August 18, 2005
'80s Oilers would love new rules
By ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun
So, how many goals would the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s have scored playing under the rules the NHL will put in place this season?
Considering the Oilers dented the twine 400 or more times in five straight seasons from 1981-82 to 1985-86, including a record 446 goals during the 1983-84 campaign, forgive Paul Coffey if he requests a calculator before answering that one.
"It would have been pretty exciting," smiled Coffey, asked about the rule changes after yesterday's news conference to make the retirement of his Oilers jersey No. 7 on Oct. 18 official.
"It would have been great, but that's pretty much the way we played, anyway. I mean, there was a red line, but instead of the forwards being above the red line they were right at the red line."
How many goal lights would Glen Sather's teams have burned out without a red line for offsides, as will be the case this season, and if Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson could've free-wheeled without checkers draped on them under new rules eliminating obstruction?
And how many assists would Coffey, who finished his 21-year Hall-of-Fame career with 1,135 regular-season helpers, have put in the books with the Great One and Company roaring into the offensive zone without a centre line to worry about?
"Any defenceman who can make it this far and play in the NHL can make a stick-to-stick pass," Coffey shrugged. "For some reason, guys were being rewarded for not making good plays.
"Without the red line, it's going to put the onus back on defencemen to make good plays, make a good first pass. On the defensive side, you're going to have to be mobile. I think it's going to be great for the league."
BY THE NUMBERS
To put things in perspective, Sergei Gonchar led NHL defencemen in scoring in 2003-04 with 58 points on 11 goals and 47 assists - a mere 80 points back of Coffey's 48-90-138 totals of 1985-86.
Coffey broke the 100-point barrier five times (126, 121, 138, 113 and 103) in his career. The last NHL defenceman to reach 100 points in a season is Brian Leetch, who had 102 in 1991-92.