I don’t know about you, but when I look at the Edmonton Oilers over the last 20 years, I can count the number of the defensemen with the same level of offensive skill as Lubomir Visnovsky on one hand – Chris Pronger, Ryan Whitney, Janne Niinimaa, Roman Hamrlik and Boris Mironov.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, the gifted and undersized Slovakian blueliner spent just 107 games over parts of two seasons in Edmonton silks between the time he was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in June of 2008 and sent to the Anaheim Ducks in March of 2010. A glimpse is all we got.
Lubomir Visnovsky #71
|NUMBER:||11||BIRTHDATE:||August 11, 1976|
|HEIGHT:||5′ 10″||BIRTHPLACE:||Topolcany, Slovakia|
|WEIGHT:||192||DRAFTED:||LAK / 2000 NHL Entry Draft|
|SHOOTS:||Left||ROUND:||4th (118th overall)|
BY THE NUMBERS
CAREER REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS
|2004-05||HC SLOVAN SLOVNAFT BRATISLAVA-SLOVAKIA||43||13||25||38||40|
|2012-13||HC SLOVAN BRATISLAVA-KHL||32||6||10||16||22|
CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
|2004-05||HC SLOVAN SLOVNAFT BRATISLAVA-SLOVAKIA||14||2||10||12||10|
GM Kevin Lowe gave up a couple of popular and solid role players in centre Jarret Stoll and blueliner Matt Greene to get Visnovsky, who was drafted by Los Angeles and played seven seasons there, from the Kings, but there’s no question the Oilers got the best player in the trade.
While Visnovsky had some reservations about being traded to Edmonton – he was dealt by GM Dean Lombardi one day before a no-trade clause kicked in, he was happily settled in L.A. and his fiancé was expecting – he added more offensive punch to a group that already had some with Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov.
In his first season with the Oilers, Visnovsky put up 31 points (8-23-31) in 50 games before his season was ended by a dislocated shoulder that required surgery. In 2009-10, the first year of a five-year contract worth $28 million, Visnovsky had 32 points (10-22-32) when the Oilers dealt him to the Ducks for Whitney and a sixth-round draft pick. You can see Visnovsky’s exit interview with media here.
At the time, I liked the acquisition of Whitney because he also brought an offensive dimension, was seven years younger than Visnovsky and didn’t make as much money. While Whitney looked like the goods in 2010-11 with 27 points in 35 games, a torn tendon in his foot ended that season and he would never be the same.
Visnovsky, meanwhile, did Whitney one better in 2010-11 by leading NHL defensemen in scoring with a career-high 68 points, including 18 goals, in Anaheim. While Visnovsky never played a full season after that, he’d finish his career with 495 points in 883 games.
Simply put, Visnovsky thought the game on an elite level and produced points everywhere he played. He had a terrific NHL career and had he spent more of it playing in Edmonton, he’d be a lot higher on this list.
This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.