Friday, September 14, 2012

Oilers History: Jimmy Carson and the 1990 Stanley Cup

As if being traded for Wayne Gretzky wasn't going to be hard enough to deal with, playing in the city which #99 put on the map, would prove to be far too much for Jimmy Carson too handle. After one very productive but stressful season in an Edmonton Oilers uniform, the former 50 goal man requested a trade out of town. It was a move that would see Carson playing for his hometown Detroit Red Wings and the Oilers hoist their fifth Stanley Cup in seven years.

One would have thought moving the centre piece, at least from a player's standpoint, of the "Gretzky Sale" would have been a tough sell for General Manager Glen Sather to the Edmonton fan base. However, the fact Sather was able to pull off a trade that would net him three quality players from the Detroit Red Wings, in veteran Petr Klima and a couple of promising youngsters, Joe Murphy and Adam Graves, made moving the disgruntled centre far more palatable to the Oilers faithful.

Obviously, the fact that the three played crucial roles in Edmonton's surprising run to the 1990 Stanley Cup Championship didn't hurt, as it made the "Gretzky Trade" look far better than it did back on August 9, 1988. The official trade saw Edmonton send Carson, a fifth round pick and long time Oiler tough guy Kevin McClelland to the Red Wings, in exchange for Klima, Murphy, Graves and defenceman Jeff Sharples.

While Carson put together a forty-nine goal, one hundred point season during his one year in an Oilers jersey, it was clear the native of Southfield, Michigan wanted no part of playing in a Canadian hockey market. After putting together rather impressive rookie and sophomore campaigns with the Los Angeles Kings, the former second overall selection looked as though he was headed for NHL stardom...which still looked to be the case after collecting his fair share of points during his brief stint in the Alberta capital.

It was that potential, that allowed Sather to make the type of move he did. Not only did he move a player that wanted no part of being an Oiler out of town but in the process, he acquired some highly touted prospects...which was something this organization was desperately lacking. For all the championships this franchise won during their "Dynasty" years, they failed miserably at bringing in any sort of quality prospects, via trade or draft, over that same time period.

With that being the case, the move seemed almost to good to be true for the Oilers. In Klima they were getting a guy who did have warts in his overall game but was a dynamic finisher, that had a flair for the dramatic.His triple overtime winner in Game One of the 1990 finals, was the biggest goal in the Oilers Cup run and came after Petr had not seen the ice since late in regulation. He was very productive during his time in Edmonton, scoring forty goals during his first full season in 1990-1991 and surpassing the twenty goal plateau in all four years he was in the City of Champions.

In Murphy and Graves, the Oil were getting young potential that were still a few years away from hitting their prime but managed to gel just enough with fellow youngster Martin Gelinas, to form a rather effective and aptly named "Kid Line". While Gelinas potted seventeen goals during his rookie season, neither Murphy or Graves hit their stride until late in the year. Yet the trio of youngsters played a key supporting role in the club's march to the finals, scoring thirteen goals between them and more often than not, they were of the rather "large" variety.

Carson would go on to play another six seasons following the 1989-90 season, cracking the 30 goal barrier twice but never living up to the potential many had hoped for him, after scoring 55 goals in his second NHL season. While both Joe Murphy (1st) and Martin Gelinas(7th) were top ten draft picks, neither came close to achieving the status of their pre-draft predictions but both had long productive NHL careers, with the knack for scoring timely goals, when their team needed it most.

Which brings us to Adam Graves, who turned out to be the best of the bunch, despite being a second round selection, twenty-second overall, by Detroit back in 1986. Graves only played two seasons in Edmonton, before signing as a free agent in New York and joining former teammate Mark Messier, prior to the start of the 1991-92 campaign. He would go on to star on Broadway for the next ten seasons, scoring a career high 52 goals during the 1993-94 and helping the Rangers win their first championship in fifty-four years.

All things considered, one would have to say Mr.Sather knew exactly what he was doing back on November 2nd, 1989, when he pulled off what was easily his finest moment, in finding potential dance partners. While Slats was never one to shy away from making a move to improve the club, see Keith Acton, Mark Napier, Kent Nilsson and Reijo Ruotsalainen as exhibits A,B, C and D, he rarely, if ever, had been given the opportunity or reason to make the type of move he did in trading Jimmy Carson. In the end, it was a great call on Sather's part and one that ultimately won the Edmonton Oilers their fifth Stanley Cup. 

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