Well folks, the Oilers are getting their outdoor game against the Jets. Now, putting aside the fact that the Jets are actually the Atlanta Thrashers and have virtually no classic alumni, the NHL seems content letting them ice the greatest hits of the Phoenix Coyotes. So, who can we expect to see on the ice for the Oilers?
First off, we need to pick players who are still physical able to compete. Let’s start with the Oilers.
This was the roster for the original 2003 Heritage Classic game. In net were Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford and Andy Moog. At forward was Gretzky, Andersen, Chipperfield, Hunter, Kurri, Linseman, Lumley, Semenko, Simpson and Tikkanen. On defense, there was Beukeboom, Coffey, Fogolin, Gregg, Huddy, Lowe, McSorley and Muni.
Starting with the goaltenders, there is Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford, Andy Moog, but there are also the other possibles in Tommy Salo or Dwayne Roloson. Grant Fuhr has been retired since 2000, and played in the 2003 Heritage Classic, so that’s 13 years off the ice as a player. He was a goaltending coach until 2009, so that’s not quite as bad as it seems, since he probably logged some time on the ice in his coaching capacity, and he’s 53, so he’s not too old to lace them up. Based on his age I could see him being in a reduced role.
Bill Ranford is 49, has been retired since 2000, and played for the Oilers in the 2003 Heritage Classic. In 2004 he was the goaltender stunt double for the movie Miracle. And at this time he is still the goaltending coach for the Los Angeles Kings, so he’s likely still able to put the pads on and not be too rusty, he could be the starter.
Andy Moog, at 56, I expect to be off the roster this time, with one of Tommy Salo, Curtis Joseph or Dwayne Roloson taking the ice. Now, Tommy Salo logged more games, but Dwayne Roloson’s cup run has made him a fan favorite in Edmonton. He’s 46, and played until 2012, so he’s only 4 years off the ice at this point. There’s also Curtis Joseph, the immortal CuJo, but in some ways he’s viewed as more of a Toronto Maple Leaf, so I would guess we see Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford and Dwayne Roloson in net.
Moving on to our defensemen, we should all rejoice in the fact that, once again, we will see an NHL defense playing in Oilers jerseys. I’d guess by the time this game rolls around Chiarelli will have revamped the existing one to the point it will be competitive, but in the meantime.. We can safely expect to see Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Jeff Beukeboom, Marty McSorley and Craig Muni out there. It’s likely that both Lee Fogolin (61 with no real involvement in hockey since his 1987 retirement) and Randy Gregg (60 and out of the sport since 1992) will be the ones replaced.
As a result, this opens the door for two of the more beloved Edmonton Oilers defensemen of the last little while, Steve Smith and Jason Smith. Other than the Chris Pronger effect, these are two of the most memorable “newer generation” Oilers defensemen to take the ice, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them both don the alumni silks for this game. Now, for all of you wondering what a power play quarterback looks like, we can sit back and relax and enjoy watching Paul Coffey once again (as we search for his replacement and pray to whichever gods we hold dear that St. Peter manages to obtain Kevin Shattenkirk for us, amen).
And that takes us to our forwards. Although we all now worship the McJesus and the collection of amazing young talent we have here, once upon a time the Oilers had some pretty good forwards too. We can expect to see McDavid 1.0, Wayne Gretzky, take the ice, along with his entourage of Glenn Anderson, Dave Hunter, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Esa Tikkanen and Dave Semenko on the ice. The only possibility is the fact that Semenko may have some lingering resentment to how the organization discharged him last summer, so if he can’t go, I would expect George Laraque to be the fan-favorite enforcer alternative here.
Now, there were a total of 10 forwards for the last Alumni game, so we now have 3 spots open. The names that jump to mind are Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, and Ryan Smyth. All three are much beloved members of the organization, experienced success here to some degree, and seem logical choices to flush out the heritage roster. There’s also the possibility of Todd Marchant, another character player loved by the organization, to step in as an alternate here.
So fans, that’s who I’d expect to see on the ice for the next Heritage Classic, who would you like to see lace ’em up for the alumni game? Let us know in the comments below!