Ever since I named myself the unofficial Oilers blogger on Hockeybuzz, I have been considering potential topics to discuss. Obviously much of the conversation will revolve around trades and player moves that could potentially improve the team. Also worthy of discussion are the players and prospects, and what should be happening with them in the organization as the season continues. But somewhere in the middle of the serious discussions we have to take a break, and have some fun by focusing on what it means to bleed copper and blue.
I got to thinking the other day about making a Top 10 list. The Top 10 Greatest Oilers. After I came up with the list, I realized that it wasn't just talent and scoring ability that makes a player one of the greatest. It is also their attitude, the impression they leave with the team, the community, and with the fans. Who are the players that you immediately think of when you hear the Edmonton Oilers name, or see their logo. Keeping these factors in mind, I offer you the first of many Top 10 lists I will present on the Pipeline.
The Top 10 Greatest Oilers of All-Time
10. Kevin Lowe - He clearly belongs on this list. First NHL draft pick, and first player to score an NHL goal for the team. Won a bunch of cups as an Oiler, and played a solid two-way defensive game. Wayne Gretzky claimed that Kevin was the smartest player on the team, and the person the players would get to talk to the coach or the media so they all seemed smart. Kevin became a coach of the Oilers, a GM, and now he is King or the Big Cheese; I forget what his official title is. All I know is, he's done it all for the Oilers, and some day, he'll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame because of it.
9. Rod Phillips - Okay, I know he is the "voice" of the Oilers, and not a player. But seriously, he IS part of this team. He is without question the best play-by-play man in all of hockey, if not all of sport. He often becomes frantic during broadcasts, which in itself is hilarious. But his frantic moments don't even compare entertainment-wise to when he gets disgusted with the play of his own team. He is tremendously emotional and passionate, and his love for the team is as big as any die-hard fan.
8. Jason Smith - No guts, no glory. Jason was never a great skater, scored maybe two goals a year, and wasn't great at moving the puck out of his own zone. So what made him great? Want someone to get hit? Jason will do it. Who just blocked that 100 mile-per-hour slapshot? Jason Smith. Someone hit our little guy? Jason will beat him up. Rumor is, Jason was playing in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals with two dislocated shoulders. Two! This guy has the most insane pain threshold ever. Every team needs a Jason Smith on it.
7. Jari Kurri - If hockey was a buddy cop movie, he was Chris Tucker to Wayne Gretzky's Jackie Chan. Kurri didn't play like a big forward, but he actually was over 6' and 200 pounds. He had that magic ability all great goal scorers do - He knew how to find the seam near the face-off dots in the offensive zone. He'd sit there waiting for Gretzky to feather the pass, and then whammo! Another goal. Even after Gretz was traded, Jari still had 100 point seasons, and proved he could survive on his own.
6. Doug Weight - Poor Dougie was victim of being on the Oilers team at the wrong time. Put Doug on the Oilers in the 80's, and he would have had 100+ point seasons every year. Doug is another player who would play hurt, and would try to carry the team on his back into the playoffs. During a very dark chapter of Oilers history, Doug was a bright spot.
5. Grant Fuhr - Grant Fuhr had a terrible goals against average in the 80's, but everyone understood the circumstances. The Oilers scored 5 goals per game, but let in about 3.5 on average. Most of the time, while the Oilers had four or five skaters up on the rush, poor ol' Grant was left alone to try and stop the shots that came in. Let's face it, the 80's Oilers were brutal on defense, and the only reason they won as many games as they did was because of Grant. He stood on his head and made impossible saves more times than I can remember. Put him on a team like the 1970's Canadiens, and people would compare his stats to that of Dryden.
4. Dave Semenko - In many ways, Diamond Dave is a living example of the city of Edmonton. He isn't pretty, wasn't flashy, and would only get 27 points per season playing on a line with Gretzky and Kurri. But if someone bothered one of his friends, Sammy would skate up to that player, and inform them that they would be, "going on a little canoe ride." Canoe being codeword for, "I am going to beat the crap out of you." The goal scoring machines were loved in Edmonton, but Sammy and his cement hands were adored by all. There was no better brawler in the league. Semenko was Whyte Ave on a Friday Night during a Canada Day riot.
3. Ryan Smyth - What can you say about Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth? He loved the Oilers. He would sacrifice his body to score goals and to win. Have you ever seen a close-up picture of Ryan Smyth's face? Scars, marks and bruises. The man is a mess. He might be the king of garbage goals, always standing three feet from the goal, paying the price for living there. On the ice, off the ice...he gave his all for the team.
2. Wayne Gretzky - Okay, some of you might be asking yourself why I've put the best player in the history of hockey as the #2 on this list. Thing is, Gretzky doesn't really belong to the Oilers, he belongs to the world. While he was an Oiler, he lead the team in goals, assists, public appearances, and groupies. He always carried himself with a class and dignity befitting of royalty. He was bigger than just the Oilers - He was and continues to be a hero for all of Canada, and he wore the crown with a quiet and respectful dignity. What made Gretzky a great teammate, aside from his billion points, was how he showed up for every game, and would do whatever it took to win. He could have played on any team during any era of the NHL, and he'd still be remembered as the greatest.
1. Mark Messier - Mess, or the Moose, is the greatest Oiler of all time. Why? He could score, hit, fight, play defense, the powerplay, penalty kill, and lead. Oh, could he ever lead. How many stories are there from the Oilers dynasty years about Messier pinning a player up against his stall, and giving them crap...telling them to shape up and get their act together. Gretzky was a leader in the sense that he went out their and quietly put up a ton of points. There was nothing quiet about Messier. Messier took charge, and is often referred to as the greatest leader in sports history. Aside from Messier's combination of skill, speed, talent and muscle, he also was an Edmontonian. When he won, he brought the cup back to his home. Nothing was more important to him than winning for his community, and that makes him the greatest Oiler of all.