RYAN SMYTH: END OF THE LINE?

Robin Brownlee
April 17 2013 10:57PM

As somebody who has watched Ryan Smyth since he was a baby-faced rookie with the Edmonton Oilers, who has witnessed him grinding out a better NHL career than he had any reasonable right to based on natural talent, it's been difficult to watch him in the twilight of his career.

Smyth's departure from Edmonton at the trade deadline in 2007 after so many seasons of taking a beating, spitting out teeth and defiantly refusing to a take a backwards step despite being out-sized and overmatched in the trenches was gut-wrenching.

His return to Edmonton in the summer of 2011 by way of trade with the Los Angeles Kings after being exiled to New York, Colorado and Tinseltown was a feel-good story, a nostalgic stroll down memory lane welcomed by a lot of fans and more than a few media types.

When Smyth started the 2011-12 season like a house on fire, it looked like he might be the guy to defy time and show the kids how it's done for at least two or three more seasons. Then, 20 games or so into it, he hit the wall -- then came the touchy question of a new contract. Re-sign him? For how much?

Smyth got a new deal, two years at a greatly reduced salary, but this season has been, to be kind, disappointing. Now 37, Smyth looks spent. He's scored 2-8-10 in 41 games. The tank looks empty. The legs look gone. It looks he's reached the end of the line with one year remaining on that new deal.

A TOUGH ROAD

Jim Matheson, clearly, is seeing the same things I and a lot of other people have seen this season and wrote a terrific piece in the Edmonton Journal taking a look at what might be next for Smyth. The entire item is here.

Writes Matheson: "One longtime pro scout feels for Smyth, for all the battering he’s taken during nearly two decades playing in the NHL.

"He’s been a warrior, a great warrior,” said the scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But when he picks them (his feet) up and puts them down now, they come down in the same spot.

"I don’t know if he’s got the legs anymore."

Last summer, some people made the case – statistical and otherwise -- that despite his decline and obvious struggles in the second half last season, Smyth might actually slot into this edition of the Oilers as a second-line player, given the potential make-up of the team.

Despite Smyth's best efforts, as usual, that's clearly not the case. Smyth isn’t a second-line winger now. He isn't staking his turf in front of the net and giving goaltenders fits nearly as effectively as he used to. He's a fourth-line centre – barely – who gets some added time on special teams.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Take the results, or lack of same, we've seen from Smyth this season and frame them with new GM Craig MacTavish's words about making some tough decisions about re-jigging the roster, and you have to wonder what's next for No. 94. Nostalgia, after all, only goes so far.

Smyth, of course, believes he can still find a way to contribute to the rebuild beyond this season. He wants to stick with it. What would you expect from a player who has always taken "stick with it" to the extreme?

Might the Oilers buy Smyth out? Might he, after a conversation with MacTavish over this summer, decide to retire? Or might the trainers have to cut the jersey he's worn so proudly and so well off his back when he insists on showing up for training camp next September?

I don’t know for sure, but I’d lean toward the latter. One thing I do know – if Smyth becomes one of the tough decisions MacTavish has referred to, we'll know the GM means business because he and Smyth are very close. There's a lot of mutual respect there.

No matter what happens, Smyth has most certainly earned that respect.

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 pelhem grenville
April 18 2013, 09:55AM
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... i agree with you Q...one more year but i still have a heavy heart watching him try to keep up ... kinda like when i first knew old yeller was dead ...

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#52 jake
April 18 2013, 10:01AM
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I am just relieved he didn't step into the elevator shaft last year at a much later point in the year, would have really muddied up that contract.

Great Oiler.

If he stays on roster, limit him to 1/2 the games.

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#53 geoilersgist
April 18 2013, 10:01AM
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This is why I was really hoping the Oilers would make some magic happen and sneak in to the playoffs this year. He could have had one more kick at the playoff cat. I would love to see Smytty go out on top but it just doesn't seem like it is going to happen. Dare to dream that next season he is just a 4th liner playing 10min a night tops. If he is around next year and we make the playoffs that is the perfect time for him to retire. Hopefully he can contribute in that role.

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#54 leadfarmer
April 18 2013, 10:02AM
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Normally I wouldnt want him to continue the inbreeding of this organization by him getting a position in management with this club, but I would be ok with him becoming a consulting coach who teaches Hartikainen and MPS how to stand in front of the net and score dirty goals.

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#55 HugThePost
April 18 2013, 10:10AM
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Hard to say if his sub-par season this year was due to mostly the shortened intense season after a long lay off where he didn't play a ton of hockey or if his legs are really done?

I'd be ok with him coming back for another year in a very limited defined role (ie. 13th fwd who can slot in for injuries or specific match-ups, playing no more than 10 min a game). I think he still has something to offer a team trying to define itself, but if he does some soul-searching this summer and decides that's it, then he should be congratulated for a stellar career.

Yep, he's made his money and has a bit of a history of making sure he gets paid, but I am not going to get snarky at him for that. On any given game night, his career and livelihood could have ended, especially with the way he plays. It's not his fault that hockey players that can play like him are worth a lot of money.

If he were up for it, he would be a perfect fit as some kind of public relations guy for the Oilers---he seems to have a very close bond with oiler fans.

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#56 Quicksilver ballet
April 18 2013, 10:11AM
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Worth a second look....

Dear Sir:

I have enjoyed my time at Home Depot, but another opportunity has recently arisen.

Sincerely, Toby Petersen

p.s. You should really have someone check the showroom toilets. They don't flush very well at all.

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#57 VK63
April 18 2013, 10:13AM
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This year has been tough on a lot of legs.... Schultz Jr. is one that jumps to the fore in that respect as well.

In a comparative sense. Iggy with similar vintage legs and to an extent the same sort of roads travelled (robust) is suffering a similar fate with more gravy ice time and now a better supporting cast. 2 genos on the pp on that stacked roster is conceivable for smytty as well IMO.

However... my point is.. in a normal year with proper management of rest to game ratios, he probably has more than what he is showing this year. Yah he isn't the same guy as 06 but his PK work saves an ebs or a hall from taking a Shea Webber clapper in the laces and he does still battle in the trenches and muck about in front of the net. With improvement in the bottom 6 cast (assuming he stays) the ability to get to the net and create havoc would be greatly improved with possession of the puck (just sayin). :)

I suspect he has a decent year to close out the contract. my 2c.

If not.... be well smytty. Few have battled so hard for so little. Colour me impressed.

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#58 Bucknuck
April 18 2013, 10:52AM
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Jay wrote:

I have a dream, that next year we make the playoffs and smytty wills this team to the finals once more and retires with the cup over his head

Wouldn't that be amazing. The odds are a zillion to one... but it's a worthy dream. I'm with ya.

Smytty was my favourite player for years. I was so pissed off when Lowe traded him that I was happy to see the team tank, which was a first for me.

If he is still an effective penalty killer and can put away fifteen points on the fourth line next year then I believe they should keep him. He's one of those types of people that never gives up on a puck and is a true competitor that MAcT is looking for so I don't think it makes sense to do anything else. He's not worth anything in a trade at this point.

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#59 The Soup Fascist
April 18 2013, 10:52AM
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Rob... wrote:

Since it's so far fetched, can we add to your dream? Perhaps also adding in Kate Upton marrying an Oiler, moving to Edmonton and faithfully cheering on the Copper'n'Blue, promising to perform a 'shirts off for Horcoff' if they win the cup.

She is a hockey fan and dissed Sean Avery .....

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/984078-sean-avery-rangers-forward-gets-owned-by-model-kate-upton-in-twitter-battle

.... what is not to like? Maybe Hall will have to "take one for the team".

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#60 Spydyr
April 18 2013, 11:00AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

She is a hockey fan and dissed Sean Avery .....

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/984078-sean-avery-rangers-forward-gets-owned-by-model-kate-upton-in-twitter-battle

.... what is not to like? Maybe Hall will have to "take one for the team".

You mean take two for the team.

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#61 Keg on Legs
April 18 2013, 11:16AM
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You put Smytty on LTIR(with some kind of injury), put him in a position to mentor, teach and whatever else he can to give the new kids on the block his intestinal fortitude and will to win

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#62 zenoil
April 18 2013, 11:16AM
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HE is SLOWWWWWW. He's taken up a young mans roster spot and pay slip. The man is a legend, but all legends must put down there shield and walk the paths of the common man. See you at walmart Smyth. The Mullet will live on forever.

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#63 The Soup Fascist
April 18 2013, 11:25AM
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Spydyr wrote:

You mean take two for the team.

I stand corrected.

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#64 TKB2677
April 18 2013, 12:01PM
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I hope the Oilers either force Smyth to retire or buy him out because I don't think he will do it on his own.

As much as I respect what he has done for the Oilers. It's just time. He's 37 yrs old. He was an average skater to begin with and clearly he has lost several steps as he can't get there anymore. He's not small but he's not overly big. He's never been physical. He's not tough or is he one of those guys that you would say he's "tough to play against".

The Oilers lack big, physical, tough to play against guys in the bottom 6 that chip in with some goals to provide secondary scoring. The Oilers severly lack secondary scoring. Smyth has never been any of the things I listed and now he isn't scoring.

Again, I respect the hell out of what he has done for the Oilers and tip my cap to him as he's been a very good Oiler. However, isn't Smyth one of the poster boys of what is wrong with the Oilers forwards? A guy lacking many of the dimensions they need especially in the bottom 6 and now he's a guy that provides zero offence.

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#65 Velo
April 18 2013, 12:07PM
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He's a LW playing center at his age in a hyper-condensed schedule! I'm not delusional and thinking there's a lot left, but to think he can't handle 4LW and PK next year is nuts. To expect more is also nuts.

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#66 t-dogg
April 18 2013, 12:12PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

It's called precedence. Lowe's record doesn't impact Smyth's potential, but what in Smyth's record suggests he would have a successful career in hockey beyond playing? I'm nitpicking as I wouldn't categorize Lowe as unsuccessful, but I simply wouldn't offer Smyth a job because he had a great playing career.

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#67 John
April 18 2013, 12:20PM
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You guys are hyprocrites. Complain about the old boys club and then say that Smyth should be hired on. Don't worry though, Smyth will be the head coach in about 7 years.

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#68 Oiler Al
April 18 2013, 12:29PM
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Anything you do for/to Smyth, should also apply to Horcoff!. Thanks for the memories but we are moving on... you guys are not part of the solution anymore.

If you are turning the page for one guy, then should apply to both.

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#69 Rob...
April 18 2013, 12:41PM
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The moment last game that strikes me as the most telling was when he was skating back to touch the puck on an icing late in the game. Smyth skated back extra slow because he wanted to berate the ref for not calling a perceived penalty. I expected a veteran competitor to skate as fast as he can for that f'n puck, knowing that every second counts in the comeback attempt. Send him packing.

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#70 TKB2677
April 18 2013, 12:49PM
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Take the name off the back of the jersey and the vision of taking a puck in the face 7 years ago in 06.

We are talking about a 37 YEAR OLD going to be 38 next season bottom 6 winger that doesn't bang, isn't tough, isn't overly big, has never been a good skater and now is even worse who's scoring touch seems to be gone.

Is there seriously NO ONE else better? If it wasn't Ryan Smyth, no one would care but because it's Smyth, that means the Oilers have to give up a roster spot because of past deeds? Seriously people, I thought the point was to get better?

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#71 Milli
April 18 2013, 01:23PM
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When Smyth was traded, it broke my heart, and changed the way I looked at the game for a long, long time. I cried. When he came back, I was estatic! He if anyone belongs in Copper and Blue forever. Once an OILER, always an OILER! It's time for him to hang em up, the lock out ensured that, but he best always be a part of this team, this organization. That's what classy franchises do. I trust that MacT will make this decision, and it will be gut wrenching for him. It will be for me too! I don't know how many Oilers fans, that are in there 30's or older, who have wacthed this guy grow up and play his guts out game after game year after year, that don't absolutley love him! He is an OILER!!!!!!

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#72 Vaclav
April 18 2013, 01:29PM
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Smyth might bleed copper and blue but he ain't no Dorothy Mantooth. He's not going to abandon $2.25M by retiring (at least not unless the scouting position offered by the organization pays him $2.25M).

The only way his Oiler career is ending next season is with a buyout or the LTIR.

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#73 dave
April 18 2013, 01:46PM
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Over the off-season, Smyth works himself into the best shape of his life and cements his roster spot and threatens up the line up all year. BOOK IT!

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#74 Ari Gold
April 18 2013, 01:57PM
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I've been saying this for 2 years. Thank you for finally acknowledging it! Smits is a warrior and an inspiration but without his 'it' factor, he's just an old untalented man in cinder block skates working on NHL 95 software.

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#75 Romulus' Apotheosis
April 18 2013, 03:10PM
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t-dogg wrote:

It's called precedence. Lowe's record doesn't impact Smyth's potential, but what in Smyth's record suggests he would have a successful career in hockey beyond playing? I'm nitpicking as I wouldn't categorize Lowe as unsuccessful, but I simply wouldn't offer Smyth a job because he had a great playing career.

Why not?

I wouldn't hesitate to let him assistant coach with the Oil Kings for a year, or scout pro, am, or euro.

Almost all the people occupying all off-ice positions in hockey used to play. Some are good, some are bad.

Ruling out Smyth before he's tried something he's uniquely positioned to do.. is asinine.

Mistakes are made when you give someone a top job (NHL head coach, GM, etc.) with no experience, not when you put someone in a position of minor responsibility and see if they flourish.

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#76 Serious Gord
April 18 2013, 04:02PM
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Rob... wrote:

The moment last game that strikes me as the most telling was when he was skating back to touch the puck on an icing late in the game. Smyth skated back extra slow because he wanted to berate the ref for not calling a perceived penalty. I expected a veteran competitor to skate as fast as he can for that f'n puck, knowing that every second counts in the comeback attempt. Send him packing.

Excellent observation. I have seen horcoff do similar things. Both players are far too comfortable with losing.

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#77 The Soup Fascist
April 18 2013, 04:14PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Why not?

I wouldn't hesitate to let him assistant coach with the Oil Kings for a year, or scout pro, am, or euro.

Almost all the people occupying all off-ice positions in hockey used to play. Some are good, some are bad.

Ruling out Smyth before he's tried something he's uniquely positioned to do.. is asinine.

Mistakes are made when you give someone a top job (NHL head coach, GM, etc.) with no experience, not when you put someone in a position of minor responsibility and see if they flourish.

To his credit, during the strike he spent a ton of time with the Oil Kings on and off the ice. I think he was a bit more focused on the Oiler picks, but by all accounts was awesome to all the kids and showed them what the expectations of a true professional are.

That may be an excellent jumping off point for him.

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#78 The Soup Fascist
April 18 2013, 04:25PM
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Vaclav wrote:

Smyth might bleed copper and blue but he ain't no Dorothy Mantooth. He's not going to abandon $2.25M by retiring (at least not unless the scouting position offered by the organization pays him $2.25M).

The only way his Oiler career is ending next season is with a buyout or the LTIR.

Thanks. Count it a day lost you don't learn something. I actually had to google Dorthy Mantooth to see what the flip you were talking about. Funny .... and timely ..... Anchorman 2 in theatres this December - just in time for Oscar consideration.

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#79 path
April 18 2013, 04:27PM
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Good article. I've been a huge fan of Smyth for years,and it's difficult watching him this year.

One comment though. Robin writes, "Nostalgia, after all, only goes so far."

Perhaps a caveat should be added to that. For it would seem that nostalgia is, in fact, boundless - so long as it involves a person with 6 cup rings.

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#80 keilan
April 18 2013, 06:12PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Disagreed with signing him for two years.

Supported lowes trading him away.

Earlier this season said he should have retired as it was clear that he had dropped below NHL caliber.

Retiring midseason was the gentlemanly way out. It would have been the selfless way to do it.

But me Smyth was selfish when he wanted more than the oil could give - and got traded.

Then he was selfish to his employers the kings by publically demanding g he be traded back to the oil

Again he was thinking if himself first by asking for two years (and KL&T were too generous in signing him to it.

Now finally he won't retire willingly for the good of the team.

I know many on this site and in the oilosphere think he is near god-like. I think at the very least he had a fall from grace during the negotiations that ultimately sent him to Colorado. And since his return to the oil he hasn't exactly played the same work ethic he was reputed to have had when he was here originally.

Seriously Gord, the informed silent majority feel as you do.

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#81 Chet134
April 18 2013, 06:17PM
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If Ryan Smyth is on this team next year then we are not a playoff team. This club has to move forward with new leadership and a different make up. This team now has quit on the coaching staff and the blame should be put on the leadership of this squad ie horkoff, hemsky, smyth etc. Quit putting the blame on the coaching staff and look at the leaders.

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#82 keilan
April 18 2013, 06:19PM
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closetgm wrote:

If you cant see the heart and soul of Ryam Smyth you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Is this post seriously a joke?

If one moment defines smytty its the 06 playoffs when he spits out his chicklets after getting hit in the face by a pronger slap shot and goes on to score the winning goal that game. if thats not heart i dont know what is.

You should be ashamed of yourself

You are a drama queen

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#83 Dave
April 18 2013, 08:23PM
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There is no room for sentimentality. This is a business . They signed Smyth for all the wrong reasons and he should be bought out.

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