Aside from Devan Dubnyk‘s subpar performance in the Edmonton Oilers’ season opener loss on Tuesday, Ryan Smyth has taken the role of scapegoat for the hockey club’s loyal fans. Oilers Nation has exploded on Twitter over the past couple of days, crying for Smyth to be removed from the team’s top line, playing along side Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky.
But as of Thursday’s practice, head coach Dallas Eakins had the wily old veteran skating on the top line while choosing to mix up the middle two lines. Which begs the question, how long does Smyth have before he’s removed from the top line?
During the pre-season Smyth performed well with his linemates, scoring twice and adding an assist. In Tuesday’s opener though he looked like his better years were behind him and now the question is front and centre.
Eakins confirmed after the exhibition slate that Smyth was deserving of the spot on the top line, stating he had performed well enough to skate with Hall and Hemsky. With the speed of the other two, it’s difficult for number 94 to keep the pace when on the offensive attack, something that could plague the line as a whole.
But Smyth still provides value when on the ice. His willingness to drive the net and create traffic in front of the opposing goalies is a rarity on this club, something that can’t be overlooked. Smyth’s work ethic will always remain high and it could help overcome his lack of speed. But when in a foot race for a loose puck, the Oilers need to win those battles and work ethic doesn’t always pull through.
Coming in to training camp no Oilers’ fan could have predicted that Smyth would be on the top line, even with the injuries to Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The season is only one game old and it appears as though the top line will remain in tact for at least the game against the Vancouver Canucks.
If Smyth continues to fall behind Hall and Hemsky and further gives fans the reason to rip on him, how long should Eakins wait before shuffling the top three lines, not to mention if he’s not producing offensively. A win on Saturday will go a long way in helping Smyth lose that scapegoat reputation but another loss will have the Nation screaming for changes with that first line.
What’s your take on how long Smyth should remain on the top line? Take part in our poll and let your voice be heard on the Ryan Smyth discussion.