Different Directions

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

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    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.

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    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.

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    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.

  • Qualities?
    I want people who are the best in the game at things!

    Ryan smyth’s even minutes with:

    Gordon/ Hendricks/ Jones

    Start 1 in OZ and 3 times in Dzone.
    They are 1.34 Gf/60 and 1.74GA/60
    -1 every 14games eating the defensive zone play.

    Perron, Eberle, RNH, Arco, Hall

    largely 5 extra offensive pocessions every 100 pocessions.
    He is 2.99GF/60 and 2.1GA/60 facing 1st Comp.
    +1 every 6 Games
    the 2.99GF/60 is top 50 fro tough comp Forwrds.

    Hemsky,Yak,Gagner
    10 extra Off pocession per 100
    Smyth is 1.29GF/60 and 3.45GA/60
    -1 every 2.5 Games

    Gazdic, Jeonsuu
    10 extra def zone pocessions every 100
    Smyth is 1.11Gf/60 and 3.72GA/60
    -1 every 2 games.

    It is quite obvious Smyth is still a highly Productive Player in an elite even defensive role and Elite even offensive role with Good players!

    Ryan Smyth’s 3.53 PKGA/60 is 13th best forward and 7th best winger in the league.

    Hendricks 24th best FWD 4.36PKGA/60
    Gordon 32nd best Fwd 4.74PKGA/60

    You do not replace that!

    Ryan Smyth is top 60 fwd PPG/60.

    He is older!

    But rolling Hendricks, gordon, Smyth in Dzone and Pushing offesive zone minutes for Smyth is
    Smart and hard to replace!

  • TKB2677

    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.

  • Spydyr

    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.

    • Tikkanese

      That has been a problem with the Oilers. Too much loyalty. They refuse to make hard decisions. They took too long to get rid of Horcoft and Hemsky. They resigned Gagner. And now were talking about resigning Smyth. Great Oiler but it’s in the teams best interest to move forward with younger players.

  • Tikkanese

    Funny how I predicted a comeback year for Smyth yet I got trashed hard. Now most want to resign him for another year.

    Funny how most wanted “always injured” Hemsky gone for years. Now that he has had a few hot games elsewhere, most are whining “what were we thinking?”.

    Funny how most said we were stuck with Horcoff’s terrible contract and no way we could trade him anywhere. Now most seem to think we made a mistake in trading him.

    Funny how most wanted “the European coach with strange systems” Krueger gone after the Oilers went on the 10 game losing streak. Now most think it was a mistake because of the Oilers’ current place in the standings.

    Welcome to Oilersnation!

  • Nomad787

    All Ryan Jones is doing now is taking up a roster spot that should be occupied by a young guy. Someone like Pitlick who may be on the roster next year and could gain the experience. What benefit is Jones to the Oilers going forward if he wont be on the team next year, which I hope he isn’t.

  • Tikkanese

    Smyth has earned a contract by his play this season. Where the heck is MacT going to find a guy that gets him 10 goals in a limited role on the fourth line. He has lead from the rear. In his limited role on the fourth line he has shown leadership and grit.

    I still think there is a year in the old gas tank and that could be enough to give these young Oilers the time they need to learn the skills they need to be competitive.

  • toprightcorner

    Smyth bleeds Oilers blue and I think he has been great this season while delegated to the 4th line and playing out of position. a Player with his success has to have some intestinal fortitude to play on the 4th line when he has spent over 15 years in the top 6 if not top 3.

    The only way Smyth does not play for the Oilers is if a) he retires or b) the Oilers find someone to replace him that is a considerable upgrade, which will not be easy to do. If Smyth is fine with 4th line annd some press box duty then his demeanor and passion for the game is a good asset to have in the locker room.

    Either way, Smyth is the truest Oiler that bleeds for the team in the last 20 years.

  • billythebullet

    Hendriks, Gordon, gazdic. Looks like a good 4th line to me. Now for a couple 3rd line wingers to flank anton lander. So yeah, sadly dump the two ryans.