RE-LIVE THE EDMONTON OILERS 1995-96 SEASON

The 1995-96 season would mark the fourth consecutive season out of the playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, but after years of steady decline with owner Peter Pocklington and GM Glen Sather dismantling the five-time Stanley Cup champions piece-by-piece in salary dumps, the Oilers finally started to turn the corner.

This was still NHL hockey on-the-cheap with Pocklington’s financial issues dictating what happened in hockey ops, but the re-tooled Oilers were starting to take shape. During the off-season, Sather dealt a pair of first round draft picks to St. Louis for goaltender Curtis Joseph and the rights to Mike Grier.

In January, Sather traded Bill Ranford to the Boston Bruins for Mariusz Czerkawski and a first-round draft choice. Doug Weight, already established as the leader of the team, became the first Oiler to hit 100 points since Mark Messier did it in 1989-90. While this group was obviously a far cry from the Boys on the Bus editions of the Oilers, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel that had been the darkest days for the franchise.

RECORD: 30-44-8 (68 points) 5th in NHL Pacific Division

GD 240-304 minus-64 SH% 9.8 SV% .881 

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

1996-04-30

Bryan Muir signed as free agent.

1996-03-20

Kirk Maltby traded to Detroit for Dan McGillis.

1996-03-12

Glenn Anderson claimed on waivers by St. Louis.

1996-03-12

David Roberts signed as free agent (formerly with St. Louis).

1996-01-25

Glenn Anderson claimed on waivers from Vancouver.

1996-01-16

Fredrik Olausson claimed on waivers by Anaheim.

1996-01-11

Sean Brown traded by Boston with Mariusz Czerkawski and 1st round pick in 1996 (Matthieu Descoteaux) for Bill Ranford.

1996-01-04

Donald Dufresne traded by St. Louis with Jeff Norton for Igor Kravchuk and Ken Sutton.

1995-12-04

Kent Manderville traded by Toronto for Peter White and 4th round pick in 1996 (Jason Sessa).

1995-10-11

Iain Fraser signed as free agent by Winnipeg.

1995-09-19

Rem Murray signed as free agent (formerly with Los Angeles).

1995-08-24

Brett Hauer traded by Vancouver for 6th round pick in 1997 (Larry Shapley).

1995-08-23

Micah Aivazoff signed as free agent by NY Islanders.

1995-08-18

Mike Stapleton signed as free agent by Winnipeg.

1995-08-04

Mike Grier traded by St. Louis with Curtis Joseph for 1st round picks in 1996 (Marty Reasoner) and 1997 (Matt Zultek (Los Angeles)).

1995-07-28

Shayne Corson signed as free agent by St. Louis–Oilers receive 1st round picks in 1996 (Marty Reasoner (St. Louis)) and 1997 (Matt Zultek (Los Angeles)) as compensation.

1995-07-08

Steve Kelly drafted 6th overall.

1995-07-08

Georges Laraque drafted 31st overall.

1995-07-08

Mike Minard drafted 83rd overall.

LEADING SCORERS

Rk

Player

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S%

1

Doug Weight

82

25

79

104

-19

95

12.3

2

Zdeno Ciger

78

31

39

70

-15

41

16.8

3

Jason Arnott

64

28

31

59

-6

87

11.5

4

David Oliver

80

20

19

39

-22

34

15.3

5

Todd Marchant

81

19

19

38

-19

66

8.6

6

Miroslav Satan

62

18

17

35

0

22

15.9

7

Boris Mironov

78

8

24

32

-23

101

5.1

8

Dean McAmmond

53

15

15

30

6

23

19.0

9

Mariusz Czerkawski

37

12

17

29

7

8

15.2

10

Kelly Buchberger

82

11

14

25

-20

184

9.2

SEASON RECAP

When the Oilers started the schedule with four straight losses and staggered to a record of 13-21-6 in their first 40 games, it looked like fans were in for another long, losing season under coach Ron Low. The season turned when Joseph, who’d started the year with the Las Vegas Thunder of the IHL after failing to come to contract terms with the Oilers, inked a deal.

That move allowed Sather to move Ranford to Boston for more scoring up front in the form of Czerkawski and some depth on the blue line in Brown. It was Joseph, who’d spent six seasons with the Blues, who provided the spark that ignited a second-half turnaround and reason for optimism.

Joseph went 15-16-2 after taking the crease and the Oilers at least edged to the fringes of the playoff conversation after a terrible start, eventually finishing 10 points out of a post-season berth in the Western Conference. It was a small step, but a step forward nonetheless. 

LOOKING BACK

For fans who’d ridden the roller-coaster from the best of times to the worst of times, the significant takeaway from the 1995-96 season was seeing Joseph and Weight emerge as leaders and stars – not necessarily players at the top of the NHL marquee, but finally players to build around.

Zdeno Ciger had a 70-point season. Jason Arnott scored 28 goals in just 64 games. Ryan Smyth, just 19, got into 48 games. Boris Mironov had emerged as the team’s best blueliner. There was some veteran leadership in captain Kelly Buchberger, Bryan Marchment and Luke Richardson.

While they were still a work in progress and fighting an uphill battle in trying to compete against teams with double and sometimes triple their payroll, the way the Oilers played in the second half of the season showed there were better days ahead. Not great days, but better days.

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

    Love the flashbacks, but the reverse order for the transactions always throws me for a loop.

    *** edit***

    You’ve alluded to it, by mentioning the start, but weren’t the Oilers one of the best teams in the league that year after Christmas? I seem to remember seeing some stat way back then that showed they were 4th or 5th in points once the calendar turned. It stuck with me, as it was the first real evidence that the team was about to be competitive again.

  • Morgo_82

    January 11th, 1996 was a sad day for me, my idol growing up was traded away. When they got Cujo my heart was hoping they would go with a one two punch in goal but my brain knew that the writing was on the wall for Billy R. I grew to love Cujo and still followed Ranford’s career in Boston, Washington, Tampa, Detroit and finally back here where I got to be in attendance for his final start ever. Ah, memories.

    • Bill is a terrific guy and he was back in town for the reunion of old Oilers to mark the closing of Rexall Place. He was dynamite in the 1990 playoffs.

      One of my regular gigs when I started out as a sports writer was covering the New Westminster Bruins and that’s where I first met Bill in 1983 — he was sharing the crease with another former Oiler, Pokey Reddick.

      • Morgo_82

        I got to meet him again for Bill Ranford night and got my jersey signed. He’s a classy guy, that’s for sure. I was happy when LA won those cups just so he could get him name on it again.

  • Morgo_82

    We lost locker room cancer Shayne Corson for two first rounders??? HAHAHAHAHA either that arbitrator loved the Oilers or hated the Blues. I would’ve traded him for a second round pick. Hell, I would’ve traded him for Reasoner straight up knowing what Reasoner would’ve become.