Edmonton Oilers: Rod Phillips Talks Team’s Improvement

In an interview with Bob Stauffer, Edmonton Oilers legendary play-by-play announcer discussed the new Oilers era.

An Edmonton sports icon, Phillips called 3,542 Oilers’ games, including five Stanley Cup championships during his illustrious 37-year career. The Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster was on Oilers Now Friday, where he shared some of his fondest memories with the Oilers and compared the two eras.reminded of his the great Oilers teams of the 1980s when he watched the boys in orange and blue play this spring.

According to Phillips, he was reminded of his the great Oilers teams of the 1980s when he watched the Oilers in the playoffs this season.

“There’s a strange similarity between the two eras,” Phillips told Stauffer. “Watching the team last spring, I couldn’t help thinking back that it was like the good old days. The 80s Oilers were fun to watch and they also were also a great hockey team.

“They had a lot of good character in the dressing room. They had everything going right. Good coaching, good manager, and you have to have all that stuff to be successful. And at this point, I can’t tell you enough how excited I am about how the Oilers are run now.”

The 75-year-old Calmar, Alberta native has spent the past six winters in Arizona with his wife Debbie. Despite living far away, he said he rarely misses an Oilers game on television. However, this coming year, Phillips will return to Edmonton where he can be closer to his family and attend games at Rogers Place.

“We’re going to stay home,” Phillips said. “I want to spend more time with my kids, but I want to watch this team play. It’s going to be so much damn fun at the rink this year.”

The Great One

Phillips has been close with Wayne Gretzky since 1978 when The Great One arrived in Edmonton as a 17-year-old phenom. Nearly 40 years later, Gretzky never ceases to amaze Phillips – and not only for his on-ice brilliance.

“Gretzky was not just great in the way he played in the NHL, he was great in the way he promoted the NHL and the way he treats people,” Phillips said. “He’s just a great person, and I’m so excited he’s back (with the Oilers).”

After stepping down as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, formerly the Phoenix Coyotes, following the 2008-09 season, Gretzky had no official involvement with an NHL club until Oilers owner Daryl Katz introduced him as Vice Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group on October 12, 2016. Phillips insists that Gretzky is equally enthused to be an Oiler again as the fans in Edmonton are to have him back.

“It’s like he’s reborn,” Phillips said about Gretzky rejoining the Oilers’ organization after 27 years. “He loves the city, he bought a condo down by the rink, and he’s going to spend an awful lot of time here in Edmonton.”

While no team will ever equal what the Oilers accomplished in the 1980s and early 1990s, Phillips believes the current Oilers squad is building something special.

“It’s two different eras,” Phillips said. “The game is different now, but when you have great talent, you’re going to have a great hockey team. And that’s what the Oilers have.”

Rod Phillips was the one constant with the Oilers’ organization between 1973 and 2010. He’s seen the highest of highs to the lowest of lows with this franchise.  Phillips called Oilers games from their early days in the WHA and stayed with them through the glory-days, their 2006 Cup Final Run and part of the Decade of Darkness.

When Rod talks, Oilers fans listen. I agree with his assessment that there are several similarities between the 80s Oilers and the current squad. Now, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are not Gretzky and Mark Messier, but they could have a similar impact as the two Oilers legends did.

A New Wave

For years, Gretzky and Messier were the best one-two punch in the NHL. Last season, McDavid and Draisaitl were the top scoring duo in the NHL as 20 and 21-year-olds who are each not yet in their prime offensive years. It all starts at the top, and the Oilers are set up for future success with McDavid and Draisaitl leading the charge.

Former Oilers Head Coach and GM Glen Sather was known for taking chances on players that other teams had given up on like Dave Lumley and Craig MacTavish. Lumley and MacTavish both went on to win multiple Stanley Cups with the Oilers. We have seen GM Peter Chiarelli make a couple smart bets of his own in trading for Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon who are both thriving in Edmonton.

You also can’t win a Stanley Cup without stellar goaltending. Grant Fuhr was the last line of defence of the Oilers in the 1980s. After years of searching for a solution in goal, the Oilers now have arguably a top five goalie in the league in Cam Talbot.

This team isn’t a finished product, but most of the pieces are on the place to make a run for the Cup in 2018. There’s more optimism heading into an Oilers season than any time in the past 25 years. And as Phillips said in his chat with Stauffer, he hopes to be watching the Oilers play in the Stanley Cup Final next June. And for the first time in his life, it will be just as a fan.