Something that has never been explained to me is why jersey numbers in the 30s are inherently thought of as “goalie numbers.”
That seems to have been the case decades upon decades with most of the league’s premier goaltenders wearing either a number in the 30s or 1. The same can be said for the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s a pattern that baffles me and one that I love to see broken. Unfortunately, for the Oilers, not many notable goaltenders have been able to buck this trend.
Fortunately, outside of Bill Ranford (who wore #30 further proving this pattern), almost all of the club’s best goaltenders will be featured in today’s instalment.
#31 – Grant Fuhr
A no doubter as far as the eye can see.
Grant Fuhr’s place in Oilers history is cemented to the tune of four Stanley Cups, 226 wins, and 11054 saves in Edmonton. All those numbers, with the exception of the saves (second), are franchise records that still stand today and will probably remain standing for the foreseeable future.
An original Oilers draft pick, Fuhr was drafted eighth overall in 1981 and immediatly jumped into the NHL the following year. His skill was apparent early on, securing a glistening 28 wins and 14 ties in his rookie season and finishing second in Vezina voting behind Billy Smith of the New York Islanders.
From there the legend would only grow. Fuhr became the backbone of the Oilers dynasty and one that steadied the ship when times got rough. A glance at his save percentage of goals against average might entice an uneducated fan to dismiss his ability, but it’s really hard to quantify what Fuhr brought to the Oilers.
He was a master of poise and the true embodiment of what Ted Lasso would describe as a “goldfish” who didn’t dwell on goals against. Four goals against were nothing, because the Oilers knew he wouldn’t be letting in five. This type of mindset was perfect for the high-scoring teams of the 80s and a large reason why he is so beloved today.
Add this to the fact that he became the first Black NHL player to be immortalized in the Hockey Hall of Fame and you got the makings for one of the best stories in league history as well.
Fuhr’s #31 remains one of the most iconic in team history and is the only goalie number retired by the Oilers.
#32 – Mathieu Garon
Fun fact, my first Oilers jersey was a Mathieu Garon jersey.
Arriving near the beginning of the decade of darkness, Garon came to Edmonton in the summer of 2007 on a two-year deal. Initially meant to serve as a backup to Dwayne Roloson, injuries thrust him into the starters role in his first season with the Oilers.
Garon played in 47 games that year and put up surprisingly good numbers considering the era of the team with 26–18–1 record and .913SV%. A fun trivia fact is that Garon set the franchise record for shootout wins in a season with 10 in this season. That fact alone gives Garon enough notoriety for this spot.
His second, and final, season with the team saw him appear in 15 games before being sent to Pittsburgh midseason.
#33 – Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot holds the honour of being the first starting goalie in the Connor McDavid era of the team.
After having his coming-out party with the New York Rangers filling in for an injured Henrik Lundqvist, newly-minted GM Peter Chiarelli made it a mission to trade for him in the 2015 draft. Glen Sather, who was the GM of the Rangers at the time, decided to right by his old club and helped get the deal done and early returns suggested this was the right move.
Talbot was fantastic in an Oilers uniform in his first season. Despite having a 21–27–5 record in 2015–16, Talbot was far from the problem as he held a .917 SV%.
Things then got even better in his second year with Edmonton, appearing in a ridiculous 73 games and securing 42 wins in the process en route to the team’s first playoff berth in a decade. That mark remains the most wins by an Oilers goaltender in a single season.
Unfortunately, that high workload seemed to take a toll on Talbot as his quality of play deteriorated to the point where he was shipped off to Philadelphia just two years later for Anthony Stolarz.
#34 – Fernando Pisani
Yet another early 2000s role player has made the cut, but Fernando Pisani might be the most popular one of all.
Drafted by the Oilers in 1996, Pisani toiled around in minor leagues before finally making the big leagues in 2002, and then as a regular forward in 2003. His ceiling was never super high and Pisani carved out a role a decent bottom-six producer who could be relied upon to put up about 30 points a year.
It wasn’t until the 2006 cup run that Pisani really made his presence known to the fanabase. The local boy put up an astounding 14 goals and 18 points during Edmonton’s run to the cup. This included five game-winning goals, the most iconic of which came in Game 5 of the finals, which saved the season for the Oilers.
Unfortunately, Pisani never got another chance to show off his playoff acumen with the Oilers. He stuck around until 2010 where he then signed on with the Chicago Blackhawks for a season before calling it a career.
#35 – Tommy Salo
Tommy Salo is perhaps the most forgotten great Oilers goalie.
Not much is ever said about just how good Salo was during his time with the Oilers. It might have something to do with the era he played in, the late ‘90s and early 2000s were arguably the most forgettable time for Oilers hockey, or the fact that he just never had the flashy moments that Fuhr, Ranford, and Curtis Joseph had.
Salo found himself in Edmonton in 1999 after a couple seasons as the starter for the New York Islanders. He would spend six seasons in Edmonton, all as the starting goaltender, and while he wouldn’t experience much team success, he still had himself a great career with the club.
He ranks third all-time in franchise wins (147), games (334), and saves (7659). The only goalies above him in these stats are Fuhr and Ranford—remove those two from the equation and Salo is your guy.
#36 – Jack Campbell
Oh boy, yes I know how this looks.
Jack Campbell has only been an Oilers for a single season and has, by all accounts, been fairly underwhelming as compared to his contract. Yet, he is the guy I think about when I think about a #36 Oilers jersey.
There is a bit of a silver lining, despite a .881SV%, Campbell somehow turned in a solid record of 21–9–4 on the year, and did step into a critical Game 4 against the L.A. Kings in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s not all bad if you really squint, and there is always hope for a redemption arc.
#37 – Dean McAmmond
Ah yes, another name of the ‘90s to explore.
Dean McAmmond played on the Oilers for six season between 1993 and 1999. It was a horrid way to start your campaign in Edmonton, as the franchise was experiencing it’s first wave of ineptitude since they entered the NHL.
Luckily, after his first three seasons as an Oiler, McAmmond was able to be a part of some of the greatest playoff battles in franchise history against both the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. He was a top-six forward with those teams, with a 50-point campaign in 1997–98 being his high point with the club.
In all, he left Edmonton with 161 points in 303 games. Not eye-popping numbers but impressive enough considering he was on a lousy team for half of it and smack-dab in the middle of the dead puck era.
#38 – Jeff Deslauriers
I show my age quite often in these articles, but Jeff Deslauriers was a favourite of mine in my early years of watching Oilers hockey.
There is something so charming about a young up-and-coming goalie that can make absolutely ridiculous saves and Deslauriers was that guy. It seemed like it was every game that the guy was going into the splits and snagging a puck out of the air with his bright orange glove.
The issue was that those saves came a bit too far and few in-between. Consistency was always an issue, but it wasn’t always all his fault. He was thrusted into the starters position rather quickly because of injuries and lack of depth on the team.
In 2009–10, Deslauriers appeared in 45 games despite having just 10 games of experience beforehand. The results were predictable as he wasn’t able to clog the holes on a sinking ship. He did fairly ok considering the circumstances; a 16–28–4 record isn’t the worst behind the 2009 Oilers, but it did not help his career aspects moving forward.
There was also the development nightmare he faced in the years prior to his NHL time that might have stunted his growth as a player.
That season would be his last full one in the NHL. It was a shame, because I think if he was eased into the NHL he could have been a longer career.
At least he gave us some memorable saves to think back on those dark days a bit more fondly.
#39 – Doug Weight
Doug Weight was the best player to put on an Oilers uniform in the ‘90s and I don’t think its particularly close.
He was the face of the team for the nine years he played here, and put up superstar numbers with 577 points in 588 games.
Weight’s tenure begin at the 1993 trade deadline as the Rangers were looking for veteran support. They found that support in Esa Tikkanen and decided to ship off a young Weight to make it happen. It turned out to be a win-win for both teams as the Rangers won the cup in 1994 and the Oilers gained an icon.
Despite playing on weak teams, Weight consistently scored 70+ points every year. When the team finally started to compete, he was given the captaincy and led the Oilers into countless underdog battles against the Stars.
The Oilers eventually traded Weight to St. Louis in 2001 and struggled to truly replace his superstar presence until Connor McDavid came around 14 years later.
I’ll say that he might be the most skilled player to ever play for the Oilers whose number is not retired (excluding current roster players.)
#40 – Devan Dubnyk
We end today’s list with a goalie who had an absolute rollercoaster of a career.
Devan Dubnyk’s NHL career began in 2009–10 backing up Jeff Deslauriers. The two had been highly touted prospects for years in the Oilers system, and as Deslauriers struggled to truly cement himself as the goalie of the future, an opening appeared for Dubnyk.
He finally took the starter’s gig in 2010 and proceeded to put up some very decent seasons behind just the worst hockey teams. He never had a winning record (cause HOW could he), but consistently put up save percentages over .910, topping out at .920 in his final full season.
Dubnyk was a good goalie but he could only do so much for terrible teams and when his play slipped a bit, it tanked. He was sent off to Nashville for Matt Hendricks in March 2014. Luckily, that high level of play returned and he blossomed into a top-five goalie in the league with the Minnesota Wild.
Don’t be sad it didn’t happen here, be happy that it happened at all.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire