LAS VEGAS -- In addition to all the world-class talent the Edmonton Oilers had in the 1980s, Marty McSorley said there also was a push from the superstars to make sure the depth players were winning their own battles.
"Wayne [Gretzky] and Mark [Messier] stressed the fact that we weren't going to win without our third and fourth lines making a difference," McSorley told NHL.com Tuesday from the 11th annual Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. "You have to outplay the other team's third and fourth lines. They really stressed the fact of that."
McSorley said the same thing will have to come true if the current version of the Oilers is going to reach its potential as a consistent contender for the Stanley Cup.
He sees all the reasons for excitement in Edmonton, going far enough to call Taylor Hall's speed as the straw that stirs the Oilers' drink. But McSorley said now it's all on the management group in Edmonton to continue to draft well and make the right trades and signings to put the proper pieces around all the young stars, including Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz.
If they don't do that, talent won't be enough.
"You don't know where those great young players get to. There is still a question mark there," McSorley said. "So you continue to add to them, add to that hockey team and hope something great happens. From a potential standpoint, boy, it's alive and well. I think they've done a good job. I even talked to Kevin Lowe the other day and he said their minor system is stocked. They're trying to make sure nobody gets left behind."
But if you're the Oilers now, how do you make sure you're putting players of the same ilk as McSorley, Kevin McClelland, Mark Napier, Craig MacTavish and Dave Semenko around the Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Eberle and Schultz.
McSorley said that is what the Oilers will have to figure out.
"That's something when you're drafting and scouting, maybe it's a talk with the parents or some of the teachers at the school," McSorley said. "You want to find out about that player that loves to play, dies to play, has the characteristic set to come in and not be a second-tier guy, but a really unselfish guy who is not limited in potential."
Of course, it's not just about drafting. McSorley said one of the keys to the Oilers of yesteryear is that coach Glen Sather always was willing and ready to make three or four changes each season to the veteran players.
"He constantly tweaked that team," McSorley said. "To him it wasn't just a minor tweak; it was character people he brought in. He brought in special people to play different roles.
"Now in Edmonton it's management's role to draft well because you have to have three or four or five guys on your bench under rookie salaries to make the cap work."