RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 1981-82 SEASON

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It was just their third NHL season, but everything about it looked like a coming out party for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won 48 games and finished second in league standings with 111 points, scoring an NHL record 417 goals along the way. Wayne Gretzky scored 50 goals in 39 games and finished with 92 goals and 212 points. What a bash it was shaping up to be.

A lot of people thought the record-setting Oilers might just steamroll their way to the Stanley Cup final and a date with the powerhouse New York Islanders in that third season, but a funny thing happened on the way to their date with destiny. That would be the Miracle On Manchester.

The Oilers blew a 5-0 lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the third period of the third game of the Smythe Division semifinal at The Great Western Forum on the way to a 6-5 overtime loss in a series the Kings, who finished 48 points behind them, would win in five games. Turn out the lights.

RECORD 48-17-15 111 pts. .694 

GD 417-295 plus-122  SH% 15.5 SV% —

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

1982-03-09

Laurie Boschman traded by Toronto for Phil Drouilliard and Walt Poddubny.

1982-03-09

Doug Hicks traded to Washington for Todd Bidner.

1982-03-09

Stan Weir traded to Colorado for Ed Cooper.

1981-12-11

Eddie Mio traded to NY Rangers for Lance Nethery.

1981-10-08

Gary Edwards claimed on waivers by St. Louis.

1981-10-06

Ray Cote signed as free agent.

1981-08-21

Don Jackson traded by Minnesota with 3rd round pick in 1982 (Wally Champman (Minnesota)) for Don Murdoch.

1981-06-10

Grant Fuhr drafted 8th overall.

1981-06-10

Marc Habscheid drafted 113th overall.

1981-06-10

Gord Sherven drafted 197th overall.

1981-06-10

Steve Smith drafted 111th overall.

1981-06-10

Todd Strueby drafted 29th overall.

1981-05-05

John Blum signed as free agent.

With much of their core already assembled in the 1979 and 1980 drafts, the Oilers added goaltender Grant Fuhr and defenseman Steve Smith in the 1981 draft. They also acquired blueliner Don Jackson from Minnesota.

LEADING SCORERS

Scoring

Player

Pos 

Age 

GP 

G

A

PTS 

+/- 

PIM 

S

S%

Wayne Gretzky

C

21

80

92

120

212

81

26

369 

24.9 

Glenn Anderson

RW

21

80

38

67

105

46

71

252

15.1

Paul Coffey

D

20

80

29

60

89

35

106

234

12.4

Mark Messier

LW

21

78

50

38

88

21

119

235

21.3

Jari Kurri

LW

21

71

32

54

86

38

32

211

15.2

Dave Lumley

RW

27

66

32

42

74

12

96

148

21.6

Risto Siltanen

D

23

63

15

48

63

13

26

143

10.5

Matti Hagman

C

26

72

21

38

59

15

18

94

22.3

Pat Hughes

RW

26

68

24

22

46

21

99

167

14.4

Kevin Lowe

D

22

80

9

31

40

46

63

110

8.2

SEASON RECAP

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No superlative seemed over-the-top in describing the Oilers rapid rise just three seasons after joining the NHL from the WHA. Most notably, there was Gretzky’s single-handed assault on the record book – his 50 goal in 39 games, his record 92 goals and 212 points. Gretzky finished 65 points ahead of runner-up Mike Bossy of the Islanders in the Art Ross Trophy race.

Edmonton’s 417 goals – the first time a team scored more than 400 goals – would leave them 32 ahead of the runner-up Islanders and 57 ahead of the third-place Montreal Canadiens. Simply put, with Gretzky, Glenn Anderson (105 points), Mark Messier (50 goals) and eight players boasting 20-or-more goals, the Oilers could score at will, and often did.

With all that firepower and Fuhr assuming the bulk of the workload in goal (48 appearances), the Oilers looked poised to keep a date with the Islanders. The Kings were supposed to be first-round patsies. Edmonton went into the post-season having won five of their last seven games, a stretch that included 6-2 and 7-3 wins over Los Angeles.

RETHINKING THE SEASON

Anderson

There’s not much to re-think. With the Smythe Division semifinal tied 1-1 after two games in Edmonton, the Oilers season turned in a span of 17:09 in the third period of Game 3 at the Forum. With the Oilers up 5-0 after 40 minutes on two goals by Gretzky and others by Messier, Lee Fogolin and Risto Siltanen, the Kings staged what’s still considered the greatest rally in Cup history.

Jay Wells cut it to 5-1 at 2:46. Doug Smith made it 5-2 on a power play at 5:58 before Charlie Simmer and Mark Hardy cut it to 5-4 with 4:01 to go. With Edmonton’s Gary Unger in the box serving a five-minute major for high-sticking and goaltender Mario Lessard on the bench, the Kings came all the way back to tie it 5-5 when rookie Steve Bozek buried a rebound behind Fuhr with five seconds remaining in regulation time.

When Daryl Evans beat Fuhr high to the glove side off a face-off 2:35 into overtime, the Miracle was complete and the Kings led the series 2-1. The Oilers tied the series with a 3-2 win but the Kings completed their stunning upset with a 7-4 win back in Edmonton to advance to the next round, leaving the record-setting Oilers on the outside looking in.

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

  • BobbyCanuck

    I was watching this game at a friends house, left to go home after they scored 4 goals…I just knew it would not end well.

    Great lesson for the young Oiler though…nobody is going to gift you a game, no matter what the score is, a lesson well learned,and the future well earned

  • BobbyCanuck

    “a funny thing happened on the way to their date with destiny”

    Robin, I would not have called that funny-some words that start with f perhaps, but not funny.

  • ubermiguel

    I doubt we’ll ever see an individual hockey performance like this Gretzky season ever again. 212 points…insane. The 65 point gap between Gretzky and Bossy is unreal too. Benn won the Art Ross this year with 87 total points!

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Honestly, I will remember that night forever.

    I was just a little kid at a friend’s wedding that night and we were all getting occasional updates on the game throughout. We were all giddy hearing of the score originally. Although not allowed to drink I was asking everyone if they could bring me a drink, and seemingly harmless they brought me one or two each, unbeknownst to them that I had others doing the same. Hearing about the fortunes of the Oilers that night just got weirder and weirder – and the ending was so unexpected it was unbelievable. What was originally so fun ended fittingly in me puking my guts out and feeling sicker than imaginable at the end.

    I bet that’s how the Oilers felt that night afterwards too.

    I heard Messier say the Oilers learned a lesson in that game and in that series that they needed to learn, and I did that night too that has served me well to this day – don’t drink rye!!! 😉

  • Spaceman Spiff

    This is definitely nitpicky, but I think that team photo is from 1980-81, not 1981-82.

    I don’t see Grant Fuhr in the photo. Fuhr made the team out of camp and I think Andy Moog actually started the season in the minors (a few months after being the hero of the 1981 playoffs).

    I’m prepared to be corrected on this, however.