Ranford reminded me a lot of Grant Fuhr as a goaltender – his underlying stats are pretty cringeworthy but the numbers don’t tell the whole story – once the games count, he elevates his game and shuts the door.
Drafted by Boston in the 3rd round in ’85, Ranford played his junior hockey with New Westminster of the WHL. He had a 4 game cup of coffee with the Bruins in the 85-86 season before making the Bruins again the next season but getting sent down to the AHL.
Then Boston had a coaching change, and as is often the case, certain players fall out of favour with the new coach and that’s exactly what happened with Ranford. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, Andy Moog, who had tandemed with Grant Fuhr for years, was dissatisfied with his playing time, and the Oilers dealt Moog to Boston for Ranford straight up.
Ranford started out by backing up Fuhr for a couple of seasons but became the Oilers starter when Fuhr had to leave the team to get into the NHL’s substance abuse program due to a coke problem that had emerged over the last few seasons. Ranford was entrenched as the starter after Fuhr was subsequently dealt to Toronto in a blockbuster trade that included Glenn Anderson.
Ranford would win the cup in 1990 as a starter with the Oilers, winning the Conn Smythe trophy in the process with a .912 sv% and a 2.53 GAA – for that era those were phenomenal stats. He went on to start for the Oilers for the next 6 seasons, always with an sv% just below .900 and a GAA of 3.5 to 4.0.
Just after his 30th birthday, he would be dealt back to Boston in a trade that produced Mariuz Czerkawski, Sean Brown, and a 1st round pick in the ’96 entry draft. After another 2 seasons in Boston, he would go on to Washington, Tampa Bay, and Detroit before Ranford came back to the Oilers as a free agent in the 1999-00 season to back up Tommy Salo before announcing his retirement at the end of the season. Ranford has been the LA Kings goalie coach since the 2006-07 season.
If you were an Oilers fan as a kid in the 90s, chances are your favourite player was Ryan Smyth, or Smytty, as his nickname went.
One of the few 1st round picks in the 90s that actually panned out for the Oilers, Smyth was drafted in the 1st round in 1994. He started out in the WHL with Moose Jaw, where he had a stellar junior career and finished his last 2 seasons in junior with 50 and 41 goals respectively and 105 and 86 points respectively in 72 and 50 games, again respectively.
He had a 3 game cup of coffee in 94-95 producing no offence and a -1. He started next season in the AHL but only spent 9 games there before coming back to the big leagues. For the next 10 seasons Smyth, unless he was injured, rarely finished below the 20 goal mark, even cracking the 30 goal mark 4 times.
After a very bitter and public contract dispute between Smyth and Kevin Lowe – once again as the egos of player and management clashed, the Oilers were unable to sign him to a contract and dealt him to the Islanders at the 2007 trade deadline in exchange for Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson, and a 1st round pick in 2007.
He signed with Avalanche as a free agent but eventually was dealt to LA for another 2 seasons. It was in that 2nd season with LA that Smyth demanded a trade to the Oilers so he could finish his career where it started and raise his kids in what he felt was a better environment in Edmonton vs. Tinseltown.
He was traded back to the Oilers in the 2011 offseason for 4th line C Colin Fraser and a 2012 7th round pick. That trade worked out well for Fraser, who was playing for the Kings when they won their 1st Stanley Cup in 2012, something Smyth missed out on due to the trade.
In his first season back he put up pretty good numbers, scoring 19-27-46 in 82 games. However, age would catch up to the then 37-year-old Smyth and he was relegated to a bottom 6 position for the next 2 seasons. He retired after the 2013-14 season as an Oiler having played 1270 NHL games, going 386-456-842 to go along with 976 PIMs. 971 of those games would be with the Oilers.
Glenn Anderson, R/LW
One of the core players of the 80s dynasty, Anderson was drafted in the 4th round in the 1979 NHL draft. He played 1 season of NCAA hockey and 1 season in the WHL, before doing what few rookies can do and transferring seamlessly to the NHL, completely bypassing the minor leagues. A fantastic achievement for a 1st rounder, never mind a 4th round pick.
He would go on to play 11 seasons as an Oiler in his 1st tour, only once scoring less than 20 goals, and scoring 30 goals in 9 of those seasons, 40 goals in 4 of those seasons, and 50 goals in 2 of them. He also cracked the 100 point barrier on 3 of those occasions.
But, faced with rising salaries and an owner’s crumbling business empire around him, GM Glen Sather at the time knew he couldn’t afford to keep Anderson, and packaged him in a blockbuster trade with Toronto that included Grant Fuhr and Craig Berube, Anderson was sent to TO for Scott Thornton, Vincent Damphousse, Peter Ing, Luke Richardson, and future considerations.
Anderson would spend 3 seasons in TO before stops with the Rangers (being part of the Rangers team that won the cup in ’94) and Blues, then going over to Europe to play in the Swedish and German pro leagues.
Due to the strange CBA rules of the day, any player coming back from Europe had to clear re-entry waivers, even if they signed as a free agent with a team. Anderson was victimized by this rule as he signed as a free agent with his hometown Vancouver Canucks, but would never play a game for them as the Oilers claimed him on re-entry waivers in the 1995-96 season.
He wasn’t happy but played through it, putting up 4-6-10 in 17 games with the Oilers. Either because the organization sensed they may have erred in doing this, or maybe due to the fact he was 35 years old at this point, or maybe both, Anderson was put on waivers and claimed by St. Louis, where he spent the last 15 games of the season and 11 playoff games, putting up 4 points in those 15 games and another 5 in 11 playoff games.
Anderson went back to Europe the next season, where he finished up his career in the Italian and Swiss pro leagues before retiring for good. All told, Anderson played 1129 NHL games and put up 498-601-1099 points and 1120 PIMs. Not including playoff games. Truly one of the NHL’s all-time great players. If it weren’t for bigger names in the 80s like Gretzky and Messier, Anderson likely would’ve been a bigger name in his career.
Anderson might be the only player on this list who came back to the Oilers begrudgingly.
Kevin Lowe, Left D
Lowe is one of the Oiler’s all-time great puck-moving D. He was the first NHL draft pick of the team after they got absorbed by the NHL when the WHA folded.
He started out in junior with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, in his last 2 seasons putting up stellar point totals of 65 and 86 points, totals that are virtually impossible for defencemen but more attainable for forwards.
Bypassing the minors altogether, Lowe became a full-time NHLer after 3 seasons of junior. Over 13 seasons with the Oilers, Lowe would 10 times score 20 points, 6 times score 30 points, and 3 times score 40 points.
Sather was then forced to trade Lowe as his contract was coming to an end due to rising salaries and the extreme crumbling of Peter Pocklington’s business interests.
He was part of the New York “Oilers” team that won the cup in ’94 and played for the Rangers for 4 seasons. He then came back to the Oilers for 2 seasons starting in 1996-97 after that time as a bottom pairing D but was forced to retire in his last season after only 7 games due to injury. He ended up putting in another 71 games over those 2 seasons putting up 14 points and 72 PIMs during that time, and a -1 and -3 respectively.
Lowe would go on to finish playing 1,254 games putting up 84-348-432 in those games, not including playoffs. He also finished with a whopping 1,498 PIMs over his career. At the end of his playing career, Lowe would go on to have a checkered career post-hockey. It’s believed Lowe signed as a free agent with the Oilers in part due to a promise of a post-playing career in hockey operations.
After he retired as a player, Lowe would go on to be an assistant coach, then a head coach, then a GM, then as president of hockey ops. His time as a GM was much different from his time as a player. Other than the aforementioned public disputes with Mike Comrie and Ryan Smyth, there was the threat of renting a barn to fight Brian Burke, which was stopped by Gary Bettman.
There was his tone-deaf comment about “Tier 1 and Tier 2” fans. Lowe was the poster boy for the nepotism that existed for years in the Oilers management ranks. Oh, it wasn’t all bad. The sign and trade deal for Chris Pronger, the genius of a trade that brought Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton, the trading for Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom to solidify the defence, and the trade for Sergei Samsonov to help out in the forward ranks all led to the cinderella cup run of ’06, and he was the GM of the team at the time. But Lowe’s management will always go down in history more for the bad he did than the good he did.
But, one of the things that Bob Nicholson has put a stop to in his time as president is to stop the nepotism in its tracks as Lowe works on the business side of the organization and Craig Mactavish isn’t here anymore.
After Oscar Klefbom was officially put on LTIR recently, and Anton Forsberg was assigned to Bakersfield as expected, the Oilers are now below the NHL’s 23 man roster limit, and they have an extra $4.1 million in cap space because of Klefbom’s contract being on LTIR. Personally, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as cleaning up the glut in the bottom 6 forwards. We’ll see what Holland does with that.