One Two

When the Oilers got their hands on RNH it was pretty clear
after his first season that the team had found a keeper. He’s defensively
responsible, elusive, extremely quick and agile on his skates, and he has top
drawer vision. The Oilers had found their 1C for the foreseeable future. None
of that has changed, but now they’ve added phenom Connor McDavid to the roster
and suddenly the Oilers have a 1-2 punch down the middle they’ve lacked for a
very long time.

The 80’s

We all know the famous centre duo the Oilers terrorized NHL
clubs with during the 1980’s. Gretzky and Messier rank one and two on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. As an aside, it still blows my mind that Gretzky is almost
1000 points better than Messier with five fewer seasons played. At any rate,
there was probably never a more dynamic one-two punch in the history of the league,
and I don’t care about those Habs teams from the 50’s. Sorry, Henri Richard.

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The Oilers (and the world) were treated to nine seasons of Mess
and Gretz down the middle, on the same team, and I think we can all agree that the
results were legendary. Their last season they played together as Oilers was in 1987-1988
and I was five years old that summer. For a lot of Oiler fans we’ve been taught
about the Gretzky years more so than actually experiencing them. Parts of
my brain just don’t comprehend seeing the numbers from that final season:

Wayne Gretzky 64GP, 40-109-149

Mark Messier 77GP, 37-74-111

Yes I know Messier started as a winger and transitioned to
the middle, but nine years of being able to throw one over the boards right after
the other came off is incredible. It marks both the high point in skill for
top two centremen but also the longest run the team ever had with a quality duo.
It will be nigh impossible to ever match what the Oilers had during the golden
years.

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The 90’s

After Mark Messier was traded, and the New York Rangers basically
became Oilers East, things were pretty low in Edmonton. However, for a short while it looked
like the Oilers had found two solid centremen once again. When the Oilers traded Esa Tikkanen in March 1993 and got Doug Weight back in return they found their
future Captain and the last ever Oiler to score 100 points in a season. Then, in the 1993 Entry Draft,
the club selected big Jason Arnott seventh overall. That should have set
the team up pretty well for a long time.

In their first two years together Weight and Arnott finished atop Oilers
scoring. Doug Weight was a playmaker, never scoring more than 26 goals in a
season. Jason Arnott was just a kid when he was an Oiler but he never would
score more than the 33 goals he potted in his rookie season. Arnott would
continue to do fairly well offensively as an Oiler but his struggles were
obvious. He was inconsistent and had off-ice issues. If you aren’t sure what
kind of issues check out this Globe and Mail piece that does a nice job of
twisting one in his back while simultaneously praising him for growing up with the Devils

The best season with them as the one two punch was likely
1995-1996:

Doug Weight 82GP, 25-79-104

Jason Arnott 64GP, 28-31-59

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arnottwinninggoal

Arnott was traded for Bill Guerin who lasted a relatively
short time with the club before he was eventually turned into Anson Carter. The
Oilers gained some useful wingers, Guerin was tough as nails and had a nose for
the net, but the Devils would win the 2000 Stanley Cup off a Jason Arnott goal. The Devils got the better end of the deal in the long run. Weight remained longer
with the Oilers until money became an issue, and was then moved to St Louis for Marty
Reasoner and Jochen Hecht. Cruelly, Doug Weight would later be a part of the 2005-2006 Hurricanes
that defeated the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final – just in case you forgot that part.
Ugh.

The 2000’s

The 2000s is where things get pretty sad. I’m sorry for all the
Todd Marchant and Mike Comrie fans out there but the 2000’s were largely poor
from the perspective of one-two punches down the middle. The team felt like it
was in constant flux. Marchant’s stone hands made him infuriating to watch and
when he was going others weren’t. Comrie was ran out of town like Arnott before
him and everyone else with a lick of talent before that.

I struggle to even title this section “The 2000’s” because
in reality it should just be “2005-2006”. That is the one, and only, time in
that decade that the Oilers had two centermen at the tops of their game at the
same time. It was Shawn Horcoff playing in the prime of his career and Jarret
Stoll having the best season imaginable for him. In later years, Gagner looked like
he should have done more, Horc’s offense would wither, but 2005-2006 was a
great year for Edmonton’s top two centermen.

Shawn Horcoff 79GP, 22-51-73

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Jarret Stoll 82GP, 22-46-68

Chris Pronger was making outlet passes look easy and the new
rules after the lockout were being enforced. Horcoff and Stoll were 52.7% and 56.8%
in the faceoff dot and they were helping the team fill the back of the net. We
know how the season unfolded. It was the last time the Oilers made the playoffs.

Stoll never again broke the 50 point barrier and has been a
3/4C for the past four seasons. He won Cups in LA but as a role player. His
off-ice issues, which were well known from his time in Edmonton, might be what
we remember the most about him when his career is over. Especially with his
recent run-in with the law.

Horcoff was a solid Captain for the Oilers but a shoulder
injury deteriorated his effectiveness. While he remained defensively solid for
the team he couldn’t produce enough offensively to be worth his paycheck. As it
turned out his contract never caused cap trouble (like say Nikita Nikitin) but
he has continued to decline. He was eventually moved to Dallas for very little
in return save for the cap space.

The 2010’s

We haven’t even seen the Oilers ice their only real double
threat down the middle in this decade. We are waiting, just another few weeks,
until the Oilers can ice Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back to back.
We can only speak about potential, and there’s a lot to go around.

RNH is up to 195 pounds and should be ready to enter the
prime of his career. He’s already been the team’s MVP as recent as last year.
With an improved power play from new coach Todd McLellan and just a little less pressure to be
the playmaker and the defensive stalwart Nuge is set to have stellar season.

Connor McDavid is indescribably talented. I’ve never in my life
seen someone with his combination of speed, intelligence, vision,
stick-handling, and shooting ability. Never. 

He has ripped the OHL apart since he was 15 years old and
stands to be an Oiler for a long time. I have never been more excited to start
an Oiler season than I am this one coming. With Eberle, Hall, Pouliot, and
Yakupov as the four wingers to split between these two centers, the potential to
explode offensively should be there every night.

The Oilers have a one and two centremen that rival anything they’ve
had in at least 20 years. Premature as that may seem, I think it’s the truth
and I’m ready to proclaim it now.


    • Let’s take a breath here folks.

      3 or 4 years from now this might be the case. But this year, would this two rank with Crosby/Malkin or Toews/Kane (assuming Kane plays)amongst others?

      RNH has yet to break the 60 point plateau and Mcdavid’s total in the NHL is zero.

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        Had to give you a trash. Only because Kane is a winger not a center. But Yes, Crosby/Malkin must be considered best 1-2 centers at this time.

        • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

          Kane moves between center and wing at Quenville’s direction. I’m guessing with Richards and Vermette leaving Chi, there will be more call for Kane to play C this year.

    • Randaman

      Not yet. In a little time you could be right.

      I had the pleasure of watching the entire decade of Gretzky and Messier. Ya, I’m one of the lifelong Oiler fans. Lived through the glory years and the, well you know…

      Attended many games that impacted the record books. 50 in 39 against Philly was a magical night.

      The first Cup parade through downtown, attending game 7 for the third cup win, etc.

      I am looking soooooo forward to enjoying at least seven years watching these two super talented kids tear it up.

      Making the drive from the NWT for four to six games this year instead of a winter beach holiday. It’s a sickness people, and I don’t care.

      Bring it on….

    • Aendayana777

      I am sorry, but I think LD is going to be too good a player to play on anyone’s 3rd line, long term.

      Look at Brandon Sutter.

      I really think LD will move to the wing, or he will be traded down the road.

      I like those lines from Oilerboy1112

      Hall-McDavid-Yak, Drai-RNH-Eberle, Korpikoski-Lander-Pitlick/Pakirinen

      Would be 3 solid NHL lines, with a little bit of development from either Pitlick or Pakirinen.

      • Harry2

        What about Poooo!!!

        Hall-McD-LD….
        Poo-RNH-EBS

        . I would like to see this as the top 2 lines 2-3 years from now. As for this season. I hate to say it but Purcell will flank McD along with Hall. The three of them have been working out together all summer. Also Purcell is a veteran presence on that line.

        I have a strange feeling that LD will prove his worth in the NHL before Yak.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      In a couple of years, this top 6 is going to give opposing coaches heart palpitations. Hall and McDavid on the same line… That’s giving ME an irregular heartbeat.

  • The trashes are gonna pile up for this comment, but I think expecting a rookie to walk in and be a superstar in his first year is REAAAAAALLY stretching credibility to say the least.

    No doubt McDavid is going to be good. Real good. But he’s not in god mode yet.

    • bradleypi

      Lol. Well if you say so….. I guess there’s no point in watching this season then? Lol. I think McDavid with hall and either ebs or yak on his wing can put upwards of 60 points on the board. Especially with a power play unit that could include rnh… the sky’s the limit for this group. So I completely disagree with what you say. There’s absolutely no reason why CM can’t be a superstar. Hall has scored at a point a game pace before. And if he can do it again CM will bd a big contributer

  • I was @ 15yrs old in 87-88. I still remember it well. The thing is, it was so incredible, yet it was considered the norm for us fans. We just expected it. Thats why the 2000’s hurt that much more. Young fans have fond memories of the Dallas playoff battles, but to us older fans it still felt like utter failure compared to what we were used to~

  • Leaking5w-30

    Nice to see Jason Arnott get a little love in the 90’s section. In my first live oil game he scored 2 goals and basically destroyed the leafs with one hand. One of those great moments with my father that I’ll never forget.

    Thanks for the memories 🙂

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    A couple of gems or more would be nice . Draisaitl may well be another in that mix . Should be an interesting year if defence can break out offensively with Nurse and Schultz . One for each two top lines could prove dynamic this season . So far it has just been Scultz and an underperforming Nikitin . Come around season for Nikitin could help add to forwards success and give us a 3 line offensive defenseman on all three lines possibility . Forward success inevitably linked to how well defenseman can help . For this reason , I would hope Nurse is on main roster from the start of the year , not in AHL .

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Like others, I have been a Oil fan since 79. I have had the pleasure and disappointment of experiencing the full spectrum that goes along with being a fan. I even have a captured segment *about 30 seconds of video* of my boy (age 4) and I celebrating the Stanley Cup parade in which TSN did some coverage.

    My son, now 30 shows it to his son whom is 3. Here is hoping they have the opportunity to celebrate a Stanley sometime in the near future so as it becomes a family tradition for a Father and Son……..

    This spring has been the first time in far too many years in which I and my son can actually feel that something good is happening. Give it a couple of years and this team could very well be in line once again to be champions.

    There is too much talent on this team not to at least think that the “turn the corner” phase is here. Haven’t felt this optomistic about the Oil in years and it feels great after such a dark period of time.

    Go OIL!

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I believe that when Leon becomes a full timer he will be a winger on one of the top two lines with the expectation that he’ll automatically slide to center when there’s an injury and never see the third line center spot really at all. That’s for Lander and Yakamov to sort out.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Nuge is my favorite NHL player, I love watching him with and without the puck.

    I’ve heard through the grapevine (and you know how reliable those grape vines are…) that he is coming in looking beefed up. Our little Nuge will be a man this year.

  • For my money, the teams with the best centre depth we’ve seen post-lockout have been the 2008-2012 Penguins with Crosby/Malkin/Staal down the middle, and the 2010-2011 Canucks with prime Sedin/Kesler/Malhotra. In a couple of years if McDavid and Draisitl both develop as projected, the Oilers with McDavid, RNH, Draisitl will have to be included on that list.

  • camdog

    I don’t understand the sentiment that Comrie was run out of town? Maybe my memory fails me but I thought he had locker room issues that he created that resulted in a an absolute mess in that dressing room.

    • CMG30

      When a player is being set up to be run out of town, any issues they have are repeated and exaggerated by the fans, media and the team. These issues may or may not be true or even specific to that player but the end goal is to make it difficult for the player to remain and to provide cover if the player brings a less than stellar return, because, well obviously he had to go…

      • camdog

        Robin Brownlee @ Oilernsation August 2009.

        “Forget what made it into the papers back in 2003 when things got ugly — the best stuff that conveyed the depth of the bad feelings between Lowe and Comrie never made it into print, and I can tell you that because I knew most of it.”

        I wouldn’t classify getting into it with the GM as being run out of town.

    • Aendayana777

      He’s a pure goal scorer. Brett Hull didn’t exactly win any fastest skater comps.

      Yak will get into position to shoot. He won’t responsible for neutral zone puck handling.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on this site that has added McDavid to the NHL 15 roster. I had to create him because underage players can only be traded to CHL teams and I couldn’t move them up to the Oilers. So of course I gave in pretty high scores rating 96 out of 100 overall. But holy crap talk about 1-2 punch and making the whole team better. I’ve mixed the lineup around in a lot of different ways but I find Leon Anton and nail playing on the third line is awesome, and adds a 3rd lune punch. The fourth line is productive too with Heney Letestu and Korp. More offensive zone play is not a bad thing either either taking pressure off the D. Hope this simulation turns out to be real cuz it could be awesome.

    One stud number 1 Center changes everything.

  • tileguy

    I see everybody has Yak penned in as a top 6 forward. Let’s hope he has learned which side of the man he should be on in the defensive zone, what to do when he dosen’t have the puck and what side of the ice he should skate on.
    If he can’t learn those basics he can not play with the playmakers.

  • sportsjunkie007

    When the core do win a cup hopefully soon, it should feel ten times as sweet because of all the hard times and such a passionate fan base it will show Fans and the league that it was right and worth it to follow this team, that’s what lifting the cup will mean, and the hard work to get there is part of the fun.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    The most impressive thing about the RNH McDavid Drai and I’ll include Anton Lander. Is they are solid human beings. Humble soft spoken gentlemen that we as Oiler fans can really get behind. After looking from afar at the resent troubles of some high profile hockey players dropping the ball. It is a blessing we have such class and quality in future leadership roles.

    Innocent till proven guilty I know, but EA sports pulling Kane’s image tells you the whole story. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t know that the outcome isn’t going to be positive. All professional sports have there clowns and villains so seeing unbecoming characters in hockey is inevitable.

    Edmonton has been lucky to avoid the Sean Averys and Slava Voynovs of the world and hopefully the future idiots in the league dont get there next 40 million dollar deal because they can score 25 goals.

    I hope NHL comes up with suspensions that really hurt the player who puts the game in disrepute. I believe the NHL has to start handing out two to three year bans on situations that call for it.

    As a father of two young sons I am proud that one wants a 97 jersey and the other says no way “Nuge is my guy”

    • Lowball figure for the best talent coming up in 30 years . I would put lowball at 1.50 pts. /game = 120+ points . Should beat Crosby’s 102 in rookie season , and maybe even press Gretzky at 132 I believe . These types of talents do not come around very often .

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        87 points last year for current Art Ross winner Jamie Benn, and you think Connor might top 132?

        I already have a McDavid jersey, and even I think that’s ludicrous.

  • Aendayana777

    They will be good, but there’s stiff competition for best 1 2 down the middle duo in the league: Getzlaf/ Kessler, Crosby/ Malkin, Stamkos/ Johnson, Datsyuk/ Zetterberg, Thorton/ Pavelski, Backes/ Stasny.

  • Like Gretzky , Connor has that great ability to use his teammates to full advantage . A quarterback so to speak . You’ll notice his points are near a goal a game , but assists close to two a game . He is far more than just a talented elite goal scorer .

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Conner should with his abilities ,like Gretzky , get his line mates to play a level above and faster than what they are playing now . We should see that trend often and early in the season . Going to be quite the ride .

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Great couple of first overall picks!!!

    What’s that like; picking first overall?

    What’s it like to pick in the top 3???

    Just wondering….

    WW

    • Canoe Ride 27.1

      What’s it like watching a bitter rival win 5 cups?

      What’s it like watching that bitter rival draft a generational player after they’ve already had the Great One?

      Just curious…

      CR

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    HOW SOON WE FORGET . Step back in time 35 years and go Wikipedia on Wayne Gretzky and for see what we might be seeing again that most of us had forgotten . Conner looks to be that guy that is emerging under the new rules , etc. and we should be thrilled it may be happening again . Some things to look for .

    The Gretzky rule may be considered again if Oilers rack up the scoring on 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 . ” Gretzky made opponents compete with 5 players, not one, and made his teammates all partners in the game ” . He made them skate to his level and pass and finish up to his level or be embarrassed . ” .. if a player without the puck skated just as hard , but faster , dodged and darted , to open ice just as determinedly , but more effectively as those with the puck , how do you shut them down?

    Let the puck do moving and get yourself in the right spot /place . you can’t deke every one or outskate the puck. Move puck , give it up and get it back just as doggedly .

    “That’s all hockey is : open ice . That’s my whole strategy . Keenan: no mans land and goal scorers find it ” .

    Where Hall and rest of first round picks have failed to bring rest of club together as such a team , I believe Conner could be that type of quarterback for our club to move forward . A team game up to now has truly been lacking on the Oilers for quite some time . Hopkins could do well in a Gretzky type team game as well , as could emerging Draisaitl at center or wing . Yakupov would do well to emulate the Gretzky , and possible McDavid style of play if he hopes to make top 6 .

    Most of you should read the Wikipedia article on Gretzky and follow how Gretzky changed things here and possible signs that Conner might be doing the same now and in coming years .

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Hope springs eternal, but some of the predictions for McD’s scoring this year of up to Getzky’s rookie totals are delusional. Remember Gretzky tied for the scoring title his rookie year. If McD were to match that, we are talking about an 87 point year (based on Benn’s points last year).

    In Gretzky’s best year (85-86)he had 215 points which about 1.5 time the next highest scorer (Lemieux). For McD to get 135 points he would in effect (87*1.5) be matching Grtezky’s career best year.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      The Gretzky type offence and team play would work better in todays game than 35 years ago for a couple of reason . One : the defence can no longer hook and hold as they could back then , and limit a perpetual motion offence that can also wreck havoc with scoring lanes setups so prevalent in todays game . Gretzky’s office ( behind net) allowed him a setting to pick up any player that got to the open ice for a ten bell chance . That helps just as much if not more than just net presence as todays game has eroded to . What I am really looking forward to is rest of club playing a system indicative of a talent McDavid can bring to entire club transformation . He should become the on ice captain even without the title . That also means they all buy into coaches direction on full ice responsibilities and heavier play . It’s all coming together and it could easily be this year . We lucked out on lottery now’s the time to start taking advantage of it .

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        Your argument that a “Gretzky style team” would do better today with the changes is rules etc has something to it. But it does not say anything about what scoring totals might be expected. For whatever reason the scoring totals are much lower today the in the Oilers/Gretzky golden era. (IMO I think it is primarily improvement in goaltending, but that’s beside the point). In 85/86 there were 20 players with over 90 scoring points in 14/15 there were zero.

      • Al Theeathoone

        Completely agree Madjam.

        The no holding and hooking rules alone gives McDavid a huge advantage over what it was like in the eighties. He won’t get 200 points but he may be able to be so far ahead of the others in the scoring race that it will be comparable to what Wayne did.

        It’s really remarkable that since Gretzky no one has used the “office” like he did – not even Sid Crosby. I believe that McDavid is the one that can and will and if he does utilize the space behind the net like Wayne did he will rack up assists like no one since him.

        I think that most fans here in Edmonton are overly cautious to realize and or express how good this kid is now and how good he will be because us Oiler fans have had such a decade of disappointment and stalled expectations. Those days are over.

        McDavid, Hall, Hopkins and Eberle are going to tear this league up especially on the three on three man advantage. It’s entirely possible that all four of them could finish in the top ten in scoring – even this year. No other team has the offensive potential this team has. The only team close is Pittsburgh now that they have Kessel.

        Stop worrying about a stud d man folks and get ready for an unbelievable ride. When your team’s forwards are filling the other team’s net with pucks, confidence soars and everyone including the defense gets automatically better.

        • bradleypi

          Couldn’t have said it an better. As long as the oilers score 1 more goal than the other team that’s all that matters. Who cares if they aren’t the best defensive team in the league. That’s not how they are built. All the defence have to do is get the forwards the puck and let them do the rest. Coach McLellan knows how to coach offensive players so I’m also predicting a monster year for Schultz as well. Book it oilersnation. Trash away

        • billythebullet

          Wow way to drink the kool-aid. I am happy that you are excited about the upcoming season but a statement likeI “t’s entirely possible that all four of them could finish in the top ten in scoring – even this year” defies logic.

          I could be wrong but I don’t think either of these players have come close to cracking the top 10 in the past so to say that all 3 plus McDavid will do it this year is a little optimistic. Putting these types of expectations on these players is only going to lead to disappointment. You should hope the Oilers are competitive, then you should hope that they are in a playoff race that would be monumental.

          If Hall and McDavid play together they will be getting the other teams best defensive forwards…seasoned veterans players that are used to shutting down Stamkos, Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane etc. If the game was played on paper the Oilers would have made the playoffs over the last several years….all those first round picks.

    • bradleypi

      Step back in time to Gretzky’s first year in NHL . Gretzky got 137 points in 78 games (tied for most in league with Dionne ) , missed two games of a 80 game schedule back then . Fine centerman and first overall in 78-79 was Bobby Smith who won Calder cup with 30 g and 44A = 74 points . Gretzky was close to doubling what Smith had done the year before as a rookie . Those were the years of NYIsles dynasty with the likes of Trottier , Bossy and D. Potvin who had 70 assists in 79-80 season . Also the likes of Lafleur , and Gretzky beat them all right off the bat . I do not think most fans have to be told what a talent like that can bring , as we have already witnessed what it might bring . McDavid appears to be that new wave talent .