NHL.com ran a “greatest ever” voting contest during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. While the real finals have yet to be decided, fans of the NHL have resolved the debate for the time being regarding the greatest club team ever in the NHL. That status belongs to the 1984/85 Edmonton Oilers. When it comes to fan-selected teams, you have to wonder how much sampling bias there is as the Oilers are in the hub of hockey-crazed northern Alberta. That would lead to the best Edmonton teams getting a lot of votes. However, the 84-85 Oilers certainly are not a discrediting pick.
Looking back at the 84/85 Edmonton Oilers, you find a lineup so loaded with Hall of Famers that not even head coach Glen Sather could screw up a championship run. If you think I’m being a little hard on Slats, well don’t forget about the 1996 World Cup team he took charge of where he snubbed none other than Patrick Roy for the goaltending position. That tournament remains the only major international event that the Americans have won in a generation and Sather going with Edmonton’s Curtis Joseph may have been a big part of that. Also don’t forget about all the teams that were loaded with stars with the New York Rangers in the late 1990s that did almost nothing, teams that Sather was a big part of assembling.
But the 84-85 Oilers were so deep in talent that they are impossible to stop: I think the fans that picked this club got things right. After all, the 84-85 Edmonton Oilers had Glenn Anderson, a player who made the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. You could easily think of bigger names on the 84-85 Oilers for sure, but that’s the point. When you’re fifth-best skater makes the Hall of Fame, you know you’re dealing with an unusually deep team. The Vancouver-born winger was better than a point-per-game in his lengthy career that included six Stanley Cups. In his prime, he’d be a welcome addition to virtually any team in NHL history. In fact, if you randomly added him to an NHL roster, chances are he’d be the best player on the team more often than not. With the 84-85 Oilers, this Hall of Famer was nothing but a peripheral threat that added to the depth.
The Oilers also had Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, and Jari Kurri as more-than-dangerous skaters. They all made the Hall of Fame, and they all make the greatest-ever lists for individual players. Gretzky is considered the greatest hockey player ever by many, Messier is considered top five by many, Coffey is considered top ten for the defenseman, and Kurri is one of the best European-born players.
The Oilers were so loaded that very peripheral players ended up with a lot of open ice. Mike Krushelnyski scored 43 goals that season, but never scored more than 26 afterwards. Kevin Lowe, a player who appeared in ten All-Star games during his career, is nothing more than a footnote on this stacked team.
Looking at goaltending, Edmonton had Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. Fuhr made the Hall of Fame too, while Moog did not but he has the 17th-most NHL goaltending wins with 372. That’s more than some goaltenders that have made the Hall of Fame.
The 84-85 team truly represents the boom year of the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty, one that saw them win five Stanley Cups in seven years. If teams across generations could play, the 84-85 Oilers would be favored to beat any other club-level team in NHL or hockey history. In fact, they’d probably be a coin toss against historical gold-medal winning Olympic teams, even the strongest ones like the loaded American team that won the 1996 World Cup or the Canadian teams that won Salt Lake, Vancouver, and Sochi.