When the book is closed on the 2016-17 regular season, it will mark the 25th consecutive season in which the Edmonton Oilers failed to have a player hit the 40-goal mark. For all the damage Wayne Gretzky and company did back in the day, a quarter of a century is a long time for any organization to go without anyone having eclipsed said barrier. And the player who last managed to pull off the feat might not be who think. It was none other than the enigmatic Petr Klima.
The former Czech sharpshooter played thirteen seasons in the NHL with four teams: the Detroit Red Wings, Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins (including second stints with both Detroit and Edmonton). From the moment he broke into the league as a 21-year old rookie in 1985-86, Klima started to fill the net with great regularity.32, 30, 37, 25, and 30 were the goal totals he posted in the 356 games he played during the first five years of his career.
As one of the real characters in the game, the talented sniper was as well-known for his ability to score goals, as he was for his candy-striped taped sticks, the garbage can lid he wore and the classic mullet poking out from underneath his JOFA helmet. As good as he was, most felt the absurdly gifted winger never quite reached his full potential over the course of his career. With that said, his time in the Alberta capital was memorable for both the player and club.
Some of Sather’s Finest Work
Heading into the 1990-1991 season, Klima was coming off a year in which he experienced a fair number of highs and lows. The three-time 30-goal man was traded from Detroit to Edmonton in a blockbuster deal for centre Jimmy Carson. While the second overall pick of the 1986 Entry Draft was headed back home to play for the Wings, Oilers general manager Glen Sather was able to acquire a king’s ransom for the two-time 100 pointer scorer.
In exchange for Carson, an ageing Kevin McClelland and a fifth-round pick, Edmonton received Adam Graves, Klima, Joe Murphy and Jeff Sharples. In the long run, the deal went down as one of the best Sather ever made but at the time it created a hole in his lineup. By moving Carson, the GM was taking a player off his roster who was coming off a 49-goal/ 100-point campaign but the hope was the former fifth-round pick could help soften the blow on the scoring front.
— Bernice aka MamaB (@Smyth94ever) February 27, 2012
After getting off to a slow start in his initial go-around with the Oilers, Klima finished the season with the fourth 30-goal year of his career. A positive sign to be sure but that meant little come playoff time. When the disengaged No. 85 surfaced during the post-season, he instantly found his way into John Muckler’s doghouse and could not get himself out of it. So much so, that in Game One of the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, which went into triple overtime, he barely touched the ice.
Yet in true Klima fashion, when his chance finally came during the third extra session, he promptly ended the marathon with a shot that slipped between the legs of Boston Bruins netminder Andy Moog. That goal not only gave the Oilers a 3-2 victory but it set the tone for the series and they never looked back. Edmonton went on to win their fifth championship in seven years and the fan-favourite instantly carved himself a spot in club and team history.
Petr Klima Did More Than Score OT Winner
A special moment to be sure but it was during his first full campaign as an Oiler, in which he took his game to another level and put together the best season of his career. Klima posted a career-high 68 points and managed to hit the 40 goal mark on the last day of the season, courtesy a hat-trick against the Winnipeg Jets. It was his third three-goal effort on the year and he would add a fourth, for good measure, during the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota North Stars.
Klima pushed himself like never before during that season and we saw a huge difference in many areas of his game. While not the most telling of stats, the veteran winger was a huge minus player throughout his career but for that one season, he was an astonishing +24…which lead the team and was good enough for seventeenth in all of hockey. Not too shabby coming from a guy who would end his playing days with a plus/minus rating of -125 over 786 games.
Oilers honouring Petr Klima tonight. #85 gets a standing ovation. Great player.
— Jouni Nieminen (@OnsideWithJouni) January 11, 2016
Always considered to be among the strongest players in the game on skates and next to impossible to knock off the puck, Klima added another dimension in ’90-’91. For the first time ever, the talented Czech played with an edge to his game that was never present previously nor during subsequent seasons. He finished the year with 113 penalty minutes and was an utter pain in the ass for opposing teams to deal with…night in and night out.
Be it winning the Stanley Cup or being in an environment where losing wasn’t tolerated. Whatever it was, the guy was a different player but it wouldn’t last. To his credit, Petr Klima would enjoy two more productive seasons as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, including another 30-goal campaign in 1992-1993. But the 1990-91 season standouts above all the rest during his tenure in Orange and Blue and remains the measuring stick for goal-scoring prowess in recent team history.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.