The Edmonton Oilers are poised to make the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in over a decade, and fans in that city are just giddy about it. Why shouldn’t they be? Of course it could all fall apart before April, but right now Sports Club Stats gives the Oilers a 99 percent chance of making the postseason.
It’s been a while, and a lot has changed in the world since that last Oilers playoff game in June 2006.
You could be 15 years old in Edmonton and have no recollection of your team in a playoff game.
An Oilers playoff game has never been broadcast in high definition.
Fans almost for sure have never tweeted about their team in the playoffs (the social media platform launched in March 2006).
Three different men have occupied the oval office in that span, and that includes two full terms of President Obama.
The first iPhone was released.
A global recession started and ended, and another is on the way.
It’s been over 3,800 days; about 13% of the average human life span.
Barring a devastating, historic collapse, fans in Edmonton will finally get to see some postseason action in the NHL’s northern-most city. Today, we look back at the decade of darkness and pick the 10 best and 10 worst players who were in Edmonton at some point during that stretch of ineptitude. You feel bad for the good players, because some of them wasted good chunks of their prime years wallowing in the cellar in an Oilers jersey. Enjoy.
Note: the list will only cover players without taking the current season into account.
20 Best: Jeff Petry
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Jeff Petry in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, 45th overall. The defenseman chose to finish college, and then the Oilers spent the better part of six seasons developing him before deciding that Justin Schultz was the better long-term option. They traded Petry to the Montreal Canadiens for a couple of draft picks at the 2015 trade deadline.
19 Worst: Liam Reddox
Over the 10 years that Edmonton hovered well below the playoff cutline, they employed a handful of players who had no business skating in the world’s best hockey league. Liam Reddox managed to play exactly 100 games for the Oilers between 2007-08 and 2010-11, and to this day it’s hard to say how that happened, exactly.
18 Best: Ryan Smyth
Ryan Smyth wasn’t here for the majority of the decade of darkness, and that’s definitely for the best. Smyth deserved nothing of what happened to this team, so I’m glad he wasn’t forced to sit through all 10 years of futility. The Banff native was traded at the 2007 trade deadline, and made his return to Edmonton in 2011-12 for three more seasons before retiring.
17 Worst: Jason Strudwick
God bless Jason Strudwick. The guy is a pillar in the Edmonton community, and he offers fans of the Oilers valuable insights from a former player. That being said, when Struds came to Edmonton for three seasons in 2008 to finish his NHL career, he was not skating anywhere near an NHL level, and it was painfully obvious.
16 Best: Dustin Penner
Pancakes! Dustin Penner is a beauty or a lazy bugger, depending on who you ask, but either way he was at one point the best Edmonton Oiler. Since the decade of darkness began in 2006-07, only three players scored 30 or more goals for the Oilers, and Penner was one of them. The burly winger netted a respectable 32 goals and 63 points in 2009-10, and was legitimately the best Oiler out there on many nights.
15 Worst: Justin Schultz
Credit where credit is due, Justin Schultz’s career has gone swimmingly since leaving Edmonton. The defenseman is a Stanley Cup champion, having played a depth role on the 2016 championship squad. This season he has taken another step, as he currently sits fourth in the league in scoring among defensemen, and is a whopping plus-27 on the year (even with the generous zone starts/sheltering/power play push, that’s impressive).
14 Best: Sam Gagner
Sam Gagner spent the first seven seasons of his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers, and he was a good soldier throughout his time there. In 481 games in E-town, Gags put up 295 points. He always held his head high and pressed on, despite the struggles of his team, which was the only real constant during his tenure in Alberta.
13 Worst: Nail Yakupov
I genuinely feel bad for Nail Yakupov. The enigmatic Russian has always looked and felt out of place in the NHL, and this season in St. Louis (his first away from Edmonton) hasn’t helped at all. He’s an extremely likeable guy, which is why it’s so hard to watch the former first-overall draft pick struggle so mightily in his pro career.
12 Best: Ales Hemsky
Ales Hemsky had his best seasons as an Oiler before the decade of darkness began, but he was still a damn fine player for Edmonton for a handful of those dark years. He’d likely find himself in a higher position on this list if he hadn’t been so injury prone throughout the latter half of his time in Edmonton.
11 Worst: Cam Barker
Having spent just one season with Edmonton during the decade of darkness, Cam Barker represents the shortest-tenured Oiler to appear on the list. He was injured for much of that season to boot, finding his way into just 25 games during his one year contract with the club in 2011-12. Still, though, those games were bad enough to earn Barker the slot here.
10 Best: Shawn Horcoff
Towards the end of his time in Edmonton, Shawn Horcoff was a bit of a whipping boy. We can all admit that that’s much more because of that ridiculous (seemingly endless) contract that Kevin Lowe signed the center to before handing the reins to Steve Tambellini, but he was a target for bitter fans nonetheless. Horcoff was still one of the best Oilers from the decade of darkness.
9 Worst: Nikolai Khabibulin
Steve Tambellini is one of the worst GMs in recorded sports history, and the four year contract the Oilers signed netminder Nikolai Khabibulin to in the 2009 offseason was one of his most questionable moves. The Bulin Wall was already 36 years old at the time, and had just finished a season in Chicago in which he split the starter’s role, but for some reason the Oilers felt like giving Khabibulin all the responsibility in Edmonton.
8 Best: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the first current Oiler to show up on our list, so it look like he’s one of the lucky ones who will get to experience the end of the lull. Nuge was the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and although he hasn’t quite reached the level some expected him to be at by now, he’s still a darn good hockey player.
7 Worst: Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Marc-Antoine Pouliot is what the Oilers came away with from the first round of that legendary 2003 entry draft that yielded oh so many all-stars. While teams after them selected the Corey Perrys and Ryan Keslers of the world, the Oilers got Pouliot, who played 192 games in the NHL (probably more than he earned, to be honest) before moving on to the Swiss league.
6 Best: Jordan Eberle
There’s no doubt that Jordan Eberle is the goat-du-jour this season in Edmonton. The expectation was that the 26-year-old right winger would flank generational talent Connor McDavid all season and ride that position to career highs in goals and points. That is not what happened, and now Eberle is off of McDavid’s line and producing at a clip slower than any season to date (aside from his rookie year).
5 Worst: Eric Belanger
Another classic Steve Tambellini signing shows up on the “worst” portion of this list. Tambo signed Eric Belanger to a three-year contract in the 2011 offseason, and at the time it didn’t seem so bad. However, it didn’t take long for the Oilers and their fans to realize the folly of the signing. In his first season, Belanger put up four goals and 16 points in 78 games.
4 Best: Devan Dubnyk
I imagine this is going to be one of the more divisive picks on the list, as many Oilers fans seem convinced that Devan Dubnyk was a terrible goalie while he was in Edmonton. Look, I’m not saying he didn’t take another step after leaving the Oilers, but I’m of the belief that Devan Dubnyk was always a good goalie and that he was just the victim of circumstance in Edmonton.
3 Worst: Patrick O’Sullivan
While I hold sympathy for Patrick O’Sullivan and his abusive upbringing, there is no denying that he was one of the worst Oilers to play for the team during the decade of darkness. Acquired from the L.A. Kings in a three-way deal, O’Sullivan was a liability during his time in Edmonton, scoring just 40 points in 92 games and racking up a minus-42 rating in the process.
2 Best: Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall was the best Edmonton Oiler who played for the team between 2006-07 and 2015-16, and it’s not particularly close. Hall produced points at an elite rate during his time in Edmonton, and in 2013-14 he became the first Oiler to crack the 80 point barrier since Doug Weight did it in 2000-01. Hall was traded last offseason to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson, a move that’s still criticized by a sect of fans, despite the team’s success so far this year.
1 Worst: Nikita Nikitin
What a blunder this whole situation turned out to be for GM Craig MacTavish. During his rather short tenure at the helm, Mac-T made some questionable moves, but none were more perplexing than trading for the negotiating rights to Nikita Nikitin prior to the 2014 free agent frenzy (as if teams were going to be clamoring over a guy who was a healthy scratch in Columbus on multiple occasions during the previous season), and then inked him to a generous two-year contract for $9 million.
That deal expired at the end of 2015-16, and needless to say Nikitin immediately returned to Russia and hasn’t looked back. He spent nearly as much time in Bakersfield as he did in Edmonton during the duration of his last NHL deal, which should give you a pretty good idea of just how bad he was—Edmonton’s depth chart was shallow as all hell, and he couldn’t even make the team.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!