Welcome to LWOS’ Summer Hockey Series, Best of the Rest. Plenty of sites do a version of a 30 greats in 30 days series, but this year we are doing something a little bit different. We want to look at the best player from each team who is not in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. In order to do this there are some rules. First the player must have been a significant part of this franchise (franchises include their time in a previous city… see Winnipeg/Atlanta) and must be retired for at least 3 years, making them Hall of Fame eligible. To see all the articles in the series, check out the homepage here.
Looking at the list of Hall of Famers from the Edmonton Oilers franchise, particularly from the great dynasty of the 80’s, is like reading a who’s who of the greatest players in NHL history. Wayne Gretzky was the first player of that dynasty team to be inducted in 1999, followed shortly by running mate Jari Kurri (2001), solid goaltender Grant Fuhr (2003), sublime scoring defenseman Paul Coffey (2004), “The Greatest Leader In Sports” Mark Messier (2007), and finally sniper Glenn Anderson in 2008. All six were crucial parts of those championship teams, setting multiple scoring records in the process, and the five skaters are, not coincidentally, the top five scorers in franchise history, while Fuhr leads the team in all-time wins.
So, with that magnificent team from the 80’s covered by the Hall, it’s time to look at who else from the Oilers might be considered Hall-worthy. The Oilers WHA days of the 70’s are probably best left ignored, however the Oilers of the 90’s still retained some talent that could be considered for the Hall, while today’s team might also have some names (see: Hall, Taylor and Eberle, Jordan) on their way to a Hall of Fame career. While we can’t consider either of those names, nor can we consider the recently-retired Ryan Smyth, there is one player who is both eligible, and stands out for consideration.
Edmonton Oilers – Doug Weight
Originally drafted by the New York Rangers with the 34th pick overall in 1990, he would play only parts of two seasons with the Blueshirts before being dealt to the Oilers in exchange for Esa Tikkanen in 1993. It was a trade that would haunt Weight, as Tikkanen (combined with a number of former Oilers including Messier and Anderson) would go on to win the Cup with the Rangers the following season. However, it would haunt New York as well, when Weight went on to become a terrific play-making center for the Oilers and one of the top American scorers of all time.
Doug Weight was an instant offensive catalyst for Edmonton, picking up 74 points in 84 games with the club in 1993-94 as a 21-year-old, and picking up 40 points in 48 lockout-shortened games the following season. In 1995-96, Weight hit career highs with 104 points, including 79 assists, in 82 games. Though that number pales in comparison to Gretzky’s franchise (and NHL) record 163 assists in one season, his 79 was the most assists in club history by a player not named Gretzky, Coffey or Messier, and a number that hasn’t been approached by any player since the glory days of the 80’s (other than himself).
However, despite Weight’s play-making prowess, the Oilers were struggling at this time, having missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons (nothing new for Edmonton fans these days I know, but quite shocking for a team that had known nothing but success for more than a decade previous). However, along with a young Smyth, Jason Arnott and goaltender Curtis Joseph, Weight (and his 82 points) helped lead the Oilers back to the playoffs in 1996-97, including a surprise upset of the heavily-favored Dallas Stars in the first round. Weight would not miss the playoffs as an Edmonton Oiler again.
1997-98 was yet another productive season for Doug Weight, as he notched 70 points, including a career-high 26 goals, in 70 games, but things took a turn for the worse the following year. Early in the season, the center suffered a knee injury which limited him to only 43 games. He scored just 6 goals, though managed to finish with a respectable 37 points.
Following the season though, Weight’s luck would change when he succeeded Kelly Buchberger as the 13th captain in franchise history (10th in the NHL), a title he would hold until the end of his tenure with the club. 1999-2000 also marked a return to health for Weight, and proof that his knee injury hadn’t derailed his scoring touch, when he posted 72 points in 77 games.
2000-2001 would be the last for Weight in Edmonton, and he left the team with a bang, netting 90 points in 82 games, good for 7th in NHL scoring. Sadly though, with the Oilers facing a large financial burden, and with Weight needing a new contract, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues during the off-season. Weight would finish his tenure with 157 goals (currently 10th in franchise history), 420 assists (6th) and 577 points (7th). He was, at the time, by far the greatest Oiler since the 1980’s dynasty and perhaps the greatest play-maker not named Gretzky that the franchise had ever known.
After leaving Edmonton, Weight would continue to be productive while playing for the Blues, the Carolina Hurricanes (with which he won his only Stanley Cup in 2006), the Anaheim Ducks, and the New York Islanders before ultimately retiring after the 2010-11 season, though he would never again match the point totals he put-up while he was an Oiler. He would retire with 278 goals and 755 assists for 1033 points, in 1238 games, currently making him the 6th highest-scorer in American history.
Speaking of which, Doug Weight was no slouch when it came to representing his country on the international stage either. He became a national hero when he helped Team USA win the World Cup in 1996, a tournament in which he would score 7 points in 7 games, and he added a silver medal to his trophy cabinet at the Winter Olympics in 2002. Overall, Weight would score 32 points (of which 27 were assists) in 49 senior-level international matches.
After a career like that, where does Weight’s nomination for the Hall of Fame stand? He’s got the points, the longevity and the championships. He was also a four time NHL all-star and won the King Clancy trophy in 2011 for his humanitarian contribution to the community. Combined with that is the impact he made on hockey in America, a fact that the Hall voters aren’t likely to overlook (though ask Jeremy Roenick about that one and you might get a different response).
Working against Weight is that the Clancy was the only individual trophy that Weight would ever win at the NHL level. He never led the league in any major offensive category, nor was he ever considered one of the top players in the game at his position during his time, in an era dominated by other top-flight centers such as Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and fellow American Mike Modano.
Inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, Weight might have to wait a little longer to hear his name called into the Hockey Hall of Fame, if he ever hears it at all. Still, on a franchise filled with some of the most iconic names in NHL history, Weight more than holds his own as one of the greatest players the club has ever known and is easily the best not currently in the Hall.
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