At 38, I am approximately half way to death. Yes, I know, it sounds negative when I put it that way. But it's okay, honest. The thought of being half-dead is fine, because I know I have 38 more years of Oilers hockey yet to come.
Some of you readers are old timers like I am; some of you were babes when Gretzky and company were lighting it up in Edmonton. Have you ever considered what an All-Time greatest Oilers team would look like? Well, think about it or not, the concept is the subject of today's blog.
A bit of a preamble before I get into this - The following list is who I think the best players to ever wear the copper and blue were. It has nothing to do with how long someone played with the team, or if things ended well or were a nightmare (for an example of a nightmare, please see Chris Pronger). I am presenting my list in the form of lines, and I will comment on each as they are listed.
Line 1 - Esa Tikkanen(LW) - Wayne Gretzky(C) - Jari Kurri(RW)
Maybe Tikkanen is not the best left wing in the history of the Oilers, but I just had to put him playing with Gretzky and Kurri. Gretzky and Kurri were always amazing together; Gretzky the game's best playmaker, and Kurri his triggerman...Oh, they played with Semenko and Mike Krushilnisky, but Tikkanen was the player everyone remembers on the wing. Annoying, hyperactive, and skilled, Tikkanen became known as the Super Pest and the bane of Wayne Gretzky's existence after THE TRADE.
The best offensive line in the history of hockey. 'Nuff said.
Line 2 - Kent Nilsson(LW) - Mark Messier(C) - Glen Anderson(RW)
If Gretzky's line was the most offensively gifted, Messier's line was the fastest and most reckless. The magic man, Kent Nilsson, wasn't an Oiler for long, but wow, he had amazing hands, vision and speed. Anderson was insane, the way he drove the net. And Messier? Muscles, tough, mean, fast, powerful; the best leader in the history of sports.
Line 3 - Ryan Smyth(LW) - Doug Weight(C) - Ales Hemsky(RW)
Yes, I know, Hemsky does not have the same numbers some other players have had. Shut up, and keep it to yourself. If Hemsky would have played in the 80's with Gretzky, he would have had 120pts per season. He is simply an insane talent. Doug Weight is an amazing competator and playmaker. And Ryan Smyth? The former Face of the Franchise looks wrong playing for any other team. Might lead the league in scoring ugly, garbage goals. Willing to completely sacrifice his body to win.
Line 4 - Adam Graves(LW) - Jason Arnott(C) - Bill Guerin(RW)
I know what you're thinking; what about Bernie Nicholls, Vinnie Damphousse or Adam Oates? All amazing players, I know. Thing is, this is the fourth line, and it needed some power and toughness. Arnott is sort of Messier-lite. Big strong player who can skate and has a cannon for a shot. Graves, or Gravy if you prefer, was a born leader, and hits everything that moves. And Guerin seems to be getting better at 38. All solid players who can hit, score, and if needed, fight the battles down low.
Defensive Pairing 1 - Paul Coffey and Chris Pronger
Pronger. Everyone in Edmonton hates him and always will. They don't hate him because he sucks; they hate him because he stayed just long enough for the city to fall in love with him. A world class all-around defenseman. Coffey was all around...the other team's net. Not exactly a skilled D-man, but the most skilled 4th forward to ever play the game. Smooth skating and brilliant with the puck.
Defensive Pairing 2 - Sheldon Souray and Eric Brewer
I know I'm gonna get some flack here from the Oiler faithful, but this is my list and I'll write what I want. Souray's shot is the hardest in the history of the Oilers. He also is big, and tries to be a team leader. I am a big fan of what Souray brings and believe he is underrated. Brewer is another underrated defenseman who brings skating skill and size to the rink when he plays. Would be considered a league favorite if it wasn't for injuries.
Defensive Pairing 3 - Kevin Lowe and Roman Hamrlik
Lowe has to be on this list because he is sorta the first NHL Oiler. First draft pick, scored the first goal, won a bunch of cups, was coach, GM and President of Hockey Operations. He is a classy, intelligent guy and a leader not just in Edmonton, but within the entire NHL. Hamrlik is on the list because he has a decent combination of offensive skill and defensive awareness. He plays with some size too.
Goaltenders - Grant Fuhr and Curtis Joseph
Fuhr was the best goalie to have a terrible average. The man was amazing, and stole many a game for Edmonton. Put him on a team like the 1970's Canadiens or Bruins, and he'd be mentioned in the same breathe as Dryden. He was that good.
Curtis Joseph was in his prime in Edmonton, backstopping year after year of horrible Oiler teams. He was, on many nights, the only reason the Oilers won. Still playing into his 40's, and still decent when call upon.
Well, that's my list. I look forward to your comment.
This just in...the Oilers today have resigned Vladdy Smid, Gilbert Brule and Ryan Stone, leaving Rob Schremp the only significant remaining RFA. Rumor is Rob's deal will be for two years, and be signed by the end of the week.