The truth of the matter is they were a fantastic team and worthy of the Stanley Cup. You’ll hear people say ‘They got hot at the right time’ or ‘Roloson got them there’ but MY that 2005-06 Oilers club could play the game.
||Standings||Goal Differential||Shooting %||Save %|
|41-28-13||95||8TH WEST||256-251 +5||10.2||.887|
The average NHL team in 2005-06 scored and allowed 253 goals, and had a save percentage of .901. Edmonton’s slow response to addled goaltending obscured just how good this team was in 2005-06. Sublime defensemen, hard-working and effective forwards and above average special teams were key elements in putting Edmonton’s team of the century of the postseason fast track.
Breakout seasons offensively for several Oilers and the sheer number of value contracts with big seasons was incredible. All of Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani and Marc-Andre Bergeron were quality players making under $1 million a season. Source.
Among the veterans, Chris Pronger was a dream team all on his own, providing the Oilers with calm feet, offensive ability and a vigilante’s heart on defense. Ryan Smyth potted 36 goals and 19 of those came via the power play.
Jason Smith and Steve Staios joined Pronger and Bergeron to give Edmonton a varied and tough defense and of course help was on the way at the deadline from Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom and others.
Lord what a mess for most of the season. The Oilers couldn’t find a winner from the training camp auditions, so decided to continue those trials all season long! Coach Craig MacTavish got into the habit of bringing in Morrison for shootouts (cold!) in what was a truly bizarre side story. The Oilers’ inability to decide on who they liked more (Conklin v. Markkanen) would have a devastating impact in the playoffs.
This is a brilliant season by any general manager and represents the high water mark in the career of Kevin Lowe as an executive. The brilliant Pronger trade has a very important chaser (Mike Peca) and then Lowe adds to the blue in January when adding Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstom. At that point, Edmonton’s defense was beyond splendid, it was an absolute piss cutter depth chart.
Late—and I mean late—in the trading window, Lowe adds Dwayne Roloson and in that instant the Oilers were one of the best teams in the NHL — don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise — and the Sergei Samsonov addition shows how strongly Lowe felt about this team (although trading Reasoner would come back to haunt him). The second-round pick that ended up as Lucic? Any GM worth his salt makes that trade ten times out of ten.
FREE AGENTS WINS AND LOSSES
- D Scott Ferguson signed by Minnesota
- C Mike Bishai signed by Phoenix
- C Rem Murray signed (in season)
- G Mike Morrison to Ottawa on waivers (in season)
The Oilers scored with one of their first-round picks, as Devan Dubnyk has been an NHL regular for most of the last five seasons. Schremp never did figure out the checking aspects of the game (marking your man, being on the right side of the puck). Liam Reddox was always a favorite, small winger with a good motor.
Oilers got really good value late in the first round but pissed it away. There are three other men drafted that season who have played in the NHL. That’s a decent draft.
SEASON IN REVIEW
The season began with much anticipation but Edmonton couldn’t gain clearance from other teams near the No. 8 slot in the playoff race, and that became the story of the season. Sunil Agnihotri of The Superfan ran the numbers via War-On-Ice and delivered a graph that lays the blame for regular season struggles where it belongs:
The Oilers had the edge in possession, won the shot differentials, and were mid-pack in shooting percentage. The club was above average in almost every area save two: PDO, which relates to luck (100.0 is average, so they were off by a significant margin) and on-ice save percentage (where the Oilers ranked last, even when including Roloson’s run). Source
Much of the season was spent calling the Oilers an ‘average’ team but in truth they were a strong team that lacked anything resembling major league goaltending. Once that problem was solved, music!
Points: Ales Hemsky, 77
His breakout season happened during the lockout, but Ales Hemsky’s best year in his Oilers career coincided with the Stanley run. A magical player, he was young, fast and brilliant.
Goals: Ryan Smyth, 36
Absolute money on the power play. Smyth’s reputation in my opinion is framed by both his aw shucks style and by the skills he doesn’t bring (his shot famously doesn’t have much torque). In truth, he was a wonderful player, one of the very best to patrol LW in this team’s history.
Assists: Ales Hemsky, 58
What a splendid total. Hemsky’s gifts were myriad, but his passing really separated him from the other youngsters on this team in 2005-06. His career did not spike as hoped, but Ales Hemsky was a fantastic player in 2005-06.
RE-THINKING THE 2005-06 OILERS
As much as I anticipate enjoying this current Oilers team a lot in the near future, they’ll have to go a long way in order to replace the 2005-06 Oilers in my heart. Consider:
- Chris Pronger. The most complete and brilliant defender in franchise history. One year, but what a year.
- Ales Hemsky. Brilliant young winger passed one million defensemen that year on the way to the net.
- Ryan Smyth. Grizzled veteran gave everything (including his chiclets) in a season of glory.
- Shawn Horcoff: Emerging two-way center who would come to represent the best in the organization.
- Jarret Stoll: Impressive two-way talent whose shot from the point opened up a ton of PP offense.
- Raffi Torres: Heavy hitter laid waste to the Sharks in a single foul.
- Fernando Pisani: Out of his mind in the spring, he was quality all year.
- Jason Smith: Veteran defender gave the defense structure and an edge.
- Steve Staios: Another guy who could play any style required, a solid workhorse.
- Dwayne Roloson: The save of the century (so far) is imbedded in my brain.
The memories are rich, pure and beautiful. In fact, there’s so much to recall this season, we’re going to split the year into regular season (this look at the team) and playoffs (which will be next in the series). What a wonderful team.