February 24 2013 09:01AM
Edmonton Oiler fans have had the privilege to watch Ryan Smyth in all his glory. From an energetic young winger full of piss and vinegar to a weathered veteran still full of piss and vinegar, no Oiler of his era has bled for the Oildrop like Ryan Smyth. Earlier this season, there was chatter about Smyth being done, ready for retirement, on his last legs.
This just in: change the headline.
Ryan Smyth's current role is to help in any way he can. When Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger were injured earlier this season, Smyth stepped into the center role and played out of position. When young turks like Magnus Paajarvi (last Saturday, in photo) were having some offensive difficulties, Smyth played the mentor and playmaker role and helped in that way.
Last night, he did it again. This time, the man who may one day play the position he owned for more than a decade--skill left winger on a scoring line--went to the front of the net because he knew that's where the action is. And Teemu Hartikainen cashed on a pass from mentor Ryan Smyth, scoring a massive goal for the young and inconsistent franchise.
Ryan Smyth maintains much of what made him a great player--sublime passing ability, intensity, skill, the brains and gumption to go to the net--and appears to be passing those skills along to young men like Hartikainen.. I'm pleased to see the lessons are beginning to take--Hartikainen is pretty damn good battling down low now--and especially pleased that Smyth is back in an Oiler uniform to play this role with his usual thoroughness and passion.
The other day, Mike Keenan trashed the Oilers, saying the club has no personality. I say balderdash--any team with Ryan Smyth on the roster can claim at least one thing--if you're going to beat them you'd better pack a lunch because it's going to take all day.
A year ago, the coach relied on Smyth more than any other LW on the club. This season, Taylor Hall is playing more with the Russian rookie not far behind. The others will catch him someday, and he'll eventually toil on the 4line, penalty kill and watch from upstairs on some nights.
However, Ryan Smyth has plenty to offer, on the ice and in terms of passing along valuable information to the next generation.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I love the fact that Ryan Smyth is getting every last drop from his career, and am very pleased that even this late into things he can still contribute to the offensive end of the game. He is not the player we knew a decade ago, time has taken some of the things that made him great and at some point we all have feet of clay.
I'm going to enjoy watching this Ryan Smyth just as I enjoyed the previous one. He is a splendid example to the youth of this team--how can they give any less when a legend works so hard?--and he is still one of them, battling in a war on ice every night to win the day.
Ryan Smyth is an NHL hockey player. We should all enjoy his wonderful skills, and be thrilled he's passing these great lessons on to the next generation.
Ryan Smyth once said he would bring Stanley to Edmonton.
Maybe these young Oilers will one day bring Stanley to Ryan Smyth and our city, as payment for lessons learned from a real life legend.