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May 23, 2008

1990: Edmonton Wins Cup Without Gretzky

The year is 1990. Wayne Gretzky left Edmonton two years prior. Many people believed that when he left town, so had the Stanley Cup.

But the Oilers remained a strong team, with holdovers like Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Esa Tikkanen and Kevin Lowe. But new heroes emerged, namely Craig Simpson, Joe Murphy, Adam Graves, Martin Gelinas and especially goaltender Bill Ranford.

Ranford, who came over two years earlier in the Andy Moog trade, would win the Conn Smythe trophy as he and the Oilers bested Moog and the Boston Bruins for the second time in three years. With spectacular play, Ranford established himself as perhaps the best goalie in the world in the early 1990s.

Esa Tikkanen also deserves special mention, as he emerged as arguably the top defensive forward in the world after his masterful shut down jobs on Wayne Gretzky, Denis Savard and a spooked Craig Janney.

Make no mistake though, this was now Mark Messier's team. The hometown hero was named captain after Gretzky left, and 1990 was his greatest year in Edmonton. He finished with a career best 129 points, was named as the Hart Trophy winner and led the Oilers to their most unexpected Stanley Cup championship of their dynasty.



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