Life on Long Island just got better

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Ryan Smyth was out strolling through a park yesterday, with his wife and two kids.

"Just taking a nice walk with our family and friends on a nice day on the island," said Smyth, when his cell phone rang.

Back in Edmonton, his former Oiler teammates were holding garbage bag day.

While Smyth was enjoying the afternoon, his old mates were stuffing their skates and other possessions into plastic garbage bags and clearing out their dressing room stalls.

Smyth was out walking among the populace with his family and New York Islanders teammate Mike Sillinger and his wife, back in the Stanley Cup playoffs at the same time his old teammates were headed into hiding.

"Last year it was Game 81. This year it was Game 82," said Smyth.

Last year it was an eighth-place finish and a first-round match-up against the President's Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings.

THIS YEAR ... BUFFALO

This year it's an eighth-place finish and a first-round series against the President's Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres.

"We always seemed to cut it pretty fine in making the playoffs in Edmonton.

''But to give up that goal with 0.9 seconds left and then come back to win it in a shootout ... you can't cut it much closer than that.

"I think everybody counted us out," said Smyth.

"To be seventh when I joined the Islanders and then fall to 11th ... it was crazy.

''A few scenarios had to fall into place for us to get into the playoffs. We sure made the most of it.

''In the end, I think we flew under the radar a little bit.

"It's a great feeling today, to be in the playoffs.

''But it was bizarre.

''It was totally bizarre."

If it had worked the other way, and Smyth had ended out of the playoffs like Edmonton, Montreal and the Toronto team the Islanders put out on the final day of the season, the topic today would have been different.

Today the questions would have been about whether Smyth felt he'd made a mistake in not coming down that final $100,000 in order to sign a five-year $5.4 million US contract that would have kept him with the Oilers.

And, of course, there would be the obvious question of next year.

If, after experiencing life on the other side of the NHL, he wanted to come back to Edmonton as so many fans hope he does as a free agent on July 1?

"Some people say the grass is greener on the other side and some don't. And I won't," said Smyth.

"Now isn't the time to be talking or even thinking about all that," he said.

"Right now, honestly, I'm not worried about all that.

''I mean, it crosses my mind. I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said it didn't. That's only human nature.

"But even when close friends ask me those kind of questions, I tell them I don't want to talk about it.

"It's a huge transition when you've spent 11 1/2 years on one team.

"When you spend 11 1/2 years in one city, you don't know anything else.

''I knew everything about Edmonton. Sometimes I felt like I knew everybody in Edmonton.

"I'm glad I have a guy like Sillinger picking me up and driving me everywhere here, otherwise I wouldn't know where I was."

He said it's also really helped to have his young family be mobile to make the move until the season ends as well.

"We've been living in a hotel the whole time.

''My mom and dad came out a week and a half ago, but have gone back home now."

DEADLINE DEAL

Smyth played 53 games in Edmonton before he went to the Islanders in the deadline deal which was almost as emotional for the city as it was for him.

He had 31 goals and 22 assists for 53 points when he left.

On the Island he scored only five goals in 18 games but his assists went up to 10 for 15 points in the back end of his regular season.

And, for a while there, he was playing hurt.

Smyth ended the season tied for 16th in the NHL with 36 goals and tied for 50th in points with 68.

And he's in the playoffs.

His garbage bag day is at least a week or so away.

"And who knows?" he said. "We may make a run at it."


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