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Right here's one Edmonton-Vegas match-up that the Oilers win handily

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From time to time in hockey comes a rare occasion or accomplishment that warrants, after which rewards, a deeper dive. Has this occurred earlier than? How typically? The place does this one rank within the annals of the sport? What does it have in widespread with comparable accomplishments of the previous, and why does it stand out throughout the circumstances of the current day?

Two such distinctive feats occurred in 2022-23, with the Edmonton Oilers taking part in a distinguished function in each narratives.

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  • the extraordinary season of Connor McDavid, whose 64 objectives had been essentially the most in 15 years and whose 153 factors had been essentially the most in 27. McDavid’s fingerprints had been throughout a number of different accomplishments credited to his Edmonton Oilers, the league’s most effective powerplay workforce within the historical past of a stat that has been recorded since 1977. They had been additionally the primary membership to have two 50-goal, 120-point scorers (McDavid, Leon Draisaitl), and the primary to have three 100-point scorers (McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), for the reason that Pittsburgh Penguins of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis in 1995-96.
  • Vegas Golden Knights’ seize of the Stanley Cup in simply their sixth season of existence, the third time within the post-Warfare period that such a younger workforce has gained the chalice. The opposite two? The Edmonton Oilers of 1984 and the Edmonton Oilers of 1985.

It’s into that latter feat that we’ve taken the plunge in current days. First we in contrast the rosters of the victorious Golden Knights to the vanquished Oilers, solely to search out that we had been evaluating apples with pineapples. VGK had been largely constructed and stay closely influenced by acquisitions surrounding their entry to the league, be it within the enlargement draft itself or associated trades. By rigorously managing their cap area by means of that course of, they had been in a position to turn into a significant participant in each the free agent and the commerce market. Only one present Vegas participant was acquired by means of the draft, rendering a long-time hockey tenet, “construct by means of the draft”, right into a moot level. Within the distinctive case of the Golden Knights, perhaps it reads “construct by means of the enlargement draft”.

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Our second submit delved into the historical past of all enlargement groups since 1967, which underscored the rarity of the Golden Knights’ feat. Solely the Oilers had gained their first Cup quicker, whereas the Vegans had been a 12 months quicker than Philadelphia Flyers and two years away from New York Islanders. All 4 should absolutely be listed on the quick listing of finest new groups added for the reason that Unique Six, with the Pittsburgh Penguins possible filling out the highest 5 by advantage of their 5 Cups, though a bit slower off the mark (24 years to #1). You possibly can decide your order, however can be hard-pressed to make the case for an outsider to topple any of them from the highest 5. (With Vegas an emphatic fifth in my e book, as the entire Oilers, Flyers and Islanders efficiently defender their first, early Cup. Clearly, Vegas has an opportunity to do the identical, let’s discuss once more if and after they’ve accomplished so.

We’ll wrap up our enlargement triptych with one other comparability between the Golden Knights and the Oilers, however with a twist. As an alternative of evaluating the present champs to the fashionable contenders, we’ll return throughout the a long time to check them to the one earlier NHL workforce to win the Stanley Cup of their sixth season in existence. Particularly the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers, a.ok.a. the Group of the Century.

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Just like the Golden Knights, these Oilers had their roots in an “enlargement” course of that also bore fruit six years later. So a minimum of there’s a comparability to be made, whilst we’ll discover the 2 golf equipment took a really totally different path to their later success.

Enlargement draft / associated trades

VGK-EDM 85 Expansiopn draft

VGK-EDM 85 Expansion related trades

The Vegas facet of those tables can be unchanged from that offered in our prior comp to the fashionable Oilers. On this case, although, we see the early Oilers acquired a rock stable defenceman within the enlargement draft correct and got here up with three helpful depth wingers by means of trades associated to the method, all of them named Dave.  Two of these Daves, Hunter and Semenko, had performed with the WHA Oilers the earlier season, however their rights had been reclaimed by the NHL groups (Montreal and Minnesota) who had chosen these gamers within the NHL Draft and “misplaced” them to the WHA. Each re-acquisitions value Glen Sather a good draft decide.

On steadiness Vegas derived extra worth from the (MUCH extra beneficiant) enlargement course of.

The Nice (Un-)Equalizer

VGK-EDM 85 Gretzky

The Oilers, nevertheless, had a participant underneath a wholly totally different class who, it turned out, no person might match. That will be Wayne Gretzky, listed right here as a “present from the hockey gords”, though he is also proven as Edmonton’s (one!!) protected skater from the reverse enlargement draft, and extra a survivor of the enlargement course of than a product of it.

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Signed by the Indianapolis Racers at 17, then traded/bought to the Oilers simply earlier than Nelson Skalbania’s membership shut its doorways, then locked as much as a 21-year “private providers contract” on his 18th birthday by the cagey Peter Pocklington, Gretzky entered the enlargement course of as an untouchable. Since by the principles of the day he wasn’t even eligible for the NHL Draft till 1981, no present workforce aside from the Oilers might lay declare to his rights. Pocklington insisted all through the tense merger/enlargement negotiations that Gretzky’s rights had been a “dealbuster”, and finally received his method. The Nice One was by no means drafted in both professional circuit. However he was an Edmonton Oiler.


OIL '85 vs VGK '23 trades

This was acknowledged as a energy of the Golden Knights in our prior submit, and that reward holds true right here. Some fairly massive contributors right here, not least being Vegas captain Mark Stone. He was acquired within the membership’s second 12 months for property acquired on the preliminary enlargement, then given a good-looking long-term extension with the copious cap area Vegas nonetheless had at their disposal at that time. Stone has proved helpful to Vegas each on the ice and on LTIR (the place his absence paved the best way for Ivan Barbashev’s addition on the deadline). Miraculously wholesome come playoff time, he was entrance and centre with 11 objectives and 24 factors, and dominated the Finals with 5-4-9 in 5 video games together with a hat trick within the clincher, then receiving the Stanley Cup on behalf of his workforce.

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Then there’s Jack Eichel, acquired in an enormous commerce the season earlier than final whereas awaiting (dare I name it) cutting-edge surgical procedure on his neck. VGK took a mammoth threat there, paid a heavy value too, however in 2023 loved the advantages of a wholesome Eichel taking part in the perfect hockey of his profession. His 26 factors led all playoff scorers.

Vegas additionally added some very helpful guys for reasonable: Chandler Stephenson for a fifth spherical decide, Brett Howden for a fourth, Adin Hill for a fourth. Absolute steals. Truthful to say they’ve accomplished nicely within the commerce market, be they headline-grabbing offers or lower-profile ones that show their value subtly, over time.

The Golden Knights additionally confirmed little compunction about transferring out gamers who had outlived their cap hit, if not their usefulness. The divestitures of Marc-Andre Fluery and Max Pacioretty had been particularly cold-blooded, however had been deemed essential to clear cap area utilized in different methods.

On the Edmonton facet of this equation — the place wage cap was not a consideration — the listing of commerce acquisitions is much less splashy however spectacular. Glen Sather acquired quite a few VERY helpful function gamers who discovered methods to contribute, whilst none of those dudes is first to thoughts when one envisions the ’85 Oilers. Which after all means Gretzky at first, adopted by an entire bunch of men within the subsequent two tables:

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First spherical draft picks

OIL '85 vs VGK '23 1st rounders

A void for Vegas on this ultra-important class, making them the primary champion workforce in trendy reminiscence to not have even one home-grown first-rounder on their workforce.

A newish workforce themselves, the Oilers nonetheless acquired three cornerstones with their prime picks of 1979, ’80, and ’81. Right now all three are members of the Hockey Corridor of Fame.

Rounds 2-12*

OIL '85 vs VGK '23 2-7 rounders

One stable second-round decide right here from Vegas’ first ever enlargement draft; since then, nuttin’. We’ll remind from our prior submit that Vegas despatched a lot of their drafted property away within the offers that landed Stone, Eichel and others. It’s a really totally different strategy from the outdated custom of incoming groups constructing by means of the draft.

Which is definitely what we see on the Oilers’ facet of the desk, with three extra Corridor of Famers clustered on the prime and a few very helpful contributors listed beneath. It was Edmonton’s astute drafting of their early NHL years, on the heels of the miracle that landed a hockey savant in our metropolis, that set that squad aside.


OIL '85 vs VGK '23 Freebies

Some fairly nifty work accomplished right here by the administration and scouts of each golf equipment. Zach Whitecloud and Logan Thompson had been magnificence signings by the Golden Knights, however they’ve received work to do in the event that they wish to match the long-term impression of Charlie Huddy and Randy Gregg, every a dependable blueliner who gained 5 Stanleys in Edmonton.

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Unrestricted free brokers

OIL '85 vs VGK '23 UFA

One other basic distinction between the 2 sides and extra to the purpose, between the 2 eras. The UFA market performs an important function within the trendy NHL. The Golden Knights acquired one core participant by this route in Alex Pietrangelo. The opposite two are higher thought of help gamers, although Laurent Brossoit was credited with 6 playoff wins earlier than being felled by harm. Suffice to say the Golden Knights didn’t go loopy right here, however received one participant important to their success.

For his or her half, aside from signing Huddy and Gregg on the entry degree, the Oilers had zero gamers acquired by the free company route. Their first NHL free agent, Craig MacTavish, would arrive in Edmonton that fall of ’85.


Since endeavor this “how the champs had been constructed” methodology in the previous couple of years, I at all times secretly wished to do the identical with the dynasty Oilers, and the success of the expansionist Golden Knights supplied the proper excuse to dig in. As anticipated, this comp confirmed some similarities: every workforce made key strikes at and across the enlargement draft(s) to safe some nuts-and-bolts gamers proper from the beginning. Every workforce was aggressive in combing the entry degree market; certainly, every discovered a superb participant within the still-rarely-accessed Canadian college pipeline. Each had been aggressive on the commerce market, although the Oilers had been procuring primarily for help gamers, whereas VGK gave the impression to be within the combine each time a star participant went to market and bought a few of their most essential gamers this manner.

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The place the Oilers kicked butt on the Golden Knights or certainly any trendy workforce was a) the hockey phenom that was Wayne Gretzky and b) their extraordinary success on the newbie draft the place they drafted six Corridor of Famers of their first three years within the NHL. By Yr 5 they had been within the ascendant and gained their first Stanley (as prophesied by Pocklington in 1979), then the next 12 months repeated the feat with a membership so dominant it was named the NHL’s Group of the Century. That’s one thing of a nebulous dialogue after all, however these ’80s Oilers definitely belonged within the dialog, and because the outdated saying goes, in case you’re in it you may as nicely win it.

For these Golden Knights followers who assume your workforce is healthier, let’s revisit this on the finish of the NHL’s second century, in 2117. If the 2023 VGK are equally acknowledged, then I’m ready to relent and acknowledge this comparability as an old style tie. However in the present day and going ahead, I’ll persist with the Oilers as essentially the most profitable beginner of recent occasions.

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Observe me on X-Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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