Smyth relishes mentoring role with Oilers
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
|Oilers' Ryan Smyth speaks to the media during Oilers' physicals at Rexall Place in Edmonton, AB on September, 16 2011. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)
Ryan Smyth has been in this situation before.
Coming up with the Edmonton Oilers, Smyth was around during some lean years.
He then left shortly after the club made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
“We have nowhere to go but up,” Smyth said. “Watching the last couple of years and seeing them drafting high and getting some great picks, it’s going to help.
“That’s an experience I’ve gained in the past, going through some tough years in my career, being the eighth seed and playing Dallas and Colorado in the playoffs every year.”
This off-season Smyth left a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the Los Angeles Kings to join an Oilers squad that had languished at the bottom of the NHL standings for the previous two seasons.
The move was a family-based decision that brought Smyth back to where it all started.
“When you get an opportunity to improve, you have to take full advantage of that opportunity,” Smyth said. “That’s all we want as a team, is an opportunity to make the playoffs and go from there.
“From the experience I’ve gained, I want to help mentor the young guys along and show them what I’ve learned, both in the dressing room and on the ice. It’s about bringing the experience you have learnt throughout you career. A lot of these young kids have long careers in front of them. It’s exciting to be part of that, for sure.”
A consummate professional who was the heart and soul of the club before losing a game of contract chicken with then general manager Kevin Lowe, the Oilers are excited to have Smyth back. They are fortunate the comforts of home were more appealing to veteran winger and his family than a contending team in a city where it doesn’t snow.
“Smytty has been around this team for a long time,” said Oilers sophomore Jordan Eberle. “He’s only going to make our team better. He just does everything right in his preparation and his fitness. He’s always striving to be the best in everything. He’s a guy you want on your team.
“It’s awesome, you need that, it’s what you want in every player, you want guys to be pros in everything they do, whether it’s fitness testing or speaking to the media, whatever, you want guys that know what it takes to be a pro. You want guys like that in the locker room and it’s contagious, it’s going to make you better.”
When he left, Smyth was playing some of the best hockey of his career, posting back-to-back 36-goal seasons. He netted 23 last year with the Kings.
Anything in that vicinity would be considered successful by the Oilers this year.
“I feel last year I had a fairly decent year and I want to be a part of this here,” Smyth said. “I want to utilize my strengths and experience that I gained over the past and I believe I have a lot left in the tank.
“I think you’ve watched the last four years, I haven’t changed at all. I’ll go to the net hard, I’ll try to create traffic for my team. That’s who I am as a player. I don’t want to change, but at the same time, I try to keep learning.”