RYAN SMYTH: ALL HAIL THE MULLET

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.

  • smyttysucks

    unbelievable. how is it that someone who has tried hard but never really accomplished anything shall have his name amongst the greatest ever. smyth is one of the most overrated nhl players in recordable history and now we want to display him with the greatest. why? i will give him some credit though, he has achieved above average numbers with marginal talent. he rode the coattails of millionaires to an olympic gold, achived average numbers in the cup run, and chose to leave, thats right, CHOSE to leave edmonton for about 100000 grand a year. he is slow, old, a poor stickhandler and basically an average hockey player, but for some reason every loser in this town wants to bang him and greasy hair and would probably take an 18 year old smyth over an 18 year old RNH or Hall. F U smyth. F U.

    • Spaghetti - Team Facalto

      Bitter much or just jealous? Smyth has done more for this city and team that someone like you could ever understand. Why don`t you go play in rush hour traffic.

      P.S. I noticed that you didn`t specify a star in your profile, maybe fill that in as Pronger dill hole

      • smyttysucks

        rush hour traffic is usually pretty slow jackass. perhaps if smytty was able to fix the flow of traffic in this city i would be able to love and adore him like the rest of you idiots. what has he done for this city?? made millions of dollars and paid taxes?? and before you go spouting off about the stollery and other charities remeber that 99% of these guys do the same thing. and hell ya i like pronger. him and pisani are the reason we actually had the stanley cup in edmonton for three home games. i would take skill over “heart and soul” anyday. hes overrated

        • Spaghetti - Team Facalto

          Figured you’re the type of person who would cheer for a guy like Pronger who almost single handedly destroyed this team instead of a guy who would do anything to come back here. While you’re at it cheer Souray. It’s your right to have an opinion even though you’re wrong.

        • WOAHHHH BENJAMIN!! Weren’t you suppose to post that comment on Sens nation? Oh wait, there’s not Sens nation. You know why? Cos they suck and no one cares about them just like you you pickle. (I really hate pickles especially on my burgers).

          To quote Floyd mayweather jr

          “haters are just confused fans”

        • You’ve crossed the line now. You don’t get to come to Oilernation and call somebody a jackass. Only I get to do that — our readership has come to expect it from me.

          So, while I was gracious in my previous comment to you, I’m now telling you to shut it and go away. We don’t need your traffic/page views/post count here at Oilersnation.

          We’re doing gangbusters for business because sharp people run this site and some reasonably intelligent folks — Moneypuck is a member of MENSA, even if he now resides in an asylum — choose to visit our little website often and talk all things Oilers. They even get to disagree with what’s written.

          What they don’t get to do is come and be knobs, which is what you are. We aren’t a depot for mal-adjusted misfits who have nothing better to do with their empty lives than write things with the sole intention of pissing people off. So, take the hint and take a hike. You can go away or I can make you go away. Your call, jackass.

          Those inclined to do so may continue to hail the mullet now.

        • Spaghetti - Team Facalto

          I noticed that but didn’t want to call a Troll a Troll, but there it is.

          On second thoughts he may just be a hater, and we all know as Hordy put it that haters are just confused fans, so buy hating on Smyth like this it just really means he is cheering him on the inside.

  • smyttysucks

    unbelievable. how is it that someone who has tried hard but never really accomplished anything shall have his name amongst the greatest ever. smyth is one of the most overrated nhl players in recordable history and now we want to display him with the greatest. why? i will give him some credit though, he has achieved above average numbers with marginal talent. he rode the coattails of millionaires to an olympic gold, achived average numbers in the cup run, and chose to leave, thats right, CHOSE to leave edmonton for about 100000 grand a year. he is slow, old, a poor stickhandler and basically an average hockey player, but for some reason every loser in this town wants to bang him and greasy hair and would probably take an 18 year old smyth over an 18 year old RNH or Hall. F U smyth. F U.

    • 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.

      • Spaghetti - Team Facalto

        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

  • Greg MC

    I believe Ryan Smyth should be seriously considered for the HHOF when he retires but he would probably have to score 400+ goals, be close to 1000 points, and win a cup to have a realistic chance at being inducted.

  • Spaghetti - Team Facalto

    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

  • RexLibris

    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.

  • RexLibris

    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.

  • RexLibris

    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.

    • Jersey retirements don’t have set standards or a checklist of accomplishments that must be met, so it’s going to vary greatly from city to city.

      The standard is high here and I think that’s fine, even if it keeps numbers not going into the HHOF from being officially retired. There are. as you have noted, other ways of honoring players.

      As for other cities, you can’t push standards here on them. A lot of people here think Smyth deserves the retired jersey honor and that’s fine. You find that same backing for the guys you mentioned from Vancouver. All were long-time team captains, had good but not great numbers and contributed to the community in big ways — especially Linden.

      They are in the same category as Smyth is here — good but not great players who struck a special note in the cities they played in because of the connection they made with fans, their on-ice performance and their charitable work.

  • RexLibris

    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.

    • 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.