Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Greatest Team in NHL History?

Recently the NHL picked the greatest team ever and chose the 1984/85 Edmonton Oilers. The team finished first in the league with 109 points and waltzed to the Stanley Cup going 15-3 in the playoffs. Wayne Gretzky had one of his greatest offensive seasons collecting 208 points and setting the record of 47 points in the playoffs and Jari Kurri had his best goal scoring campaign with 71 in 73 games in addition he tied the NHL record with 19 playoff goals. A great team indeed, but was it even the greatest Oiler team ever, let alone the NHL's best ever?
Edmonton Journal writer, Jim Matheson, who has been covering the team since their inception in the WHA in 1972 tweeted the following when the '85 team was announced as greatest ever;
"Sorry but '86-87 Oilers was greatest team. Added Nilsson to play with Messier and Anderson, Ruotsalainen brought back for D." He next added,"Kent Nilsson with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson in '87 playoffs was fastest line I ever saw."
If Jim Matheson says the '87 team was better than the '85 squad, I have to believe him.
In addition to adding Kent Nilsson and fellow trade deadline pickup Reijo Ruotsalainen, the '87 squad now also included Esa Tikkanen, Craig MacTavish, Marty McSorley, Steve Smith and Craig Muni. Guys that were gone by '87 were Mark Napier, Willy Lindstrom, Lee Fogolin, Larry Melnyk, Pat Hughes, Billy Carroll, Don Jackson, Dave Lumley and Dave Semenko. It's fairly easy to state that the new players in '87 were an big improvement from the '85 departures.
One major difference though that does favour the 1985 Oilers was that in 1987, Paul Coffey missed 21 games with a back injury and four more in the playoffs. This greatly contributed to the fact his playoff points dropped from 37 in 1985 to 11 in '87. However, Kurri, Messier and Anderson produced similarly from '85 playoffs to '87. Kent Nilsson's 19 playoff points and Tikkanen's 7 goals helped make up the difference in production.
Overall team scoring was only slightly down in '87 regular season from '85 but dipped by about three quarters lower in the '85 playoffs. The team defence was better in '87 in both regular season and playoffs, with Grant Fuhr's playoff average improving from 3.10 to a stellar (especially for the 1980's) 2.46. His save percentage in '87 post-season was an almost unheard of .908.
Truthfully, the team in between these two, the 1985/86 Oilers may very well have been better than both of them. Their 119 points was ten better than the '85 squad and Gretzky and Coffey set multiple scoring records, if it wasn't for the Steve Smith own-goal the '86 team may be in the discussion of greatest ever.

1 comment:

Sedate Me said...

The "Greatest team in NHL history" finished 3rd that year? I wonder how the 2 teams finishing ahead of them feel about that. Sure, great team. So was that other Oiler team mentioned. No question.

I wasn't even one of their fans...but what do the 76-77 Habs have to do to get some respect? Their roster was loaded with easily recognizable names, if not Hall of Famers and coached by one of the best coaches ever. But here's what separates them.

They only lost 8 GAMES that entire season!!! They finished a whopping 22 points ahead of the 2nd place Flyers. They scored the most goals (64 more than 2nd place Flyers) They gave up the least amount of goals (22 less than the 2nd place Islanders) They also had the 2nd least amount of penalties which demonstrates impressive discipline, especially since the only way most teams had a chance of beating them was with their fists.

And not only did they win the Stanley Cup, they only lost 2 playoff games...on their way to the 2nd of 4 Stanley Cups in a row!!!

Not choosing that Hab team as the best (post 67 expansion) NHL team is purely a case of favouritism/amnesia. Those 75-79 teams should probably make up 4 of the Top 5...And I wasn't really a fan.

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