TOP 100 OILERS: RISTO SILTANEN (48)

Risto

As the Edmonton Oilers of today continue to search for a right-handed defenceman who can move the puck and generate points from the back end, I can’t help but hop into my hockey time machine and think how perfect a fit diminutive Finn Risto Siltanen would be now, just as he was when the Oilers broke into the NHL in 1979-80.

It was a different era of course, and younger fans might not even remember Siltanen, who toiled for the Oilers before the Stanley Cup parades on Jasper Avenue began. Back then, before Paul Coffey had fully developed into one of the greatest offensive defencemen the NHL has ever seen, it was the pint-sized Siltanen who carried the mail on the back end for the Oilers and, mercy, did he deliver.

Risto Siltanen

Defense

Born Oct 31 1958 — Mantta, Finland 

Height 5.09 — Weight 180 [175 cm/82 kg]

Drafted by St. Louis Blues

Round 11 #173 overall 1978 NHL Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1978-79

20

EDO

20

3

4

7

4

4

36

8.3

1979-80

21

EDM

64

6

29

35

-9

26

116

5.2

1980-81

22

EDM

79

17

36

53

5

54

209

8.1

1981-82

23

EDM

63

15

48

63

13

26

143

10.5

1982-83

24

HAR

74

5

25

30

-39

28

155

3.2

1983-84

25

HAR

75

15

38

53

-21

34

163

9.2

1984-85

26

HAR

76

12

33

45

-24

30

174

6.9

1985-86

27

TOT

65

10

27

37

1

36

179

5.6

1985-86

27

HAR

52

8

22

30

2

30

126

6.3

1985-86

27

QUE

13

2

5

7

-1

6

53

3.8

1986-87

28

QUE

66

10

29

39

-2

32

130

7.7

4 yrs

HAR

277

40

118

158

-82

122

618

6.5

3 yrs

EDM

206

38

113

151

9

106

468

8.1

2 yrs

QUE

79

12

34

46

-3

38

183

6.6

1 yr

EDO

20

3

4

7

4

4

36

8.3

Career

562

90

265

355

-76

266

1269

7.1

Career

20

3

4

7

4

4

36

8.3

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

Lg

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1978-79

20

EDO

WHA

11

0

9

9

6

4

1979-80

21

EDM

NHL

2

0

0

0

2

1980-81

22

EDM

NHL

9

2

0

2

8

1981-82

23

EDM

NHL

5

3

2

5

10

1985-86

27

QUE

NHL

3

0

1

1

-3

2

9

0.0

1986-87

28

QUE

NHL

13

1

9

10

-4

8

26

3.8

Career

NHL

32

6

12

18

-7

30

35

2.9

Career

WHA

11

0

9

9

6

4

NOTABLE

At five-foot-nine and only about 160 pounds when he was signed as a free agent by the WHA Oilers in 1978, Siltanen was one of the smallest players in the league when he made his NHL debut with the Oilers to start the 1979-80 season. It was an era when there was still a premium on size and ruffians still dotted every roster, so it wasn’t a time when you’d expect a little man to have much success. Siltanen was one of the exceptions.

What Siltanen brought to the table was hockey IQ, a big shot and the ability to lug the puck out of his own zone and get it to a teenaged Wayne Gretzky and winger Blair MacDonald. After getting his feet wet in 20 games with the WHA Oilers, Siltanen saw action in 64 games with the Oilers in their first NHL season, producing 6-29-35 — two points more than a 19-year-old forward named Mark Messier.

Siltanen was just 22 in his second season with the emerging Oilers when he tallied 17-36-53, leading a blueline that included a 19-year-old Coffey in scoring (Coffey had 9-23-32). Coffey’s coming out party would begin in the 1981 playoffs, a post-season that started with a shocking 3-0 sweep of the Montreal Canadiens, but it was Siltanen who got the Game 2 winner in a series nobody thought they had a chance in.

THE STORY

Fresh from upsetting the Habs before losing to the New York Islanders in the second round of the 1981 playoffs, the Oilers had served notice they’d be a team to be reckoned with. They were. The Oilers won the Smyth Division with 111 points in 1981-82. Gretzky had 212 points and Coffey had 89, leaving him behind only the Great One and Glenn Anderson in team scoring.

That campaign would be Siltanen’s final and best season with the Oilers. He had 63 points, including 15 goals, in just 63 games. Coffey was coach Glen Sather’s go-to guy, but Siltanen gave him that second option. Even allowing for the scoring rates of the day, Coffey and Siltanen combining for 152 points behind a prolific group of forwards was an embarrassment of riches.

All told, Siltanen had 151 points in 206 games with the Oilers before he was traded to the Hartford Whalers with the rights to Brent Loney for Ken Linseman and Don Nackbaur in August of 1982. The only thing missing from Siltanen’s tenure in Edmonton was a Stanley Cup ring. Siltanen was a terrific player here, the kind the Oilers of today could surely use.

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.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • I remember being a kid and going to Oiler games with my Dad. The whole rink would light up with excitement when Risto would wind up that slap shot from the point. I remember meeting him at Edmonton center on the escalator. We could definitely use him on the point now! One of my all time fav. Oilers.

    • Rob19

      I hear you. Never met the man but after watching him play as a kid I remember it was the first time I ever heard the term “wicked” used to describe a slap shot. So of course we all had wicked slap shots from then on (according to us) in street/ice/ball hockey….

  • ubermiguel

    Who was our Finnish scout in those days? Give that man some props for Kurri, Tikkanen, and Siltanen. At that time there really hadn’t been that many Fins in the NHL and we had three of the best.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Great shot and an absolutely fantastic skater. If you should ever stumble upon an old Oilers game from the early-early-1980s, hang around for a few minutes and watch for the little right-hander on the blueline with the great wheels. That’s Risto.

    Two things I didn’t know until this article: That Risto was traded for Ken Linseman … and that Linseman was actually Hartford property when the Oilers traded for him. I’d always thought that they’d made a deal with Philadelphia to get him.

    #themoreyouknow

  • Leef O'Golin

    I thought we brought Siltanen back for the ’87 playoff run in some shady Slats deal that resulted in a league rule change. Someone help me out here….