Honoring Mark Messier
The Oilers' third-round pick (48th overall) in the 1979 NHL Draft, Mark Messier brought size, skill, fire, edge and leadership to a budding dynasty. The strapping "Moose" quickly stood out in a supremely talented cast that included future Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Grant Fuhr.
A 50-goal scorer in his third season (1981-82), Messier became the league's finest two-way player and a playoff standout. He earned the Conn Smythe Trophy after scoring 26 points in 19 postseason games as the Oilers dethroned the four-time defending champion New York Islanders in the 1984 Stanley Cup finals.
Messier was at his best again in the 1984-85 postseason, scoring 25 points in 18 games as the Oilers' awe-inspiring offense produced a Cup repeat by beating the Philadelphia Flyers, the owners of the league's best regular-season record, in five games.
In 1987-88, Messier topped 100 points for the fourth time in six seasons as the Oilers captured their fourth Cup in five seasons by sweeping Boston. It proved to be a triumphant swan song for Moose and his buddy Wayne Gretzky.
Following the stunning trade of Gretzky to the L.A. Kings on Aug. 9, 1988, Messier assumed the captaincy of the Oilers. Eager to prove he could sustain the team's excellence, he scored 33 goals and 94 points, but the Oilers fell in the first round of the playoffs -- to Gretzky's Kings, who rallied from a 3-games-to-1 deficit.
Playing with renewed drive, Messier had his best season 1989-90, scoring 129 points, second only to Gretzky, and winning the Hart Trophy. In the playoffs, Mess established his legend for clutch when he scored two goals and two assists in Game 4 of the Campbell Conference final in Chicago, rallying the Oilers from a two-games-to-one hole and into the Stanley Cup finals against favored Boston.
Battling Cam Neely's bruising Bruins, Messier's gritty Oilers turned the tables on their foes in five games, bringing home Edmonton's fifth Cup and securing Messier's place as the game's most inspirational leader.
In his 12th, and final, season in Edmonton, Messier produced only 12 goals and 64 points -- his lowest output since his rookie season -- but the old magic was there in the playoffs. The Oilers knocked off Calgary in a tough 7-game first round series and battled their way all the way to the conference final before falling to the North Stars.
In October 1991, Messier was dealt to the New York Rangers as the cash-strapped Oilers continued to divest themselves of their dynasty stars. Mess returned to Edmonton on Jan. 25, 1992, scoring the game-winner in the Rangers' 3-1 victory and earning a standing ovation. His legend would be further burnished when he led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994, ending their 54-year drought.
Messier retired in the summer of 2005, with 6 Cups, two Harts, a Smythe Trophy, 15 All-Star Game appearances, and 694 goals. His 1,887 points rank second all-time), but most of all, he was widely recognized as the personification of intensity and leadership, no more so than in Edmonton.