A look at the Edmonton Oilers’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Edmonton Oilers (1990-91 to 1999-00)
307-382-97, .452 WIN PCT, 2,369 GF vs. 2,607 GA, -238 Diff, 6/10 Playoff Appearances, 0 Stanley Cups
The 1990s were an incredibly up-and-down ride for the Edmonton Oilers. After winning five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990, the team had one last gasp of glory. 1990-91 was the final year with Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr: the team finished .500, but made a run to the Conference Finals where they lost to the Minnesota North Stars. Failing to repeat as champions, the team traded away those three stars, and they also dealt away the rights to Jari Kurri late in May 1991. The team refocused around a younger core in ’91-92 and made a return trip to the Conference Finals, eventually losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. But between the end of’91-92 and the start of ’93-94, seasons the team lost Vincent Damphousse, Bernie Nicholls, Joe Murphy, Petr Klima, Craig Simpson, Kevin Lowe, Esa Tikkanen, Scott Mellanby and Jeff Beukeboom. That’s a lot to lose in a short period of time. Not surprisingly, they missed the playoffs from for four straight years: from ’92-93 to ’95-96, the team went 98-166-34 for a 38.6% win percentage, posted a -250 goal differential, and went through four head coaches. They rebounded starting with the ’96-97 season: they were always very close to being a .500 team, but they made the playoffs four year straight (1997 to 2000), and they even upset the Dallas Stars in 1997 and the Colorado Avalanche in 1998 (each in seven games).
Overall, Edmonton had a 45.2% win percentage, ranking a mediocre 21st out of 26 teams that played at least four seasons during the 1990s. Their offense was middle-of-the-pack, averaging 3.01 goals for per game (ranking 16th). But their defense was weak, allowing 3.32 goals against per game, which ranked 21st and dragged down their goal differential to -238 (also ranked 21st). They were always a young, fast and exciting team: but they went from lengthy playoff success (1984 to 1992) to bottom feeders (1993 to 1996) to exciting-but-underpowered (1997 to 2000). That has to be tough on a fanbase!
Left Wing: Craig Simpson (214 GP, 78-86-164, -14, 182 PIM, 10 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Shayne Corson
Craig Simpson put together three solid-if-unspectacular seasons for the Oilers in the early 1990s. He had 30-goal, 57-point season in ’90-91, followed by a 24-goal, 61-point effort in ’91-92. He was limited to 60 games in ’92-93, but still managed 24 goals and 46 points. His +/- was weak (twice negative, bottoming out at -14 in ’92-93). He could also be chipping, recording 182 penalty minutes in 214 games. He wasn’t an overly fast skater, so his shot totals never exceeded 143 in a season. But he scored on 22% of the shots he did take. He was also a serious threat on the powerplay (33 of his 78 goals), and his 10 game-winning goals represented a healthy 13% of his total. He gets the nod ahead of Shayne Corson, who improved during his time with Edmonton into a solid threat for 20-25 goals and 55-60 points. But Corson’s +/- was brutal (-44 in 192 games), and he was undisciplined (posting 209 PIM in ’92-93), so Simpson gets the nod.
Centre: Doug Weight (506 GP, 132-355-487, -60, 436 PIM, 14 GWG)
Doug Weight was easily the best player on the Oilers during the 1990s. He arrived late in ’92-93, scoring 8 points in 13 games. He then spent the next seven seasons, only once missing more than 5 games in a season. He had 40 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season, and 37 points in 43 games (he missed time with a knee injury) in ’98-99. In his other five seasons he scored at least 21 goals and 70 points per year. He topped out at 25 goals, 79 assists and 104 points in a fantastic ’95-96. His +/- was brutal during the Oilers’ tough times (-58 from ’93-94 to ’95-96), but he rebounded to post an even rating overall from ’96-97 to ’99-00. He didn’t score a ton of goals (132 in 506 games), but a fair number of them (14, or 11% of his total) were game-winners. Weight was a skilled playmaker who had four seasons of 50+ assists. And despite his low goal totals, he was a constant threat in the offensive zone: he had 200+ shots on goals three times. Weight is easily the Oilers’ best trade acquisition of the past 20 years (they got him from the New York Rangers for Esa Tikkanen), and their best forward during the 1990s.
Right Wing: Petr Klima (195 GP, 93-57-150, -9, 265 PIM, 7 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Bill Guerin
Petr Klima was one-dimensional, but he was REALLY good in that one dimension. He scored 40 goals and 68 points in ’90-91, along with a +24 rating. He slumped badly in ’91-92, scoring 21 goals and 34 points in 57 games while posting a -18 rating. But he rebounded in ’92-93, scoring 32 goals and 48 points in 68 games (although he still had a -15 rating). He was a critical threat on the powerplay, scoring 25 PPG (including 13 in ’92-93 alone). He also chipped in 7 game-winners, although five came in ’90-91. The only other alternative was Bill Guerin. Guerin played a better all-around game: he had 29 points in 40 games after joining Edmonton in ’97-98, and then scored 30 goals and 64 points in ’98-99. He slumped the following year though, scoring 24 goals and 46 points in ’99-00. His defensive game was more solid (+12 vs. Klima’s -9), and Guerin had a physical game Klima lacked. But Klima was a threat to score every time he stepped on the ice, and it’s tough to ignore a 40-goal season. So Klima just edges out Guerin.
Defense: Roman Hamrlik (196 GP, 22-81-103, +13, 186 PIM, 3 GWG)
I was a little surprised by just how good Hamrlik’s numbers were in Edmonton. He had 26 points in 41 games during ’97-98, and then followed that up with 32 points in ’98-99 and 45 points in ’99-00. He had a positive +/- rating each year, +13 overall. He chipped in 3-5 PPG per season, and was good for 172-180 shots on goal in his two full seasons. He played a clean game, but he still managed 186 PIM in 196 games. A solid two-way defenseman who was contributing as a regular defenseman in the NHL all the way up to the 2011-12 NHL season, almost 20 years after his ’92-93 rookie season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Defense: Boris Mironov (320 GP, 42-118-160, -36, 444 PIM, 7 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Janne Niinimaa
When Steve Smith priced himself out of Edmonton, he was shipped to Chicago for Dave Manson. Manson played well in parts of three seasons for the Oilers (even playing in the 1993 All-Star game), but he was traded to Winnipeg for a package that included Boris Mironov. Considering he was a “second wave” acquisition for a member of the Oilers’ dynasty, the Oilers made out pretty well here. Mironov started slowly: he played in 43 games combined in ’93-94 and ’94-95 for the Oilers, scoring 10 points and registering a -13 rating. But over the next four seasons he became a solid two-way defender. He posted back-to-back 32-poitn seasons, and then a pair of 40+ point seasons with double-digit goals. His best year was ’97-98, where he had 16 goals and 46 points. His +/- was awful in ’95-96 (-23), but he rebounded to post a positive +/- twice in the next three seasons. He was also fairly physical, posting 100+ PIM three times in four full seasons (as well as 85 in 55 games during ’96-97). He was good for 140-150 shots on goal (with a high of 203 in ’97-98), and he scored an impressive 24 powerplay goals in four years (including 10 in ’97-98). And one-in-six goals he scored won the game (7 in total, with 4 coming in ’98-99). Not a bad return at all, especially considering the two trades that led to his arrival were heavily motivated by the need to jettison salary! Honourable mention to Janne Niinimaa; he had a pair of seasons in the 28-33 points range, and he was +28 in 173 games, but he played just 11 games in ’97-98, so he fell shy of the 3-season mark (and therefore didn’t qualify for this list).
Goalie: Curtis Joseph (177 GP, 76-76-20, 14 SO, 2.90 GAA, 0.902 PCT)
Honourable Mention to Bill Ranford
It is no coincidence that Curtis Joseph’s arrival coincided with a boost in the Oilers’ fortunes in the late 1990s. In ’95-96, he had weaker stats (3.44 GAA, .886 PCT), but he almost managed a.500 record (15-16-2). He became a workhorse for the team over the next two seasons: he played in 143 of the Oilers’ 164 games during that time, going 61-60-18 with an amazing 14 shutouts. His save percentage was .906, and his GAA went from 2.93 in ’96-97 to 2.63 in ’97-98. Bill Ranford was a solid as he could be playing for some pretty awful teams; his save percentage was .883 or better from ’92-93 to ’94-95, although his goals-against average was in 3.48 to 3.81 territory from ’91-92 to ’95-96. He kept the team as competitive as possible, and he played in 80-85% of the Oilers’ games from ’92-93 to ’94-95. As bad as they were during that time, without Ranford they would have been worse. But Joseph, despite holding out for half of the ’95-96 season, was a solid addition to the Oilers and helped put bring them back to respectability.