RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 1988-89 SEASON

GretzkyTrade

With the hockey world still buzzing and fans of the Edmonton Oilers still reeling from the sale of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in August after a fourth Stanley Cup win, the 1988-89 season would provide the local faithful yet another kick in the pills.

The post-Gretzky Era would begin with a very different looking team, and one that, not surprisingly, was less dynamic and high-powered than the one fans had grown accustomed to. Gone were Gretzky, Marty McSorley, Mike Krushelnyski, Paul Coffey and Andy Moog. In to fill that sizeable void were the likes of Jimmy Carson, Craig Simpson, Martin Gelinas and Bill Ranford.

With the Great One gone, the Oilers would win just 38 games and manage only 84 points, their lowest total since 1980-81. The Oilers saw a bid for a third straight Stanley Cup end in the first round of the playoffs, marking the first time since 1982 they’d fail to win a post-season round.

That bid ended at the hands of Gretzky and the Kings, when the new-look Oilers coughed up a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven games. Take that, and this, too.

RECORD 38-34-8 (84 points) 3rd in Smythe Division

GD 325-306 plus-19 SH% 14.6 SV% .876

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

1989-03-07

Greg Adams traded to Vancouver with Doug Smith for John LeBlanc and 5th round pick (Peter White).

1989-03-07

Alan May traded to Los Angeles with Jim Wiemer for John English and Brian Wilks.

1989-03-01

Nick Fotiu signed as free agent (formerly with Philadelphia).

1989-02-15

Tomas Jonsson traded by NY Islanders for future considerations.

1989-02-07

Keith Acton traded to Philadelphia with 6th round pick in 1991 (Dmitri Yushkevich) for David Brown.

1989-01-23

Doug Halward traded by Detroit for 12th round pick in 1989 (Jason Glickman).

1989-01-14

Dave Hunter claimed on waivers from Winnipeg.

1989-01-03

Miroslav Frycer traded by Detroit for 10th round pick in 1989 (Rick Judson).

1988-12-05

Reed Larson signed as free agent by NY Islanders.

1988-11-07

Glen Cochrane claimed on waivers from Chicago.

1988-11-01

Ken Hammond claimed on waivers by NY Rangers.

1988-10-27

Ron Shudra traded to NY Rangers for Jeff Crossman.

1988-10-03

Steve Dykstra claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh.

1988-10-03

Ken Hammond claimed on waivers from Los Angeles.

1988-10-03

Dave Hannan claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh.

1988-10-03

Doug Smith claimed on waivers from Buffalo.

1988-09-30

Reed Larson signed as free agent (formerly with Boston).

SCORING LEADERS

Player

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

Jari Kurri

76

44

58

102

19

69

214

20.6

Jimmy Carson

80

49

51

100

3

36

240

20.4

Mark Messier

72

33

61

94

-5

130

164

20.1

Esa Tikkanen

67

31

47

78

10

92

151

20.5

Craig Simpson

66

35

41

76

-3

80

121

28.9

Glenn Anderson

79

16

48

64

-16

93

212

7.5

Craig MacTavish

80

21

31

52

10

55

120

17.5

Charlie Huddy

76

11

33

44

0

52

178

6.2

Normand Lacombe

64

17

11

28

2

57

71

23.9

Keith Acton

46

11

15

26

9

47

74

14.9

SEASON RECAP

88-89EdmOil

Led by Jari Kurri and Carson, who scored 49 goals, Edmonton still had considerable firepower with five players who had 30-or-more goals, they just didn’t have the big gun, Gretzky, leading the barrage. After scoring 400-or-more goals in five of the previous nine seasons, they dipped to 325.

Their 84 points left the Oilers third in the Smythe Division and seventh in the league, a $5 cab ride back of the first overall Calgary Flames, who put up 117 points on the way to winning the Stanley Cup – just to rub in the first-round loss to Gretzky and the Kings.

After getting a split in the opening two games in Los Angeles, winning 4-3 and losing 5-2, the Oilers jumped into a 3-1 series lead with 4-0 and 4-3 wins in Edmonton. Back came the Kings, evening things with 4-2 and 4-1 wins before dispatching the Oilers 6-3 in Game 7 at the Great Western Forum. Gretzky, of course, did his part with two goals and an assist in the deciding game.

RETHINKING THE SEASON

Even without Gretzky, the Oilers still had a roster that was the envy of many teams. Kurri, Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson were all 28 years old, still in their prime years. They had skilled youth in Carson and Simpson and a promising young goaltender behind Grant Fuhr in Ranford. Charlie Huddy and Kevin Lowe were proven veterans on the blue line. Steve Smith had emerged and taken a bigger role after the trade of Coffey.

That said, the Oilers simply didn’t have the swagger they had in previous years because, simply put, they no longer could lay claim to the greatest player in the game. I have no idea how to quantify how much that changed the dynamic of the Oiler aura, but it most certainly did.

This 1988-89 Oilers were still a very good team — one that had another Stanley Cup in it down the road — but they were no longer a team that could file into any given rink and win for fun with Gretzky leading the way. The Great One, as the Oilers were painfully reminded in the first round, was in the other dressing room now.

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

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • ubermiguel

    I’ll save you the time for some later seasons…..2006-2007…the Oilers sucked…hit repeat until 2015-2016. Getting hard to give a $#!t with this team…depressed thinking about how many times we’ve all said THAT!

  • Jay (not J)

    I am going to date myself but here are my most defining memories that were flashed forever.
    Lennon killed. Reagan shot. Oilers first Stanley. Edmonton tornado. Shuttle explosion. Oilers trade Gretzky. 9-11. The summer he was traded I moved to the city of heathens to go to SAIT. In 1988 you could fill a table with highballs at 3 cheers on electric avenue for $5.00.

  • Rust In Peace

    Check out those shooting %’s. The team average was 14.6% but I see a lot of the top scorers with 20% plus.

    I wonder if anyone has tracked down the stats over the years that show league average shooting % against the size of goalie equipment?

  • Serious Gord

    As sad as it was to see Gretz go, two things have to be acknowledged in hindsight:

    1. It was inevitable that he would leave. Basket loads of cash would have come his way from several teams in that pre-cap era. He had reached his limit – even exceeded it – in EDM. He needed to go to a major market team both for his benefit and the league’s.

    2. If he hadn’t been traded the team would have been sold to another market. We would not have the oilers today – or at least we would have been without an NHL team for at least fifteen years.

    • Jay (not J)

      It would have been weird, but I think that you are right on both counts. Can you imagine the outrage had they won the 8th Cup in ’93 and then opened the ’94 season as ‘The Anaheim Mighty Ducks’ (for example)? Like Winnipeg we would probably have something back today, but the last 20 odd years would have been completely different.

  • .

    First year with ads on the boards, as well (when they were still called boards and not “the wall or the half wall”).

    Also released that season: Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence

    • Jay (not J)

      Horribly overrated album, but I still pull out Building the Perfect Beast now and again. Regarding the boards, I’m usually pretty critical of commercial encroachment, but looking at most of those pre 90s replays they look so BARE that I’m surprised that it took so long for someone to start selling the space.

      I hope I’m never saying the same thing about jerseys…

      • .

        Sorry, I wasn’t trying to sell Don Henley albums, only pointing out that the aptly titled song came out around the same time that Gretz was sold and advertising efforts encroached directly on the playing area for the first time.

        Other Gretzky-moves-to-LA-appropriate hits from 1989 include:

        If I Could Turn Back Time,

        Hangin’ Tough,

        Miss You Much, and at #1

        Look Away

  • The 1988-1989 Edmonton Oilers where eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the only time since their opening 1979-1980 Season . So the 1989 playoffs where the only time from 1981 to 1992 that the Oilers lost in the first round .
    Also Craig Simpson had a shooting percentage of 28.9 % and only played 66 games .
    I really enjoyed the first 4 games of the Kings – Oilers opening round . Just not the last 3 🙁 .

  • Spaceman Spiff

    A few other memories from the 1988-89 season:

    – Gretzky’s first game back in Edmonton. As I recall, it was mid-week, probably a Monday or Tuesday night, and Hockey Night in Canada actually did the game. Back then, that was a rarity. Outside of the playoffs, HNIC seldom did mid-week games, if ever. During Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry’s description of seeing Gretzky in a Kings’ jersey has stuck with me for all of these years. Seeing #99 in an LA jersey, said Cherry, “was like watching Secretariat run at the state fair.” Priceless.

    – MacT wore a helmet for part of the season, if not all of it. Didn’t last long. He was helmet-less by the next season.

    – Jari Kurri. It was assumed he’d turn back into a fire hydrant after Gretzky left, but 1988-89 was the year that he showed the rest of the league what kind of a player he was. He had 102 points and showed stellar two-play. The best 200-foot player the Oilers ever had and it took Gretzky’s departure for all of us to start to see it.

    – Mr. Anonymous. Jimmy Carson scored 49 goals and 100 points in 1988-89 … so he delivered. Sort of. Although he scored five game-winners during the regular season, not one of the goals was memorable. I remember some local media guy noting, after Carson was traded in the fall of 1989, that Carson led the league in goals scored when the game was beyond decided. In other words, he’d be the guy to score the last two goals in a 7-3 win. Or, worse, the hat trick in an 8-3 loss. Nobody scored more when less was on the line than Carson. He had three points in seven playoff games for the Oilers.

    – Glenn Anderson looked like he was in a fog. Of all the stars, Anderson looked to be most affected by Gretzky’s departure. Anderson was not his crease-crashing, swash-buckling self for this year, but neither were the Oilers, really. I remember how weird it was to see a disinterested Anderson play.

    – Chris Kontos. Speaking of the playoffs, you can’t revisit 1988-89 season without mentioning his name. He scored nine goals and zero assists in 11 playoff games and all nine of those goals came against the Oilers in the first round. The Flames completely shut him out in the next round. The story of how he signed with the Kings was almost as legendary. His unsigned contract was faxed to a lumberyard in whatever depressed Ontario town he was holed up in. It was the first time I’d ever heard of something being “faxed.”

    – The playoff series. Kontos’ flash-in-the-pan heroics aside, the series against the Kings was an emotional grinder. It looked like it was going to be easy. But then the Kings rode Gretzky’s emotion and came back.

    – Jason Soules. The Oilers’ first-round draft pick in 1989 was Bryan Fogarty’s defence partner in Niagara Falls and, thus, had a front-row seat to the biggest on- and off-ice circus in junior hockey. Fogarty broke Bobby Orr’s junior records and partied hard while Soules was the stay-at-home guy. Junior hockey must have been quite enough for Soules as he never played the Oilers and retired in his early 20s to become a firefighter.

    – Joel Otto kicked it in… while standing in the crease. This has nothing to do with the Oilers, but it must be noted for the record. The Canucks threw the biggest scare into the Flames’ playoff hopes that season, taking Calgary all the way to overtime in Game 7. During the extra session, Mike Vernon channelled Ken Dryden and robbed Stan Smyl and Tony Tanti with glove saves on partial breakaways. Soon after, Jim Peplinski banked a shot off of Otto’s turned skate inside the Canucks’ crease and it was over. Let the record note that the Flames 1989 Cup win was brought about two factors – a goal scored in the crease … and a trade made the previous August in Edmonton.