Ryan Smyth has played 1,198 regular season games, 95th most in NHL history. If he plays 50 games this year, he’ll be in the top-80. If he plays 54 games, he’ll pass Jari Kurri, and if he dresses for 57 games he’ll pass Kevin Lowe. Smyth has had an outstanding career, that includes one Stanley Cup final appearance, two Olympics (won Gold in 2002) and he won the World Cup in 2004.

Smyth still has a passion for the game and he talked about what he’s looking to accomplish this season.

Smyth joined me last week on my radio show to discuss his career, his role this season and the need to be a leader in a very young dressing room.

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Gregor: Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins have both talked about you having a specific role this season. Have you talked to the coach about that role, or how do you envision your role on the team this year? 

Smyth: I had a chance to sit down with Dallas right after he got the job. We just sat down and talked about minor things. Nothing was brought up as far as what my role would be. I’ve experienced a lot over the years, even recently. I’m not in the situation that Horcoff was in, in regards to going through seven years of a lot of down periods and then trying to make some headway with the transition with the young guys. I‘m planning to just lead with my experience.

Gregor: How do you do that?

Smyth: That’s a great question. Just from the experiences you gain, from when I first stepped in the NHL, what I experienced. Young kids that come in year one, two, maybe three years into it- I try to relate what was my transition at that stage.

There’s always room for improvement. You can always better yourself. I gravitated towards a lot of the older guys- Doug Weight, Kelly Buchberger and Kevin Lowe and the list goes on and on. You want to try to rub off that way and you want to lead from being in positions that young guys haven’t been in. Whether it be closing in on making the playoffs or being in the playoffs. Hopefully I can do that down the stretch this year.

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Gregor: How do you ensure that the young, skilled forwards put in the proper work ethic that will enhance their skill?

Smyth: There is one thing you can control on a consistent basis and that’s your work ethic. That you can control. Your mind is going to go at times, your body is going to go at times throughout the games, but the one thing you can control is how hard you work. You’ve got to apply that, whether you’re a high skilled guy or not. You’ve got to come and find a way to be a competitor.

I know we touched on this at the end of the year when MacT got on board, and then Scott Howson. At the end of the year, they came in and gave a speech of work ethic. We have a lot of skill, which is great, but we need to apply the work ethic consistently. Hopefully that sort of thing helps me along the way, but I can imply that whether it’s in practice or in games.

Smyth stayed in the NHL for 1200 games because of his work ethic and determination. He doesn’t have the natural skill of the young Oilers, but they could learn a lot from him about being mentally tough. Smyth rarely lost a battle on the boards and in front of the net. Those small battles are the difference between winning and losing games, and when the young Oilers realize that they will be extremely dangerous.

Gregor: Last year, your role changed and your production changed. You were more on the PK than the power play. Will you enter camp with the mind set that your role is mainly going to be PK, and even strength and maybe fill in here and there on the power play?

Smyth: I’m a competitor. You’re an athlete and you want to compete. You want to push guys for jobs, just like guys are going to push me for my job. Ya, I still feel like I’ve got jam. I still feel like I can help out the team whether it’s offensively or defensively. It may be the old cliché, whatever the coach or the team wants from me, I’ll do.

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But when it comes down to it, when you’re at the stage I am in my career, you want to try to be an impact player at any position you are given. I was asked to play centre three quarters of the year last year and I tried to relish it as best I could. Obviously my point production went down. It was disappointing in that regard. I felt like I had something for the team and tried to fit into that role. If that’s what they want, I’ll deliver as best I can.


Gregor: There was some talk that, potentially, they would try you at centre again this year. Did you talk to Dallas Eakins and, if so, would it be easier if you started from the first day of training camp and pre-season down the middle?

Smyth: If I was told I was playing centre for the whole year, you get your mind set ready for that. I think it was about ten or seven games into this last season, it was, “Okay, we’re going to put you at centre,” however, they didn’t say whether I’d be back to the wing or not. I’m going to tell you, Jay, my strengths are on the wall. I would love to be on the wall, but like I said I want to help out.

Smyth is best suited as a winger, just like Hall. Smyth can take some faceoffs here and there, but Eakins would be better served playing him on the wing. Smyth’s best attribute appear on the boards, not in the slot, so hopefully Eakins plays him on the wing this year. 

Gregor: I think it’s important that players recognize their strengths. I think you did that early in your career, and decided you were great on the wall and great in front of the net, where you have to pay the ultimate price. Did somebody tell you that, or was that you looking around and thinking, ‘This is my skill set, this is what I’m going to be good at?’

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Smyth: Ya, I observed that when I first came in the league. Dave Andreychuk was one guy who really took a beating in front of the net. My junior career I was a little bit like that, down low, in behind the net, cycling the puck and then I would take it to the net hard. But when you get older, you start to gravitate to players you know and relate to, Holmstrom was my age- and you gravitate towards those types of players.

It’s just instinct now. Take the puck to the net, the puck’s got to go there to score and that’s where you’ve got to try to create havoc and traffic. Then, hopefully, the rest of your bench sees that and says, “That guy wants to go to the net, maybe I should take it to the net.” Sometimes it’s not even saying anything and sometimes it is.

Gregor: What has been the highlight of your career thus far? Winning Olympic Gold in 2002 or the 2006 Cup run?

Smyth: Obviously when you win, it’s kind of tough to take that away. As a kid, you dream of playing in the National Hockey League, winning the Stanley Cup or game seven while playing street hockey. When you go to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals and lose it, it is really tough to get over, but it was still great. I’d say both of those are highlights. Maybe we can write the script further on down the line here and hopefully get into that Stanley Cup again. Right now, it would be ‘02 and ‘06.

Gregor: With that 2002 team, was it intimidating to go into the locker room and be amongst the best of the best?

Smyth: I’d be lying to you if I said no. I was intimidated at first. The key was Mario (Lemieux). Mario made everyone feel included, whether you were the trainer, whether you were the thirteenth forward or whatever the situation was, or whether you were Chris Pronger. That guy made everybody feel comfortable, same with Stevie Y and Joe Sakic. When you have one of the best players in the game reaching out, it just made me feel at home. What rubbed off after that was 2004 World Cup. That team sort of stayed together. We went on and won the World Cup and I felt more a part of it than I did in ‘02. Maybe because I contributed more offensively and I was out on the more, but at first in 2002 it was intimidating.

In the past few seasons, I don’t think the Oilers dressing room has been as cohesive as it once was. Losing plays a part of that, but I sense this team needs more accountability from player to player. It is time the young kids demand that, but they also need to be able to take constructive criticism from veterans like Smyth. If this team is going to start winning on a regular basis, the players will need to demand more from one another.

Gregor: Then you went to the 2006 Olympics and you guys didn’t have the same success. Ken Hitchcock was on the show last week and he told me he didn’t think Canada had enough team speed. Would you agree?

Smyth: I wouldn’t say we didn’t have enough speed. We had some great speed –Gagne that was fast, Draper that was fast, Doan and all the other superstars like Sakic, Iggy and so on. I think it was just a matter of us maybe being disjointed chemistry wise. We just didn’t get any flow or chemistry. Not to say that we didn’t have our opportunities or our chances to excel, we just didn’t gel quickly enough. That’s the thing with those tournaments- you don’t have time to adjust, you’ve got to do it right away and you have to find the best chemistry possible. We just didn’t find it.

Gregor: Will you take it upon yourself to sit down individually with an Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and share some of your experiences. Does it work like that now in the NHL? Are kids receptive to that?

Smyth: I would say for the most part guys are. You don’t get too far in the NHL without being receptive, in my opinion. There are the odd few out there who don’t, but most do. The key is that there is give and take in everything. I want to learn at this age still, I want to learn something I can gravitate to, to better the hockey club and hopefully vice versa.

I love watching the young kids on the ice in practice and just watching how skilled they are. Obviously they do it in games as well and I get to be around it all the time. It’s just a matter of being open minded. If young kids are open minded, who want to win, that’s the bottom line. There’s winning and there’s losing, or what we’ve called misery. We’re all trying to do the same thing; win a Stanley Cup. If we can better our team and communicate, being receptive both ways, then that would be great.

Smyth makes an excellent point here. You are never too old to learn, and he and the other veterans need to want to learn from the kids. They need to take advice as much as give it out.

Gregor: You’re two games away from twelve hundred; you’ll obviously do that very early on this season. Have you thought about if this will be your last year?

Smyth: I’ve always said I’m going off my body, and right now my body feels great. I’ve played the last two and a half years, minus the one game I was sat out; I’ve played them all continuously. My health has been great; I’ve been very blessed for that part. Hopefully I can break out, have a good year and then go from there.


  • The other active players in the top-100 games played:
    Jaromir Jagr (34th) 1,391,
    Teemu Selanne (37th, hoping he plays one more year) 1,387
    Ray Whitney (67th) 1,261
    Shane Doan (77th) 1,246
    Jarome Iginla (83rd) 1,232
  • Referees are evaluated and critiqued more often than we think.

  • Are you a hockey mom? Hockey dad? Coach? Trainer? Zamboni driver? Ice allocator? Do you want your opinions heard?  Hockey Alberta, Hockey Canada, the Oilers, Flames and WHL do. They are  meeting in Banff August
    22 to the 24th to discuss our game, our national sport, our passion. Hockey.

    Join myself, George Kingston, Ken Dryden, Pat Laforge, Bob Nicholson, and others to voice your thoughts on where the game is heading. Player Safety, Spring and Summer Hockey, coach and official training, growing the game and sport schools are just a few areas of focus over the three days.

    Check out for all event details. If you have any topics you think should be discussed email [email protected]


  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    One of the greatest Oilers of all time. It is sad to see the current team transition not involve playoffs for all time greats like Smyth. If there was an award for classiest player in the game, him and Iggy would battle for it every year.

  • vetinari

    I could easily see Smyth landing a job as an assistant coach or a broadcaster when he finally decides to retire.

    Although I wouldn’t make him a captain at this point in his career, he certainly has some credibility when he speaks to the kids and tells them: “look, I’ve played 1,200 games in this league, was once 1 game short of a Stanley Cup, and THIS is what you need to do to win in this league. Now do it.”

    And seriously, retire this guy’s number when he finally decides to hang up his skates– he deserves it.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      A broadcaster? Seriously? Have you heard him speak publicly? Dude rocks 5 ‘um’s a sentence.

      Amazing heart, unbelievable effort, but he’s not an excellent speaker.

    • vetinari

      Smyth a broadcaster? Obviously. He’d obviously would make a great talking head. Obviously, you have never listened to him much as obviously he is an obvious lousy speaker. Obviously a great player when he could skate, but obviously he can’t anymore. Obviously, broadcasting ain’t his thing. Obviously, the, Oil will find him a Buchberger-type job. Obviously.

      • vetinari

        Compared to half the guys on CBC and TSN, I’d take a stammering Smyth who at least knows what he’s talking about over the usual talking heads.

        He’s at his best when you get him talking “war stories” about playoff runs and the olympics, dressing room stuff and his assessment of other players. Look at his interview with Gregor– don’t tell me that you didn’t get something out of it?

  • The Soup Fascist

    This is Smytty

    I will never forget this sequence of events. Smytty directly and single-handedly causes:

    1) 16 minutes in pentalties charged to one JS Giguere, simultaneously releasing all the bats in JSG’s belfry.

    2) 2 goals to be scored by “He who shall not be named”

    3) A tied game to become a blowout

    4) 20 guys on the ice to change from Ducks to Magpies

    5) 18,000 fans in the stands to be infuriated

    * All in the span of a few minutes without drawing an assist or even touching the puck.

    I love this guy.

    • OilClog


      Ryan Smyth deserves the new arena to be named after him, and his face painted into both the creases.

      Also when his Jersey is retired, hung up for all to see. I hope we’re smart enough to hang two, lowering whichever banner is hanging over the opposition goalie throughout the game. Nothing like a lil home field advantage.

    • Tikkanese

      Ah, what a sweet memory! How great was it watching playoff hockey, feeling the drama and triumph and agony in the marrow of your bones. How frustrating that the Oil have fallen so far. Can we dare to dream such springtimes may be in our (near) future?

      One thing watching that video allowed me to do was let go of the last of my Pronger anger. What a beast that guy was! How great was that, having a guy with the ability to control the play, orchestrating a 5 on 3 like a maestro. What I wouldn’t give for a d-man with that laser beam one-timer from the point. Yeah, it ended badly, but man, did that guy give it his all for the Oil!

  • OilClog

    Ryan Smyth is justifiably one of the best loved Oilers of all time. This is a blue collar city and Smytty is the ultimate blue collar player. No Oiler player has ever worn his love for this city and for Oiler fans on his sleeve the way Smytty has. He has given his all from Day 1 for his team and for his country. I will never forget in the 2006 playoffs when he lost 4 teeth to an errant Chris Pronger pass, went and got stitched up and came back to set up the winning game in OT. I still get chills just thinking of the next game when they flashed a picture of the 4 teeth on the scoreboard during the national anthem and then cut to Smitty on the bench, as the crowd exploded. I don’t know how much is left in those old legs, but when the time comes to hang them up his Jersey MUST be raised to the rafters and I will be there cheering as loud as I can. Here’s to you Smytty.

  • vetinari

    Any sort of leadership and veteran presence is always welcome on this team. Smyth is one of those rare guys who has his heart in Edmonton, I dont understand how people can see having Smyth as a detriment to overall team play. His legs and skill arent where they once were but any wisdom he can impart on a very young skilled team is welcomed.

    He can teach the young guys what it takes to stay in the NHL, playing in an era where there were guys like Stevens, Samuelsson and Marchment is a true testament to what a warrior this guy was. I hope he comes back and has a bounceback year, Smytty is a hell of a player and an even betterperson. A true pillar of the community.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I don’t see any reason #94 can’t provide 9-12 quality minutes per game.

    Especially if he’s on the wing cycling against other teams tough guys.

  • nuge2drai

    There’s something ominous about coach not spelling out his role for this season , and Smyth also not knowing . Equally troubling was the team collapse at end of season and veterans unable to lead youth to greater heights . Veterans became non factors , and the youth collapse was equally perplexing . We all like Smyth , but can he be a positive player going forward , or might he be a detriment and non factor throughout the year ? Might their be better options coming up thru system , etc.? I’m not completely convinced Oilers are going to go forward with Smyth – we’ll see when season starts .

    • beloch

      What do you expect Smyth to do? He’s a good player with a lot of heart, but he’s never been an 80 point guy. Heck, his NHL high was 70, and that was back when Britney Spears was attractive and the Spice Girls were touring. He’s no Teemu Selänne.

      The kids played well last year, but there just aren’t enough of them. The Yak and the Nuge deserve credit for even being in the NHL at their age! There are a few good vets on the team too, but most of the players would be hard-pressed to crack the top line on a decent AHL club. Tambo built this team to collect lottery picks and it’s going to take MacT time to undo that. Unless MacT gets seriously busy before October Dubnyk is going to have to spin on his head again to give this team a chance.

  • Spydyr

    A nice parting interview. Now hang ‘EM up Smythy.

    Leave us with the good memories not another year of the snail pace skating. Along with time spent in and out of the press box.

    Take a page from the guy that was traded 25 years ago tomorrow and retire sooner rather than later.

    • Tikkanese

      He was sat ONCE last year, not “in and out of the press box”. Not to mention by a coach who was fired after the season.

      Think playing Smytty in a position(center) his game is not built to play for half a season and obviously couldn’t handle the position duties after a handful of games had anything to do with the Kruger firing? It wasn’t the only factor but it was definately a major sign Kruger was in over his head.

      Smytty looked slow because he was playing center. Smytty isn’t a center. Smytty will be fine back on his wing. 15 goals while doing some 2nd unit PK and PP time while showing the kids what it is to be a professional is more than you can ask out of a bottom 6 guy and Smytty will deliver.

      In Smytty we trust.

      • Spydyr

        In Smytty we trust.

        That is the attitude that got three first overall picks and seven years outside the playoffs.

        It is time for the team to move on. You know, try and make the playoffs instead of playing over the hill saw him good in 2006 players.

          • Spydyr

            Someone states an opinion that differs from your’s and they are a troll?

            So answer me this when was the last time you “saw Smyth good” playing for the Oil?

          • Tikkanese

            2 years ago when he first came back to Edm he was still quite good.

            Last summer, as Captain Canada(for the billionth time) in the Spengler Cup playing on the same line as Seguin and Krejci he looked good and not to slow either.

            Any time either playing with Belanger or at center he wasn’t good. I’ll give you that but I ask you, Who has looked good playing with Belanger? He’s killed the careers of Eager, Hordichuk, Omark, Petrell, others(?) and almost Smytty.

            I’m not writing Smytty off from a shortened lockout season where he had to play with Belanger half the year then center the other half. Smytty is to much of a warrior to not be given that chance.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Smyth had a huge dropoff last year with a shooting percentage under 3% for the year . That’s not a banner year . After Howson and MacT. gave their speeches , team continued to do poorly . This was Tambo’s team ( youthful core ) and still is basically , except for new personnel . Our captain removed once again , and in past has led to downturns . Yet we still have Hemsky and Smyth who played worse than Horcoff by a fair amount . I like Hemsky and Smyth , but do not envision either one being an Oiler beyond this year , and into the future .

    • O.C.

      Who the heck is Linus Omark and why should anyone care?

      That ship has sailed.

      The team is better with him this year, and let’s hope the coach knows what he has and who to play him with.*

      *(and who not to play him with)

  • Spydyr

    Just who is Smyth playing with this year so as he can score , different from last year ? Gordon , another scorer extraodinaire ? Not like he is first or second line material any longer.

    • Tikkanese

      Anybody other than Belanger is a huge start. Heck even 10th string Center, Vande Velde was better than Belanger.

      And no he isn’t 1st or 2nd line anymore, nobody is saying he will be or put up those numbers…

  • Spydyr

    The best thing that could happen for the oil and for mr Smyth is during training camp under the far more physically demanding camp promised by mr Eakins that me Smyth realizes that he no longer has the speed or endurance to keep and then takes the honourable and unselfish way out and retires before the first game of the season.

    My sense is that he will not do so – that his employment with the oil will end in a more unpleasant – read not mutually consented – manner.

  • Zarny

    Nice interview. I’ve always been a fan of Smytty and he is saying the right things.

    That said, I have concerns.

    First, in the regular season last year Smytty looked like Ignila did in the playoffs…old, slow and like the game had passed him by.

    Second, I question whether Smytty can mentally make the transition to being nothing more than a role player and a mentor.

    I’ve heard rumours that his advice to the younger kids has included “if you get in trouble give me the puck”.

    Those days are long gone, and if true, likely contributed to the split in the locker room.

  • Chaz

    Dear Oilers Nation Peeps,

    Where the $#%& are the Gretzky trade anniversary articles? Don’t tell me I have to wait until the actual date to read them! My ADHD won’t allow for….

    ….hey look! A butterfly!

  • I really hope Smyth retires. No sense in beating a dead horse, Smyth’s time has past. He has nothing to offer to the Oilers, team as a whole and players included.

    I find it funny how most people who are hanging onto Smyth’s past are the same ones that were upset with Lowe’s 6 rings comment. If Smyth can carry on the present hanging onto the past-why can’t Lowe?

  • Tikkanese

    I believe it was consensus of the oilers to get rid of the old bag of pucks ie: hemsky, Belanger, horcoff, etc. SMTYH is one of them. Slow as hell, he’ll be lucky to get 10 goals. The kids have to learn to win. What has SMTYH done? NUF SAID

    • Tikkanese

      What has Smyth done?

      6 Gold medals playing for Canada, including Olympics and World Cups.

      nearly 1200 NHL GP, nearly 400 Goals, over 800 points, nearly 100 playoff games

      Captained I believe 8 of the 12 Team Canada teams he’s played on, earning the nickname Captain Canada

      Yeah I guess he hasn’t done or won anything…