27

Top 100 Oilers: Bill Ranford (11)

As command performances go, you have to look long and hard to find one better than the beauty Bill Ranford turned in over a stretch of seven weeks during the spring of 1990 when he backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to their fifth Stanley Cup and copped the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP along the way.

And talk about tough acts to follow as an exclamation mark to that post-season performance, well, they don’t get any better. Acquired in a trade with Boston that sent Andy Moog to Beantown a couple seasons earlier, Ranford was forced into the spotlight that spring with Grant Fuhr out with a bum shoulder. His transformation from back-up to backbone was nothing short of stunning, especially if you consider how badly his coming out party started.

Bill Ranford

Goalie — Catches Left
Born Dec 14 1966 — Brandon, MAN
Height 5.11 — Weight 185 [180 cm/84 kg]

Drafted by Boston Bruins

Round 3 #52 overall 1985 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

W

L

T/O

SV%

GAA

SO

MIN

1985-86

19

BOS

4

3

1

0

.906

2.50

0

240

1986-87

20

BOS

41

16

20

2

.891

3.33

3

2234

1987-88

21

EDM

6

3

0

2

.899

2.95

0

325

1988-89

22

EDM

29

15

8

2

.877

3.50

1

1509

1989-90

23

EDM

56

24

16

9

.887

3.19

1

3107

1990-91

24

EDM

60

27

27

3

.893

3.20

0

3415

1991-92

25

EDM

67

27

26

10

.884

3.58

1

3822

1992-93

26

EDM

67

17

38

6

.884

3.84

1

3753

1993-94

27

EDM

71

22

34

11

.898

3.48

1

4070

1994-95

28

EDM

40

15

20

3

.883

3.62

2

2203

1995-96

29

TOT

77

34

30

9

.885

3.29

2

4322

1995-96

29

EDM

37

13

18

5

.875

3.81

1

2015

1995-96

29

BOS

40

21

12

4

.894

2.83

1

2307

1996-97

30

TOT

55

20

23

10

.887

3.25

2

3156

1996-97

30

BOS

37

12

16

8

.887

3.49

2

2147

1996-97

30

WSH

18

8

7

2

.888

2.74

0

1009

1997-98

31

WSH

22

7

12

2

.901

2.79

0

1183

1998-99

32

TOT

36

6

18

4

.885

3.64

1

1812

1998-99

32

TBL

32

3

18

3

.881

3.90

1

1568

1998-99

32

DET

4

3

0

1

.918

1.97

0

244

1999-00

33

EDM

16

4

6

3

.885

3.59

0

785

10 yrs EDM

449

167

193

54

.887

3.51

8

25004

4 yrs BOS

122

52

49

14

.891

3.19

6

6928

2 yrs WSH

40

15

19

4

.896

2.76

0

2192

1 yr DET

4

3

0

1

.918

1.97

0

244

1 yr TBL

32

3

18

3

.881

3.90

1

1568

Career

647

240

279

76

.888

3.41

15

35936

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

W

L

SV

SV%

GAA

SO

MIN

1985-86

19

BOS

2

0

2

37

.841

3.50

0

120

1986-87

20

BOS

2

0

2

47

.855

3.90

0

123

1989-90

23

EDM

22

16

6

613

.912

2.53

1

1401

1990-91

24

EDM

3

1

2

70

.897

3.56

0

135

1991-92

25

EDM

16

8

8

433

.895

3.37

2

909

1995-96

29

BOS

4

1

3

96

.857

4.02

0

239

1998-99

32

DET

4

2

2

95

.905

3.28

1

183

Career

53

28

25

1391

.897

3.07

4

3110

NOTABLE

Ranford was a member of the Edmonton’s 1988 Stanley Cup team after being acquired from Boston in March of that season, but he’d essentially been a cheerleader while Fuhr carried the load – Fuhr played every post-season game on 1988 and 1989. Ranford didn’t play a minute between the pipes. Then came the 1990 post-season. With Fuhr out, Ranford, just 23, got the crease. No pressure, kid.

To say things started badly for Ranford is to understate in the extreme. In the first game of the opening round against Winnipeg, the Jets pumped seven pucks past Ranford in a 7-5 win. Four games in, the Jets led the series 3-1 and Ranford was being shown up by Winnipeg’s Bob Essensa and getting ripped righteously in the newspapers. Then, Ranford buckled down. The Oilers came back to win that series as part of a 15-3 run that ended with a 4-1 series win over Moog and the Bruins and a fifth Stanley Cup. In Game 1 of the final series Ranford made 50 saves and the Oilers won 3-2 in triple-overtime on Petr Klima’s goal.

“The way I started didn’t help our situation against Winnipeg,” Ranford said of being thrown into the deep end against the Jets to start the miraculous run. “It was a learning thing. Not having Grant and going with a young goalie, there was that transition and a learning process not just for myself but for the team . . . I took a lot of abuse for that game and that became a determining factor for me to prove everybody wrong, that was I was able to do it.”

THE STORY

Aside from the 1990 post-season that defined his career, I’ll remember Ranford as one of the most entertaining stoppers to watch. Long before today’s watching-paint-dry butterfly style choked much of the life out of the crease, Ranford was a two-pad stack demon, an athletic, undersized goaltender who never gave up on a puck. Kick save. Pad stack. An accomplished flopper he was – in his rookie season with the New Westminster Bruins of the WHL in 1983-84, Ranford and Eldon Reddick formed the most athletic crease tandem I’ve ever seen.

Traded back to Boston in January of 1996 with that 1990 Oiler Cup team a fading memory, Ranford would also make stops in Washington, Tampa Bay and Detroit before circling back to Edmonton in 1999-2000 when he made 16 appearances as the back-up to Tommy Salo. Later, he’d play with Edmonton’s oldtimers in the 2003 Heritage Classic, throwing in a two-pad stack or two just for old time’s sake.

All told, Ranford won 167 regular season games and 28 more in the playoffs for the Oilers. Only Fuhr, with 227, has more career regular season wins in Edmonton’s crease. Nobody has faced more shots or made more saves. Simply put, while that playoff stretch in 1990 is what etched Ranford’s name in Oiler folklore and is what fans most fondly remember, there was much more to him than that.

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.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Jay (not J)

    Getting into the thin air here. A playoff MVP in a successful campaign is team royalty whether they hang his banner in the barn or not. Somehow, that fifth Cup is the sweetest. We loved Wayne, but doing it without him made it seem (for a little while) that there could still be glory while he was down south ‘growing the game’. Never happens without Ranford’s amazing performance.

  • ColoradOIL

    Ranford is huge reason why I became an Oilers fan all the way down here in Colorado. The Avs didn’t exist when I fell in love with hockey. My dad had a VHS about the 90 run that I watched religiously as a young kid. Watching Bill Ranford in that tape was a big reason I became and Edmonton fan.

  • ubermiguel

    Those post-Cup early 90s Oilers teams gave up a lot of shots, I mean most-SA-in-the-league level. The most under-appreciated thing about Ranford is how he made those teams look better than they were. Cujo came onboard and did the same thing.

  • Nanook

    Randford was a class act all the way around. I got the pleasure of meeting him once. He was stopped in a small Café in Outlook sask. I was going to school there. Needless to say we recognized him. Even with his young baby crying with his wife wanting to leave he made sure to sign all the autographs and answer as many questions as he could before it was clear his wife was fiving him the old stare of death, lol. That was right after he was at and won the world championships in the spring of 93. Nothing but good things to say about the man.

    • Torgerson

      Great story. I had a similar encounter with him where I grew up in Dawson Creek, BC. He was at one time an investor in Mr. Mike’s restaurants and attended the grand opening in Dawson Creek, even though it was a small city without too many people in attendance. He was with the Washington Capitals at that point. He signed autographs and seemed to genuinely care about meeting fans and customers.

  • WhoreableGuy

    Hard to argue that he wasn’t one of the best goalies on the planet in 1990 and 1991.

    His Canada Cup performance in 1991 is rarely talked about. Stoned Hull and the Americans in the final series.

    • Redbird62

      McDavid is off to a tremendous start in his career, and if Gretzky himself is right, Connor may some day challenge Wayne for top spot. McDavid may be as talented or better than all of them, however, 5 of the top 10 were first ballot Hall of Famers who led Edmonton to 3-5 Stanley Cups. I hope and expect Connor to lead Edmonton to many great things over the next decade, but he has to do it before he gets to the top of a list like this.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Ranford was out of this world in the 1990 Cup finals. By all rights, the Bruins should have won that series. They mostly outplayed te Oilers, but Ranford stoned them. Robbed them blind. Thanks, Billy!

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Oh, what a magical season it was. And no player – save for Mark Messier, I suppose – was more central or symbolic of 1989-90 than Bill Ranford.

    For those too young to know or remember, you need to realize – in the fall of 1989, the Oilers were largely written off as a going-concern. In the previous season, still numb from the Gretzky Trade, they eked out a third-place finish in the division and, later that spring, they blew a 3-1 series lead against Gretzky and the Kings.

    The prevailing narrative around the league was that the Oilers were done and over with; sentenced to a new life, if they were lucky, as also-rans behind Gretz and the Kings and, of course, the Calgary Flames, who were probably the biggest and most immediate benefactors in the year after the Gretzky trade.

    When the Oilers started the season with six wins in their first 20 games, it looked bleak. But Messier grabbed the team by the throat, Kurri turned into the best two-way forward in hockey and the leaders led. But when the playoffs rolled around, we still weren’t sure. And for the first couple of games in the first-round series against Winnipeg, we were even less sure.

    One of the enduring memories I’ll have of that year was how shaky Ranford looked in Games 1-3. He fought the puck with “busy feet,” as John Garrett called them, referring to Ranford’s tendency, early-on, to wiggle his skates back and forth on the ice in preparation for a shot. By Game 3, Billy had let in enough soft goals that there’s a famous sequence that CBC’s cameras caught of Jets coach Bob Murdoch yelling up and down his bench to “Shoot that puck from everywhere! Shoot that puck from everywhere! Shoot that puck from everywhere!”

    When Dave Ellett scored on a slapper from the blueline in overtime in Game 4, I remember going to the kitchen sink ready to throw up. We weren’t just dying … we were about to lose a first-round series to the Winnipeg Freakin’ Jets.

    But then something … happened. All these years later, I’m still not sure it wasn’t supernatural.

    Somehow, some way, Ranford calmed down. He stopped fighting the puck and started stopping it – and at big moments. His kick save on Dale Hawerchuk (HAWERCHUK!) was more than a beauty – it was the TSN Turning Point before there was such a thing. It flipped a switch.

    Mark Lamb scored an OT winner. Graves, Murphy and Gelinas turned into the Kid Line. Kurri played his 200-foot game. Tikkanen annoyed. Anderson swashbuckled. Simpson waged a personal battle against Winnipeg’s goalies. Messier was Messier.

    I was in Grade 12 at the time – 17 years old …. and a young 17, to boot. I probably had other things to worry about at that time in my life, like studying for diploma exams, finding a date for prom and securing someone to buy beer for me for the grad party. But the Oilers swept me up that spring … swept all of us up, really. By June, we were emotionally exhausted.

    I know that sounds ridiculous, but 27 years later, believe me when I say that we all lived a year that spring. The Oilers went from a team that struggled to define itself for 18 months after August of 1988 to a team that rediscovered its confidence thanks to a goaltender who found new confidence in himself … all in the span of two weeks.

    No. 11 is perfect, Robin. Thanks, Billy, for earning that spot.

  • Florescent Oil Orange

    Ranford was a testimony to how good Sather truly was. No body heard of this guy or new who he was when Sather had him “thrown In” on the Moog trade. Sather stretched the roster and trades so well. Ever year at the deadline he seemed to add guys at pennies on the dollar. Weather it be a unheard of European. Or some player like Foligno who spent part of a season. With the mighty oil.

    But this is a ranford post and not a Sather post.

    In the early days of the 1990’s after that last cup things were bleak. Down right depressing( not as bad as the decade of.darkness) but the lowest the Oilers had ever been. Ranford gave them a chance to win every night

    In fact I remember coming up with a theory that goalies had to be she’ll shocked repeatedly every game to rise to the next level. While I realise that is not the truth today I thought the crappy Oilers teams made him the best goalie of the day. I’ll admit.that was probably top 3 and I was a little biased. But 91 on until he was traded ranford made the Oilers respectable

  • 2centz

    Bill Ranford has also been a goalie factory,down in Los Angeles. Even Ben Scrivens looked like an NHL goalie under Ranford. He’s won two cups as a coach,one as a playoff MVP,a gold medal and tournament MVP for Canada,at the worlds. In my opinion,The Hall of Fame should have a place for a hockey man,like Bill Ranford.