After months of speculation, the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets unveiled their rosters for the 2016 Heritage Classic on Friday. The Oilers alumni includes Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg, Dave Semenko, Esa Tikkanen, Marty McSorley, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger, Ken Linseman, Blair MacDonald, Craig Simpson, Ryan Smyth, Bill Ranford and Dwayne Roloson. Glen Sather and Ron Low served as honourary coaches for the Oilers alumni.
Jets forward Blake Wheeler wasn’t wrong when he said “the alumni game might trump the main event” at the Heritage Classic presser. It likely will. As excited as I am for the Oilers-Jets regular-season game, the alumni game will be a once in a lifetime event for many hockey fans, myself included.
Lowe jokingly said that the Oilers would hold a “training camp” to fill the last spot or two for the Oilers alumni on defence. Not unlike the current edition of the Oilers, the alumni roster could use another right-shot defenceman as well. Today I wanted to look at some of the top candidates to fill the last spot on Edmonton’s blueline for the 2016 Heritage Classic Alumni Game.
For the fans who were hoping to see more players from the 1990s and 2000s named to the Oilers alumni roster, Smith would be an excellent addition. Smith was a hard-nosed blueliner who consistently sacrificed his body to block shots and was team captain from 2001 to 2007. The 42-year-old Calgary, Alberta native was recently named the Head Coach of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, who play the Seattle Thunderbirds on the night of the alumni game, so he likely won’t be available to the Oilers.
Niinimaa was the Oilers best offensive defenceman in the early 2000s. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pound, Niinimaa had great size, a solid point shot and was great on the powerplay. The 41-year-old Raahe, Finland native retired from professional hockey in 2013 and would give the Oilers alumni some “young legs” on the back end.
Staios is another younger option for the Oilers on the blueline. The 43-year-old Hamilton, Ontario was strong, two-way defenceman and only retired four years ago and is certainly in better shape than any of the already named alumni defenceman. As the President of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, it would be easier for Staios to suit up for the Oilers than his former teammate Smith.
A heart and soul defender, Fogolin is arguably the greatest right-shot defenceman in Oilers history. He’s best remembered as the player you handed the ‘C’ to Gretzky in 1983. The 61-year-old Chicago, Illinois native would be the oldest player on the team, but if he’s able to play, I’d love to see him throw on the Oilers jersey one last time.
At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Beukeboom was a hulking defenceman who won battles in front of the net and in the corners and was able to clear the puck out of his zone efficiently. The 51-year-old Ajax, Ontario native won’t provide much offence punch, but would be a solid choice to fill a third pairing role. And who doesn’t love that name, right?
Thanks for reading. Let me know if you agree with my picks and we’ll see if any of these former players make the cut in October!