The goal is simple: to build the best possible 5-players-and-a-goalie starting lineup out of players who only stuck around for one season with the Edmonton Oilers.
I’m not going to impose too many rules or restrictions on the construction of this roster. The players I’m looking for played at least the majority of the season they were on the team, and I’m not really concerned with having the traditional LW-C-RW LD-RD format. Forwards are forwards and defenders are defenders. Also no active players, because there’s always a chance they could end up back in Edmonton (did someone say Milan Lucic comeback tour?). Besides that, I’m just going to build a starting lineup and hope that it looks somewhat decent.
Unfortunately for me, it turns out a lot of players have played for the Oilers over the years, 567 actually. As you’re going to see, there were some quality players that have donned the Oilers jersey for a single-season, but the middle of the pack players were more difficult. Do I choose the fan favourite, or go with the guy who was more productive? Decisions, decisions.
But here we go, the definitive list of the best one-season wonders to ever play for the Edmonton Oilers.
Vincent Damphousse’s career was similar to guys like Rod Brind’Amour, Ray Whitney and Jason Arnott. Never a massive superstar, but about as solid a player as you could ever hope for, and a guy who could put up some serious numbers. Before being traded to Edmonton from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Damphousse was just hitting his stride as an emerging star in the league, with back-to-back seasons of 94 and 73 points respectively. After being brought to the Oilers for the 1991-92 season, Damphousse didn’t disappoint, leading the Oilers in scoring with 89 points in 80 games. But after that season, he was sent to Montreal for Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrist, and Vladimir Vujtek. Our very own Cam Lewis wrote a really cool piece breaking down the failure of that trade. He would go on to score 97 points for the Montreal Canadiens and won the Stanley Cup the very next season. Damphousse would end his career with 1205 points in 1378 games. He’s a no-brainer for this starting lineup.
The high-slot legend himself, Petr Sykora was pretty good player during the late 90s, early-to-mid 2000s. So when he signed a one-year US$2.9 million deal with the Oilers during the offseason before the 2006-07 season, it seemed like a good fit. Sykora put up 53 points in 82 games with the Oilers — his fourth consecutive 50-point season at the time— as part of an Oilers squad that went all the way to the Cup finals the year before, but would miss the playoffs that season. Those 53 points were tied with Ryan Smyth for most on the team that season. Sykora was on the record during the season saying he liked playing in Edmonton, but in July 2007, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent. As far as one-season wonders go, Sykora is the type of guy that holds a squad together and provides second-line level scoring, so I’ll gladly add him to this starting lineup.
An oft-forgotten piece of Oilers history, Jochen Hecht was part of the package sent to Edmonton in exchange for Doug Weight and Michel Riesen before the 2001-02 season started. During his 82 games with the Oilers, the German put up 40 points on a team who’s leading scorer was . Come June 2002, Hecht was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for two draft picks, one of whom was used to select Jarret Stoll. Hecht finished his career as the fourth-highest scoring German in NHL history. The player currently occupying the 5th spot on that list? Leon Draisaitl. I call that a sign. Lace the blades up and hop on the ice Mr. Hecht, you’re on the starting lineup for the one-season wonder squad.
It was tight, but the deciding reason I put Hecht over Chipperfield is that Chipperfield played two seasons with the Oilers during their WHA days. So in my very arbitrary ruling, I decided that he didn’t really qualify for this list. In his one NHL season with the team though, Chipperfield scored 37 points in 67 games, and is also the proud owner of a fantastic hockey name.
Jimmy Carson holds a special place in Oilers history as one of the players sent to Edmonton from LA in the Wayne Gretzky trade. No one could have replaced Number 99, but Carson did a pretty damn good job in his own right during the 1988-89 season, putting up 100 points in 80 games. That would (nearly) be the end of his time with the Oilers. Carson asked for a trade four games into the next season. If he had demanded to be traded out of Edmonton in the offseason instead of in November he would’ve easily topped this list.
Pronger was a player that could almost single-handedly make a team a Stanley Cup contender, and when he joined the Oilers that was the exact effect he had. He was one of the meanest, most dominant defenceman throughout the vast majority of his time in the league, with his work being rewarded with an induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Pronger’s history in Edmonton is, well, complicated. Then-GM (and newest member of the HHOF) Kevin Lowe made a trade with St. Louis to bring Pronger to Edmonton before the 2005-06 season started. During that one season with the Oilers during their Cup Finals run in the 2006-07 season, Pronger was dominant, finishing third in Norris voting that year. He scored 56 points in 80 games, and a bonkers 21 points in 25 games during the playoffs. After the Cup run, Pronger asked management to move him, eventually being traded to the Anaheim Ducks, where he would win the Cup with them the following season.
Bob Beers played for the Oilers during the 1993-94 season, putting up 37 points in 66 games. It would turn out to be the most productive season of his career. But with a name like Bob Beers, it’s shocking that he wasn’t signed to a 10-year deal with a full no-trade clause. That’s a name you can build a franchise around. When I asked some of the other writers here at Oilersnation about their picks for one-season wonders, all of them mentioned Beers as an iconic member of that category.
By the time Ilya Byakin got to the NHL in the 1993-94 season to play for the Oilers, he had already won a European Junior Championship (1981), a World Junior Championship (1983), an Olympic gold (1988) and had scored 124 points in 250 games as part of the last-hurrah of the USSR hockey program. Before even coming to North America, he had been inducted into the Russian and Soviet Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. In his one season in Edmonton, Byakin was really good, putting up 28 points in 44 games. At the end of the season, he signed as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks, where he played the 1994-95 season before leaving for Russia where he continued to play until 2004.
Is it cheating to include a player from the Oilers’ time in the WHA? Well, I make the rules, and I say it goes so here we are with goalie legend Jacques Plante, who spent the last season of his hockey career with the Oilers. Plante’s resume is (literally) engraved in hockey history. But when he was selected by the Oilers in the 1973 WHA draft, he wasn’t really close to what his legend was, starting 31 games and going 15-14-1. Splitting time with Ken Brown, Plante and the Oilers would finish last in the Canadian Division of the WHA. My selection of Plante is based a lot on the coolness of having a Top-5 goalie of all-time spend the last year of his career with the team, and the absolute weirdness of seeing Plante in an Oilers jersey.
The world’s a scary place, so why not have a goalie between the pipes who’s not afraid of anything (except maybe bears).
This lineup actually turned out better than I thought it would have. There’s two Hall of Famers in Chris Pronger and Jacques Plante, a nice supporting cast of good-to-great players, and one certified Master of the Universe. The Oilers have had a lot of players who outstayed their welcome, but these six guys all showed some pretty impressive chops during their single season runs with the Edmonton Oilers.