Different Directions

Jonathan Willis
March 17 2014 09:06PM

94-Smyth-1

Ryan Smyth and Ryan Jones have a lot in common. They share a first name, an NHL team, both play (primarily) on the wing, and are both bound for unrestricted free agency this summer. Where they differ is in the Oilers’ likely interest in retaining their respective services.

The Coach’s Voice

Dallas Eakins 15

Over the course of a season, head coaches say a lot about the players under their watch. With media interviews after practices, before games, after games and sometimes just because, a dedicated listener can get a pretty good idea of how an NHL bench boss sees the players he’s putting on the ice (or in the pressbox) every night.

But coaches do more than talk about their players; they also assign ice-time. And while the verbal on a player can be misleading for one reason or other, the ice-time almost never is. Coaches want to win hockey games; they use the guys who can help them do that more than the guys who don’t.

Right now, the ice-time makes it very clear how this head coach views the two Ryans:

TOI Smyth v Jones

Two Ryans

28-Jones-4

Smyth and Jones have been leaned on in similar roles over their time together in Edmonton. Both have seen plenty of time on the penalty kill, some time on the power play (more of it for Smyth than Jones) and largely a checking line role at even-strength.

At even-strength, things aren’t close. Both players are on the fourth line, but Smyth has frequently been bumped up to the top nine; Jones almost never has. Jones has played over eight minutes at evens in a game just once since the end of January; Smyth has done it seven times in his last 10 contests.

On the power play, previous coaches have had time for Jones, but not Dallas Eakins. Eakins has used Jones just once (Mar. 13 against St. Louis) since the start of November. The player got a longer look on the penalty kill, but appears to have been written out of the rotation of late. Smyth is a regular on both units.

So long, Ryan(s?)

Craig MacTavish6

Craig MacTavish is under no obligation to sign either Smyth or Jones, and may well decide to part ways with both players this summer. But if he’s going to keep one, it’ll almost certainly be Smyth, because that’s the guy the coaches find useful.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Oiler Al
March 17 2014, 09:23PM
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J.R. wrote:

I'd take Smyth for another year.

I would take Arcobello.

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#2 J.R.
March 17 2014, 09:19PM
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I'd take Smyth for another year.

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#3 oilerjed
March 17 2014, 09:30PM
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Two thoughts on Ryan Smyth 1. If he doesn't make it to 1000 games as an Oiler the management will have exhausted any goodwill I have left for this team 2. For a team that is going to struggle to mold young talent next year, a veteran that has Smyth's class and work ethic should be undoubtedly suitable for the 4th line\PK role.

Bonus thought: If he scored 10+ goals and 23+ points this year he is most likely good for at least 5 goals and 15 points nextyear. Which would be more then the rest of our 4th line combined if you exclude Smytty.

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#4 ThatButthurtOilersFan
March 17 2014, 10:02PM
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Fred wrote:

I would take O'sullivan

Looks like you had a good St. Patty's day.

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#5 Cold Hard Truth
March 17 2014, 10:43PM
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I was listening to Bob Stauffer today.

One caller argued that the Oilers should package their 1st overall and Eberle for a top-tier defenceman and a top-6 forward with grit -- something I think would be doable and highly in the Oilers' interests.

Stauffer replied: "Oh no way you trade Eberle. He's one of the four horsemen of the Oilers, etc."

This is exactly the wrong approach: You should never fall in love with your assets. A wise GM would shrewdly use the team's surplus (for the Oilers that is highly skilled forwards) to balance out the team's deficits (which for the Oilers is clearly a lack of a top defence pairing, and perhaps a 2-way centerman) in order to round the team out and make it more competitive as a whole.

The Oilers and the fans better hope that MacTavish doen't think like Stauffer or else the perpetual rebuild will continue.

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#6 oilerjed
March 17 2014, 09:32PM
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Realist wrote:

Both Ryan's are good at what they do, and both can be valuable contributors in their respective role's on a competetitive NHL team. Both also deserve to play on a NHL team, and we don't have one of those in edmonton

Sadly I cant think of a single thing that Jones can do well.

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#7 Max
March 17 2014, 10:19PM
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Both Ryans have been loyal to the Oilers, Smyth a +1 ambassador for the team. He ASKED to come back, could have won the cup with the Kings, but CHOSE to be an Oiler. That in itself, IMO, gives him the heads up for next season. He may be the healthy scratch on a regular basis, but his experience, mentor-ship, work ethic and loyalty far outweigh anything anyone else has to offer right now. As much as I like Jones, Ryan Smyth gets my vote any day of the week. If anyone knows what work ethic is, it's him. If anyone is the face/voice and heart of the Oilers, it's him.

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#8 Jeffff
March 17 2014, 09:56PM
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Funny how fans think it is the players that make the difference. Oilers culture is horrible, the management does not know how to build a team. Players growth is stunted in Edmonton. They ruin players. 8 years of facts and still fans cannot see it.

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#9 Realist
March 17 2014, 09:52PM
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Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston etc could all plug him in on their 4th lines and not skip a beat. He is not the problem on the pathetic sad excuse of an NHL team

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#10 Tuningout
March 17 2014, 09:51PM
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But if it takes 82 games to learn Eakins systems we better keep them both. Otherwise they have to bring in 2 new players and give them 82 games to learn how to completely ignore open players in the slot.

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#11 The Worrier
March 17 2014, 09:24PM
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I don't see Smyth going anywhere. This team needs veteran leadership. It seems natural they will hang on to him. The flow must go.

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#12 Peter
March 18 2014, 08:03AM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I am quite sure Bob is echoing the actual plans of the team, they have probably told him those are the four, I feel pretty uncomfortable that Perron isn't in that group, I also think Eberle would still be an asset that gets something that is needed, another year like the last two and his contract will be Horcoff/Ganger/Clarkson like.

Eberle has 50 points in 68 games...

Clarkson has 10 points in 47 games and you say that this season is a dud for Eberle. It is amazing how completely clueless some Oilers fans are.

Eberle is 45th in points in the entire league and you say he is a bust. It isn't his fault management builds a team of all small,skilled forwards, but stop expecting him to be something he isn't.

Saying this season is a bust is one of the dumbest things I've read on here. The more I read the comment section here the more I realize why the writers are responding less and less.

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#13 johnnyG
March 17 2014, 10:22PM
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Can't complain. I like smyths game lately. Also, he brings more presence to the dressing room then jonesy. I say we keep captain Canada for one more year.

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#14 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
March 17 2014, 09:12PM
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Thanks for the memories boys but lets turn the page. When Smyth leaves it will be the end of a terrible era for most Oilers fans. If the Oilers sign either of them it is a declaration that change hasn't taken hold in the City of Champs. Or keep them both and go for McDavid?

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#15 Sid
March 17 2014, 09:46PM
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Does not matter. Oilers are not making the playoffs next year.

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#16 dougtheslug
March 17 2014, 10:16PM
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Oilerboy1112 wrote:

I have a feeling a lot of people will be eating their words when the Oilers finally make the playoffs.

Crow is best eaten when it's young and tender. I'm afraid when I get around to eating mine it's going to be old, tough and mouldy.

But believe me, if that day arrives I'll dine with pleasure.

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#17 Realist
March 17 2014, 09:22PM
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Both Ryan's are good at what they do, and both can be valuable contributors in their respective role's on a competetitive NHL team. Both also deserve to play on a NHL team, and we don't have one of those in edmonton

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#18 Realist
March 17 2014, 09:50PM
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oilerjed wrote:

Sadly I cant think of a single thing that Jones can do well.

He's an energy guy, 4th line, 5-6 minutes. Can skate, get in on the forecheck, has decent hands around the net, can play the body, cycle and gets to the net.

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#19 Dave
March 18 2014, 01:52AM
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Can't trade eberle, he's got the next year booked with commercials to film.

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#20 Jacques Strap
March 18 2014, 07:05AM
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Smyth will probably be coaching the powerplay next year. Ahh, I can see it now - four Oilers in the crease with one back to defend the 3 on 1. Good times.

Don't get me wrong, I respect Smytty as much as the next guy, and I believe loyalty is a great quality. I just don't believe it is the one and only important quality, like the 6 ring circus seems to.

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#21 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
March 17 2014, 09:50PM
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Wish list 1. Dustin Byfuglien 2. Radim Vrbata 3. Chris Stewart 4. Steve Ott 5. Kyle Quincey

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#22 Grimm
March 17 2014, 10:18PM
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Oilerboy1112 wrote:

I have a feeling a lot of people will be eating their words when the Oilers finally make the playoffs.

We will all be dead before the Oilers make the playoffs.

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#23 Hall Awaits
March 17 2014, 09:37PM
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My heart still really loves Ryan Smyth and I would play him above Gazdic and Joensuu if those are the options next year. But if those are the options then we failed in filling the holes on the third line. We need one of Winnik, Kulemin or Penner at least to put Hendricks on the 4th line. Hendricks looks good early but depth is everything.

As for Ryan Jones I think he's on a two way deal in another organization within 8 months.

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#24 wintoon
March 18 2014, 05:58AM
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Last summer MacT stated he needed to upgrade the bottom 6. He has begun to do this, however, keeping either of these Ryans will not fit his plan. He needs speed and some aggressiveness which is something neither of these players provide.

The next time Smyth throws a body check will be the first time this year and he does not have speed. Jones never throws a body check he just slams into the glass/boards close to some opponent so it looks like he is checking.

The Oilers should let both players go and further cut their ties to the era of futility. To me Smyth is symbolic of the ineptness of the Oilers. While he has made a modest contribution over the years I think he has been vastly over rated by Oiler fans for years.

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#25 Jeffff
March 17 2014, 09:50PM
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If Chicago Black Hawks team were traded for the Oilers. Oilers would not make the playoffs.

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#26 dougtheslug
March 17 2014, 10:11PM
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Jeffff wrote:

If Chicago Black Hawks team were traded for the Oilers. Oilers would not make the playoffs.

You're saying Chicago would make that trade? Are they one of the 15 NHL teams that Kevin Lowe said would trade their roster for the Oilers roster?

I wonder who the other fourteen are. Kevin? Any hints?

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#27 **
March 17 2014, 11:15PM
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The Worrier wrote:

I don't see Smyth going anywhere. This team needs veteran leadership. It seems natural they will hang on to him. The flow must go.

Yeah, because Smyth staying a minute and 40 seconds out on the power play instead of changing for someone with fresh legs is a great example of selflessness and discipline.

He did great things, but it's time for him to go. Pitilck can fill in for him. As for Jones, it is not difficult to find someone who does what he does on a fourth line.

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#28 -30-
March 18 2014, 08:34AM
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Remember when Ryan Smith was returning from LA to play for the Oilers?

At the time many of us here were optimistic that he would impart a work ethic with the younger players. He would show them how much grit and determination was necessary to win in the NHL.

A lot of games have passed since he returned to the fold and I don't see too many of the young guys that have learned any lessons from him. Has he been the leader that we had hoped for? I dunno.

You tell me.

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#29 dougtheslug
March 17 2014, 10:52PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I hope it happens before the Ravens have taken over,they are a lot more to chock down. Doug I bet you are all excited about the season ticket renewal that is just around the corner, I know I'm not,my children all makes more money than me say, "I'll buy games off you if you renew them", I have 5 games left that I either have to go to our waste out of the last 10,exciting.

Next year? I'm working like a dog trying to get people to take the rest of this year's tickets off my hands. That Buffalo game on Thursday is a real popular item.

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#30 Al Low
March 18 2014, 08:24AM
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Smyth still plays hard and chips in where he can. I think he'll be brought back. He's a good fit for the 4th line. The focus needs to be on the top 6 this year. The bottom 6 is not the problem with this group.

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#31 Oilerboy1112
March 17 2014, 10:10PM
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I have a feeling a lot of people will be eating their words when the Oilers finally make the playoffs.

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#32 Oliveoiler
March 17 2014, 10:29PM
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I think #94 should be signed another year - even if he sits a few games here and there. When they are practicing he can be a mentor, he can guide the younger players and fill in when needed. I'm hoping that if we go 0-4 out of the gate next season, Eakins will be history. If things improve, then give him the season to make things happen. He may be the lousiest coach since Patrick Quinn, but he has made a few improvements. Personally, I'd have the Renney/Krueger tandem any day over what we have now - but they sure as hell wouldn't sign here again.

Blaming the coach and/or the players is natural for us armchair coaches - the blame lies on both sides. Lack of work ethic and commitment from the team's youngsters and lack of experience from HC. Teaching the kids defense is so important, but holding them back from their given skills as forwards is not fair. Perhaps, once we get top line D men, and with the youngsters knowing how to defend, things will be much brighter. Until then, don't let #94 go, he is irreplaceable. And regardless of being a cup winner or not, he deserves to have his #94 retired. Ryan Smyth has done more to promote the Oilers than any other player - before or since.

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#33 whoaaaaa
March 18 2014, 09:57AM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

It wasn't fair of me lumping him in with those two, I don't expect him to be a crashing banger but he needs to put more of a defensive effort in and be able to get points without playing with Hall. It was also nice of you to call me dumb twice, don't agree with my comment fine,I'm old school and if I am going to be calling people names than I better be prepared to do it face to face. The amount of Rods in Viking you can count on one hand, the ones that are season ticket holders on one finger, I am real easy to find are you.

Holy Cow, Rodney! Are challenging Peter to an engagement of fisticuffs if he calls you "dumb", and then wants to travel to Viking,and then wants to find you...that doesn't seem "dumb" at all. Dumb would be a step up from that.

Maybe you could meet him in the schoolyard by the monkey bars at recess...that would make sense.

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#34 Rod from Viking
March 17 2014, 10:49PM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

I was listening to Bob Stauffer today.

One caller argued that the Oilers should package their 1st overall and Eberle for a top-tier defenceman and a top-6 forward with grit -- something I think would be doable and highly in the Oilers' interests.

Stauffer replied: "Oh no way you trade Eberle. He's one of the four horsemen of the Oilers, etc."

This is exactly the wrong approach: You should never fall in love with your assets. A wise GM would shrewdly use the team's surplus (for the Oilers that is highly skilled forwards) to balance out the team's deficits (which for the Oilers is clearly a lack of a top defence pairing, and perhaps a 2-way centerman) in order to round the team out and make it more competitive as a whole.

The Oilers and the fans better hope that MacTavish doen't think like Stauffer or else the perpetual rebuild will continue.

I am quite sure Bob is echoing the actual plans of the team, they have probably told him those are the four, I feel pretty uncomfortable that Perron isn't in that group, I also think Eberle would still be an asset that gets something that is needed, another year like the last two and his contract will be Horcoff/Ganger/Clarkson like.

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#35 pkam
March 18 2014, 08:55AM
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Max wrote:

Both Ryans have been loyal to the Oilers, Smyth a +1 ambassador for the team. He ASKED to come back, could have won the cup with the Kings, but CHOSE to be an Oiler. That in itself, IMO, gives him the heads up for next season. He may be the healthy scratch on a regular basis, but his experience, mentor-ship, work ethic and loyalty far outweigh anything anyone else has to offer right now. As much as I like Jones, Ryan Smyth gets my vote any day of the week. If anyone knows what work ethic is, it's him. If anyone is the face/voice and heart of the Oilers, it's him.

I don't think the Kings could have won the cup with Smyth.

If Kings didn't free up that 6.25M from Smyth's salary, they wouldn't have the cap space to trade for Carter. And we all know that even with Carter, the Kings barely made the playoff. How likely would they make the playoff with Smyth instead of Carter? And how could they win the cup if they didn't make the playoff?

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#36 Spydyr
March 18 2014, 10:51AM
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Teams that hold onto players past their prime because of past memories miss the playoffs.

So I fully expect "The Braintrust" to sign Smyth for one more year.With predictable results.

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#37 Fred
March 17 2014, 09:31PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

I would take Arcobello.

I would take O'sullivan

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#38 Dave
March 17 2014, 10:03PM
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If I was either Ryan id be asking for a trade or to be sent down to the minors. No chance in hell I'd resign here. Anything's gotta be better then playing on the joke of the league

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#39 GriffCity
March 18 2014, 08:53AM
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Peter wrote:

Eberle has 50 points in 68 games...

Clarkson has 10 points in 47 games and you say that this season is a dud for Eberle. It is amazing how completely clueless some Oilers fans are.

Eberle is 45th in points in the entire league and you say he is a bust. It isn't his fault management builds a team of all small,skilled forwards, but stop expecting him to be something he isn't.

Saying this season is a bust is one of the dumbest things I've read on here. The more I read the comment section here the more I realize why the writers are responding less and less.

50 pts in 68 games isn't exactly a great pace for a 6 million dollar man. Hemsky used to continuously get similar number for less money and everyone said he was overpaid and under producing. Eberle has had a bad year by those standards and when compared to other forwards getting paid 6 million dollars I will bet you find him near the very bottom of that list this season.

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#40 Tim in Kelowna
March 18 2014, 12:03AM
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I'd be happy if we gave him a one year deal. For a team this young and inexperienced, Smytty is a virtual fountain of wisdom and experience. Plus he'd be cheap.

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#41 Grimm
March 17 2014, 10:25PM
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johnnyG wrote:

Can't complain. I like smyths game lately. Also, he brings more presence to the dressing room then jonesy. I say we keep captain Canada for one more year.

He is the only captain of the Oilers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yxLlZkknv0

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#42 Dangilitis
March 17 2014, 10:46PM
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Things Smytty provides:

PK/PP experience Heart, grit, and spit Mullet Fan admiration Veteran voice, well-respected

Things people don't realize: In reduced role, being forced to center Frankenstein's cousin and Jones on the 4th line, is 7th in forward scoring (e.g. top 9 scoring), and 3rd in PP goals. 7th in points/60 min on 5 vs 5 situations.

Corsi stats peg him as 3rd best on the team with only 36% of shifts starting in offensive zone (finishing 43% of the time in the offensive zone), and facing the 7th highest competition quality of all forwards.

Basically, he is performing like a #7 forward while playing as a center on the 4th line for much of the year, while filling a valuable PK role for the team, in an area where the Oilers are remarkably above average (currently 13th PK unit league-wide).

Betting on him to maintain 3rd line production next year is foolish. That is clearly not how they have played him this year either, but he is clearly exceeding expectations in that 4th line role.

If the Oilers offer him a contract in the 1 mil range to play a 4th line role and to occasionally slot in the top 9 (ideally in both situations as a winger), then based on this year's performance, I think it might be a nice contract.

And for those who say he's on his last legs, can't argue. But, if you read Gregor's article today, those who make it in the NHL based on work ethic tend to carve out long careers, and Smytty is the epitome of such a player. If he is motivated in the off-season, I will bet that he does not have a significant drop-off in his performance.

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#43 Woogie63
March 17 2014, 10:53PM
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I like Smyth as a 13th forward, he has earned it.

On the hand

We are playing him way too much.

We need to sign a few FA big bodys or give that ice time to either of the Hamiltons, Moroz or Pilick.

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#44 Westcoastoil
March 17 2014, 10:56PM
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And please bring back Smytty. He can still play and lead and after everything he's put into this team I'd hate to see him hang up the blades after another season wasted by his employers

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#45 Serious Gord
March 17 2014, 11:07PM
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We can get better than either. Smyth certainly doesn't seem to be doing much as a mentor. Should have retired after the lockout.

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#46 **
March 18 2014, 03:36AM
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mesa wrote:

i am ready to freaking eat anything but let them make the damn playoff.and by the way is Ryan jones still playing here,i thought he was put on weaver.

he was, he weaved ponchos for the whole team and then he got to play. he was not WAIVED though.

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#47 Rod from Viking
March 18 2014, 09:17AM
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pkam wrote:

I don't think the Kings could have won the cup with Smyth.

If Kings didn't free up that 6.25M from Smyth's salary, they wouldn't have the cap space to trade for Carter. And we all know that even with Carter, the Kings barely made the playoff. How likely would they make the playoff with Smyth instead of Carter? And how could they win the cup if they didn't make the playoff?

You are right on, especially since Ryan's heart was back in Edmonton, the trade did all Ryan, LA and the Oilers a favor, Ryan got to come home, LA won a cup and Oiler management kind of mended the way the trade went in 07.

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#48 Dodd
March 18 2014, 09:35AM
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** wrote:

he was, he weaved ponchos for the whole team and then he got to play. he was not WAIVED though.

In your rush to have a laugh at the spelling error, you seem to have forgotten that Jones indeed was waived, in September, I think.

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#49 TKB2677
March 18 2014, 09:41AM
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As much as I agree that Smyth surprisingly has been quite effective this year. Given the way he played last season I thought he was done but clearly the lock out effected him a lot. So I give him credit for his bounce back year. I also deeply respect and appreciate all that he has done for the Oilers both on the ice an off of it.

With all that being said, I really have some concerns. The first one is. He's going to be 39 years old next season. I don't doubt he will come to camp in great shape but he was never the best skater in his prime. He's already lost a couple of steps now just because of age. At 39 yrs old next season, its not like he won't get any faster and in all likelihood might lose another step. In a game that gets faster and faster, is it not going in the opposite direction putting out a 39 yr old slowing down winger? My second concern. Again with him being 39 yrs old, there is a HUGE risk that he is just going to drop off completely. Your body has only so much to give and with the very hard miles he has put on his body, at some point his body is just going to say no more. His body will give out LONG BEFORE Smyth's heart or willingness to retire will kick in. Can the Oilers risk that happening? My 3rd concern. At what point do you turn the page completely on the old guard? Smyth is the last hold over from the old days. IMO if you want to completely exercise the ghost of the past, you need to get rid of everyone. With Smyth around, you can never fully turn the team over especially to the young guys like everyone says needs to happen - including former players.

So my question. Despite Smyth's good, useful play this year, is there seriously no one else out their that can do a similar job that isn't 39 yrs old next season? I just have a hard time believing that a 39 yr old is the best option for a 4th line spot. I would personally much rather see his spot go to a bigger, tougher, more physical player that is a lot younger. Yes Smyth can go a lot of things mostly because he has played so long and relies on vet savy but can we not find someone that isn't old enough to be half the teams dad? Plus with the Oilers roster still filled with holes, can the Oilers afford to use a roster spot and gamble that a 39 yr old, hard miles winger has 1 more good year left in him? The odds of Smyth even being close to what he is this year at 39 are SO long, I don't see how you can take a chance. If the Oilers want to turn the corner, they can't afford to use roster spots on guys that probably won't contribute.

I know a lot of Oiler fans will scoff at what I said but if you take off your Smyth jersey for a minute, ignore the name and don't focus on what he's done inthe glory days and look strictly at the player what what he is at this point in his career. If the Oilers next season signed a going to be 39 yr old player, everyone of us would be losing it calling for heads to roll. So just because it happens to be Ryan Smyth and we all have warm, fuzzy feelings about him, shouldn't make it ok.

Avatar
#50 Chainsawz
March 18 2014, 12:06AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
5
cheers

Smyth resigning with the Oilers is most likely up to Katz and Smyth and has absolutely nothing to do with MacTavish.

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