RYAN SMYTH: ALL HAIL THE MULLET

Robin Brownlee
December 06 2011 08:31PM

Ryan Smyth is about to claim his place among the greatest players ever to wear the silks of the Edmonton Oilers, which is saying something, and you might see it unfold at Rexall Place as early as Wednesday or Friday.

Going into Wednesday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Smyth has amassed 575 points as a member of the Oilers. With three more points, he will pass former Oiler captain Doug Weight, who has 577, and move into sixth place in career franchise scoring.

The only players to have put up better numbers than that have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and have their jersey numbers hanging in the rafters at Rexall Place – Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey.

As beloved as Smyth is by the fans he's been tossing pucks to here and around the NHL for 17 seasons, as respected as he is for the ties that have always bound him to Edmonton, Smyth, statistically speaking, is about to become the greatest-ever Oiler not a member of the Stanley Cup-toting fivesome of Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Anderson and Coffey. Think about that for a minute.

If that's not rarified air, I don't know what is.

SELECT COMPANY

Smyth, 35, who orchestrated a trade back to Edmonton after two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, has never won a Stanley Cup. He's never scored 50 goals or even 40 in a season – although he camped his skinny, stubborn backside in front of goaltenders for a career-high 39 goals in 1996-97 and he has pretty much refused to move out of the blue paint since then.

Smyth isn't the fastest skater. He isn't the biggest or the strongest player ever to look an opposing defenseman in the eye and so much as say, "Try to move me out of here." They've tried.

Smyth's shot can barely break a pane of glass, and if you added up every one of the 277 goals he's scored with the Oilers in terms of distance, you'd barely get from one end of the rink to the other and back again.

And it goes without saying that Smyth, who showed up showed up for his first three NHL games during the 1994-95 season and decided he'd stick around until somebody told him to leave – which GM Kevin Lowe did when he traded him to the New York Islanders – never had the teammates to play with the Boys On The Bus did.

Yet here he is, three points from overtaking Weight and bumping up against the best to ever have donned the Oil Drop, the greatest players to ever play anywhere at any time. That tidbit drew a sloppy grin from Smyth when I mentioned it to him at the rink today as he headed out to the ice for practice.

FANCY NEIGHBOURHOOD

I'm not suggesting for a moment Smyth belongs in the same category, statistically or otherwise, as players like The Great One, who had 1,669 regular season points with the Oilers before being sold to Los Angeles, Kurri (1,043), Messier (1,034), Anderson (906) or Coffey (669). But he's damn sure hacked and whacked his way to a place just down the block in the same neighbourhood by standing his ground in front of that net.

Smyth isn't going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and, as team convention dictates, he won't see his linen raised to the rafters alongside the only players ahead of him in franchise career scoring (and the jerseys of Al Hamilton and Grant Fuhr).

That said, Smyth, by almost any measure, is the greatest Oiler who hasn't won a Stanley Cup or been fitted for a HHOF jacket to ever grace the doorway of the home dressing room on Gretzky Drive. Not too bad for a skinny rink rat who grew up in Banff idolizing every one of those names in the rafters.

And unless Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle find a way to stay a good long while in this town, Smyth, with three more points, will likely be as close anybody ever gets to them.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Spaghetti - Team Facalto
December 07 2011, 01:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Congratulations. That's one of the most compelling and well thought-out arguments I've seen written anywhere.

With one comment -- well, one comment posted twice for emphasis (you really didn't need to because your essay really is that brilliant) -- you have completely changed my mind on Smyth. I agree with you, utterly and completely.

Which part convinced you Robin, where he wrote: "he has achieved above average numbers with marginal talent"

or

"he rode the coattails of millionaires to an olympic gold

For me it was "F U smyth. F U."

where FU stands for Freakin' Unbelieveable

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#53 HORDY hears a who
December 07 2011, 01:51PM
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JERRY SPRINGERS FINAL THOUGHT:

Don't sign up and show up to an orgy and when you get there be like I hate sex and I hate orgys.

I thank you

BOW

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#54 Robin Brownlee
December 07 2011, 02:59PM
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Might be "points night" against the sad-sack Hurricanes. Might Smyth pull even with Weight, or even pass him, tonight?

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#55 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
December 07 2011, 03:42PM
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Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey and Smyth. Everything looks in order.

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#56 RexLibris
December 07 2011, 03:51PM
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I had an argument with Vintage Flame over at FlamesNation about Smyth coming back to Edmonton. He had argued that Smyth's returning was being romanticized by fans and media and that we ought to remember it was money that had made Smyth leave in the first place. It was a point made with respect and asking us fans to realize that Smyth returning might not be what we were expecting and to realize that this was a player who had turned his back on another organization to return to Alberta, be it Edmonton or Calgary.

I took a few deep breaths, and replied that Smyth returning was like a salve for a fanbase wounded by so many player departures over these past few years. I also mentioned that while Flame fans have all but canonized Iginla, he has accomplished as much when it comes to league championships. In my estimation, Smyth has done as much, if not perhaps a touch more, with less than Iginla has and both men are class acts outside of the rink. I also mentioned that Smyth has answered the call to play for Team Canada every spring that he has been both asked and able, something that Iginla is noted for by his absence (Olympics aside). This leads me to my next point, Smyth might not make the HHOF or the rafters here in Edmonton (who knows, he might stick around and be our Brindamour when the kids get it going) but I can see no reason why he wouldn't be an easy in for the IIHF Hall of Fame.

I like the idea of keeping the rafters for the loftiest (pun intended) players in our history. I don't want to start making exceptions for purely emotional reasons that might not stand the test of time, but I think the organization could find ways of honouring other players, like Lowe, Huddy, Weight, Smyth and so on. Perhaps that's a design feature that could be included into the new arena design.

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#57 dougtheslug
December 07 2011, 04:21PM
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Al Hamilton is (deservingly) in the rafters, and he wasn't a Hall of Famer. He was honored to an extent for his on ice play, but also for his off-ice, behind the scenes work with Oiler alumni, charity, and the greater Edmonton community. That kind of man deserves to be honored, and in the (hopefully) distant future, when that sad moment arrives when the Great Mullet hangs up his skates, he too will be granted the same token of our unreserved gratitude and respect.

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#58 Robin Brownlee
December 07 2011, 04:48PM
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@RexLibris

Yes. What you said in the last paragraph.

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#59 RexLibris
December 07 2011, 05:58PM
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This is why Hamilton is in the rafter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Hamilton and if you ask me, it is probably the one jersey retirement where the Oilers showed true class. Honouring a former Oil King, a Summit Series (1974) vet and the Oilers' first captain is the way to go.

When the Flames retired Vernon's jersey a few years back I couldn't help but scoff. Yeah, he may have earned them a cup, but the standards in that organization seem to me to be a little lower than what we have here, by virtue of our history.

Now the Canucks retiring Smyl, Linden and Naslund? Not so certain about that.

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#61 vetinari
December 07 2011, 07:27PM
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I think that there is a difference between retiring a player's jersey and honouring him by raising it to the rafters as recognition of his accomplishments. Smyth is in the Oiler's top 10 for points and games played and surely that is worthy of some form of recognition. I think that you can, in good conscience, lift Smyth's jersey to the rafters without retiring it.

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#62 Slats
December 07 2011, 08:23PM
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@smyttysucks

Nice post . . . now go write your tribute to Marilyn Manson.

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#64 glenn
December 08 2011, 09:25AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Nice timing. Has Smyth played a worse game this season than he did against Carolina?

Not just him Robin all 3 so called vets were brutal Last night. Hemmer couldn't keep the puck on his stick, Horc couldn't catch a pass and I think Spec pissed Smyth off with all the questions about loosing the cup in 06 must have rattled him LOL. I expect thew top 6 to light up the Avs and Lames before the trip.

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