While their play of late has been far from stellar, the Edmonton Oilers actually had one of the most impressive dynasties of any team in the NHL. Between 1984 and 1990 the Oilers won 5 Stanley Cup titles, marking a period that was honored by hockey’s hall of fame itself! During that period, several of hockey’s legends called Edmonton home and gave fans some of the most delightful wins imaginable.
But the team got its start as a member of the WHA in 1972. While their early years were quite poor, actions taken in the late 70s would pave the way for the upcoming seasons of success. First was the acquisition of Glen Sather late in his playing career. Sather would transition smoothly into being the Oilers’ coach and led the team for much of their great years.
But the major move that would take Edmonton to the top was the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1978. As one of the highest touted hockey prospects of all time, the youngster nearly helped the Oilers win the WHA in 1979, though the team fell just short. Gretzky was just 18.
The following season the Edmonton Oilers were ingratiated into the NHL as the WHA went under. Under the rules of the admission, most players were left unprotected for NHL clubs to prize away, but the Oilers managed to hold onto Grezky, their golden ticket! Though they struggled in their first years in the new league, the team made several wise draft choices, collecting Andy Moog, Brett Fuhr, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, and Jari Kurri.
The team began to see remarkable improvement while Wayne Gretzky started breaking league records like goals and assists in a single season. In 1983, they progressed all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, though they lost to the New York Islanders.
The following season, the Oilers scored a league record 446 goals and won the Stanley Cup, avenging their previous year’s loss to the Islanders. They followed it up with another brilliant title win the next year, setting their dynasty in motion. In the next 5 seasons, Edmonton would win 3 Stanley Cup titles, making memories and slashing records along the way. In 1986, Gretzky set the likely unbeatable record of 163 assists and 215 points (though this was a year in which the Oilers didn’t win the championship!). To put that record in perspective, the highest assist number any other player has ever reached was Mario Lemieux’s 114, and that amount is tied for 8th with Gretzky himself, who owns each position on that list in between, showcasing his incredibly consistent dominance in the NHL!
In 1988, Gretzky would be traded away to the Los Angeles Kings, sparking a new cross-country rivalry. The deal would backfire that season as the Kings beat the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. However, the following season Edmonton would get revenge, beating Los Angeles en route to a final Stanley Cup title, helped to fruition by the wonderful goalkeeping by Bill Ranford.
However, this would end the dynasty for the team, and they haven’t won a title since. Ryan Smyth did have a fruitful career in Edmonton for 13 seasons, culminating in a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, though they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. But while times have been rough over the past few years, there is hope in the tremendous young talent of Taylor Hall to resurrect this franchise and bring another championship to town!
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