The Edmonton Oilers have been around for more than 40 years if you count their days in the World Hockey Association. For about a quarter of that time, the team was really good. Not only did they win the Stanley Cup five times in just seven years, but the Oil also lost in the finals to Al Arbor’s New York Islanders dynasty in 1982, as well as going to the Conference Finals in both 1991 and 1992. That’s about as good as decades in the NHL get — at least if you’re not the Montreal Canadiens.
However, if you take out that decade, the Edmonton Oilers have been one of the NHL’s worst franchises. Between 1993 and 2015, the team advanced past the first round of the playoffs only three times, and two of those were on the back of Curtis Joseph as he stole series against the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche in 1997 and 1998, two teams that outclassed the Oilers in just about every way. The other successful playoff run was in 2006, when the team managed to all hop on Chris Pronger’s back and somehow make an improbable Stanley Cup Final run, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes.
I’m not sure how that’s physically possible either, but let’s go with it.
In between those great years, the Oilers dressed an awful lot of really terrible NHLers. Many of these players would be out of the game after suiting up for the Oil, while others finished out their careers in hockey wastelands like the AHL, KHL, and on the roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Here are the 15 baddest of the bad, the worst players in Edmonton Oilers history.
15. Viktor Fasth
In 2014, GM Craig McTavish made a couple of transactions to help shore up the Oilers shaky goaltending situation, acquiring goalies Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, with Fasth coming over for 3rd and 5th round draft picks.
Although both moves didn’t pan out, at least Scrivens has had flashes of brilliance in an Oilers uniform. Fasth was absolutely terrible in his 33 total games played with the club, putting up a 3.26 GAA and a .894 save percentage. Fasth wasn’t re-signed and will play this year for CSKA in Moscow. On the bright side, at least his terribleness helped the Oilers be bad enough to land Connor McDavid.
14. Matt Hendricks
In 2014, desperate to ship underperforming goalie Devan Dubnyk (and his salary) out of town, McTavish agreed to trade the struggling goaltender to Nashville for Matt Hendricks and the remaining three years of his contract, at a cost $1.85 million per year.
I’d say Hendricks hasn’t lived up to the hype, but it’s not like he had any expectations to begin with. Moving a goalie who had been a reliable performer for a third line winger with very little upside made no sense at the time, and taking on Hendricks’s contract made the move look even worse.
Since the trade, Hendricks has scored a whole 11 goals in 104 games, putting up a plus/minus of -20 while only playing 13 minutes a night. Oh, and his shooting percentage has been a paltry 7.2%. I’d compare Matt Hendricks’s hockey career to Paris Hilton’s singing career, but that’s just mean. At least Paris Hilton resembled a singer.
13. Dave Semenko
Dave Semenko played on the Oilers from 1977 to 1986, accumulating 596 games and protecting actual good hockey players. His career season came in 1982-83, when the sharpshooter (I use that term very loosely) potted 12 goals and 27 points, good enough to finish 15th on that team in scoring, a mere 169 points behind the team’s leader that season, Wayne Gretzky.
Everybody claims Semenko’s value was in protecting the superstars, not playing like them. But he was only fourth that year for most penalty minutes in an Oiler uniform and only led the team in penalty minutes once during his tenure with the NHL Oilers. He had one job and he wasn’t even that good at it.
12. Jason Bonsignore
Fun fact: even Jason has no idea how to pronounce his last name. He just calls himself Jason (shrug).
Bonsignore was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft, which was the Oilers’s highest ever draft pick at the time. Along with fellow draftee Ryan Smyth, who went sixth, Bonsignore was supposed to form a one-two punch that would power the Oilers offense for years to come.
At least one of those picks worked out. Bonsignore played a grand total of 21 games for the team, accumulating one goal, two assists, and a -7 rating. By far his greatest contribution was when he was shipped out of town along with Bryan Marchment in exchange for a decent hockey player, Roman Hamrlik.
11. Cam Barker
Drafted third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2004 entry draft (yes, one pick before Bonsignore), Cam Barker was a decent defenseman in his first few years with the Hawks. He put up positive possession numbers and contributed on the power play, cracking the 40 point plateau in 2008-09.
It was all downhill from there and when the Minnesota Wild bought out Barker’s contract at the end of the 2010-11 season, Edmonton came calling, signing the former top prospect to a one year, $2.25 million contract.
It worked out as well as you’d expect. Barker played just 25 games that year, none of them very well. He was prone to ill-timed giveaways and didn’t even register an assist, all while playing defense shakier than a teenager’s alibi. He was out of hockey a year later.
10. Ethan Moreau
Ethan Moreau was the captain of the Oilers for three seasons from 2007-2010. Even David Blaine wants to know how he managed to pull that off.
Moreau is the perfect example of a fan base valuing the “little things” far higher than they do the big picture. Moreau was tough and killed penalties. He wasn’t exceptionally tough and was a pretty mediocre penalty killer, but hey. he looked like he was trying.
9. Shayne Corson
Shayne Corson’s performance on the ice wasn’t actually so bad, at least compared to the rest of these guys. He put up 137 points in 192 games for a team that didn’t even come close to sniffing the playoffs.
Corson was especially skilled at getting under the other team’s skin, playing the role as a pest perfectly. He also took cheap penalties and frequently let his temper get the best of him. An unconfirmed story says he and Jason Arnott got into an actual fist fight in the dressing room after a tough loss. The reason? Corson was upset Arnott got credited with an assist and he didn’t.
You might remember that in 2002, when the Toronto Maple Leafs made him a healthy scratch and Corson quit the team. That’s a pretty nice microcosm of his career, actually.
8. Kelly Buchberger
Kelly Buchberger is another example of a bad hockey player who just happened to be good enough to keep his job.
Buchberger played parts of 12 seasons with the Oilers, potting 240 points in 795 career games, stats that are basically the NHL’s version of a participation trophy. He was consistently a minus player, took a ton of penalties, and was one of the leading penalty killers on a team that was terrible when down a man.
He even looked goofy. No serious hockey player wears a helmet like that.
7. Justin Schultz
Anaheim drafted Justin Schultz with the 43rd overall pick in the 2008 draft. They lost his rights in 2012, leaving him free to sign with any NHL team. He chose the Oilers out of his many suitors. That tells you more about Justin Schultz’s decision making ability than I ever could.
Schultz has a good shot and is a decent enough power play quarterback. He’s also atrocious in his own zone, consistently coughing up the puck, missing his check, and not playing NHL level defense. It’s almost like he’s trying to be this bad.
6. Georges Laraque
If there was a player on this list I’d most like to meet, it would probably be Georges Laraque. He’s generous with his time and has a great attitude. Whenever I see him interviewed, he’s always been insightful, entertaining, and engaging.
It’s just too bad he wasn’t better at hockey. Laraque was one of the game’s best goons; that much is obvious. He just couldn’t do anything else. He played a grand total of 8:30 per game during his eight years with the Oilers, adding a pathetic 43 goals in 490 games. Take away his fists and Laraque would have never even sniffed the NHL.
5. Nail Yakupov
If Nail wasn’t a first overall pick, I’m pretty sure the Oilers would have given up on him by now.
Yakupov’s biggest problem is consistency. He’s got a cannon of a shot, great speed, and when he’s on he can read the play as well as anybody. He just can’t manage to do any of that with any sort of regularity. He’s the NHL version of the unemployed friend who owes you $20.
There are also stretches when it seems like he refuses to play defense, as evidenced by his plus/minus of -72 in just three seasons. That’s by far the worst in the league during his career.
4. Sheldon Souray
Reeling from the loss of Chris Pronger, the Oilers took a bag of money and threw it at Sheldon Souray, outbidding several other teams to lure the free agent to the coldest city in the league.
Souray played just three seasons with the club, which were plagued by injury and disappointment. He had one healthy season, but the team eventually soured on him so badly that he was demoted to the AHL for a half season in 2009-10. You’ve got to be pretty terrible when the worst team in the league sends you down to the minors.
3. Ryan Whitney
When Ryan Whitney came to the Oilers in a 2010 trade with the Anaheim Ducks, he was a well-regarded 26-year old offensive defenseman.
Whitney’s impressive point totals were just a pretty distraction from one undeniable fact — he was one of the worst defenders in the league. When he wasn’t injured — Whitney played just 139 games in parts of four seasons for the Oilers — he was constantly pinned in his own end. And that’s even after getting favorable zone starts and spending a bunch of time on the power play.
2. Ben Eager
For whatever reason, the Edmonton Oilers decided to give an actual roster spot to Ben Eager in 2011. I’m not exactly sure why either. Maybe somebody dared them?
Eager played parts of three seasons for the Oilers, managing 9 goals, 7 assists, and 134 penalty minutes playing just 8:37 per night. His advanced possession stats were the worst on the team, a real accomplishment considering each of those teams was bad enough to earn a first overall draft pick.
Oh, I get why he was signed now. Maybe McTavish and Tambellini are smarter than we think…nope, couldn’t say that with a straight face.
1. Nikolai Khabibulin
The Oilers refused to re-sign 39-year old Dwayne Roloson after the 2008-09 season, even after he backstopped the team to a .915 save percentage. Instead, management spent $15 million to lure 36-year old Nikolai Khabibulin to the team, signing him until he was… wait for it… 40.
The Bulin Wall struggled during his time with the Oil, posting a 33-67-14 record with a GAA of 3.00 and a save percentage of .903, which was not what the team expected when signing him. He also managed to get charged with a DUI in 2010 during the offseason, eventually spending 30 days in jail for the crime. I’m still not sure what was worse, his play or the charges.
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