When Ryan Smyth was traded back to the Edmonon Oilers in June of 2011, Oiler fans rejoiced that the one player who was said to be the heart and soul of the club was finally returning to his home. Fast forward two seasons and Smyth is one of those aging veterans that could be fighting for a roster spot later this year when training camp gets under way, providing he makes it that far. But perhaps there’s a case to be made to have Ryan Smyth remain with the Oilers for at least one more season.
To say Smyth’s best days are behind would be a huge understatement given he only scored 2 goals in 47 games while adding 11 assists. Hardly the numbers that he once put up as an Oiler before he was dealt in an emotional trade to the New York Islanders in 2007.
As mentioned, he was considered the leader of the team during his first go round with the Oilers and after he was traded, this organization lacked an identity and a whole lot of heart. Many point to trading Smyth away as the equivalent to ripping the heart and soul out of the organization, a player who all but bled copper and blue.
So why bring back a 37-year old that won’t add much to the offensive side? Why not use one of the two buyouts and part ways with Smyth once and for all. Thank him for his time and dedication to the Oilers organization and even have a big farewell press conference again so he can thank everyone he’s ever been in contact with in the city of Edmonton. No. This team needs him next season and it’s more than just about scoring goals.
The Oilers roster will again be young. Aside from the possibility of adding free agents that will have plenty of NHL experience, Smyth knows this organization better than anyone else on the current roster and that is invaluable.
His contract isn’t of the handcuffing variety, only $2.25 million next season making him more than affordable for the Oilers. You could argue that he would be an expensive fourth liner, the spot that he’ll likely end up at when training camp breaks, but it’s his leadership qualities that makes him so valuable.
The pressure is on this club to perform well next season and not only compete for a playoff spot but make the postseason for what would be the first time in eight seasons. Smyth has playoff experience and having him around to help establish a positive culture in the dressing room will be essential for what could be called the new waive Oilers.
Sure his foot speed is gone and there are nights that it’s hard to imagine that he can still play in the NHL. But for a team that so desperately needs an identity, having Smyth on board for the younger players to turn to is a logical move that MacTavish should consider.
Shawn Horcoff is rumored to be one of the two compliance buyouts this summer, leaving a vacancy at captain. How would it look to the young players if the new GM ships out two veterans in one summer? ’Who’s next’ might be the mind set and the last thing this team needs is another distraction.
While you could make a case that both Smyth and Horcoff should be sent packing, it’s going to be vital to have leadership on this team and have it coming from someone that has the respect of the players. Ryan Smyth would suit that role. Besides, doesn’t he deserve to play in Edmonton in what is likely to be his final season in the NHL?