TOP 100 OILERS: KEN LINSEMAN (41)

Unless Ken Linseman was playing for your team, he was a dirty little %@$#^# so-and-so nicknamed The Rat who deserved to get his #%$&#% backside handed to him good and plenty, and the sooner the better. He was a miserable little $#*#~!@ cheap-shot guy loathed far and wide around the NHL. Shut your face, Linseman, you $%@^!#.

That changed in this NHL outpost when Linseman pulled on the silks of the star-studded Edmonton Oilers before the 1982-83 season. He was adopted by the local faithful as a player whose considerable skills were matched only by the edge he played with and his willingness to do whatever it took to win. The Rat? What a competitor he was. You know how it goes . . . 

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Ken Linseman

Forward

Born Aug 11 1958 — Kingston, ONT 

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Height 5.11 — Weight 175 [180 cm/79 kg]

Drafted by Birmingham Bulls

Round 10 #83 overall 1977 WHA Amateur Draft

Drafted by Philadelphia Flyers

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Round 1 #7 overall 1978 NHL Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1977-78

19

BRB

71

38

38

76

6

126

216

17.6

1978-79

20

PHI

30

5

20

25

16

23

57

8.8

1979-80

21

PHI

80

22

57

79

26

107

168

13.1

1980-81

22

PHI

51

17

30

47

9

150

126

13.5

1981-82

23

PHI

79

24

68

92

6

275

212

11.3

1982-83

24

EDM

72

33

42

75

16

181

141

23.4

1983-84

25

EDM

72

18

49

67

30

119

105

17.1

1984-85

26

BOS

74

25

49

74

22

126

162

15.4

1985-86

27

BOS

64

23

58

81

15

97

132

17.4

1986-87

28

BOS

64

15

34

49

15

126

94

16.0

1987-88

29

BOS

77

29

45

74

36

167

150

19.3

1988-89

30

BOS

78

27

45

72

15

164

159

17.0

1989-90

31

TOT

61

11

25

36

5

96

79

13.9

1989-90

31

BOS

32

6

16

22

12

66

47

12.8

1989-90

31

PHI

29

5

9

14

-7

30

32

15.6

1990-91

32

EDM

56

7

29

36

15

94

49

14.3

1991-92

33

TOR

2

0

0

0

-2

2

0

6 yrs

BOS

389

125

247

372

115

746

744

16.8

5 yrs

PHI

269

73

184

257

50

585

595

12.3

3 yrs

EDM

200

58

120

178

61

394

295

19.7

1 yr

TOR

2

0

0

0

-2

2

0

1 yr

BRB

71

38

38

76

6

126

216

17.6

Career

860

256

551

807

224

1727

1634

15.7

Career

71

38

38

76

6

126

216

17.6

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1977-78

19

BRB

5

2

2

4

1

15

1978-79

20

PHI

8

2

6

8

22

1979-80

21

PHI

17

4

18

22

40

1980-81

22

PHI

12

4

16

20

67

1981-82

23

PHI

4

1

2

3

6

1982-83

24

EDM

16

6

8

14

22

1983-84

25

EDM

19

10

4

14

5

65

44

22.7

1984-85

26

BOS

5

4

6

10

6

8

12

33.3

1985-86

27

BOS

3

0

1

1

0

17

5

0.0

1986-87

28

BOS

4

1

1

2

-2

22

5

20.0

1987-88

29

BOS

23

11

14

25

4

56

45

24.4

1990-91

32

EDM

2

0

1

1

1

0

1

0.0

Career

113

43

77

120

14

325

112

23.2

Career

5

2

2

4

1

15


NOTABLE

Some hockey historians consider Linseman the first true agitator in NHL history. He was a contradictory blend of speed and skill and piss and vinegar who could play the game anyway you wanted. Linseman scored 20-or-more goals seven times in the NHL and he got better when the games got bigger. While Linseman wasn’t a big man at five-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he’d yap and hack and drive opponents to distraction.

Linseman was suspended in junior for kicking an opponent. As a member of the Oilers, Linseman was suspended for fighting Dean Kennedy of the LA Kings under the stands at Northlands Coliseum. How much of a pain in the ass was Linseman? Long after his days of dirty deeds were done, the writers at Grantland rated The Rat among the Top 10 NHL dirt bags of all time here. 

Whatever your views on Linseman tip-toeing along the line that separates mayhem from being “highly competitive” – something swayed largely by whether he was playing for your team or not – there’s no getting around how effective he was with the Oilers, particularly during the playoffs and when he played on a line with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson.

THE STORY

Linseman

After coming over from the Philadelphia Flyers for the 1982-83 season, Linseman scored 33-42-75 in 72 games. In the 1983 playoffs, he added 14 points in 16 games as the Oilers reached the Stanley Cup final, only to be swept by the New York Islanders. Turns out Linseman, like the Oilers, was only getting warmed up.

Linseman scored 18-49-67 in 72 games during the 1983-84 regular season, then upped his game once again in the 1984 post-season. He’d score 10 goals and have 14 points in 19 games as the Oilers claimed their first Stanley Cup, beating the reigning champion Islanders in five games. Along the way to that first date with the engraver, Linseman scored the winning goals to clinch three consecutive series – against the Calgary Flames, Minnesota North Stars and the Islanders. That remains an NHL record (since tied by Martin Gelinas) today.

Edmonton’s first Stanley Cup parade wasn’t long over when GM Glen Sather dealt Linseman to Boston for Mike Krushelnyski (June 21, 184). After parts of five seasons with the Bruins and a brief return to the Flyers, the Rat returned to Edmonton for a 56-game encore in 1990-91. In 200 regular season games with the Oilers, Linseman scored 58-120-178 and he added 29 points in 37 playoff games, winning one Cup. The Rat was money.

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.

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  • Spydyr

    The Rat is the exact type of player the Oilers have lacked for far too long.Zack is the closet they have but in Bettman’s NHL you can’t even hit a guy with his head down without getting a phone call.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Good piece. It was always tricky finding a LW to play with Gretzky/Kurri and Messier/Anderson and Ken fit in nicely with the latter (it was ironic that he would be traded for a guy who ended up filling the LW role competently for a couple of seasons on the 99/17 line – Krushelnyski).

    I also remember his nickname being slightly adjusted during his second go-round here in 1990-91 to “Rat-Under-Glass” (he wore a visor at the time).

    Robin, I know this goes beyond the scope of your article, but wasn’t Linseman a bit of a junior phenom, too? I thought I remember reading somewhere that he was a much sought-after prospect back in the 1970s and the WHA scored a major coup by luring him to their league (I think their underage rule, at the time, was quite a bit more liberal than the NHL’s was).