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Photo Credit: Dave Sandford

TOP 10 UNSUNG HEROES: Sergei Samsonov (8)

The unlikely 2006 playoff run that landed the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes produced so many memorable moments it’s difficult to pick out one or two. Likewise, so many players on that edition of the Oilers turned in epic performances. The names we know – Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Dwayne Roloson, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani and Ales Hemsky, to name just six.

When it comes to unsung heroes, though, one of the names that comes to mind for me – it won’t be the only one on this list from that team – is Sergei Samsonov, the fireplug winger who came over from the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline in one of several moves made by GM Kevin Lowe in easily his finest season running the show. Samsonov was quietly terrific down the stretch and in the playoffs, producing a handful of those memorable and significant moments.

Sergei Samsonov

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Left Wing — shoots R
Born Oct 27 1978 — Moscow, Russia
Height 5.08 — Weight 188 [173 cm/85 kg]

Drafted by Boston Bruins

Round 1 #8 overall 1997 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

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Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

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+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

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ATOI

1997-98

19

BOS

81

22

25

47

9

8

159

13.8

1998-99

20

BOS

79

25

26

51

-6

18

160

15.6

1294

16:23

1999-00

21

BOS

77

19

26

45

-6

4

145

13.1

1273

16:32

2000-01

22

BOS

82

29

46

75

6

18

215

13.5

1590

19:23

2001-02

23

BOS

74

29

41

70

21

27

192

15.1

1390

18:47

2002-03

24

BOS

8

5

6

11

8

2

23

21.7

163

20:20

2003-04

25

BOS

58

17

23

40

12

4

132

12.9

1012

17:27

2005-06

27

TOT

74

23

30

53

-3

28

143

16.1

1222

16:31

2005-06

27

BOS

55

18

19

37

-3

22

107

16.8

929

16:53

2005-06

27

EDM

19

5

11

16

0

6

36

13.9

293

15:26

2006-07

28

MTL

63

9

17

26

-4

10

114

7.9

881

13:59

2007-08

29

TOT

61

14

22

36

-1

16

109

12.8

970

15:54

2007-08

29

CHI

23

0

4

4

-7

6

38

0.0

284

12:21

2007-08

29

CAR

38

14

18

32

6

10

71

19.7

686

18:02

2008-09

30

CAR

81

16

32

48

-8

28

155

10.3

1403

17:19

2009-10

31

CAR

72

14

15

29

-15

32

104

13.5

963

13:23

2010-11

32

TOT

78

13

27

40

-2

14

123

10.6

1205

15:27

2010-11

32

CAR

58

10

16

26

0

12

87

11.5

821

14:09

2010-11

32

FLA

20

3

11

14

-2

2

36

8.3

385

19:14

8 yrs BOS

514

164

212

376

41

103

1133

14.5

7650

17:40

4 yrs CAR

249

54

81

135

-17

82

417

12.9

3873

15:33

1 yr CHI

23

0

4

4

-7

6

38

0.0

284

12:21

1 yr EDM

19

5

11

16

0

6

36

13.9

293

15:26

1 yr FLA

20

3

11

14

-2

2

36

8.3

385

19:14

1 yr MTL

63

9

17

26

-4

10

114

7.9

881

13:59

Career

888

235

336

571

11

209

1774

13.2

13365

16:34

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1997-98

19

BOS

6

2

5

7

1

0

18

11.1

1998-99

20

BOS

11

3

1

4

3

0

21

14.3

178

16:11

2001-02

23

BOS

6

2

2

4

-2

0

26

7.7

106

17:41

2002-03

24

BOS

5

0

2

2

-1

0

10

0.0

86

17:07

2003-04

25

BOS

7

2

5

7

2

0

13

15.4

121

17:18

2005-06

27

EDM

24

4

11

15

2

14

40

10.0

348

14:30

2008-09

30

CAR

17

5

3

8

2

6

28

17.9

269

15:48

Career

76

18

29

47

7

20

156

11.5

1108

15:49

WHY HE MAKES IT

Samsonov, who grabbed my attention while toiling with the Detroit Vipers of the now-defunct IHL as an 18-year-old during the 1996-97 season, was the final move made by Lowe in season when he reshaped the roster. Pronger and Michael Peca had arrived the previous summer, followed by Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom in January. Then, at the deadline, Lowe got Roloson followed a day later, March 9, by Samsonov.

Sammy didn’t come cheap, it turned out, as the Oilers shipped Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and a second-round pick that the Bruins used to grab Milan Lucic 50th overall, to Boston. In the 19 regular season games he played for the Oilers, Samsonov produced 5-11-16. That was secondary scoring that made a significant difference for an Oiler team that didn’t exactly charge into eighth place and the final post-season spot – the Oilers went 9-10 in those games to earn a date with the Detroit Red Wings.

Who’ll ever forget what happened after that, starting with a stunning upset of the Red Wings in the first round? For me, the moment that stands out in that series was Ales Hemsky’s goalmouth tap-in on a feed from Samsonov to put the Oilers up 4-3 with 1:06 to play in Game 6 at Rexall Place. Samsonov had his fingerprints all over that series-winner. And so began a wild ride . . .

THE FINE PRINT

In the second round against San Jose, the Oilers trailed the series 2-1 when Samsonov helped shift momentum. With the Oilers trailing 3-2, Samsonov dashed out of the penalty box and scored to tie it 3-3 on the way to a 6-3 win to square the series. That’s here. In the third game of the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks, Samsonov set-up Steve Staios for the 3-0 goal in a 5-4 win and a 3-0 series lead. That’s here.

While Samsonov hardly fits the standard unsung hero tag – he was never that third-line, try-hard grinder or stay-at-home blueliner who quietly went about his business – he flew under the radar a little bit because there were so many other startling performances. There was Pronger being Pronger, Smyth spitting teeth and blood and refusing to be denied, Roloson battling to make every save until that knee injury took him down.

The end of the 2005-06 season, and that stunning post-season roller-coaster ride in which Samsonov would produce 4-11-15 in 24 games, was all Oiler fans would get of him – Samsonov would sign with the Montreal Canadiens that off-season as an unrestricted free agent. If what we saw in his brief time here wasn’t the best of Sammy, it was close. For my money, he was never that good again in the years after he left Edmonton.

This series of various Top 10 lists will focus on the post-1990 Oilers – the players who haven’t played on a Stanley Cup winner in Edmonton.

The List: