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Photo Credit: Jimmy Jeong

Top 100 Oilers: Ryan Smyth (9)

“You can do anything if you try hard enough.” While that’s certainly an ethic to aspire to and something we’d like to believe is true, it’s not. It’s a damn lie. If trying hard was enough, if passion about a purpose was enough, Ryan Smyth would have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup today as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, but he doesn’t.

Nobody tried harder than Smyth. Nobody was more willing to pay the price in effort and pain and dedication to the cause than Smyth. Nobody loved everything about the pursuit of that trophy more than Smyth – right up until the Oilers tore the jersey off his back and changed the locks on the rink doors to tell the lifelong rink rat enough was enough. Smyth’s relentless mission, and the countless moments and memories it produced along the way, is why No. 94 holds a special place in the hearts of Oiler fans.

Ryan Smyth

Left Wing — shoots L
Born Feb 21 1976 — Banff, ALTA
Height 6.02 — Weight 192 [188 cm/87 kg]

Drafted by Edmonton Oilers

Round 1 #6 overall 1994 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1994-95

18

EDM

3

0

0

0

-1

0

2

0.0

1995-96

19

EDM

48

2

9

11

-10

28

65

3.1

1996-97

20

EDM

82

39

22

61

-7

76

265

14.7

1997-98

21

EDM

65

20

13

33

-24

44

205

9.8

1998-99

22

EDM

71

13

18

31

0

62

161

8.1

1025

14:26

1999-00

23

EDM

82

28

26

54

-2

58

238

11.8

1574

19:12

2000-01

24

EDM

82

31

39

70

10

58

245

12.7

1637

19:58

2001-02

25

EDM

61

15

35

50

7

48

150

10.0

1187

19:27

2002-03

26

EDM

66

27

34

61

5

67

199

13.6

1277

19:21

2003-04

27

EDM

82

23

36

59

11

70

245

9.4

1612

19:39

2005-06

29

EDM

75

36

30

66

-5

58

230

15.7

1516

20:13

2006-07

30

TOT

71

36

32

68

2

52

210

17.1

1472

20:44

2006-07

30

EDM

53

31

22

53

2

38

161

19.3

1068

20:09

2006-07

30

NYI

18

5

10

15

0

14

49

10.2

404

22:26

2007-08

31

COL

55

14

23

37

-4

50

168

8.3

1079

19:37

2008-09

32

COL

77

26

33

59

-15

62

257

10.1

1562

20:17

2009-10

33

LAK

67

22

31

53

8

42

206

10.7

1319

19:41

2010-11

34

LAK

82

23

24

47

-1

35

195

11.8

1479

18:02

2011-12

35

EDM

82

19

27

46

-5

82

194

9.8

1565

19:05

2012-13

36

EDM

47

2

11

13

-5

40

69

2.9

722

15:22

2013-14

37

EDM

72

10

13

23

-18

44

129

7.8

1111

15:25

15 yrs EDM

971

296

335

631

-42

773

2558

11.6

14293

18:29

2 yrs COL

132

40

56

96

-19

112

425

9.4

2641

20:00

2 yrs LAK

149

45

55

100

7

77

401

11.2

2798

18:47

1 yr NYI

18

5

10

15

0

14

49

10.2

404

22:26

Career

1270

386

456

842

-54

976

3433

11.2

20135

18:47

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1996-97

20

EDM

12

5

5

10

-4

12

48

10.4

1997-98

21

EDM

12

1

3

4

-2

16

24

4.2

1998-99

22

EDM

3

3

0

3

-1

0

7

42.9

74

24:35

1999-00

23

EDM

5

1

0

1

-2

6

13

7.7

97

19:18

2000-01

24

EDM

6

3

4

7

0

4

22

13.6

149

24:46

2002-03

26

EDM

6

2

0

2

-1

16

12

16.7

106

17:39

2005-06

29

EDM

24

7

9

16

-2

22

60

11.7

515

21:27

2006-07

30

NYI

5

1

3

4

1

4

9

11.1

114

22:42

2007-08

31

COL

8

2

3

5

-1

2

22

9.1

140

17:29

2009-10

33

LAK

6

1

1

2

0

6

11

9.1

112

18:39

2010-11

34

LAK

6

2

3

5

3

0

14

14.3

110

18:21

Career

93

28

31

59

-9

88

242

11.6

1415

20:30

NOTABLE

I don’t know about you, but for me the measure of Smyth’s career with the Oilers isn’t told by games or goals or statistics. It’s told in the many moments his passion for the game produced and the dogged determination with which he played. I think of the beatings he took while staking out his ground in front of the net and the WTF looks on the faces of opponents – Derian Hatcher comes to mind – when he’d take all the abuse they could muster, bounce back to his feet looking out the earhole of his helmet and tip a puck into the net. Not surprising really, when you consider Smyth didn’t let being backed over by Glenn Anderson’s car in Banff when he was just 11 slow him down.

I think of Smyth hobbling around the dressing room while rehabbing a surgically repaired ankle broken so badly in November 2001 that he had no business even thinking of being ready for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake. I remember watching Smyth pull his skate boot over still-fresh sutures and heading out to the ice. It hurt just to watch. Of course he played for Team Canada. As shows of grit go, many fans remember the night during the 2006 playoffs that Smyth took a puck in the mouth from Chris Pronger, left the ice trailing teeth and blood and came back a few shifts later minus three teeth, stitched up and ready to go. That ankle, and all those early mornings with Dr. Dave Magee trumped that 10-fold.

Of course, we all remember the day Smyth was traded to the New York Islanders at the deadline, when he said goodbye at the airport with his emotions on his sleeve as always and tears running down his face. Fans fist-pumped when Smyth orchestrated a return to the Oilers years later. Then, we saw Smyth off one final time when he played his last game at Rexall Place wearing the captain’s C on his jersey with his parents, Jim and Dixie, standing and applauding as an entire arena full of fans embraced him during a tearful farewell lap. Unforgettable. That was Smyth.

THE STORY

The other thing I’ll remember is how Smyth would gather up three pucks during the warm-up before every home and away game and toss them into the crowd to waiting children before heading into the dressing room. That’s a lot of pucks over the span of 1,363 regular season and playoff games. That’s a lot of happy children and, more than likely, a gesture that fostered the kind of love for the game in some of those kids that made Smyth the player he became growing up and hanging around the rink in Banff.

On the ice, Smyth certainly left his mark in Edmonton’s record books. The fifth hat-trick of Smyth’s career, scored in a span of 2:01 in a 6-4 win over the San Joe Sharks in October of 2006, stands as the fastest three goals in franchise history. Smyth is tied with Anderson for most power-play goals (126), he sits second in games played (971), fourth in game-winning goals (45), fifth in goals (296), sixth in points (631) and tied for seventh in assists (335). So, it’s not like all the effort was fruitless, except he never did get his hands on that damn Cup.

In the end, I can’t think of anybody who isn’t willing to look the other way on Smyth’s missed date with the engraver. Smyth did everything he could and gave everything he had to take the sweet sip that never came – he’d probably have managed to knock out a tooth or two taking a swig, anyway. I’ve never met a player who epitomized love of the game of hockey with a greater passion than Smyth did or a player I admire more because of it.

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.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Smyth is a legend… I’ll still be wearing his jersey in 30 years and telling stories of his heart and grit to my grandkids.

    • DerpSolo

      He was always a leader in the community and treated the fans with amazing respect. Probably my favourite Oiler. But this McDavid kid is pretty good too so…

  • O.C.

    Starting with Weight at # 10, it’s likely all of the Top 10 will be interchangeable in fan’s minds. In my world, the top 10 (or so) stand shoulder to shoulder at the top of the pyramid, and we the fans look up and say:

    “Congratulations. Job well done.”

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    I STILL believe in the Power of the Mullett.
    Here are two big questions tho…..
    1.) Does he get into the HHOF? and
    2.) Does he get his RICHLY DESERVED banner hanging from the rafters @ RX2

    • McRaj

      Love Smytty but no chance he makes HOF. He never won any major individual awards, no cups, not a member of the 500 goal (or even 400 goal) 1000 point club. Sadly not a HOF resume. Secondly I doubt the oilers retire his jersey but hopefully honor it along with weight, something like once an oilers, always an oiler would be cool in the new barn.

      • Serious Gord

        The needs to be a legion of honour or some such designation that is one rung below a retired number. Smyth is at the top of that legion – but nowhere near the level of retired number status. (Glenn andersons number should not have been retired – nor should he be on the hhof but such is the power of the FOG.

        • Spydyr

          Yeah, only six rings and one of the most clutch players that ever played the game.One of the hardest players ever to knock off the puck.Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down. What was the HHOF voters thinking.

  • Serious Gord

    I don’t think Smyth was trying very hard in the second half of his career. He wasn’t much of a leader outside of his visible courage in the ice.

    But undoubtedly he was a huge favourite of the oil nation when there was almost nothing else to cheer for or about. Sort of like liking a mustang 2 during the malaise era.

    • Your zest for trying to draw a reaction takes the edge of much of what you say because it’s schtick. As for not trying very hard in the second half of his career, the numbers don’t back that up. In the first 642 regular season games of his career Smyth scored 198-232-430. In the final 628 games of his career, Smyth scored 188-224-412. That’s as even a split as you could ask for. He also enjoyed the best post-season in 2005-06 during the second half of his career. It’s actually remarkable Smyth produced as much as he did during the second-half of his career when you consider how much punishment he took early on, including that horrific ankle break. Perhaps you meant something else by “not trying very hard.”

  • blark

    What about that game against Anaheim he parked himself in his office (the blue paint) and drove Giguere crazy and drew 2 penalties and 2 goals in a few minutes.

  • OilBlood

    Personally, for my generation of oiler fans (1989 later) Smytty ranks higher on this list but only because we never experienced some of the other greats.

    All due respect to those above him but he was my Gretzky loved everything about him and the day he was traded still stings.

    That man deserves his name up in the rafters he is a legend in this city. I truly hope the oilers will reconsider the hall of fame rule for him and put his name up where it belongs.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    I remember when I was 5 my dad took me down to the glass for the warm ups and Symth tossed a puck over to me at the end of warmups. Became my favourite Oiler that day.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Sorry, but No. 9 is a bit too high here. I’d have been OK somewhere just inside the top 15, but 9’s pretty high for a guy who never won anything on a list of guys who won a LOT.

    To be honest with you, I’ve never totally understood the Cult of Ryan Smyth. And it’s a cult, no doubt about it. The fact that this website exists was because he got traded at the deadline when his agent couldn’t figure out a way to bridge a $100,000 gap.

    In many ways, Smytty is less like an Edmonton Oiler than a lot of guys on this list – certainly like a lot of the forwards.

    He was a grinder, really. Practically a Sutter, actually, only with better hands and less proclivity to out-and-out dirty play. He was an awkward skater, an average stickhandler and his shot was legendary, but not in a good way. His best Oiler years came at a time when the team almost always had a mid-season swoon that meant they had to either run the table through March and early April to make the playoffs … or just miss. They’d play Dallas, like, four or five times but only manage to beat them once, even though by the fourth or fifth time, there were absolutely no secrets between them.

    I’m not implying that Smyth is overrated, but I would suggest to you that the Cult of Smyth is probably a generational thing. The kids who were 8, 10, 12 years old when he scored 39 goals in 1997 grew up to become bloggers and social media wizards. When he was traded, they didn’t simply burn up the Oilers phone lines like we did in August 1988 … rather, they started a website (which has become an empire). Again, all for a guy who never scored more than those 39 goals in a season, never won an award, never won a Cup.

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Ryan Smyth for what he was – a hard-worker who squeezed a lot out of the gifts he had and turned into a fan favourite for the post-Dynasty generation. But ahead of Doug Weight? Bill Ranford? I’m not so sure.

    • Jordan88

      You hit the nail on the head, Ryan was a by product of an EIG financed team. Its kinda hard to field a competitive team when you can barely keep the bills paid my man.

      Yet dogged determination they kept making post season appearances.

      Don’t hate the player in that situation, hate the game.

    • btrain

      I do think Ryan Smyth epitomizes the essence of what we believe a Canadian hockey player is. Captain Canada, as he is also known, displayed every observable characteristic associated with effort. Just try and get him away from your goalie, try to hurt him, try to break his will, its not going to happen. I love Smyth for this reason and I have all kinds of room for guys who embody this obvious level of heart and determination. However, I think there is some truth to Spaceman Spiff’s comments. I do believe that Canadian markets, especially a heavy blue color fanbase like Edmonton’s, places a lot of value, sometimes to a fault, on grit, toughness, hard work, heart, physicality, determination, etc. For guys like Smyth who can embody all of these qualities and still be useful on the NHL stage, that is great. However, he probably leap frogs other deserving players of Edmonton’s past who were more skilled and more successful than he was because of his blue color/canadiana hockey qualities and not his overall ability as a hockey player. In another market, would Smyth still be regarded in the same way? I am not sure he would be. That said, this is list of top Oilers not a list of top NHLers; fan favoritism should count for something and I have no problem with a guy like Smyth in an Oilers top 10. I don’t think there is a better player who most represents the people of Edmonton than Smyth.

  • Jordan88

    Man, how times change and yet I look at what we have now and think… how things stay the same. I don’t know if there is another player out there that would literally do what he did. I mean talent comes and goes but grit is something more. Its something you don’t even know you have till you have to call upon it. Its knowing the road has been tough and only going to get tougher but quitting is not even humored. Its knowing deep down you’re hurting but you put on the leaders face and say “Nah man, I am good. Lets go get this.” If there was ever a quality of an NHL player that I would wish to have it would be the indomitable will he had.

    I don’t know how that man could sit in front of a net, all season, taking pucks, and getting slashed and being fearless in the corners. His face shows the wear and tear of 1270 games in the show.

    I firmly believe Ryan will leave the ice sheet only when he is passed on.

  • PandaBearJelly

    I can’t help but get emotional every time I watch that farewell clip. At 24, Smitty was my hero growing up. I learned a lot, beyond just hockey, watching him over the years. He will always be my favourite Oiler. I think for most Oilers fans around my age, he sits at the number one spot.

  • Juniore

    Do I remember this right? Further to RB’s comment about grit, missing chiclets & missing only a few shifts – didn’t Smytty come back & play a role in the game defining goal that game?

  • hockey1099

    Smyty is a beaut. The guy still plays competitive men’s hockey because his love of the game is unmatched. This guy should have his picture next to the word heart in the dictionary. He wasn’t skilled enough to score 39 goals in a season but with heart and desire he did it. The guy sacrificed everything to score goals and be a team player. It’s unfortunate he played on the oilers when they weren’t a contender. This guy deserved a cup. I’d love to see an early 2000’s smyty on mcdavids left wing.

  • Markeejay

    Deserved ranking, he played on some terrible teams and always gave his best. Despite a limited set of skills he showed what work ethic and determination can do. If only more former Oilers had this attitude……….hopefully last year showed a step in this direction from a majority of the team.