Back again for another edition of our second NHL Saturday miniseries: the Edmonton Oilers. They joined the NHL for the 1979-1980 season and proceeded to win five Stanley Cups by 1990. This reminds us of the Cleveland Browns and how they joined the NFL in 1950, taking the league by storm over the next decade. But we digress: In 43 seasons, the Oilers have been in the postseason 24 times total, winning those five championships. This list below is unique, as they’re all sequential seasons. Whoa …
No. 5: 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
This team won a second straight Cup on the back of a 49-20-11 record for 109 points and a first-place finish in the Smythe Division. The Oilers lost just three times in the postseason, eliminating—in order—the Los Angeles Kings, the Winnipeg Jets, the Chicago Black Hawks, and the Philadelphia Flyers. The first two series were sweeps, and Chicago managed two wins against Edmonton, while Philly won just once. The Oilers finished first in scoring goals and eighth in goals allowed, which didn’t hurt.
This was that era of crazy scoring, of course, so five skaters averaged a point a game: center Wayne Gretzky (73G, 135A, plus-100 rating), right wing Jari Kurri (71G, 64A), defenseman Paul Coffey (37G, 84A, 97 PIMs), left wing Mike Krushelnyski (43G, 45A), and RW Glenn Anderson (42G, 39A). C Mark Messier (23G, 31A, 55 games) just missed joining them, too. Two goaltenders split duties: Grant Fuhr (26-8-7) and Andy Moog (22-9-3), with Fuhr getting all the starts in the playoffs.
No. 4: 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers
It would have been nice to see all five Cup winners on this list, but it rarely works that way. This team lost in the second round of the postseason to the Calgary Flames in a seven-game upset, shockingly, as it was going for a threepeat. The Oilers posted a 56-17-7 record for 119 points and another first-place Smythe Division finish. Edmonton was tops again in goal scoring, but it fell to 13th in goals allowed—and that hurt the team in the playoffs, a first-round sweep of the Vancouver Canucks withstanding.
Here’s the scoring list: Gretzky (52G, 163A), Coffey (48G, 90A), Kurri (68G, 63A), Anderson (54G, 48A), and Messier (35G, 49A). The netminders struggled, though: Fuhr (29-8-0) and Moog (27-9-7) combined for just an .889 S% and a 3.80 GAA. The duo got better in the postseason (2.91 GAA, .903 S%), but the Flames won two low-scoring, one-goal games in the playoff series, including Game 7 on the road in Edmonton—where Calgary “scored” the only goal of the third period to eliminate the Oilers.
No. 3: 1982-83 Edmonton Oilers
These Oilers were knocking on the door of the NHL elite at the time, losing in the Cup Finals to the four-time champion New York Islanders in a surprising sweep. Winning the Smythe Division with a 47-21-12 record for 106 points, Edmonton rolled to the Finals by sweeping Winnipeg, dropping Calgary in five, and then sweeping Chicago, too. First in scoring and eleventh in goal prevention, the Oilers were never sure quite what hit them in the Finals, other than the Islanders’ experience, grit, and veteran presence.
The usual suspects were scoring big for Edmonton: Gretzky (71G, 125A), Messier (48G, 58A), Anderson (48G, 56A), Kurri (45G, 59A), Coffey (29G, 67A), and also C Ken Linseman (33G, 42A, 72 games). The goalies just needed to not screw up, really: Moog (33-8-7) and Fuhr (13-12-5) were adequate enough—until the Cup Finals. Moog got all the postseason starts, and against the Isles, it was actually the offense that was stifled, scoring just six times in the four games, although N.Y. scored 17 times itself.
No. 2: 1981-82 Edmonton Oilers
Every one of these lists has a surprise entry, and here it is for the Oilers: first place in the Smythe based on a 48-17-15 record for 111 points—with a first-round playoff exit. The Los Angeles Kings dropped Edmonton in a five-game series, winning Game 5 on the road in a series where the Oilers were outscored 27-23. Despite finishing tops in scoring and a solid seventh in defense, Edmonton was still a young team trying to find itself. L.A. had posted just a 24-41-15 record on the season, so this was shocking.
The points roll call? Gretzky (92G, 120A), Anderson (38G, 67A), Coffey (29G, 60A), Messier (50G, 38A), Kurri (32G, 54A), RW Dave Lumley (32G, 42A, 66 games), and D Risto Siltanen (15G, 48A, 63 games). At age 19, Fuhr (28-5-14) anchored the netminders, joined by Ron Low (17-7-1) and Moog (3-5-0). Fuhr started all 5 postseason games and was terrible, really, with a 5.05 GAA, but the team clearly stuck with him long term to experience great success.
No. 1: 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers
The franchise’s first Cup winner ends up being its best team ever, which perhaps the way it should be. After knocking on the door for a few years, the Oilers finally broke through, sweeping Winnipeg in the first round, escaping Calgary in seven games next, and then following up with a sweep over the Minnesota North Stars and a Finals shellacking of the Islanders in five games to end their reign. The rest? A 57-18-5 record for 119 points to win the Smythe, based on the top scoring offense and the tenth-best defense.
You know the names by now, we hope: Gretzky (87G, 118A), Coffey (40G, 86A, 104 PIMs), Kurri (52G, 61A), Messier (37G, 64A, 165 PIMs), and Anderson (54G, 45A, 65 PIMs). These guys brought the muscle, too, clearly. Fuhr (30-10-4) got most of the starts in net, although Moog (27-8-1) still did his bits, too. The split was similar in the Stanley Cup playoffs: Fuhr (11-4) and Moog (4-0) combined for a 2.94 GAA, which was good for the time period. This team had seven Hall of Fame players on it. Wow!