We are getting very close to the end of our list with the #2 team being unveiled today. Today we are going to look at a very special team, led by the most dynamic offense in NHL history. Gretzky. Kurri. Messier. Anderson. It doesn’t get any better than that on offense. In goal, the Oilers had the best goalie of the era in Grant Fuhr according to several players at the time. On defense, the Oilers had the not-too-poor-man’s version of Bobby Orr in Paul Coffey. You had to feel sorry for the other NHL teams at the time. In fact this team was so dominant offensively that the NHL had to institute a new rule in 1985 banning 4-on-4 play if offsetting penalties were called because the Oilers were so dominant at 4-on-4. Today, we are going to look at the 1983-1984 Edmonton Oilers, truly one of the most dominant teams of all time across all sports.
The 1982-1983 season was a great season for the Oilers by most standards. The Oilers went 47-21-12 for 106 points. They won their division by 28 points and finished tied for 2nd overall in the NHL. The Oilers stormed their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, dropping just 1 game. However, the Oilers ran into the 3-time defending champion New York Islanders, who taught them that they still had a lot to learn. The Oilers managed to score just 6 goals in the series as they were swept handily. The Oilers were determined to come back even better next year.
The 1983-1984 season kicked off with a bang for the Oilers. The Oilers won the first 7 games out of the gate, scoring an average of 6.3 goals a game, led by the superb performance of Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky blasted the rest of the league, scoring 10 goals and 20 points in those first 7 games. The Oilers finished the month of October at 9-2-1 and a 4-0-1 home record. The Oilers weren’t planning on cooling off either, taking the first 6 games of November to push their winning streak to 8. In those first 6 games of November, the Oilers took their legendary offense to another level, scoring a ridiculous 7.8 goals a game. I’m trying to do my best here to illustrate just how insanely amazing this offense, and all the statistics in the world cannot do proper justice. Many a times, people just had to stop what they were doing, stand up, and start bowing while chanting “we are not worthy”.
The Oilers continued to cruise, finishing out November with a 10-2-2 record, and pushing their home record to 9-0-2. Just two games into December, the Oilers got their first measuring stick, a home matchup against the 4-time defending champion New York Islanders. However, the Islanders were intent on keeping the Oilers in their place and they did just that. The Islanders scored twice in the first 1:26 of the game on their way to handing the Oilers their first home loss of the season, a 4-2 decision. The Oilers split their next two games before getting another shot at a the Islanders, this time on Long Island. But once again, the Islanders buried the Oilers in an onslaught, scoring 4 times in the first 5:17 of the game on their way to an 8-5 thrashing. After that game, the Oilers record stood at 21-7-3, and while not bad, the Oilers were clearly dissatisfied with their performance in the past few games against the Islanders. You had to feel bad for the rest of the league. The Oilers went 12-0-1 over their next 13 games, scoring 86 times (6.6 goals a game) and ruthlessly beating down teams. The Oilers were tripped up by the Sabres, and then went 5-0-1 over their next 6 games, pushing their record to 38-8-5 through 51 games. In game 52, the Kings knocked off the Oilers 4-2. This game marked the first time all season that Wayne Gretzky was held off of the score sheet. You read that right.
Gretzky recorded at least 1 point during the first 51 games of the season, an NHL record that still stands. But that’s not the most impressive part of that record. Not only did Gretzky record at least 1 point during those 51 games, he recorded 61 goals and 153 points in those first 51 games. That’s right. For the first 51 games of the season, Gretzky averaged 3 points a game. Had he been able to keep that pace up, Gretzky would have finished the year with 98 goals and 246 points. Those are numbers that you can’t even get in a video game played on the easy setting. Unfortunately, Gretzky got thrown off pace as he and Jari Kurri missed the next 6 games. The Oilers took the first game of Gretzky and Kurri’s absence, but then dropped the next 5, including another loss to the Islanders. The highlight of the streak was an 11-0 loss against the Hartford Whalers that marked the first time in 230 games that the Oilers were shutout. After that game, coach Glen Sather lectured his team. Fortunately for him, both Gretzky and Kurri returned the next game, and that allowed for the Oilers to pick back up their winning ways. Upon their return, the Oilers won the next 8 games, scoring 49 goals. For those keeping track, that was the Oilers 3rd winning streak of 7 or more games during the regular season. After that, the Oilers finished the regular season on a 10-4 stretch to close out the regular season at 57-18-5 for 119 points. The Oilers won their division by 37 points, the conference by 29 points, and the President’s Trophy by 15 points.
Individually, several Oilers had highlight reel seasons. Gretzky finished the season with 87 goals and 205 points, the Hart Trophy (MVP), the Art Ross (scoring champion), and the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player). Paul Coffey scored 40 goals and 126 points. The 40 goals made him only the 2nd defenseman ever to score 40 goals in a season (Bobby Orr), and his 126 points were at the time the 2nd most ever by a defenseman (Bobby Orr). Jari Kurri scored 52 goals and 113 points in his 64 games played. Mark Messier chipped in 37 goals and 101 points, and Glenn Anderson scored 54 goals (3rd in the NHL) and 99 points. Yes you saw all of those correctly. The Oilers had five players score 99 or more points. All 5 were in the top-20 NHL scorers for the season. Gretzky was selected to the NHL 1st team and Kurri, Messier, and Coffey were selected to the 2nd team. Probably the scariest thing for all of the other NHL teams was that all of those players were 23, except for Paul Coffey – who was 22. But the Oilers were even deeper than those 5. The Oilers had 8 players score 20 or more goals, and a total of 11 score 10 or more. Individually, these Oilers were scary awesome
As a team, the Oilers were no slouch. The Oilers scored an NHL record 446 goals (5.58 goals a game). Their PP clicked at 25.5%, good for 2nd in the NHL. Their PK was 80.1%, good for 6th. At even strength, the Oilers were tops in the NHL with an even strength for/against of 1.46. At home, the Oilers were 31-5-4, but on the road these Oilers were no slouch. their road record of 26-13-1 was the best road record of any Stanley Cup Champion since the 77-78 Montreal Canadiens. Honestly, you had to feel sorry for any team that had to face them.
In the first round, the Winnipeg Jets had the unfortunate luck of drawing the Oilers. The Oilers spanked the Jets 9-2 in Game 1, led by Coffey’s 2 goals and 2 assists and Kurri’s 4 point night (3G, 1A). The Jets best shot was in Game 2. The Jets managed to hold a 4-2 lead midway through the 3rd period. However the Oilers scored 2 times to tie the game up. Game 2 headed into OT, but it was very short lived as Oilers defenseman Randy Gregg scored just 21 seconds in to give the Oilers a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 was another laugher as the Oilers cruised to a 4-1 win and a 3-0 series win. In the next round were the Calgary Flames
The Battle of Alberta was on in the 2nd round. Game 1 saw the Oilers come out and make a statement, outshooting the Flames 54-29 and outscoring them 5-2. Game 2 offered up a much better showing from the Flames, but even still, the Flames were down 4-2 through 40 minutes. However, the Flames came out in the 3rd and scored 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd, with the last one coming with 1:33 remaining in the 3rd. Just when it seemed like the Flames would win, Gretzky scored with 45 seconds remaining to send the game into OT. In OT, the Flames took over, outshooting the Oilers 6-0 before Flames center Carey Wilson finally beat Fuhr. Knotted at 1 and heading back to Calgary, the Oilers knew that they needed a big effort. Paul Coffey brought his “A” game, scoring two times to lead the Oilers to a 3-2 victory. Game 4 was more of the same, as the Oilers took over in the 3rd to take the game by a 5-3 decision. Heading back home with a 3-1 series lead, the Oilers looked to dispose of the pesky Flames. However the Flames were fighting for their playoff lives and came to play. The Flames led 5-2 midway through the 2nd, and the Oilers just couldn’t complete the comeback, falling just short, and losing 5-4. Game 6 was a back and forth affair. Every time Calgary scored, Edmonton was there to answer. The game went into overtime, and on the first shot of OT, Flames forward Lanny McDonald beat Grant Fuhr. All of a sudden, the series was tied at 3 and the Oilers Stanley Cup dreams were on the line. Game 7 was huge, and midway through the 2nd, the Flames were up 4-3 and the Oilers were in trouble. But the Oilers dug deep and scored 4 unanswered goals to take Game 7 7-4 and win the Battle of Alberta.
Awaiting the Oilers in the Conference Finals were the Minnesota North Stars, led by Neil Broten and Brian Bellows. Buoyed by their success from their victory in the Battle of Alberta, the Oilers trounced the North Stars in Game 1 by a final score of 7-1. Game 2 was more of the same as the Oilers knocked off the North Stars 4-3 in a game that was really only close on the scoreboard. Game 3 was the North Stars best chance. After the Oilers scored the first two goals, the North Stars answered with 5 consecutive goals to take a 5-2 lead with 7:24 remaining in the 2nd period. However, the Oilers weren’t having any of it. The Oilers scored 6 unanswered goals, demoralizing the North Stars. The 4th game was a mere formality as the Oilers won 3-1, to advance to their 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. However, to be the best, you have to beat the best, as awaiting the Oilers in the Finals, were the New York Islanders.
As previously stated, the Islanders owned the Oilers. Dating back to the playoffs of last year, the Islanders had beaten the Oilers 7 consecutive times. The 4 time defending champions were led by their formidable trio of Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, and Bryan Trottier. Billy Smith, who had stymied the Oilers in the previous year’s Stanley Cup Final, was back in goal. This time, the Oilers were ready. Game 1 was a slugfest. Through 2 periods, there were 0 goals on the board, despite there being 48 shots taken. In the 3rd, the Oilers ramped up their level of play and got the only goal they would need 1:55 into the 3rd. Grant Fuhr continued to stand on his head, stopping everything the Islanders threw at him. The Oilers closed out the game 1-0 to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 saw the Islanders wake up and absolutely thump the Oilers 6-1. Heading back to Edmonton, many Oilers fans were concerned that the Islanders were about to go on a tear.
Their worst fears were confirmed when the Islanders jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on the first shot of the game. The Oilers answered 12 minutes later on Kevin Lowe’s sick backhand deke, but Gillies scored quickly to open the 2nd period to give the Islanders the lead. Just when hope seemed slim, Mark Messier scored what is known as “The Goal” and what would later be known as the turning point of the series. Messier skated in on a 1-on-2 rush and deked past Potvin and Gord Dineen and then beat goalie Billy Smith low blocker side to tie the game at 2. It was one of the prettiest goals of the playoffs and it was the major turning point of the series. After that goal, the Oilers outscored the Islanders 17-4 in the remaining seven and a half periods. The Oilers scored 5 more times in that Game 3, cruising to a 7-2 win. Game 4 was another 7-2 laugher in favor of the Oilers. In the final game in the Heartlands Coliseum in Edmonton, the Oilers were determined to clinch the Stanley Cup. Gretzky started the frenzy. scoring 2 times in the first period to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead heading into the 2nd. In the 2nd, Linseman and Kurri joined in the party, giving the Oilers a 4-0 lead heading into the 3rd. The final score (5-2) was a mere formality as the party started real early in the 3rd for the Oilers fans. The Oilers were the Stanley Cup Champions. Mark Messier (8G, 18A) won the Conn Smythe. The Islanders dynasty was over.
So that’s the story of the 83-84 Edmonton Oilers, in my own personal opinion, the greatest offensive team in any sport. What separated the Oilers from the other teams on our list? Well if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll say it again slower – The. Greatest. Offense. Ever. Defensively, they knew when they had to bring it as they were able to shut down teams when they had to as evidenced by their defensive masterpiece in the Stanley Cup Finals after “The Goal”. They had Hall of Fame talent at all positions, they had arguably greatest player of all time at his best. They had arguably the greatest leader of all time near the peak of his powers. And they had arguably the 2nd best offensive defenseman of all time in Paul Coffey. Notice how many times I’ve said “all time”. That’s why this team is one of the greatest teams of all time (see I did it again). That’s why the 1983-1984 Edmonton Oilers are the 2nd best team of all time (ok that was one was just for kicks).