94 Days Until The Season Begins

Photo credit:Edmonton Oilers
Cam Lewis
10 months ago
With 94 days left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season, we have another iconic player to talk about.
No. 99 and No. 97 are known all around the hockey world because of Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid, two of the best ever to play the sport, but No. 94 is known in Edmonton because it was worn by a player who best embodied what it means to be an Oiler. Ryan Smyth was the first player to No. 94 in team history and he’ll likely be the last.
Born and raised in Banff, Alberta, Smyth attended Glen Sather’s summer hockey school and cheered for the Oilers growing up. Smyth made a name for himself as a prospect during the 1993-94 season when he scored 50 goals and 105 points in 72 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL and the Oilers subsequently took him with the sixth overall pick in that summer’s draft.

Edmonton Journal Clipping From Wednesday, June 29, 1994


After one more season in the WHL and one split between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate, Smyth broke out with 39 goals during the 1996-97 season. That performance was vital in the Oilers ending their four-year playoff drought. They finished 36-37-9 and shocked the heavily-favoured Dallas Stars in the first round before bowing out to the also-heavily-favoured Colorado Avalanche in the second.
Smyth became an important player as the Oilers moved on from their post-dynasty hangover in the first half of the decade into a group of gritty underdogs that nobody wanted to play against. He was never the most skilled player on any of those teams but Smyth’s endless motor and nose for the net garnered results and made him a fan favourite in Edmonton.
During the 2000s, Smyth earned the nickname “Captain Canada” because of how many times he represented his country at the international level. He served as Team Canada’s captain five times and set the record for the most IIHF World Championship games played by a Canadian with 60. Smyth was part of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2002 Olympics and he won gold at the Worlds in 2003 and 2004.
Following the lockout in 2004-05 and the implementation of the salary cap, the Oilers made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final. Smyth scored seven goals for the Oilers in the playoffs but his biggest contribution was an assist in the second round when the team was down 2-o in their series with the San Jose Sharks. Smyth took a puck to the face and lost three teeth but came back and set up Shawn Horcoff’s series-saving goal in triple overtime.
The Oilers cratered the following season and general manager Kevin Lowe couldn’t come to terms with Smyth on a new contract so he was traded to the New York Islanders for a package of futures. The response to the trade was so poor that Lowe wasn’t present at the jersey retirement ceremony for his former teammate Mark Messier later that evening. The Oilers raised No. 11 to the rafters and then got blanked in a listless  3-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Without Smyth, the Oilers went 2-16-1 the rest of the way and finished with their worst record in over a decade.

Edmonton Journal Clipping From Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Smyth inked a five-year, $31.25 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche in free agency that summer and helped the Avs get back into the playoffs after they missed the previous season. Smyth played one more season in Colorado before getting moved in an off-season trade to the L.A. Kings.
After missing out on the playoffs in both 2007-08 and 2008-09, the Oilers leaned into a full-on rebuild. They finished dead last in the league standings in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and made three consecutive selections with the first overall pick in the draft.
Badly in need of a quality veteran presence, the Oilers acquired Smyth from the Kings as he was heading into the final season of that five-year contract. Smyth scored 19 goals and 46 points for the Oilers in his return in 2011-12 and re-signed with the team on a two-year contract. He wore the captain’s “C” for his final game and received an incredible sendoff from the team and the fans.
Smyth finished his NHL career with 386 goals and 842 points over 1,270 games. His 971 games played with the Oilers ranks second in team history behind only Kevin Lowe and his 296 goals and 631 points with the team rank seventh and eighth respectively.

How many days are left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season? 94! Can you guess who will be featured in tomorrow’s countdown?

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