As with Bruce, I have many favourite Oilers (Ryan Smyth is as dear to my heart as any Oiler player can be) so it is hard to come at this from that angle. However, it is easy for me to name, whom I believe to be the most important post-dynasty Oiler and from that starting point it becomes, as I think about it, easy for me to say that Doug Weight is my favourite post-dynasty Oiler.
A long time ago, while driving north in my little Ford Escort, I had some engine trouble. Made for a scary night. The drive from Edmonton to Yellowknife, in the winter, isn't one to take lightly but there I was, blown gaskets, side of the road, and a good 30 clicks to go before I would have seen the little town of Enterprise. The temperature was a solid -40 C and the winds were roaring hard. I had the parka but lacked the candles and matches that would have allowed me to hunker down and get through without worry. I could still turn the engine over but it wouldn't have been any good to run it as the oil pressure was non-existent and what did churn would just spray against the inside of the hood. For all intents and purposes, the car was dead.
In the 1991 off-season the Oilers, as an organization, just seemed to fall apart. Messier, Anderson, Fuhr, Smith, Beukeboom (1 month into the new season), Graves, Huddy, Kurri... all gone. Pieces came back, but for all intents and purposes, the team that everyone had known and loved was dead and gone. The play-offs of 1991-92, as fun as they were, were just an echo - a last gasp - of a better time.
When I think of the Oilers off-season in 1991, I think of that night, of a car that could run but wasn't going to go, and of a guy who was about to spend a great deal of time in dead cold.
In March of 1993, Esa Tikkanen was traded to the New York Rangers for Doug Weight. Weight was a highly regarded prospect at the time; a prodigious scorer at both the university and international levels (high scorer at the 1991 World Junior Championships in Saskatoon), he had gone on to have an immediate, and positive impact with the Rangers - 70 pts in 118 games. It was obvious even then that this was one of the few trades made during the days of the exodus where the Oilers were getting back as good as they sent out.
In his first 13 games with the Oilers he scored 8 points; a cool 0.62 pts a game. It got better from there. In Oiler colours he would go on to score 577 pts (157 g / 420 a) in 588 games; a ppg average of 0.98.
He was fast; he was smart; had a good shot; had a better handle than he had a shot; could play the boards; wasn't afraid of contact; could win face-offs; his passing skills were all-world; he approached the game like a professional; and he was a leader on and off the ice. I never saw him duck an interview or a responsibility. (Though, to be honest, I hated the way he left town - he forced the trade and played the team, and Lowe didn't have the cojones, or marching orders perhaps, to force a better outcome. It became one of the worst trades in Oiler history (imo) and the goings-on laid the groundwork for the Comrie fiasco a few years later.)
After the 1995-96 season, when Weight scored 104 points, it was pretty clear that Buchberger was team captain by virtue of effort and Weight was unofficial co-captain by virtue of talent and desire. When Bucky went to Atlanta in the 1999 expansion draft, Weight got the 'C'.
I'm not one to wax poetic or gush over a player (Pouliot excepted perhaps). I can tell you that most of my favourite moments are the same as yours: the 104 point season in 1995-96 (worth mentioning again), triggering the come-from-behind Game 3 win over Dallas in 1996-97, the takedown on Marchment in December 2000 and the hat-trick against Dallas that April. There are more.
When I think about it there have been, exactly:
Two true first lines (lines that I consider to be capable of power vs. power and capable of regularly winning a power vs. power match-up):
Smyth-Weight-Guerin (1997-98 through 2000-01)
(It is a credit to Smyth that he appears on both lines but I ask you - would Smyth have been Smyth without Weight to play with first? Go look at the numbers in 1998-99 and tell me there isn't some truth to what I just said.)
One 100+ point season tallied by an Edmonton Oiler since 1990 (Messier had 129 in 1990).
That is some 20 years now.
One of the Best
Until CFP came to town Doug Weight was, hands down, the best player to wear Oiler silks since the dynasty years. More importantly he, more than any other Oiler post-dynasty, showed that hope wasn't an ideal necessarily wasted. The Edmonton Oilers could be a good team again. And they were.
Weight just signed what should be his final contract. He has over 1200 games played and over 1000 points logged. And now, one more year to mentor Tavares. It's possible he finds his way into the Hall of Fame, and perhaps even probable. I wish him every success.
Remember when the trade that brought him here came about? It was in March. Back then, in Edmonton, March was a time when winter would just be starting to let up; 'spring' becoming less a dream and more an expectation.
It seems, somehow, apropos.
And that is why he is my favourite post-dynasty Oiler.
Have a great evening everyone.