What about Ryan Smyth? Ryan Smyth was a first round pick for the Oilers in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft (#6 overall), but he wasn’t their first choice in that draft- that honor went to Jason Bonsignore at #4. The Oilers pick of Smyth eased the pain of the Bonsignore selection (the original #64 was last seen running a small amusement park somewhere in New York state). What followed was a career for Smyth which weaved through 17 NHL seasons- most of which were for the Edmonton Oilers. The 2013-14 NHL season represents the last season of Smyth’s current contract and after 2 goals in 47 games last season, how will the Oilers elder statesman be used this fall? Will this season be his last? Should it?
Since his breakout during the 1996-97 season where Smyth scored a career high 39 goals, he has been consistently one of the most popular Oilers. His grinding blue collar style has resonated with the community and he was a front line player despite not possessing high end skill. During his career he has been a 20-30 goal threat virtually every season he has played, while providing leadership and heart to the roster. It was unthinkable that Smyth and the Oilers would ever part ways, but as with the stars of the past, Smyth was traded out of Edmonton on February 27, 2007 when he was dealt to the New York Islanders in exchange for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, and the draft pick which turned into Alex Plante.
Smyth played 23 games for the Islanders (5 in the playoffs) and then signed with the Colorado Avalanche during the following off season. After two seasons in Denver, Smyth was traded again to the Los Angeles Kings. He then returned to the Oilers on June 26th, 2011.
His first season back with the Oilers was largely a success and saw Smyth play a support role and still manage to score 19 goals in 82 games. Last season was much different and Smyth became a healthy scratch for the first time. According to Left Wing Lock.com, Smyth did see a decent amount of time on the powerplay, so his free fall to 2 goals in 47 games in a concern. 20 years after his draft, is Ryan Smyth and the end of the line as an NHL player?
During the 2012-13 season, Smyth spent time on both special team units while playing primarily on either the third or fourth lines. It is pretty easy to project Smyth as a player on the periphery for the 2013-14 season. The changes Mactavish has made (i.e. the addition of Perron) and Smyth’s pronounced drop in offense all but signal the end of Smyth’s time as a top six option for the Oilers. From what was witnessed last season, there is no doubt Smyth has lost a step and 17 seasons playing in the tough areas has caught up to the 37 year old. Some have suggested he could slot in as the fourth line centre, but playing an aging veteran out of position screams of yet another high draft pick an not the playoffs.
With Smyth’s experience and smarts, there is no doubt new coach Dallas Eakins can make use of him this season as a spare part. The mulleted one can fill in on scoring lines, for short periods, if there are injuries. In addition, he can spot in on special teams if needed. Smyth had better like popcorn as he will be eating it more often with frequent trips to the press box.
For fans, it would be nice to see Smyth retire after this season as an Oiler and possibly take another position in the organization. The truth is the sun is setting on his fantastic career and if the Oilers are going to move forward with their young core, it is time for Smyth to ride proudly into the sunset.
2 goals in 47 games? That is not the Ryan Smyth we know.
Until next time,