In order to celebrate the Edmonton Oilers’ 40-year anniversary AND distract ourselves during this hockey-less nightmare, we’ll be re-living 40 amazing moments from Oilers history. Today, we have the return of Ryan Smyth.
Where do we even start with this one? Before we look at the return of Ryan Smyth being one of the top moments in franchise history, we, of course, have to talk about how we got there.
Drafted in the first round, sixth overall in the 1994 draft, Smyth quickly stole the hearts of Edmontonians and was the face of the franchise through the ’90s and into the 2000s.
In 760 games between 1994 and 2007, Smyth scored 559 points for the Oilers and was an absolute staple for Edmonton scoring goals and parking himself in front of the net.
But when the 2006 season came, Smyth was due a new contract and was set for free agency. Negotiations between GM Kevin Lowe and Smyth’s agent Don Meehan broke down and 20 minutes before the NHL trade deadline, Smyth was shipped to the New York Islanders.
Edmonton got back a first-round pick (Alex Plante), Robert Nilsson and Ryan O’Marra. After finishing out the year with the Islanders scoring 15 points in 18 games, Smyth had stints of two years in each Colorado and Los Angeles scoring 96 points in 132 games with the Avalanche and 100 points in 149 games with the Kings.
Leading up to the 2011 NHL entry draft, it was known that Smyth has wanted to return to playing hockey in Alberta and made it well known. Kings GM Dean Lombardi, too, acknowledged in the days ahead of the draft, that he would in fact be moving the veteran Smyth.
After numerous days of back and forth — including reports a deal was done days ahead of June 26 (the day he was officially dealt) that suggested the trade would see Gilbert Brule and a 5th round pick go back — Edmonton finally pulled the trigger.
In Smyth’s triumphant return, which saw ULTIMATE EDMONTON OILER HAPPY TO BE COMING HOME strewn across the front of the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton surrendered Colin Fraser and a 7th round pick in 2012.
It was the ultimate news indeed, especially for people like me who grew up watching Smyth commandeer the front of the net. At 35 years old, Edmonton got back someone who should’ve never left in the first place.
Closing out his career where it all started, Smyth’s scored 82 points in his final 201 games with the Oilers. He even was able to tie Glenn Anderson’s powerplay goals record with 126.
With the 2013-14 season winding down, Smyth announced his retirement from the NHL on April 11th, 2014 — one day before the Oilers final game of the year, an April 12th home game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Here’s Smyth announcing his retirement to the Oilers:
Smyth went pointless, but left a lasting memory for hockey fans. Following the team’s win, Smyth and his teammates embraced at the Oilers net and when he went to take a victory lap, the entire Canucks team led by captain Henrik Sedin skated back onto the ice each stopping to shake Smyth’s hand.
His entire victory lap could be watched below, but I’d suggest you keep a box of kleenex nearby. I sure needed it.
On Twitter: @zjlaing