Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Day Quick Hits: Oilers @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils relocated from Colorado at the start of the 1982/1983 season. The organization originated as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974/1975. Those teams were a dreadful 27-110-23 in two seasons before moving to Colorado to become the Rockies. Over six seasons in Denver, the Rockies made the playoffs once, with a lowly 59 points. They had seven head coaches in six seasons, including Don Cherry in 1979/1980 when they were a pathetic 19-48-13.

They moved to New Jersey and had a tough first season at 17-49-14. Their second season wasn’t much better and when they visited Edmonton on November 19th, 1983 they got crushed 13-4. Wayne Gretzky had eight points and Jari Kurri potted five goals. After the game, Gretzky ripped the Devils.

“It got to the point where it wasn’t even funny,” Gretzky told long-time Oilers reporter Dick Chubey after the game.

“How long has it been for them? Three years? Five? Seven? Probably closer to nine. Well, it’s about time they got their act together. They’re ruining the whole league. They better stop running a Mickey Mouse organization and put somebody on the ice. I feel damn sorry for Ron Low and Chico Resch,” said Gretzky.

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The next day Gretzky apologized and sent a note to the Devils organization. Gretzky didn’t like lighting up his former teammate and good friend Ron Low and his comments, while accurate, were more in protection of a friend. But the Devils must have taken it to heart because Billy MacMillan was fired as head coach after the game. They were 2-18 at that point, so it wasn’t just Gretzky’s comments, but a 13-4 loss didn’t help.

The Oilers played in New Jersey two months later on January 15th and it was close game with the Oilers winning 5-4. Devils fans showed up wearing Mickey Mouse ears, sweaters and had hundreds of signs. The Devils tied the Oilers 3-3 in Edmonton on January 27th, and while they finished the season 17-56-7, they played their asses of when they faced the Oilers to ensure they weren’t embarrassed again.

1. The Devils slowly got better. They won 22 games in 1985, 28 in 1986, 29 in 1987 and the fate of their organization changed in April of 1987, when then-owner John McMullen hired Lou Lamoriello as team President.

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2. Lamoriello had been in college hockey since 1968, coaching Providence from 1968 to 1983. He resigned as head coach after being named Athletic Director in 1982. McMullen hired him with no NHL experience, but lots of hockey knowledge, and it was the best move McMullen ever made.

Lamoriello surprised many in the NHL when he named himself the general manager a month before the start of the 1987/1988 season. History will show it was the right move.

3. The Devils finally made the playoffs in 1988, going 38-36-6, but their first playoff appearance was a memorable run.

They defeated the Islanders in six games in the first round.

They beat Washington in seven games in the second round, including the infamous game three where Patrik Sundstrom scored eight points. Yes, Patrik Sundstrom with his sick Jofa helmet had a one of the greatest post-season performances we’ve ever seen, scoring three goals and five assists. The Devils won game seven 3-2 with John Maclean, their first pick in 1983 (sixth overall), scoring the winner with six minutes remaining in the third.

Then they faced Boston for the Prince of Wales trophy. They lost in seven games, but the Devils were no longer a Mickey Mouse organization.

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4. They drafted Brendan Shanahan second overall in 1987, then added Bill Guerin fifth overall in 1989, Martin Brodeur 20th overall in 1990 and Scott Niedermayer third overall in 1991. Their foundation was built through the draft, but also when they were awarded Scott Stevens as compensation for St. Louis signing free agent Shanahan. It is amazing how many championship team’s fortunes have changed due to luck, or in this case, an arbitrator. Would the Devils have won three Cups without Stevens? Would the Penguins have won three without Crosby (draft lottery)? Would the Chicago Blackhawks won three without Patrick Kane (lottery)? Oilersnation is hoping winning the Connor McDavid lottery pays off the same way in the future.

5. Since 1988, the New Jersey Devils have the third most regular seasons wins in the NHL with 1168, trailing only Detroit (1277) and Pittsburgh (1184). Since 1988, the Penguins have the most Stanley Cups with five, Detroit has four and the Devils and Blackhawks have three.

6. The Devils first Championship in 1995 had a strong connection to their drafting. Brodeur, Niedermayer, Guerin, Maclean, Bruce Driver (sixth round, 1981), Ken Daneyko (first round, 1982), Mike Peluso (10th round, 1984), Jim Dowd (seventh round, 1987), Valeri Zelepukin (11th round, 1990), Brian Rolston (first round, 1991) and Sergei Brylin (fourth round, 1992).

7. They traded Pat Verbeek (43rd overall pick in 1982) to Hartford in the summer of 1989 for Sylvain Turgeon. Then Lamoriello moved Turgeon to the Montreal Canadiens for Claude Lemieux in September of 1990. Lemieux won the Conn Smyth for playoff MVP in 1995, scoring 13 goals.

Kirk Muller was the second overall pick in 1984. They moved him to Montreal for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske on September 20th, 1991. Richer led the Devils in playoff scoring in 1995 with 21 points in 19 games.

They dealt Ben Hankinson (sixth round, 1987) and Alexander Semak (10th round, 1988) to Dallas for defenceman Shawn Chambers and Danton Cole at the 1995 trade deadline. Chambers had 4-5-9 in 20 playoff games from the blueline.

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8. And you can’t forget the Shanahan transaction. He left to St. Louis via free agency, but the Devils got Stevens in return as compensation, essentially trading Shanahan, the second overall pick in 1987, for Stevens.

They also received Randy Mckay via an arbitrator in the summer of 1991. The Detroit Red Wings signed tough guy Troy Crowder (Devils sixth round pick in 1986) and New Jersey got McKay, who’d only scored four goals in 80 games over two seasons, and Dave Barr. Seriously, who was the arbitrator back then? Crowder had six goals in 59 games the previous year and the arbitrator said he was worth Mckay and Barr. Barr had 18 goals and 40 points the year before.

9. How awesome would it be if we had arbitrators rule on compensation today when teams signed restricted free agents? It would be fantastic. Under the old rule, teams would try to negotiate a deal and if they couldn’t reach an agreement, each team would submit who they wanted to give up/acquire to the arbitrator and the arbitrator would decide and his decision was final. I suspect we’d see more RFA signings and the decisions, if they were close to what happened in the 1990s, would create some spicy debates.

10. McDavid has a point in the Oilers last 22 victories, the final 17 last year and the first five this season. He did have points in 24 of the final 27 games last season, so the odds were good if they won he’d have a point, but according to Elias Sports Bureau, he has the current longest streak of any player to have a point in his team’s victories. The last game the Oilers won where McDavid didn’t have a point was on February 5th in Montreal. The Oilers won 1-0 in a shootout. Draisaitl scored, so the last game the Oilers won where they scored a goal without McDavid getting a point was January 14th versus Calgary, when the Oilers won 2-1 in a shootout. McDavid scores often so it isn’t a surprise the team wins when he scores, but it is a unique stat.

11. The Oilers were 8-12-3 in games McDavid didn’t register a point last season, and this year they are 0-3. Last year the Oilers were 39-14-6 when he scored and this year they are 5-5-1. The Captain Obvious statement of the article is the lack of scoring depth is becoming a bigger problem by the day. At some point, Peter Chiarelli needs to realize he can’t carry cap space over to the next season. The Oilers are 29th in salary right now. They have roughly $7.8 in cap space. Saving it for the trade deadline might be irrelevant if the team doesn’t start winning regularly.

Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 11/09/2017, 2:30pm MST

  • Spaceman Spiff

    With all due respect, Gregor, arbitrators would be a disaster for the league. For more on this, I’ll refer you to “Troy Malette, compensation for Adam Graves, 1992.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think you proved my point though. Fact is the Oilers didn’t want to pay a small increase to Graves, hmmm seems like a trend with Oilers, and didn’t think he was worth it. Graves had 7 and 9 goal seasons with the Oilers, but then exploded for 26, 36 and 52 in his first three years with the Rangers. Oilers still elected to not pay Graves, which turned out to be a bad mistake. But the fact it was Mallette coming back is what makes it so great. It creates a lot of discussion and maybe entices other teams to send offers to more RFAs, which ultimately creates more trades.

      • ed from edmonton

        I recall a quote by Sather at the time advising Graces that he should sign the offer sheet as it was a grate offer. One of Sather’s biggest mistakes, but he has severe budget pressure I’m sure. I don’t think Grave’s biggest fab thought he would become a 50 goal guy.

  • gregolas

    with Yamamoto back to the W, there is hope for a win every game.

    Since he will be 20 next year, is he eligible for the AHL ? I want to see Yamamoto get atleast a year in Bakersfield before he comes up.

  • ed from edmonton

    Interesting observation about the unused cap space, does this account for potential performance bonuses? In season trades of significance are rare (outside of David Poile it seems), so this seems a long shot. The guys they have (i.e. every winger on the team other than Maroon and LD) and Klef have to start contributing.