Edmonton Oilers

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 06:04

History of Edmonton Oilers

Information about the NHL team Edmonton Oilers.

The Edmonton Oilers are a professional ice hockey that is presently part of the Northwest Division in the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In five occasions in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990, the Oilers won the Stanley Cup.

Having been founded in November 1, 1971, the Edmonton Oilers played their first season as one of the twelve founding franchises of the major professional World Hockey Association in (WHA) 1972. The team was renamed from Edmonton Oilers to Alberta Oilers when the Calgary Broncos which were a fellow WHA founding franchise in Alberta relocated to Cleveland in Ohio. The following year, however, the team returned its name to the original Edmonton Oilers. In 1979 the Oilers joined the NHL, being one of four franchises that became a member through a merger with the WHA. To date, the Edmonton Oilers are the only WHA team in-place that remains.

In the 1980s, the Oilers were the dominant team, having gained the most recent “dynasty” status as recognized by the NHL Hockey Hal of Fame. During the period, the team garnered six conference titles in a 21-team league and five Stanley Cups within seven years having been led by Wayne Gretzky among others. The greatest success to the team since the dynasty era was a run to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.       

An intense rival of the Oilers is the Calgary Flames, as manifested over the Alberta sports history and in the NHL being part of the Battle of Alberta, since the relocation of the Flames from Atlanta in 1980. The recent yeas have seen the Vancouver Canucks develop as the present Oiliers’ intense rival.

The World Hockey Association - WHA Years (1972-1979)

The Edmonton Oilers joined other 12 franchises to establish the World Hockey Association (WHA). After the relocation of a co-founding franchise, Calgary Broncos relocated to Cleveland, Ohio and before the commencement of the inaugural season, the team was renamed to Alberta Oilers due to a plan of splitting its home games between Edmonton and Calgary.  

Bill Hunter, the original owner of the team was also the previous owner of the junior hockey franchise Edmonton Oil Kings. Hunter also founded what became the Western Hockey League. The fans loved the team, which was led by star players like defenseman and team captain Al Hamilton, forwards Balir MacDOnald and Bill Flett, and goaltender Dave Dryden. With new owner Peter Pocklington in 1978, the team’s performance would change for the better.

Gretzky's only and first WHA season in 1978–79 gave the Oilers a league-best 48–30–2 record, making a shoot to the top of the WHA standings. The success of Edmonton Oilers’ regular season did not offer into a championship since they lost to the rival Winnipeg Jets in the Avco World Trophy Final.

Along with fellow WHA teams the Quebec Nordiques, the Hartford Whalers, and the Jets, Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL for 1979-80. Edmonton was the only team that had avoided relocation and renaming; in 1995 the Nordiques were renamed as Colorado Avalanche, in 1996 the Jets became Phoenix Cayotes, and in 1997 the Whalers were renamed the Carolina Hurricanes.

The National Hockey League - NHL Years (1979-1983)

From 1978-79, the Oilers lost most of the players who bolted out to the upstart league during the reclamation draft of players of the NHL. The team was however permitted to retain two players and two skill players that included Gretzky.
GM/coach Glen Sather restocked the roster in the expansion draft strategically. He focused on taking free agents where he estimated a savings as much as $500,000 for the Oilers that could then be used in the Entry Draft. A fairly respectable team was formed quickly where the Oilers won from an early run of success in the Entry Draft. In a period of three years, chief scout Barry Fraser and Sather formed a magnificent core of young players that included Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Andy Moog, Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr.

This impressive group of young players has grown into one of the greatest teams in hockey history that dominated the NHL in the mid- to late 1980s. Then, the Oilers were also considered as one of the best sports teams from the last 120 years as manifested by a recent Sporting News poll in February 2006, which listed the 1987–88 Oilers as one of the top five teams.

Gretzky took off in the 1980–81 regular season, taking serious aim at the record book where he scored 109 assists and 164 points to surpass records held by former Bruin greats Bill Cowley, Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. During the season, the Oilers sweeped the heavily favoured Montreal Canadiens in three games as well as pushing the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders to six games.

The 1981-82 season gave the Oilers a dramatic leap from 74 points (14th overall) to 111 points (second overall). Gretzky garnered the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player each time in his first eight seasons. A solid elite team was gained by the team in 1982-83 making it through all the way the Stanley Cup Finals. They were, however, swept in four games by the three-time defending champion Islanders, but many hockey pundits believed the Oilers would finally break through; it was only a matter of time.

The Dynasty Years (1983-1990)

The Oilers scored a still-unmatched NHL record of 446 goals in 1983-84 season and earned a rematch in the Stanley Cup Finals with the New York Islanders. The Stanley Cup championship was a victory for Edmonton once again in 1985 over thePhiladelphia Flyers. With much energy, the Oilers won the first-ever President’s Trophy in another record-smashing season in 1985-86. The Edmonton Oilers returned in 1986-87 to win another Stanley Cup Final defeating the Flyers in a seven-game series full of tension. After a Coffey-Simpson trade-off, the Oilers lost as Smythe Division champions in 1987-88. After trading Gretzky, McSorley, and Krushelnyski to Los Angeles for $15 million, the Oilers never made a successful game.

For the first time since 1982, the Oilers were booted out of the first round of the playoffs during the 1988-89 season. The turmoil for the team continued on until the 1989-90 regular season with a badly injured All-Star goaltender Fuhr.

The Years of Rebuilding (1991-2006)

Even with poor drafts that were hardly noticed, the Oilers were strong enough to make it to the Campbell Conference in 1991 and 1992 but were nowhere near the powerhouse the team was before. The team went on to miss the playoffs in 1993 for the third time in franchise history and for the first time as an NHL team. The team was nearly sold to Houston interests who planned to move the team, but with just few hours before the final sale, 37 Edmonton-based owners raised the funds to purchase the team, keeping the Oilers in Edmonton.

It was until 1997 that the Oilers made the playoffs for the first time within five years upsetting the Dallas Stars. Between 1997 and 2003, Oilers and Stars played each other in the playoffs six times, except for 2002 when not one of the team made the playoffs. The team announced in July 23, 2004 that its affiliate, the American Hockey League – the Toronto Roadrunners, would play the 2004-05 AHL season home arena of Rexall Place. The Edmonton Roadrunners, however, were suspended after an unsuccessful year. Consequently, the Oilers’ long-planned purpose to own an expansion major junior franchise (Western Hockey League) was granted in 2006, which allowed the team to play only in the 2007-2008 season.

The Comeback Season (2007-2008)

The Oilers’ first 15 games started the gate very slowly, going 5-10 and finishing the 1st half of the season 16-21-4 and was again turned around after New Year’s. The team finished the season with 41-35-6 record, garnering 9th place in the Western Conference and only 3 points back of a playoff spot. With this, the 2008-09 season expectations are high.