Last week, I decided to start an All Time Team of the Edmonton Oilers as it’s their final season in Rexall Place. I started off with the goaltenders , where Grant Fuhr was my starting goalie. This week, I focus on the Defensemen of the Oilers All Time Roster.
The Criteria is the same: It’s the players impact while playing with the team. Longevity does go a long way in this regard, but it’s also to eliminate players like Petr Nedved or Adam Oates, who were good to great NHL players, but did not have such an impact. Meanwhile, players like Dwayne Roloson, despite their small time in Oilers silks, at least were honorable mentions.
Without further ado, here are my starting six for an All Time Edmonton Oilers.
Paul Coffey is the best defensemen in Edmonton Oilers history. Coffey bounced around quite a bit in his career post Oilers, playing for Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Detroit, Hartford, Chicago, Philadelphia, Carolina and Boston. However, his best years were with the Edmonton Oilers.
Paul Coffey is what Erik Karlsson is now back in his day: a pure offensive defenseman who’s defensive “liabilities” were over blown. In 1985-86, Coffey had a career high 48 goals and a whopping 138 points. Coffey was a smooth skating defensemen with blazing speed and a knack for moving the puck (something the current Oilers are sorely missing).
Coffey was a part of Three Stanley Cup victories. He would later be traded to Pittsburgh after a contract dispute with General Manager and Coach, Glen Sather. In Pittsburgh, Coffey continued to produce at an elite clip, eclipsing 100 points twice in five seasons with the Penguins. He was also a part of their first Stanley Cup Victory.
Say what you want as a General Manager and as President of Hockey Operations, but Kevin Lowe the player was a fine defensemen who’s reputation has been tarnished due to his woeful recent record in a management position.
Since this whole point is focusing on as a player, Lowe bled the blue and orange. He is the only Edmonton Oiler to play over 1000 games with the franchise. He’s second in all time scoring for defensemen, sitting well below of the impressive totals of Paul Coffey. Still, point scoring wasn’t his main focus: he was a stay at home defensemen who was well enough in his own zone. He played a gritty gritty game and was an solid skater in his own right. He was one of the few to be a part of all five Stanley Cup winning teams in Edmonton and would later win another one with Mark Messier and the New York Rangers in 1994. He would return to Edmonton where an eye injury forced his retirement.
Charlie Huddy! Huddy played in the shadow of the above mentioned, but that’s nothing against him. Huddy was a dependable defensemen and like Kevin Lowe, was a part of all five championship teams in Edmonton. In 1983, Charlie Huddy won the first ever Plus Minus Award. Huddy is second all time for games played as an Edmonton Oiler Defensemen, behind Kevin Lowe. Huddy would play ten seasons as an Edmonton Oiler before joining Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles in 1991. There, he would play four seasons and move onto Buffalo and St Louis and ending his career in the minors with Rochester.
Alright. My first controversial pick so far. Chris Pronger only played one year in Edmonton where he requested a trade in the summer of 2006, this after signing a five year contract with Edmonton the year prior (after being dealt from St. Louis). Salt was rubbed in the wound further as Anaheim would win their first Stanley Cup in his first season as a Duck.
He played one year. What made him so different from the likes of Petr Nedved or Adam Oates?
The impact he had on the team. Hands down, in the 2005-06 season, Chris Pronger was the best Edmonton Oiler that season. Coming over in a blockbuster, after years where the Oilers would trade stars away, Pronger was the best defensemen the Edmonton Oilers had since Paul Coffey. Lofty Claim.
Pronger was only a few years removed from winning a Hart Trophy and was the bonafide number one defensemen in Edmonton. Known for his punishing physique, booming shot and nasty presence, Pronger was a force during the 2006 playoffs. During that magical cup run, it was either his or Dwayne Roloson’s Conn Smythe Trophy if the Oilers won.
The team has not been the same since the summer of 2006 and you can pinpoint the turning point. You can’t help but wonder, what if Chris Pronger stayed an Oiler. The Oilers have been looking for another Pronger since then.
The second longest serving captain behind some guy named Gretzky. Jason “Gator” Smith was a mean, gritty defensemen that you just did not want to mess with. This guy right here was the embodiment of the blue collar work ethic that the Edmonton Oilers were known for. Surprisingly, Smith was already a New Jersey Devil and Toronto Maple Leaf before ending up in Edmonton. Smith is ranked fourth in games played all time with the Edmonton Oilers for Defensemen and was the leader for the 2006 Cup run. He was traded in the summer of 2007 with Joffrey Lupul to Philadelphia for Joni Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson. Jason Smith would only play a season in Philly (and fittingly enough, as captain) before moving onto Ottawa for a season and then retiring.
Steve Smith will forever be known for the own goal on his birthday in Game 7 against the arch rival Calgary Flames. It is one of the biggest and most dire hockey mishaps in NHL history.
That said, Steve Smith was much more than his infamous own goal. Smith was known like several others on this list, as a defensemen known for his physical element and a touch of nastiness. In 1987-88, Smith had 55 points and 286 Penalty In Minutes. Smith was a dependable player on the Oilers back end and was a part of two Stanley Cup winning teams. In 1991 Smith would start a six season stint with the Chicago Blackhawks and would end his career with the hated Calgary Flames. Smith would later be an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers.
Honorable Mentions List: