THE RYAN GAME

Lowetide
February 16 2013 10:00AM

For the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Smyth and Ryan Whitney need to be a big part of this year's team. Their combined salaries ($6.25M) tell us these two players need to be in the heart of the order and to deliver. So far this season, the results have been disappointing, and coach Krueger responded with the most powerful weapon in his arsenal: cutting off playing time. Today, we see the impact.

SENDING A MESSAGE

Ryan Whitney is 29 years old (turns 30 on the 19th) and from what we hear wants to be an Oiler for the good times. I think that's a real positive, but the performance has to be there for the Oilers to commit long term. What I don't know about Whitney's injury is a lot, and I can't parse how much of his early performance is the 'new Whitney' and how much of his early performance has to do with catching up with those who were playing during the lockout.

Suffice to say that the only way to find out is play him, and if the Oilers do plan on dealing Whitney showcasing should begin tonight against Colorado.

  • Whitney: "It's tough to play when you know that if you make a mistake you're going to be out of the lineup. You really can't play like that. You have to hope they (coaching staff) start showing confidence in you and you start playing in a way that you deserve it."

Two things about that quote: Whitney's an intelligent guy and the words reflect it. There's ownership of performance in there but also a tell in that the healthy scratch had its impact--he is wounded and wants to make good.

The fanbase and the organization can only cheer him on and hope Whitney's performance improves. Whether they choose to trade him (I think it is likely) or re-sign Whitney over the summer, a strong 30 game run this spring is the best result for all involved in this difficult story.

HOME BODY

Ryan Smyth's situation is a little different. Smytty is 36 (turns 37 on the 21st) and will be famous in this town for decades courtesy the blood, sweat and tears shed on Northlands/Rexall ice. This isn't about an injury, it is about father time. Smyth--not known for his verbal--is exactly aware of where he is and what he has to do:

  • Smyth: "If you're not angry or upset, there's a problem. I’m a competitor so, absolutely, it’s tough to take. It’s in our nature to play hockey and not sit and watch, but that was the coach’s decision. He felt it was best for the team at the time. We’ll move forward. The last two games I played, I took some unnecessary penalties and it put the team in jeopardy. I have to play harder and smarter.”

I don't know a thing about coaching, but would guess that most coaching staffs would like about two dozen Ryan Smyth's in their lineup. A man who loves the game and the logo on the front of the uniform as much as the fans, Smyth "gets it" and should rebound with a strong performance. It looks like he'll be on a line with Nail Yakupov tonight, so maybe they can help each other.

A young player like Yakupov should thank his lucky stars a man like Smyth is available for the mentor role. Even the way he handled the healthy scratch (declining interviews until he was ready) is a lesson for the youngsters. Perhaps Sheldon Souray would still be an Oiler if he'd taken that route (not implying Souray did anything wrong, just that there is a reality about going public when it comes to Oiler laundry).

My own feeling is that the club may want to try Smyth with Gagner and Hemsky. Stopping that 2line from bleeding chances should be job 1 among the forward group, and Yakupov/Hartikainen have not been able to do it so far this season (Hartikainen is back in that slot tonight).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Aside from ridiculous comments from "all hat and no cattle" types I think the universe knows what these two men are going through and that everyone is cheering for them. Whitney is a big defenseman with an outstanding first pass and that my friends has value. Ryan Smyth is a man who knows more and has gone through more in an Oiler uniform than anyone in the last 20 years, perhaps even longer.

There is no joy in watching either struggle, and we can't wait to cheer their success.

Tonight is another night, another opportunity. Godspeed, Ryan's.

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 Horcsky
February 16 2013, 10:06AM
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FIST to say I'm excited to see what the Ryan's can do tonight!

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#2 David S
February 16 2013, 12:15PM
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I rather prefer Ralph Krueger's "take emotion out of the equation" approach. Ryan Smyth KNOWS he's at the end of his career and will give everything he's got to keep a position on the team (although I completely disagree with giving him anything more than a year in that contract renewal). He's honest about the situation and wants to make good. [KEEP]

Ryan Whitney on the other hand is a weepy little school girl. Tough to play if you know a mistake will put you in the press box? Here's a clue - MAKE LESS MISTAKES. [DISCARD ASAP]

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#3 Westcoastoil
February 16 2013, 10:17AM
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Smyth gets a greasy one tonight, and a standing O. clap clap

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#4 Darcy
February 16 2013, 10:17AM
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On the subject of Ryans, what are the chances they waive Eager when Jones is ready to come back? Who gets a chair when the music stops and who goes to Oklahoma?

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#6 Sox and Oil
February 16 2013, 10:26AM
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@Darcy

I agree, perhaps not with waiving Eager but he really has been invisible for his year and half as a Oiler. Surely he has some trade value (3rd or 4th round pick?)

He just seems to be going through the motions out there, not alot of "crust" or truculence that he was supposed to bring.

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#7 scott
February 16 2013, 10:30AM
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Loving the articles and really following the team, you keep this up I may break up with the Lightning and strike oil !

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#8 Sox and Oil
February 16 2013, 10:38AM
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LT, I'm sure you read from Dregerface on twitter that CGY's Blair Jones has been put of waivers... A little Center insurance, plus he has a pretty good FO%

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#10 Shane
February 16 2013, 10:56AM
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@Sox and Oil

Whenever he tries to get 'crusty' he ends up with a concussion, my guess is he's a bit gun shy right now. If he can stay healthy I think he could return to form. It seems to me a guy like Eager comes in handy if/when his team makes the playoffs

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#11 Rik
February 16 2013, 10:56AM
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This is a business when an asset is losing value you get rid of it before it really tanks. You may be off 1 year but this is what makes good GM's

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#12 Rama Lama
February 16 2013, 11:17AM
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I think moving Smyth to the second line is a great idea........or at least keep it an open audition for Jones, Harti, and Smyth.

I love Yaks.......but he is clearly not ready for top six minutes. He has all the skills but runs around a little too much at this early juncture. I think learning to play on the other side of the puck on the third line will teach him positioning........maybe even move him to the fourth line for now.

We have some real good assets we can move for supporting players and the time to do it is this year. I'm not talking about the fab-five, but everyone else could be considered.

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#13 Markus
February 16 2013, 11:33AM
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Since Lowe and Tambo took over 2008 Oilers arguably have 4 or 5 untouchables.

RNH Eberle Hall Schultz Petry

2 #1 picks

1 first rounder

1 gift

1 2nd rounder

How is that for 5 years?

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#14 Butters
February 16 2013, 12:10PM
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@Rama Lama i think Yak is learning/trying to be better defensively. By my eye he seems to be looking around trying to find where he should be defensively at times, it just doesn't seem to come naturally to him yet.

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#15 Quicksilver ballet
February 16 2013, 12:28PM
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It's good that the kids are witness to how a player should react after being sat. Ryan Smyth has shown the proper way to react. Ryan Whitney chose the other route. I'm sure in Whitneys case he has fully grasped this new system they're implementing, after the recent surgeries he's just not able to keep pace with todays speed in the game.

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#16 Pharmboy
February 16 2013, 01:06PM
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We miss Jones big time, can't wait for his return. In response to Whitney's comments: everyone makes a few mistakes each game, almost impossible not to in a good league, but you and Smyth were repeatedly making the same ones, and they were repeatedly costing us goals or momentum. Welcome back, now be aggressive and focus on making the good (or right) play and don't play in fear of making the bad! (I try to cut Whitney a little slack as it looks like he still doesn't trust his ankle/foot at all.)

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#17 RexLibris
February 16 2013, 01:09PM
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@ LT

My one concern is that you and I, and many people observing, tend to still think that a team "showcases" talent prior to finding a trading partner. It would just seem to make sense - drive the car around the neighbourhood a few times before putting the sale sign on it to drive up interest.

Here's the problem, nothing the organization has done in the last few years serves to reinforce that idea. They didn't with Omark last season. SO Whitney playing may not be showcasing, but rather just playing a defenseman because they know they have injuries and they need to get him back into the game. If he improves I think they are as likely to look at re-signing him as trading him.

Personally, I'd like to see Whitney find a new home at the trade deadline. I think there has been too much said and expectations raised and shattered here for it to be a good fit for much longer.

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#18 David S
February 16 2013, 01:13PM
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RexLibris wrote:

@ LT

My one concern is that you and I, and many people observing, tend to still think that a team "showcases" talent prior to finding a trading partner. It would just seem to make sense - drive the car around the neighbourhood a few times before putting the sale sign on it to drive up interest.

Here's the problem, nothing the organization has done in the last few years serves to reinforce that idea. They didn't with Omark last season. SO Whitney playing may not be showcasing, but rather just playing a defenseman because they know they have injuries and they need to get him back into the game. If he improves I think they are as likely to look at re-signing him as trading him.

Personally, I'd like to see Whitney find a new home at the trade deadline. I think there has been too much said and expectations raised and shattered here for it to be a good fit for much longer.

Option #3 is they simply don't re-sign him. Nobody will offer up a trade that would put us on the sharp end of a deal. Everybody knows Whitney is done so any team stupid enough to consider trading for him will ask for WAY more from us that we should rightly give away.

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#19 Walter Sobchak
February 16 2013, 01:53PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I think moving Smyth to the second line is a great idea........or at least keep it an open audition for Jones, Harti, and Smyth.

I love Yaks.......but he is clearly not ready for top six minutes. He has all the skills but runs around a little too much at this early juncture. I think learning to play on the other side of the puck on the third line will teach him positioning........maybe even move him to the fourth line for now.

We have some real good assets we can move for supporting players and the time to do it is this year. I'm not talking about the fab-five, but everyone else could be considered.

As far as Yakupov running around his own end is a misconception, by enlarge he has better defensive numbers then both Hemsky and Gagner.

I think his +/- is deceiving people because he’s taken a big hit on 4x4.

So it's not as much Yakupov as it is the other two on his line.

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/02/15/taylor-hall-and-the-best-oilers-are-flying-so-why-isnt-the-team-succeeding/

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#20 RexLibris
February 16 2013, 04:14PM
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@David S

Possible.

The Luke Richardson/Curtis Joseph/Todd Marchant lessons need apply here, though, in my opinion. Barring an almost certain playoff spot, never let a UFA get away without compensation.

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#21 Guy Lafleur
February 16 2013, 04:16PM
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Well i guess i am dropping Yak off my Fantasy team , playin on the line with Belanger ....goodbye points !!

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#22 DonDon
February 16 2013, 07:01PM
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Markus, your statement:

"Since Lowe and Tambo took over 2008 Oilers arguably have 4 or 5 untouchables."

RNH Eberle Hall Schultz Petry

I'm not sure of your point. Is it sarcasm or do you honestly think this is something to brag about on behalf of Lowe and Tambo when the club had three #1 draft picks as a result of abject failure (planned or otherwise) and Justin Schultz fell into their laps.

I think much more should have been expected of Lowe and Tambellini.

Petry may not be untouchable while Yakupov, at least for now, is untouchable.

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#23 Dave Casselman
February 16 2013, 07:28PM
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LT,

In one of the very early of episodes, there's a scene between then coach Tom Renney and Ryan Whitney. In context, it was shortly after the Lubo/Whitney trade.

We heard TR tell RW that he, all the coaches, and the club believed in him. They KNEW he had talent, and all he had to do was play like the player they knew he was.

,Interviewed shortly thereafter, an obviously gratified RW tells the interviewer that he'd go through a wall for Renney and the club and that no coach since midget had expressed such confidence in him.

The next year was RW's all time best.

Not to tell anyone their business but the cause and effect, at least to me, was clearly remarkable. Despite Punch Imach and the school of 'treat them all the same,' you sometimes truly do attract more bears with honey than vinegar.

Just sayin. . .

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#24 Hair bag
February 16 2013, 07:40PM
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@DonDon

Most of the posts on here are ridiculous, before the kids came along we had teams full of quality bottom six players but no high end talent - and no way to acquire it (free agents weren't coming and we had nothing other teams wanted to trade for it). Now at least we have the harder building blocks (high end skill) to acquire in place. I would suggest that everyone does need to relax! Our core's average age is - 21? If in 2yrs were still in this position when our older guys contracts are gone then maybe it's time to panic. The talent pool in the NHL is so diluted that you can't just make a trade any time you want and improve your team with ease. Building a contender now has to start with the draft and then the complementary players can be added slowly after - it does take years! I'm just happy right now that most games are exciting to watch - yes there are mistakes but at least we're out of the era where your chances of winning the 50-50 at the game was better than seeing a quality scoring chance...

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#25 Tayranchula
February 16 2013, 08:16PM
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Shane wrote:

Whenever he tries to get 'crusty' he ends up with a concussion, my guess is he's a bit gun shy right now. If he can stay healthy I think he could return to form. It seems to me a guy like Eager comes in handy if/when his team makes the playoffs

That statment about Eager is so true in more ways than one. He looks so gun shy right now and because of the injuries Im sure.

The second part about the playoffs is absolutely right. We all can thank Torres for being a huge part of the magical 06 playoff run. Why? Not only did he score timely goals but he made the others teams best players lives a living hell. He did it with the Canucks and tried to against Chicago. Now Im not promoting dirty plays but Torres wins teams playoffs series by cheating a bit. Michalek hit in 06 may have pushed the Oilers in the right direction and made it the reason we won that series.

I think Eager can be that player once this team makes the playoffs. But that is only if he gets back into his original form. I find it so weird at how well he can skate and then he gets the puck and hammers it around like a baboon.

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