Today’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday is without question an odd one: If you could transport one 1990’s Edmonton Oiler to the modern day team, which one would you pick?
First, there are some ground rules.
The seasons covered by this question run from 1990-91 to 1999-2000. That knocks most of the great glory days Oilers out of the picture, and the ones that remain are all older. Esa Tikkanen and Kevin Lowe are still on the table, but only post-prime versions of them.
Additionally, to qualify, a player must have appeared in at least 100 games for the Oilers during this decade. A full list of qualifying skaters is here; there are two goalies too but both of those are covered below.
Finally, assume that the magic time travel device which you used to transport this player will automatically zip him back to his original time if you try to trade him. In other words, don’t tell me you’re bringing Doug Weight from the past and then flipping him elsewhere.
I’ve compiled a list of notable players, but I should warn that some really good ones were excluded. I had to draw the line somewhere; for me it was Mike Grier but for you it might be Jason Arnott or Craig Simpson or Scott Mellanby or Marius Czerkawski… well, you get the idea.
- RW Bill Guerin (190 games, 139 points). Edmonton would love to have a Guerin at right wing today, and there’s no question he’d end up on McDavid’s wing immediately, bringing a shoot-first mentality both with the puck and in physical altercations. He was a 30-goal man on Doug Weight’s wing and would hit 40 twice in the 2000’s; it would be a blast to see him playing with the NHL’s best centre.
- LD Roman Hamrlik (196 games, 103 points). Hamrlik lasted less than three seasons with the Oilers before pricing himself out of town while still in his prime (he was traded at age 26). Still, he left an impression as an all-situations defender who could handle major minutes successfully. He’d give Oscar Klefbom a run for the top left-side job if he was in Edmonton today, and might even be the favourite to win it outright.
- G Curtis Joseph (177GP, 76-76-20, 0.902 SV%). Joseph was the Oilers’ starter for three years in the late 90’s, and led the team to upset playoff wins in back-to-back seasons. It’s hard to compare goalies across eras, but he’d certainly force Cam Talbot to split minutes in net.
- RW Georges Laraque (126 games, 21 points). In his prime, Laraque was the NHL’s most feared fighter, an enforcer so tough he sometimes had trouble finding opponents. But he was also a solid depth player for the Oilers even with the pugilism taken out of it.
- C Todd Marchant (448 games, 210 points). Marchant was a joy to watch, a brilliant defensive centre who was always good for double-digit goal totals and who might have been the league’s best skater in his prime. How great would he look centering the Oilers third line right now?
- RD Boris Mironov (320 games, 160 points). Mironov has an uneven reputation in Edmonton, but as a kid I loved him. Sure, there was chaos, but he was big, tough, and could absolutely hammer the puck. As a power play weapon and right side guy on an offensive even-strength pairing (with Adam Larsson on the shutdown unit) he’d be a pretty useful guy in the current lineup, too.
- LD Janne Niinimaa (173 games, 70 points). There are a few players on this list who were heart-and-soul Oilers, and Niinimaa is one of them. He played crazy amounts for Edmonton out of necessity and burned out early as an NHL’er—he was playing nearly 27 minutes per game when the Oilers dealt him at age 27, and was out of the league by 32. I couldn’t pick him over Hamrlik or Mironov, but couldn’t leave him off this list, either.
- G Bill Ranford (342GP, 121-163-38, 0.888 SV%). Ranford won the Conn Smythe in 1990, but was less fortunate as Edmonton’s starter over the next half-decade, during which time the Oilers were rarely very good. It’s hard to imagine the 1990’s version of him supplanting Cam Talbot.
- LW Ryan Smyth (351 games, 190 points). Smyth’s development was a bit erratic, but by the end of the 90’s, he was the player Oilers fans would fall in love with—a diligent two-way forward who made his living in front of the opposition net. Could he top 40 goals on the McDavid power play?
- LW Esa Tikkanen (185 games, 130 points). Tikkanen was exiting his prime in the 90’s, but he was still younger than Milan Lucic is now when Edmonton traded him to New York. A brilliant agitator, four-time Selke finalist and legitimate scorer, it’s fun to imagine him lining up next to McDavid or Draisaitl today.
- C Doug Weight (506 games, 487 points). In my view, Weight was hands-down Edmonton’s best player of the 1990’s. The question is where he’d fit on the modern Oilers—he could certainly be a great No. 2 centre, but a lot of his value (as a left-shot power play distributor) would be lost with McDavid in the top job.
Who Would You Pick?
There’s no single easy answer to this one.
I ended up choosing Bill Guerin, even though he was 27 years old when he was dealt to the Oilers halfway through 1997-98. At that point he had two 40-goal seasons and three 30-plus years left in his career, and he was shockingly healthy and effective right through to the end. When he finally retired, at 39 years of age, he did so having scored 21 goals, 45 points and recorded 75 penalty minutes the season prior. He’d be a great fit for a weak right wing depth chart.
Let us know who you like in the comments section.