Back on Aug. 5 we had the writers at Oilersnation put their heads together, come up with half-a-brain and compile what we considered the best 23-man roster of players who’d ever suited up for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL.
Once we got past the no-brainers – Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the other Boys on the Bus who reside in the HHOF – there was plenty of room for reasonable debate about who belonged on the roster, and that discussion was prompted without even ranking the players in any kind of overall order.
We’ve decided to take that exercise a step further with a much longer-term project. To that end, I’m compiling a list of the top 100 NHL Oilers of all-time, and starting in September we’ll be running stories on four players per month, starting from 100 and moving up the list. In other words, it’ll take about 25 months to run all the items.
I’ll be writing all 100 stories. They’ll essentially be profiles with some statistics, noteworthy career highlights and, hopefully, some perspective mixed in. That’s the easy part. What’s more difficult, at least from where I sit, is picking the top 100 players and then ranking them 1-100 based on their time in Edmonton, not their overall careers. That’s where I’d like some input from our readers.
ROOM FOR DEBATE
As I’m compiling my list, I’m weighting certain things more heavily than others. Notably, the first guys on my list are those who contributed to all those Stanley Cup parades on Jasper Ave. For me, a player who was a member of multiple Stanley Cup winners, even as a role player, is going to make that list of 100, likely in the top-25.
There are exceptions, of course. Not to give away too much, but I’ve got Chris Pronger ranked No. 10 despite the fact he only played one season in Edmonton and never got a ring, coming up a win short with the 2006 Oilers in Carolina. Too high?
Some will say yes, especially when you consider I’ve got Cup winners like Bill Ranford (12th), Craig Simpson (16th) and Dave Hunter (19th) ranked behind him. I say that 2006 Edmonton team doesn’t get within a $10 cab ride of Game 7 without the Human Rake, so I put him there. That’s where there’s room for debate. And it gets muddier the further down the list you go.
As for where current Oiler players rank on the list, that’s a tough call because even the top players with this edition of the team haven’t been here long and they’ve been the best players on a very bad team that’s won nothing.
I have just three – Taylor Hall (31st), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (39th) and Jordan Eberle (40th). Are they better players, individually, than many of those I have ranked higher, like Kelly Buchberger, Jaroslav Pouzar and Dave Lumley? Sure. Have they made the same mark, had the same success? No.
I scratched out my preliminary top-10 and it was pretty easy, although I bet I’ll get an argument on Steve Smith and maybe even Pronger (and I’ll listen to them). It looks like this:
1. Wayne Gretzky
2. Mark Messier
3. Jari Kurri
4. Glen Anderson
5. Paul Coffey
6. Grant Fuhr
7. Kevin Lowe
8. Charlie Huddy
9. Steve Smith
10. Chris Pronger
As an example, who do you think should rate higher on the top-100, a tough guy like Kevin McClelland who played a support role and won Cups or a wonderfully skilled player like Ales Hemsky, who won zippo? I have both of them on my list but they’re 21 spots apart – not saying who is higher.
Do Sergei Samsonov, Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek, part of that 2006 team, make the list? Not for me, but Tom Poti does. As I see it, the object of the exercise is about getting the top-100 more than it is about arguing why a given player is 73rd instead of 67th. The difference between places that far down the list is razor thin. Any one-year wonders, aside from Pronger, you think should make the list? Who’s the most underrated? How about overrated?
I’m not asking for you to submit ordered lists of 100 – you can if you have too much time on your hands – but I welcome your input and, chances are, it will lead to me tweaking my list between now and when I finalize it and start writing the profiles in September.
And, no, I won’t be putting Connor McDavid on the list before he’s played a single game with the Oilers. I might, however, be forced to reconsider if he belongs after this season and if Hall, RNH and Eberle deserve to be moved up or down.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.