That Huddy Guy
Photo credit:BRUCE EDWARDS/Edmonton Journal archives
2 months ago
After 43 consecutive seasons — save for the 2004-05 lockout — of playing or coaching in the NHL, Charlie Huddy, one of just seven players to hoist five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, was at his understated best last November when he was asked about finally stepping away from the game.
Huddy, who went from joining the Oilers as an undrafted free agent in 1980-81 to parading on Jasper Avenue five times during an NHL career spanning 1,200 regular season and playoff games, was asked about finally taking time away from the rink when an 11-year stint as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets came to an end.
“I’ve had a pretty good run, you know. Time to kick back.” Huddy told Post Media scribe Jim Matheson, who was on the beat for the first game Huddy played with the Oilers as well as his last one of 694 in Oilers silks in 1990-91 and for eight more years during his gig as an assistant coach here.
A pretty good run? Sure. A run that included the five Cups while staying home in his own end of the rink in front of Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog with partner Paul Coffey up the ice on the attack. A run that saw Huddy go plus-62 in 1982-83 and plus-50 two straight seasons after that – flawed stat or not, that’s remarkable.
A run saw the unheralded blueliner from the Oshawa Generals inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame on the weekend.
THE GLUE GUYS
Oilers celebrating Joey’s birthday.
When I put together my Top 100 Oilers list six years ago — just as Connor McDavid was racing up the charts into my top 10 — I had Huddy listed at No. 13. It’s a no-brainer that the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Coffey and the rest of the Oilers HHoF contingent were ahead of Huddy.
Huddy, like Randy Gregg and Lee Fogolin, were the glue guys on those teams, the worker bees. If you watched those Oilers play, you know what I mean. And not to sell Huddy short, he twice surpassed 50 points with highs of 57 and 51, so there’s that.
Now, as was the case back in the glory days, I find myself wondering what a player like Huddy would mean to this edition of the Oilers, a team that scores enough goals with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Evander Kane, but isn’t good enough at preventing them.
I’m not literally talking about Huddy now of course — he turned 64 in June, after all — but a steady, unfailingly reliable, defence-first player like him. Somebody like Mattias Ekholm comes to mind. What a difference he made after being acquired from Nashville last February 28. Is there somebody like him out there?
These Oilers, like the teams Huddy played on, know how to put the puck in the back of the net. What they need, with their Stanley Cup window of opportunity wide open right now, is to find a way to keep it out of their own net. If you’ve got a name, feel free to pass it on to GM Ken Holland. Congratulations, Charlie.
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