November 22, 2015

Kevin McClelland

After the Edmonton Oilers suffered their 1983 setback at the hands of the mighty New York Islanders, most agreed that the Oilers were just about ready to win the Stanley Cup. Thus, coach and general manager Glen Sather did not tweak with his lineup very much that summer. But one of the few moves he made was to trade Tom Roulston to Pittsburgh in exchange for rugged Kevin McClelland.

The move was almost unnoticeable at the time. "Mac" played in just 72 games in the previous 3 years, scoring just 8 times and adding 12 assists. At one point, he was even demoted to the minors. But McClelland quickly found a home on Edmonton's checking line, and played a bigger role in the franchises championship success than most have given him credit for.

A strong skater with a good burst of speed, McClelland had next to no offensive skills to bring to the Oilers. But he excelled at the physical game. One of the strongest players to ever play in the NHL, Kevin loved to hit. He'd hit anyone anywhere, and was literally fearless. His yeoman effort in the NHL trenches was crucial to the Oilers success. His hard work and enthusiasm made him a natural leader on 4 Stanley Cup championship teams. He would do anything to win, and was a willing and able fighter. Along with Dave Semenko and later Marty McSorley, Kevin was a policeman on the ice, though he was never considered to be a true heavyweight.

Kevin played a big role in the Oilers first Cup, by contributing with a rare goal. The Oilers, who lit up their opponents in all their playoff rounds, were being shutdown in the 1984 Finals by their old nemesis - Billy Smith and the New York Islanders. McClelland took advantage of a rare Islanders mistake to score the opening goal of the Finals. It proved to be only goal of the game, and was a great confidence booster for the young and inexperience Oilers. Not only did they gain confidence by defeating the Isles after being swept by them in the previous year, but they played an "Islander style" game as opposed the high scoring Oilers game. Defeating the Islanders in this fashion was like lifting a huge weight from the Oilers shoulders. The Oilers of course went on to convincingly win the Cup, but it was McClelland's goal that got them started.

For McClelland it was his 4th goal of those playoffs, exactly half of his entire regular season total. He would never score another goal as important. Kevin played another 6 years in Edmonton but his highest single season goal output was just 12 in 1986-87. He did provide four consecutive seasons of 200 plus penalty minutes. In fact McClelland is the second highest penalized Oiler in history, trailing only Kelly Buchberger.

McClelland was traded early in the 1989-90 season, the last year of the Oiler's dynasty. The Oilers went on to win their 5th Cup in 7 years, while McClelland played a bit role in Detroit. It proved to be his last full year in the National Hockey League as well. He played 5 more years of pro hockey, making short appearances in the NHL with the Wings, Maple Leafs and Jets, but spent most of his time in the American Hockey League.

Kevin McClelland played in 588 NHL contests, scoring just 68 goals and 112 assists for 180 points. He added 11 goals and 29 points in 98 playoff games as well. Realistically statistics can not accurately portray Kevin McClelland. Two of his more telling stats were his 1672 PIM (plus another 281 in the playoffs) and his 4 Stanley Cup rings.

Kevin turned to the world of coaching once his playing days were over.

No comments: