21

Top 100 Oilers: Jason Smith (20)

Jason Smith was tough as nails and mean as hell and he had the pain threshold of a cadaver. Smith had the biggest heart and the ugliest feet I have ever seen in a National Hockey League dressing room, and if there was a record kept for the number of ice bags a player has had strapped to broken, torn and bruised body parts over the course of a career, Smith would surely hold it.

Smith was a combination of Dirty Harry and Anton Chigurh with a bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger thrown in. More than anything, Smith, the longest-serving captain in the history of the Edmonton Oilers with 542 regular season games and 45 more in the playoffs on his resume, was a leader of men who was willing to do anything to win without making a big look-at-me fuss. If that meant punching somebody’s teeth down their throat or chasing down opponents while hobbling on a busted foot or a shot-up knee, the man teammates called Gator was up for it.

Jason Smith

Defense — shoots L
Born Nov. 2,  1973 — Calgary, ALTA
Height 6.03 — Weight 210

Drafted by New Jersey Devils

Round 1 #18 overall 1992 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1993-94

20

NJD

41

0

5

5

7

43

47

0.0

1994-95

21

NJD

2

0

0

0

-3

0

5

0.0

1995-96

22

NJD

64

2

1

3

5

86

52

3.8

1996-97

23

TOT

78

1

7

8

-12

54

74

1.4

1996-97

23

NJD

57

1

2

3

-8

38

48

2.1

1996-97

23

TOR

21

0

5

5

-4

16

26

0.0

1997-98

24

TOR

81

3

13

16

-5

100

97

3.1

1998-99

25

TOT

72

3

12

15

-9

51

68

4.4

1296

18:00

1998-99

25

TOR

60

2

11

13

-9

40

53

3.8

1051

17:31

1998-99

25

EDM

12

1

1

2

0

11

15

6.7

245

20:26

1999-00

26

EDM

80

3

11

14

16

60

96

3.1

1700

21:15

2000-01

27

EDM

82

5

15

20

14

120

140

3.6

1776

21:40

2001-02

28

EDM

74

5

13

18

14

103

85

5.9

1554

21:00

2002-03

29

EDM

68

4

8

12

5

64

93

4.3

1480

21:46

2003-04

30

EDM

68

7

12

19

13

98

84

8.3

1452

21:22

2005-06

32

EDM

76

4

13

17

1

84

79

5.1

1493

19:39

2006-07

33

EDM

82

2

9

11

-13

103

61

3.3

1733

21:08

2007-08

34

PHI

77

1

9

10

-4

86

58

1.7

1381

17:56

2008-09

35

OTT

63

1

0

1

-3

47

53

1.9

1105

17:32

8 yrs EDM

542

31

82

113

50

643

653

4.7

11435

21:06

4 yrs NJD

164

3

8

11

1

167

152

2.0

3 yrs TOR

162

5

29

34

-18

156

176

2.8

1051

17:31

1 yr OTT

63

1

0

1

-3

47

53

1.9

1105

17:32

1 yr PHI

77

1

9

10

-4

86

58

1.7

1381

17:56

Career

1008

41

128

169

26

1099

1092

3.8

14972

20:11

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1993-94

20

NJD

6

0

0

0

-1

7

2

0.0

1998-99

25

EDM

4

0

1

1

0

4

1

0.0

106

26:29

1999-00

26

EDM

5

0

1

1

0

4

5

0.0

110

21:56

2000-01

27

EDM

6

0

2

2

-3

6

6

0.0

153

25:27

2002-03

29

EDM

6

0

0

0

0

19

0

128

21:17

2005-06

32

EDM

24

1

4

5

5

16

14

7.1

540

22:29

2007-08

34

PHI

17

0

2

2

-4

4

2

0.0

284

16:42

Career

68

1

10

11

-3

60

30

3.3

1319

21:17

NOTABLE

Stolen from the Toronto Maple Leafs for draft picks – a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder in the 2000 Entry Draft – at the 1999 trade deadline, Smith soon became a fixture on Edmonton’s blue line and a fan favorite for his no-holds-barred style. Smith was an absolutely hellacious hitter who slapped a trademark on the hockey version of a straight-arm hit that would leave opponents blowing snot bubbles. You can see some of that here in a tribute video the Oilers put together to mark Smith’s return to Edmonton with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Smith’s already considerable influence in the dressing room and on the ice only grew when he assumed the team captaincy from Doug Weight. The thing about Smith was he cared more about winning and about his teammates than he did about his own well-being. He didn’t bang bodies or bolt through the gate moments after taking a needle to kill pain or numb an injury to prove how tough he was, he did it because that’s what it took, that’s the price he was willing to pay. Smith did everything to deflect attention, not attract it.

On more mornings than I can count, I’d wait until the dressing room cleared out just to spend a few minutes chatting with Smith in his corner stall. Sometimes for an interview, other times just to shoot the breeze. Every damn time, he’d have an ice bag strapped to something or a foot soaking in a bucket of ice. With Smith, that was as natural as watching a player pull on his shoes. He always talked about “the guys.” When you wanted the pulse of the team, you went to Smith. He didn’t like talking about himself.

THE STORY

Behind the scenes and away from prying eyes, Smith treated every single member of the organization, no matter where they stood in the pecking order, like family. He was as respected as much for the man he was as the player and leader he was. There is no greater praise than that. Smith and his wife, Wendy, worked tirelessly for several charitable initiatives around the city. Away from the fray, you had no idea Smith was bad-ass on the ice, a stone-cold killer.

Away from the rink, Smith loved to play golf. He was my go-to guy during the off-seasons to find out what was going on. Almost every time I called him, his was riding in a golf cart between holes, getting ready to tee-off or standing over a putt. “Just a second,” he’d say, putting down the phone. “OK, I’m back. What’s up?” Smith is also a car guy. He usually rolled in a Hummer, which gave him no absolutely chance when we’d see who could make it back to city limits from the charter terminal after a late-night landing. That changed when Wendy bought him a Corvette for his birthday.

For as much time as I’ve spent around the team, I don’t know where Smith rates among all-time Oiler captains – no outsider knows everything because we aren’t behind those closed doors – and it doesn’t really matter. What I do know is Smith gave his team everything he had, and then some, every time he came through the gate without any expectation or desire of gaining the spotlight because of it. There was no stopping Gator. Respect.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.

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