Ryan Smyth joining elite company

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

With one more goal, he will reach 200. Only Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey have lit the lamp more often while wearing Edmonton Oilers silks.

With four more points, he'll hit 437 and surpass Esa Tikkanen for seventh place in career points. Only the Great One, Kurri, the Moose, Andy, Coffey and Doug Weight registered more while draped in the Oil Drop.

Maybe that 200th goal will come tonight when the Vancouver Canucks come calling. By the end of October, having already shown up GM Kevin Lowe and coaches Craig MacTavish, Charlie Huddy and Craig Simpson, Smyth will zip past Tikky.

Having spent an entire season fussing and fretting while waiting to get back on the ice during the NHL lockout, Ryan Smyth hasn't given much thought to his place in his franchise's pecking order, but an update yesterday drew a sloppy grin after morning practice.

Elite company? Are mullets cool?

"Those are all pretty great players," Smyth said. "Obviously, their contribution to the success and history of this team speaks for itself. They've been the backbone of this team. I'm flattered."

BUS BOYS

Smyth, 29, has tallied 199-234-433 in 643 games with Edmonton, improving his numbers by a goal and two assists in Wednesday's season-opening 4-3 win over Colorado.

Not bad, considering everybody ahead of Smyth, outside Weight, played during the Boys on the Bus era, when the Oilers were scoring five goals a night for fun and sipping champagne from Stanley Cups.

"The game's a little different today than it was then," said Smyth, asked how he'd have fared in the days when the Oilers were scoring 400 goals or more a season. "You've still got to put the puck in the net and those guys were great at doing it.

"I'd rather just watch those guys. I did that growing up. Just seeing Wayne and Mess at the Heritage Classic was awesome."

With a little red-light action in the next five games, Smyth could be bumping up against Coffey's 209 goals by the time his No. 7 is hoisted to the rafters at Rexall Place before a visit by the Phoenix Coyotes Oct. 18.

"Ryan's been a good player for us for a long time," said MacTavish, who saw Smyth blow by him in goals and points a couple seasons ago. "I'm hoping the year off has given him a physical benefit because of the way he plays.

'A HANDFUL'

"It shows longevity by him ... I'm hesitant to say the new rules are going to benefit anybody, but if I was going to say something about it, I'd say they will benefit the type of player he is. He's a handful. He gets the puck down low and you've got a fight on your hands to stop him from getting to the net."

Smyth's best season for goals was 1996-97, when he potted 39. His best season for points was 2000-01, when he had 70.

Those are modest totals in terms of single-season highs compared to the glory days of the Oilers, but it's heady stuff for a kid from Banff like Smyth, who scored his first NHL goal against Trevor Kidd and the Calgary Flames way back on Nov. 24, 1995.

"I was just worried about getting one," Smyth says, asked if he ever thought he'd push the 200-goal mark when he broke into the NHL from the Moose Jaw Warriors.

While Gretzky, Kurri, Messier and Anderson are out of reach in Oilers career points, Smyth won't only surpass Coffey for goals at some point this season, he can eventually overtake him for fifth place in points. Coffey gets his linen lifted with 669 points in team books, 236 up on No. 94.

"Maybe with these new rules, I can stick around," laughs Smyth. "Paul put up such great numbers for a defenceman. How many goals do I need before he gets here?"


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