Blog Entry

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

Posted on: August 19, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 6:05 pm

By: Adam Gretz and Brian Stubits

Even though they've struggled in recent years, the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders were the two most dominant teams in the NHL during the 1980s. Adam Gretz and Brian Stubits debate which one of these franchises with promising young talent returns to glory first.

Adam Gretz: The Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders were the two most dominant teams of the 1980s. How dominant? Between 1980 and 1990 they combined to win nine of the 11 Stanley Cups, with Edmonton winning five (and owning the last half of the decade) and the Islanders winning four (and owning the first half of the decade). Recently the two teams have fallen on some tougher times. Both teams are looking for new buildings, and postseason success has been few and far between, as have actual trips to the postseason. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993 with only four playoff appearances since then, while Edmonton, outside of its Stanley Cup Final trip in 2005-06, hasn't advanced past the first round since 1998.

I don't think, at this point, either one of these teams are a playoff team right now, but which one do you think returns to glory first? Or is closest?

Brian Stubits: I'm not convinced the Islanders aren't a playoff team this year. They will be in contention to the end is my guess at this point. I am really liking the nucleus they are putting together. As for Edmonton, I don't see a team that's ready to battle for the playoffs yet. In their rebuilding phases, I think the Isles are ahead of the Oilers, as you would expect considering they had a slight head start in the bad seasons department.

Gretz: I think the Islanders might be closer (or more likely) to simply earning a playoff spot this season because the Eastern Conference is probably a bit easier for them to potentially sneak in than the Western Conference is for Edmonton. But I still like Edmonton's group of forwards and think, at this point, they have a bit more upside, especially with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hall looks like he's on his way to being a player, and assuming Nugent-Hopkins becomes the player he's expected to become, that's quite a core. Add in players Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and, heck, even an older (relatively speaking, as he's still only 28) player like Ales Hemsky who is close to a point-per-game player when he's healthy (and that always seems to be the key for him) and that's an impressive group. You win with impact players, and Edmonton has quite a few impact players up front.

Stubits: We think they have impact players. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have a long way to go to get to that level. I agree, it looks like the Oilers are future impact players, but there are no guarantees of that, especially seeing as though Nugent-Hopkins hasn't skated in an NHL game yet. Don't forget the Islanders have been drafting high, including getting the No. 1 spot themselves in recent years. John Tavares is showing he too has a bright future ahead of him, leading the team in points last season with 67. The Isles had six players total more than any Oiler, who were led by Jordan Eberle at 43 points. But New York has a trio of 30-goal scorers now (well, 29-plus) in Tavares (29 last season), Michael Grabner (34 goals) and Matt Moulson (31). Plus, the organization feels like they drafted a winner in Ryan Strome earlier this summer. I know you remember his skills, Adam, considering this post you put up. There is impact on the island, too.

Gretz: Yes, potential impact, that's obviously what I meant. I mean, a lot of this is talking about upside and projection because both teams are dealing with potential and question marks. The one thing I will say is both teams seem to have some concerns on the back end with their defense and goaltending. The Islanders are locked into Rick DiPietro for what seems like forever, while the Oilers have Nikolai Khabibulin and a bunch of question marks behind him. Devan Dubynk was a first-round pick back in 2004, and had a solid sophomore campaign last season, but no matter which guy is between the pipes, the defense in front of them is going to struggle this year. It needs a serious upgrade.

Again, I don't expect the Oilers to be a playoff team this season (in fact, they'll probably be near the bottom of the conference again, which could lead to another potential impact player in the 2012 draft, which will only help the future -- and yes, eventually you want to stop picking at the top of the draft), but that's not really what I'm looking for here: I'm looking at which team becomes a true contender for the Stanley Cup, not just simply making the playoffs, and I just think their core group of forwards offers a bit more potential and upside and the ability to help turn a franchise around than the Islanders core.

Stubits: I think you might be underrating the Islanders' organizational depth. In July, proclaimed the Islanders the second best in talent in the system, highlighting Kiril Kabonov and Matt Donovan in addition to recent draft picks Strome and Scott Mayfield. I understand the concerns in net, but this is a team that has one luxury: it has three goaltenders on the payroll that there's a decent chance one of them can be good enough to play behind an improving and maturing defense.

The team's biggest obstacle right now isn't cultivating talent, it's being appealing to free agents. A team can usually build the core of it's franchise through the draft, but it's the final free-agent and trade pieces that put a team over the top. Until the Isles get their arena situation squared away, that won't happen. Nobody wants to make a commitment to an organization that they don't know its whereabouts in four years. The sooner they can resolve this issue, the better, because I believe they have a very nice foundation at this point to win. As already stated, I think the Islanders will be a borderline playoff team this year, and by following logic they grow from there. It's a very young roster. That's why I like them to get back to that elite level first, they should continue to grow together and I think there are some very talented prospects in there.

Gretz: Yes, the Islanders certainly have a strong group, and you may be right that I'm underrating what they have, but I guess at the end of the day, for me, it simply comes down to thinking the Oilers players (particularly Hall and Nugent-Hopkins as top overall picks) have a bit more upside, and we've seen with other teams how much of an impact two young players like that can make. Granted, they need the complementary players around them and an upgrade on defense, but I still really like what Edmonton is building up front and the potential they have. Maybe not this year, but soon.

Stubits: Not that I have any reason to whatsoever, but I feel like Garth Snow has built himself a solid enough core. It's shocking to type that. I guess we'll find out in a couple of years.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Apr 17, 2010
Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:35 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

It may deter free agents?  Where have you been?  That arena has cost the Isles free agents for years and years, this is NOTHING New!!!!  BUT, cause of this it has directly lead to the Isles being so bad.
Okay........I fail to see how my point is any less valid. Free agents probably won't want to go to either team, but like I said earlier I like the Oilers current team better than the Isles. That's just my take. I think the Oilers' young talent is better than that of the Isles and has a better chance of producing a winner sooner. Whether you agree or disagree with that is another conversation...........that I won't be having because there will be no conclusion to the argument. I'd have the Islanders as a better bet to make the playoffs this year because 6-12 are almost interchangeable in the East, but if the Oilers and Islanders played each other in a 7 game series I'd pick Edmonton. Again, just my take. You are not required to agree with it Tongue out

Since: May 15, 2009
Posted on: August 20, 2011 4:04 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

ironically, my buddy and i have had this bet since team (i'm an oil fan, he's isles' fan) to win the cup.....$1000 cash, no questions asked.....came so darn close 5 years ago vs. the one stupid goal.........and don't think i forgot they ran my goalie in game 5!  i still think the oilers have the better chance to win the cup (not necessarily the playoffs earlier)....and hope i'm not biased.....

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: August 20, 2011 4:00 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

It may deter free agents?  Where have you been?  That arena has cost the Isles free agents for years and years, this is NOTHING New!!!!  BUT, cause of this it has directly lead to the Isles being so bad.  Being bad = High draft picks...  Lets not kid ourselves, Edmonton is not exactly high on a free agents mind either.  7 months a year the average temperature is below 50. 

According to all analysts the Islanders organizational rankings are higher the Edmonton and I think most would agree that the Isles have a better team currently. 

The Islanders (and I also think Edmonton)  will show the NHL and its fans that a team can build a championship team and not have to buy one.

Since: Apr 17, 2010
Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:10 am

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

what the hell does the arens have to do with the Islanders not getting back to "glory."
Off ice distractions may deter free agents from signing with the club in the next few years. I'd expect the Isles to have to move forward with what they've drafted and traded for, and as of right now I like the Oilers chances of succeeding with their young players.

Bob, you make a good point. The West seems to be tougher at the top at this point and should be for the next 5 or 6 years. But we're kinda shooting in the dark here anyway. There isn't much to be said about either club 'returning to glory' any time soon.

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: August 20, 2011 8:28 am

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

CLV, you may be right, I'm not sure what "return to glory" meant.   Playoffs, championship, or dynasty, I thought they were talking about a dynasty.   Anyway I don't think either team willl be there in 2 years.   Both rosters are full of young guys who may have been shortchanged with their development, and they lack enough veterans with sustained success to keep the kids even-keeled throughout the year.  I don't see either organization in the post season for a couple more years, but I agree that NYI may have a better chance because the West has too many well-bulit teams for the next couple seasons right now.

Since: Nov 25, 2006
Posted on: August 20, 2011 12:57 am

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

Exactly, where and how can the Isles "sneak" into the playoffs? They've only been sitting in the Atlantic basement for about the last five years while the rest of the division makes the playoffs..I guess last season wasn't as bad for them since the Devils missed out giving them some company in the elimination department...It's implied that the N'west is tougher than the Atlantic...Vancouver and Calgary are two solid teams that def. belong in the upper tier of the league, but Edm,Min,and Col need improvement.
Also,the Isles' point total in the standings isn't the only mess,now the uncertainty with relocation.. Playoffs? They need fans to show up in the arena first NY, Kansas, wherever they build it. Edmonton doesn't have to deal with this baggage at least.

The fairy tale ending would see the Isles make a surprise run and make the playoffs, resurrecting a strong fan base again, (that has been reduced to turning the Colisuem into kiddy carnivals inside and having cheerleaders on skates sweeping some ice around the crease,) which would boost support of Wangs proposition for keeping the Islanders on (or in, I like to say) Long Island

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:53 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

-- what the hell does the arens have to do with the Islanders not getting back to "glory."  The Oilers have a nice young core but their is no question from top to bottom and considering "farm systems" the Islanders have the better group of young players. 

Since: Apr 17, 2010
Posted on: August 19, 2011 9:08 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

Let's see a team make 3 finals appearances first, let alone winning 2.
Well, Bob, I hope the spirit of the question was what dynasty team from the 80's will return to being championship-caliber again. I'd hope they don't actually think a dynasty is likely by any really good team in the near future, let alone a rebuilding squad. If I had to bet on a future dynasty team it'd be the Kings, but I wouldn't put more than $10 on it Tongue out

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: August 19, 2011 8:53 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

In the cap era...well it's August so I guess anything is possible until camps start.   Let's see a team make 3 finals appearances first, let alone winning 2.

Since: Apr 17, 2010
Posted on: August 19, 2011 8:45 pm

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

First off, we're talking a long way down the road here. Neither of these teams will contend for a championship for another 7 or 8 years at least. I'm not saying they won't make the playoffs before then, but they won't be a huge contender by any means. If I had to bet on one I'd pick the Oilers. I like their young talent a bit more than that of the Isles, and with the arena issues in Long Island I have to think the Oilers have a better shot to at least become a perennial playoff team before the Islanders do.

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