What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the NHL in the 1990s. Maybe it’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr’s Pittsburgh Penguins or perhaps the great New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche teams that came out of the decade. Maybe it’s Mark Messier ending the New York Rangers Cup drought or the Montreal Canadiens becoming the last Canadian team to win it all.
When it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and the 1990s there are few good memories to chose from. The decade started out perfectly, as the team won their fifth Cup in franchise history in 1990, but a declining core and trades quickly took its toll on the club. The team sank to an all-time low and went into a four-year playoff drought that very nearly resulted in the team moving to Houston.
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It was one of the darkest periods to be an Oilers fan. The team was no longer the talk of the league and, because of this, some very good players flew under the radar. The team was bad but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have some great players. Even then, the team would eventually have varying success in the late 90s, upsetting a stacked Dallas Stars team in the 1997 playoffs and then a very good Avalanche team in the 1998 playoffs.
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One of those players was the great Dougie Weight, who amassed 577 points over a 588 game career with the Oilers. Let me first explain that I don’t believe that Oiler fans have forgotten about Weight, but that the overall hockey community often overlooks his time spent with the Oilers. He is rarely brought up when talking about Oiler greats due to the sheer amount of talent that the club churned out in the 1980s.
Without further ado, lets take a look at the Oilers career of Doug Weight.
Coming to Edmonton:
Weight’s NHL journey begins in New York, as the Rangers selected him 34th overall in the 1990 draft. Weight had rose to prominence in the, now defunct, Central Collegiate Hockey Association in the year’s preceding his draft selection. Putting up a pair of impressive seasons with Lake Superior State University.
He would jump to the professional level immediately, spending a year in the AHL, and then making his NHL debut with the Rangers in 1991-92. His time with the Rangers was decent, putting together a 30 point rookie season and then gathering 40 points midway through the 1992-93 season before being shipped off to Edmonton.
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The trade came after months of speculation that Weight would be on his way to Edmonton. Oilers GM, Glen Sather, had tried to pry Weight out of New York when he traded Mark Messier to the club a year prior (From ‘Oilers trade Tikk to gain some Weight’, Edmonton Journal, 03/18/1993). The Rangers were now a top team in the league and, in an attempt to add more veteran experience, shipped off a young Weight to Edmonton in exchange for Esa Tikkannen.
Weight, who was just 22 at the time of the trade, was putting up decent numbers but was not able to make much of an impact on a loaded Rangers roster. The Oilers, on the other hand, were well on their way to missing the playoffs and were looking for young talent to lead the way. Tikkanen would eventually help the Rangers to a Stanley Cup victory in 1994, but Weight would also have a considerable impact on the Oilers.
The Next Great Oiler:
The Oilers were a shell of their former selves heading into the 1993-94 season. The team had just missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and basically all their stars had been traded off. It was a team that lacked an identity and it was in the hands of a few cagey veterans, like Craig MacTavish and Kelly Buchberger, and a few young talents, like Weight and a rookie Jason Arnott, to lead the team.
This turned out not to be an overall terrible idea. While the team once again toiled in mediocrity, finishing the season dead last in the Pacific division, Weight lead the team in points with 74 while Arnott had an incredible rookie season, coming in second with 68. Encouraging numbers for a pair of young players.
Arnott would turn into a reliable 40 post guy in the seasons following, but it was the progress of Weight that really turned heads. He put up 40 points in a lockout shortened season in 1994-95 and then followed that up with a magnificent 104 point season in 1995-96. He became the offensive heartbeat of this new era of Oilers.
With Weight leading the charge the team was finally able to return to the postseason in 1996-97. They matched up against a rising hockey power in the Dallas Stars in round one and, lead by Weight, the ragtag team of Oilers were able to pull off the upset in seven games. The series is probably most remembered for this remarkable moment.
Not often talked about is Weight’s dominance during this series. He lead the series in scoring with eight points. The Oilers would bow out in the next round, losing in five games to the Colorado Avalanche. However, it marked a new era of Oilers playoff hockey as the team returned to the playoffs the next four seasons as well.
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Weight would lead the team in scoring in three of those four years. He was eventually promoted as the 10th captain in franchise history for the 1990-00 season and would serve until his departure in 2001-02. His time with the Oilers was earmarked by elite level vision and an incredible work ethic.
A Lasting Legacy:
He left Edmonton on July 1st, 2001, as he became too pricey for the Oilers. He was dealt to the St. Louis Blues along with Michel Riesen in exchange for Marty Reasoner, Jochen Hect, Jan Horacek. He left Edmonton with a grand total of 577 points (seventh in franchise history), 420 assists (sixth in franchise history) and three Allstar game appearances in 1996, 1998 and 2001.
He went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes against his former team and rounded out his career with the 2010-11 with the New York Islanders. Since his retirement he has been inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame (2013) and served as an interim head coach with the Islanders during the 2017/18 season.
There is no doubt in my mind that he was one of the finest players to ever don the Oilers jersey and I don’t think his name gets talked about nearly enough. For many fans growing up in the 1990s, he was the face of the franchise that lead them through those countless first-round matchups against the Stars. He might not have his number retired, but his time in Edmonton should definitely be celebrated more often.