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Today's Oilers as seen through Paul Coffey's eyes

Former Edmonton Oilers star defenceman Paul Coffey speaks at a press conference in Edmonton (file photo).

Jason Scott/The Canadian Press

Paul Coffey, above, considers himself a fan of hockey these days. As such, Coffey believes that the new-look Edmonton Oilers are on the right track, not just in terms of the talent that they have, but also in the style they want to play – wide open and aggressive, a throwback to an earlier era.

"You've got to let them play, you can't shackle them," said Coffey. "That's what me, you, every fan of the game goes to see. There are so many games that are so predictable. When do you see a guy fly down the wing and take a slap shot any more? Never.

"That's a pretty spoiled group, the fans up there, and I say that respectfully. They've seen it all. I think they have no choice because the fans in Edmonton will demand that. Some teams sell hope. Some sell reality. I think Edmonton's got reality. They're not just selling hope there."

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According to Coffey, the Oilers of his era eventually met all their potential, largely because of Wayne Gretzky's influence.

"We continually got better because the greatest player in the world pushed us to become better," said Coffey. "You had me, Kevin [Lowe], Mark [Messier], Glenn [Anderson], [Jari] Kurri, [Grant] Fuhr – a bunch of guys who just wanted to be great. We didn't know how to get there, but we just wanted to be great.

"And you've got to remember, in the eighties, we were paid on productivity back then. We weren't paid on, 'Here's your money, I hope you earn it. I hope you get the numbers we think you can get to.' You had to produce back then to get paid and your increments were 10- or 15-thousand dollar raises. That's why, I believe, it was so exciting back then. If you wanted to get paid, you had to go."

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