RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 1989-90 SEASON

MessCup

The Edmonton Oilers already had four Stanley Cups in the trophy case when this season began, and it’s fair to say they could have had another one or two had the cards fallen their way. That’s exactly what happened in 1989-90 as the Oilers claimed their fifth Cup, the unlikeliest of the bunch.

With so many key players from previous Cups gone – Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Andy Moog, to name just three – this team had to be, and was, considered a long shot when the 1990 playoffs began. The Oilers had just 38 wins and 90 points, the fewest of any Oiler team to win a Cup (and five less than the team that would lose the 2006 final).

This season was, then, a totally unexpected encore for the remaining Boys on the Bus as the Oilers, no longer the swaggering, cocky, young upstarts on the NHL block, claimed their fifth Cup in a span of seven seasons.

RECORD 38-28-14 90 Pts. 2nd Smythe Division

GD 315-283 plus-32 SH% 14.0 SV% .882

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

1990-03-06

Marc Laforge traded by Hartford for Cam Brauer.

1990-03-06

Reijo Ruotsalainen traded by New Jersey for Jeff Sharples.

1990-02-01

Bruce Bell signed as free agent (formerly with Detroit).

1990-01-05

Normand Lacombe traded to Philadelphia for future considerations.

1989-12-21

Vladimir Ruzicka traded by Toronto for 4th round pick in 1990 (Greg Walters).

1989-11-02

Jimmy Carson traded to Detroit with Kevin McClelland and 5th round pick in 1991 for Adam GravesPetr KlimaJoe Murphy, and Jeff Sharples.

1989-10-10

Jim Ennis traded to Hartford for Norm Maciver.

1989-10-09

Daryl Reaugh signed as free agent by Hartford.

1989-10-02

Randy Exelby traded by Montreal for future considerations.

1989-09-28

Eldon Reddick traded by Winnipeg for future considerations.

1989-06-17

Josef Beranek drafted 78th overall.

1989-06-17

Tommy Lehmann traded by Boston for 3rd round pick in 1989 (Wes Walz).

1989-06-17

Darcy Martini drafted 162nd overall.

1989-06-17

Anatoli Semenov drafted 120th overall.

1989-06-17

Peter White drafted 92nd overall.

SCORING LEADERS

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

Mark Messier

C

79

45

84

129

19

79

211

21.3

Jari Kurri

RW

78

33

60

93

18

48

201

16.4

Glenn Anderson

RW

73

34

38

72

-1

107

204

16.7

Esa Tikkanen

C

79

30

33

63

17

161

199

15.1

Craig Simpson

LW

80

29

32

61

-2

180

129

22.5

Petr Klima

LW

63

25

28

53

-1

66

149

16.8

Craig MacTavish

C

80

21

22

43

13

89

109

19.3

Steve Smith

D

75

7

34

41

6

171

125

5.6

Kevin Lowe

D

78

7

26

33

18

140

74

9.5

Mark Lamb

C

58

12

16

28

10

42

81

14.8

SEASON RECAP

If you’d have suggested the Oilers would contend for another Cup during the first month of the season, even the staunchest fan would have laughed out loud. Grant Fuhr missed the start of the season after having an emergency appendectomy. Jimmy Carson, the big name coming back from Los Angeles in the Gretzky sale, walked out on the team after four games.

Carson couldn’t hack the spotlight here and didn’t particularly care for the city. GM Glen Sather responded by turning lemons into lemonade when he dealt Carson to Detroit along with Kevin McClelland, getting Adam Graves, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy and Jeff Sharples from the Red Wings in return. Graves, Klima and Murphy would prove to be key cogs the rest of the way, helping the Oilers overcome a terrible start to the season before putting their fingerprints all over that fifth Cup.

The Oilers dug themselves a 6-9-5 hole in their first 20 games with John Muckler behind the bench as head coach and they spent the next 60 games digging themselves out of it. Mark Messier, who’d take a run at the Art Ross Trophy with a career-high 129 points and win the Hart Trophy, was the guy doing most of the spade work.

The Oilers would win nine of their next 10 games, but as quickly as they got Fuhr back from the appendectomy, they lost him with a shoulder injury that would see Bill Ranford transition into the No. 1 job in the crease. Another storyline was the Kid Line of Martin Gelinas, Graves and Murphy, a trio put together by Muckler.

ONE MORE TIME

When Fuhr re-injured his shoulder in the second-to-last regular season game, which would keep him on the shelf for the entire playoffs, Ranford began a stretch that would see him go on to win the Conn Smyth Trophy as playoff MVP. He got lots of help from Messier and Craig Simpson, who each had 31 post-season points, and the Kid Line, who chipped in with 30.

The big scare of the post-season came in the first round against Winnipeg as the Jets, who’d traditionally been their playoff patsies, took a 3-1 series lead. Then, behind 3-1 in Game 5, Ranford buckled down. The Oilers came back to win 4-3 on a goal by Messier and then win Game 6 in Winnipeg, also by a 4-3 score, before waltzing to a 4-1 win back at home to move on.

In the second round, the Oilers swept Gretzky and Los Angeles 4-0, sweet revenge for a first-round exit at the hands of the Kings the previous spring. It was a lopsided smackdown that included a 7-0 waxing in the first game and a series that saw Esa Tikkanen get in the Great One’s kitchen from the first buzzer to the last.

In the conference final against Chicago, the Oilers trailed the series 2-1 before Messier took over in a noteworthy fourth game at Chicago Stadium, scoring twice and running roughshod over the Blackhawks in a 4-2 win. After a 4-3 win back home, the Oilers pounded the Blackhawks 8-4 in Chicago to take the series 4-2 and move to the Cup final in a rematch against the Boston Bruins, the team they swept in 1988.

Ranford was the story against his former Boston teammates in the series opener as the Bruins outshot the Oilers 52-31, but lost 3-2 in triple-overtime (still the longest Cup final game at 115:13) on a goal by Klima. The Oilers put the finishing touches on their fifth Cup in seven seasons in Beantown with a 4-1 win. Ranford won all 16 playoff games, tying the NHL record for most post-season wins by a goaltender.. 

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  

    • Aitch

      Not sure history will agree with you on that one. After all, they did make the semi-finals in both ’91 and ’92. Sure they were living off fumes and Sather’s ability to sell a superstar for a decent package of players, but we would all give up something significant for a return to the land of back-to-back semi-final appearances.

    • McDavid#97

      92-93 season was the start of the slide. The made the Conference Finals in 91 and 92. Did matter who made the finals those years. The Penguins were loaded

  • Spaceman Spiff

    you forgot Sather’s guarantee after losing game #4 in the Jets series: “We’re going to win the Cup” was reported in that series and for years later. Bold, having just lost to go down 3-1.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    My absolute favourite cup year of the Oilers.Messier was always my favourite player and he put the team on his back and won the cup that year without Gretzky.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    I am forever grateful to Mess for this season. Round 1 down 3-1 in games and score, he put the team on his back and kept the dream alive.

    It showcased how exceptional a talent Mess was with Gretzky out of the picture. He healed so many wounds from the trade.

    I truly believe we had a 10 cup dynasty had we kept the superstars together.

    Ps- one of my favorite all time goals was Anderson’s behind the back pass to send Simpson in alone in the SCF. Beauty.

  • Jay (not J)

    Was this one the sweetest? For a brief moment it looked as though all of the Pocklingtons and McNalls couldn’t do squat to get in this team’s way. Sadly of course the bubble burst, but we could finally start to get over the Trade. It was kind of nice too that post trade Edmonton got at least one more cup and LA never managed to cash in the biggest chip in the game.

  • dsanchez1973

    I just remember Ranford – one of the last of the stand-up goalies – was truly amazing. An incredible reflex goalie and he was so much fun to watch. Good times.

  • Messier and Ranford get talked about a lot from that team (rightfully so), but Jari Kurri was huge in those playoffs too.

    Also, Robin, which part of Ranford winning 16 games is a record? Is it an Oilers record?

  • ubermiguel

    What a great spring. I’ll never forget that first loss against the Jets where the coach was telling the Jets to shoot from anywhere because Ranford was playing so badly. Or when Messier absolutely flattened Savard in Chicago. Man, it’s been too long since we had a Cup win…or a playoff appearance. Here’s hoping 97 can change that.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Another great retrospective, Robin. Here are a few other memories from that season…

    – Ranford stunk in Game 1. The Jets won 7-5 and Ranford was clearly nervous. I remember one of the colour guys (John Garrett?) noting that he had very “busy-feet” in the net, which meant his skates were moving back and forth in anticipation of every shot. Apparently that wasn’t good. Even worse was the footage of Winnipeg coach Bob Murdoch during a break, going up and down his bench telling his players to “Shoot that puck from everywhere! Shoot that puck from everywhere! Shoot that puck from everywhere!” For the first time, ever, the Oilers playoff goaltending situation was uncertain and scary. Fortunately, Ranford rebounded.

    – Don Whitman. So many of my Oilers memories on Hockey Night in Canada were called by the CBC play-by-play guy. Based in Winnipeg, Whitman (who died from cancer about 10 years ago or so) handled a lot of the western playoff games, especially in the early rounds, and he did a lot of Oilers games. A lot of people didn’t like the way Whit called a game but I thought he was great and I also believe he did some of his best-ever work in that Winnipeg/Edmonton series.

    – Dave Ellett’s OT winner in Game 4. Slapper from the point and one of Whitman’s best calls of the series. Of course, it must also be mentioned that my initial reaction to the goal was to run over to the kitchen sink because I nearly threw up with the thought that we were about to lose to Winnipeg. Understand this – the Oilers simply didn’t lose to Winnipeg when it counted. The Jets were Hawerchuk, Steen and a whole bunch of guys named Boschman and Fenton and Donnelly and Paslawski and MacDermid – none of whom you would have recognized away from the rink if they’d fallen in your soup.

    – The Sea of White. It’s been revered by Winnipeg (and Phoenix) fans for, lo, the past couple of decades, but white was also an appropriate “colour” for what was the most bland franchise in the league not called the Hartford Whalers. The sight of 16,000 Winnipeg fans, in mullets, mom-jeans and their finest Manitoba polyester going absolutely crazy after Ellett’s goal was … ahem… quite a sight.

    – Mark Lamb. It was hard to believe a guy who competed in roughstock events in rodeos during the summer would ever develop chemistry with the graceful Jari Kurri and super-pest Esa Tikkanen, but he did, centering a line with the two Finns. Lamb was wonderful in that series – scoring an OT winner here in Edmonton. Excellent throughout the rest of the playoffs, too. Loved that little guy.

    – Messier’s Hart speech. You need to try to find it on YouTube. I guarantee you’ll tear up. It was quite a year for him. Required viewing from this year includes a Montreal game at Northlands in December where he blew past Chris Chelios to score a highlight-reel goal … as well as Game 4 of the Chicago series. He was a sight to behold all year, but none more than that game.

    – My Oilers 1990 championship hat. I think it was a Starter cap and I bought it sometime in the few weeks between the Oilers victory and my high school grad party in late June. I wore it to the party but one of my drunken classmates “borrowed” it from me that night and I never saw it again.

  • Tikkanese

    Ranford had one heck of a year. Conn Smythe and Canada Cup MVP & Gold that summer. For you young ones, the Canada Cup was the Olympics/World Cup of that time period.

    • Spaceman Spiff

      It was actually a heckuva year-and-a-half. The Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup came in the spring of 1990. The Canada Cup was in the fall of 1991.

      Your point is well-taken, however. For my money, Ranford was the best goalie in the world from April 1990 to the world championships in 1994 or so.

  • Out Of All The Edmonton Oiler Seasons , this is the one that always sticks out in my head .
    I was 10 years old growing up in Richmond BC and I was a die hard Edmonton Oilers Fan . I had seen the 4 th Cup and the dissapointing 1988-1989 Season . The 1989- 1990 Edmonton Oilers played with Hart and Charecter and This is the favourite Oiler Team of all time !
    The season started off slow and week . Than Glen Sather pulled up a masterfull trade with the Detroit Red Wings and Got 3 Star Players ( Klima , Murphey and Graves ) for a sinking bum in Carson who was from Michigan . This is the greatest trade of all time in Oilers History . And it made the Gretzky trade a lot more bereable .
    As a 10 year old in Grade 5 , I watched every game
    . I read as many newspapers as I could in the Sport Section . The Oilers played great down the stretch .
    When they where down 3-1 , I was still uptimistic they would come back , and boy did they ever come back . That Game 6 in a cold Winnipeg Arena was a classic . The Oilers showed off their playoff experience and put Winnipeg Down .
    The Second Round was a thing of Beauty . I never would have expected the Kings to be so Flat In a series . The Oilers completly dominated them . I think Gretzky was injured for most of the series . Oilers swept , Mcnall wept !!

    Chicago provided a stronger apponent , but Edmonton just wouldn’t quit .
    And than the Stanley Cup Finals against Boston , Edmonton dominated once again .
    I have that Game 5 recorded on VHS Tape and I still play it back to remind how much fun it is to be an Edmonton Oilers Fan !