.

      Joe Mullen would probably go in as a Flame as well, he has his best years here, and has been involved in alumni activities too.

      So I’d count 3 players in the Hall as “Flames players”.

      With Iginla soon to make it 4.

      • ubermiguel

        Mullen: tough call; American player, 2 Cups with Penguins, coached in the Pens farm system after he retired.

        Nieuwendyk: Cup with the Stars; Cup with the Devils; went on to become GM of the Stars, also plays in the Stars alumni games.

        Gilmour: Ontario boy, best offensive numbers with the Leafs, Selke with the Leafs, retired as a Leaf, jersey in rafters at ACC, was on coaching staff of the Marlies.

        Like I said, it weird how many Flames HHOFers had very real success elsewhere. There are none that you can say “he never topped his time with the Flames”.

      • The Soup Fascist

        No problem with Nieuwy, Lanny, Mullen or MacInnis for that matter – I will however defer to your knowledge of his loyalty to the Blues. I would even say Gilmour spent a reasonable amount of time in Cowtown and had some good years. And Iginla is a shoe in.

        To count Brett Hull and Future HHOF Martin St. Louis as “Flames” would be extremely ironic given the fact they were given the bum’s rush by the organization before embarking on great careers.

        The 14 number made no sense as the article is a discussion of all time players not radio analysts, owners, coaches, managers or trainers.

        Your response is reasonable, intelligent and measured. This makes me question whether you are REALLY a Flames fan.

  • ubermiguel

    Like the list, no complaints. Wonder where McDavid finishes at the end of his career and if he and Nuge could bump Weight off entirely (quite a feat). Only sub I would have made is Mr. Dr. Gregg comes off and Niinimaa would be on.

  • Anton CP

    C: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Doug Weight. No one else can come close to these 3. And as for now, I would rank Shawn Horcoff as the 4th C ahead of Nuge. Horcoff was a good player and a long time captain, he was criticized by fans because of his ridiculous contract.

    W: Jari Kurri, Glen Anderson, Ryan Smyth, Esa Tikkanen, Craig Simpson. Ales Hemsky should be on the all time list but do get lots of heat due to most of careers he spent with the Oilers were the toughest stretch of franchise history. I would have Todd Marchant also on the list because he was the main player during EIG period. Both Eberle and Hall both are still young with many years left on them. However they are 2 of the best talent of 21st century of the Oilers.

    D: Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy. Chris Pronger was no doubt one of the best ever to play in the Oilers jersey but he has only lasted an year, even that was a very impactful year. The 2 Ds got overlooked were Janne Niinimaa and Jason Smith, both of them were also important figures during EIG era.

    G: Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford. Curtis Joseph, Dwayne Roloson, and Tommy Salo are honorable mentions.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Any room for Bryzie in this universe?

    On a semi serious note, with all the skill listed on the roster, we should probably save some room for Semenko on the 4th line.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    As per wiki, Oiler HHOF members:

    Glenn Anderson,
    Paul Coffey,
    Grant Fuhr,
    Wayne Gretzky,
    Jari Kurri,
    Mark Messier,
    Roger Neilson (B),
    Adam Oates,
    Rod Phillips (B),
    Jacques Plante,
    Chris Pronger,
    Glen Sather (B),
    Norm Ullman

  • Tikkanen – Gretzky – Kurri
    Simpson – Messier – Anderson
    Smyth – Weight – Guerin
    Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Hemsky

    Lowe – Coffey
    Pronger – J. Smith
    Huddy – S. Smith

    Fuhr
    Ranford

    This team is built for today’s NHL.

    In the 80s or 90s NHL, I would put Semenko in for Tikkanen, and replace Hemmer with McSorley or Laraque.

  • Butters

    Love the original list but Ranford and Fuhr against today’s shooters? That’s crazy, the league lacked depth in those days and the GAAs were still high. I’d go Cujo and Rollie all day everyday.

    • Anton CP

      For some reason that I have never believed Fuhr to be a great goalie. He had some odd games with great performance but he was never consistant enough, however playing with that kind of offense up front then it is not like he needed to make many saves.

      Btw, Tommy Salo is really not getting enough loves here. He was great before Belarus shattered his confidence.

      • Guerin and Damphouse (he played left wing in Edmonton) > Hemsky, Simpson, Joe Murphy

        Dave Manson> Eric Brewer >>>>> Randy Greg (a bottom pairing defensemen, Kevin Lowe (a second pairing defensemen)

        Dwayne Rolson and Salo are two tiers below Fuhr, Ranford and Cujo so good job on that.

        The Nuge is still on the upswing and should not be there…yet. I would put Horcoff and Jimmy ahead of him

        • The Soup Fascist

          Agree on all but Vinny being better than Hemsky. Oh yeah and Nuge WILL be there, eventually. While I would rather have Guerin as a winger, Hemsky was crazy skilled and tougher than people give him credit for – in terms of going into dirty places.

          His practice habits – or lack thereof – drove me crazy. But a good Oiler in tough years. Vinny was a good player but not a Hemsky IMO. Always wanted to go back east.

          As a hockey player, Randy Gregg was an excellent doctor. Gravy trained his way on good teams with marginal talent.

  • camdog

    Jason Smith over Randy Greg. Adam Graves turned out to be the best player in the Carson trade to the Red Wings.If given the choice I am betting significantly more GM’s would take Graves over Carson.

    Nice blog post.

  • Kurri_Flavor

    Centre – Gretzky, Messier, Weight, Linsmen

    Wingers – Kurri, Anderson, Tikkanen, Simpson, Guerin, Smyth, Eberle, Hall

    Defence – Coffey, Pronger, Manson, Huddy, Niinima,

    Goal – Fuhr, Moog

    Extras – Hemsky, Lowe, Damphousse, Cujo

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    C
    Gretzky
    Messier
    Weight
    RNH

    W
    Kurri
    Anderson
    GUERIN
    Simpson
    Eberle
    Hall
    Tikkanen
    Semenko

    D
    Coffey
    Pronger
    Huddy
    Souray
    Steve Smith
    Jason Smith

    G
    Fuhr
    Joseph

    Extras
    Jason Arnott
    Ryan Smyth
    Rexi Routsilainen

    I have ONE mention. Ales Hemsky shouldn’t be anywhere near this list – especially above Bill Guerin. To my memory – and I could be wrong, but Hemsky never scored the same number of goals in a season as Guerin did. Then to top it off, when you compare their physical games, and ability to intimidate – wow, just wow. Guerin deserves to be there exactly 1,000,000 times more than Hemsky does. Whether it was his inability to stay healthy, poor practice habits, and just plain old not improving into the player he COULD have been, Hemsky in reality, does not come close to cutting this list.

    Now if there was an all-hype team, or disappointments he should be at the top of that list. One of the funniest comments I ever heard was McTavish trying to tell the media ‘a secret’, leaked to all the cameras and microphones in the scrum that Hemsky actually played ‘better’ when you played him physical. Truth is he shrunk like a violet as soon as anybody threatened him. He never played his game from that point forward in the games to my eye, once you challenged him physically – at all.

    If you contrast that to Guerin actually REMOVING Peter Forsberg (in his prime) from the Avalanche series, and what he did physically, fighting, and leading the Oilers during those dark years – instead of shrinking from the challenge, it’s not even close.

    **IF we were doing a lineup where players played roles instead of the best ever I would have loved to put Normand Lacombe in the 4th line spot. Dude ran over and killed the Flames better than anyone EVER – to the point where you would almost become giddy watching the Flames go bouncing off of him, looking like they were getting ran over by a Mac truck time after time. Seriously go watch the replays if you can – SO fun… Just a man in his physical prime, so super-aggressive (which I loved), yet very talented and skilled, and could fight and score really well! VERY team-first kind of guy which makes him my kind of guy – and probably my favourite Oiler ever!!! 🙂

    Thanks guys, nice idea!!