Ryan Smyth came to the Oilers in the 1994 draft with the sixth overall pick. He is currently sitting at just over 1150 games and 800 points. Not too shabby.
That is a nice little career he has built for himself. Nearly a hundred playoff games in the NHL and he has skated for Canada many times with the highlight being the 2002 gold medal in Salt Lake City. What an event to have been a part of!
He has said many times that he is an Oiler and never really thought of himself as anything else. Oilers fans all remember his press conference after being traded to the New York Islanders. Tears were flowing on both sides of the podium. But, after a few other stops he came back to where he felt he wanted to be.
I played against him in junior and the NHL. I can tell you that opposing defenceman were never fearful of his blistering shot or speed. But every time you played a shift against him you knew it wasn’t going to be easy. He has the ability to turn a harmless point shot into a minus in a hurry. His skill set is unique in the league.
He is listed somewhere around 200lbs, but he plays much heavier than that. He is great in front of the net, getting a stick on everything that comes within his reach and shoveling in the remaining rebounds. It really is incredible that guys like himself and Tomas Holmstrom excel at what seems like such an easy job. Why don’t more do it? Because it takes courage to stand in front of the net every night, and a lot of internal toughness to battle against bigger D-men.
Every night he goes to the blue paint and battles with defenceman and goalies alike. 374 goals later I think he is on to something!
I had been looking forward to having him as a guest on my show. We never played together but after many years of competing versus each other a healthy respect and even friendship develops. He stopped by last week to chat…..
With the lockout rolling along what are you doing to fill your time right now? The best alternative to playing has been hanging out with my family. We have been living in a RV while we build a new house. Now just waiting it out and being hopeful that the season starts.
Your living in a RV? You didn’t have any friends that could take you in for a month or two while you finish the house? Ha! It has actually been a great experience for us! So where have you put the RV? Did you just plug into your neighbor’s power? Actually All Star RV set me up! I think we lived in it for a full two months.
What? You are basically Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation! HA! Yeah, that is me!
You have been skating a lot with the Oil Kings. You haven’t played junior for sixteen years. What has that experience been like? Ha! Actually this is eighteen years! It has been really good. Obviously the kids are energetic and the practices are well run. Head coach Derek Laxdal has molded this group to be a championship team. They compete hard in practice. That helps me out and even though I hope the NHL gets going again it has been great experience. These young kids ask questions and are eager to learn. I am also open to learning from them as far as their creativity. With the Oilers we have Hallsy, Nuge and Ebs and watching them daily is phenomenal. It isn’t exactly the same but it is exciting being around these young players.
You mention the creativity of these young players. Isn’t it amazing how they are so willing to try anything? They dangle all over the place! I don’t remember younger players approaching the game the same way twenty years ago. I for sure wasn’t doing it but I don’t think many others were either. It seems to me it was more north / south type hockey. I think when we started out the mentality was chip, chip and go get it. But now the skill and speed is incredible. Sure they may turn it over but they go and get it again. Totally different mentality then we came to the league with.
You played with Canada’s world junior team in 1995 and won a gold medal. It is that time of year again. What do you remember most about your experience in 1995 and have you had a chance to talk to the Nuge about his upcoming go at gold? I remember quite a bit. With it being in Canada we had an extra attacker with the fans. The tourney was just down the road in Red Deer, it was pretty exciting. It was the best of the best. There was another lockout going on than so many would be NHLer’s were involved in the tourney. Guys like Allison and Daigle joined us. It is a great tournament.
For the Nuge this is a great opportunity. He has established himself in the NHL but you’re still playing. I think he didn’t make it a couple years ago and he has a bitter taste in his mouth. He would like to show everyone that he is for real! I haven’t had a real chance to talk to him. I was going to have him over for dinner the other night but it didn’t work out.
Is there an extra place sitting in the RV? Is there room for one more? I told you we are out of there! We are good now! Ha! We moved into the house.
Oh, ok. Did you make the RV into a guest house? Ha! No we gave it back!
Can you draw any parallels to guys who mentored you when you started your career to what you are now doing to this young group of Oiler players? When I broke in it was Kelly Buchberger, Luke Richardson, Arnott, Weight, the list goes on and on. These were guys to look up to and well respected around the league not just inside the Oilers organization. I just wanted to soak it all in. What I learned was not only in games but how hard you practiced if you wanted to better yourself as a player. I saw that every day out of these guys and that is what I wanted to do. Now that I am around these young kids, I am older but I still have that experience, drive and energy and I just want to compete. That is what I try to pass along.
For a younger generation of Oilers fans they cling on to the 2006 Stanley Cup run. But two playoff runs no one really talks about are your playoff wins in 1997 against the Dallas Stars and in 1998 against Colorado. How special were those two playoff wins for a young player just starting out? I think there was a huge learning curve that started in those two years that carried forward to the 2006 run. The learning curve, excitement and being in a playoff atmosphere was so important. Playing against a number one or two seed in the playoff and beating them out. It helped out in 2006 getting in as an eight seed, beating the higher seeds and then on to the finals.
The Todd Marchant goal in game seven versus the Dallas Stars defined the Oilers for a lot of young fans, where were you when he scored? What was going through your head when you saw Ledyard blow a tire and Marchant pick up that speed as he crossed the blue line? I was on the bench. It was a great moment! I actually think it was a four vs. four if I remember correctly. Right before that happened Cujo made an unbelievable save on Joe Nieuwendyk. The next shift Doug Weight makes that pass out to the wall and the rest is history. With all of Todd’s speed down the wing and he sniped it low blocker. It was a great moment for the Oilers as a young team and eighth seed at the time. It was fun.
You ended up getting traded to the Islanders, spent some time in Colorado and then in California with the L.A Kings. How did you end up back with the Oilers? Did you miss being an Oiler and just want to come back? Off the top, I didn’t want to leave in the first place but I think it was to best thing for me. I got a chance to experience and see the other side. My family came with me to New York. I was there for three months and we made the playoffs. I was still in a blur because I was shell-shocked from getting traded from the team I grew up idolizing. I had been a part of them for eleven and a half years. It was really disturbing.
One guy in particular made it fun was Mike Sillinger. He helped make it a relaxed atmosphere at the rink. He helped me enjoy myself there. They were trying to sign me but I didn’t know what was going to go on that summer because I was unrestricted. I ended up signing with Colorado. I played two years there, got to play with Joe Sakic. Phenomenal player and person in the game. A lot of things happened there with injuries, then they wanted to go younger. So I got the chance to go to the L.A Kings. I didn’t feel like I fit there properly so I was very excited when I got traded back to the Oilers. It was a good year last year other than the fact we were in twenty-ninth place. We learned a lot with these young kids. Hopefully we can get back into action and show the league we are capable of being a contender.
Was the 2002 Canada Olympic team the best group you ever played on? No question! There was Sakic, Lemieux and Yzerman. How can I not say it was the best team? It was a phenomenal experience. I was young and accepted my role. I was trying to soak it all in, I was like a sponge. I was learning from these guys how to win! At that time with the Oilers we were competing but we couldn’t win. We didn’t get to the next level. I think my Olympic experience was another stepping stone that led to 05-06.
A few years later you are named the Captain of the World Championship team? How much did your Olympic experience prepare you to be a captain of a Canadian team? I played a few years before I was named the captain. That is a fun tournament. I say that because as a hockey player you should be programming your body and mind to be playing hockey at that time of the year anyways. If you get knocked out of the playoffs or don’t make the playoffs and you get an opportunity to represent your country, you go! It is all training to prepare to play for the duration. My role changed significantly over there. I got nicked named "Captain Canada". Ha! My second year playing in that tourney I really felt comfortable and like I was leading the charge. Guys are feeding off each other and I felt very comfortable that year. Those are the sorts of things you learn as you go.
Dustin Penner was an intern on the Conan O’Brian show last week. It just so happens that here at the Jason Strudwick show we are looking for an intern as well. Not that I am promising anything, we would have to look at your resume but would you be interested in interning for us if the season doesn’t get going? Where do I send my resume to?
Ha! I will have my people get in touch with you. But like I said I can’t promise you anything! There are no guarantees!
Ryan is a fun guy and it showed in his interview. He is also very focused on being a top player. I was really impressed with some of his answers. They all speak to how to be a professional. In the end, that is what he has been his whole career and why he continues to play.
My question for all of you is this…
Since the last Stanley Cup team has Ryan Smyth been the most popular Oiler?