Soon to be a familiar sight? Again?
As a kid growing up in Edmonton the kind of hockey I grew up watching was the crash-and-bang, front-of-the-net Ryan Smyth hockey. The Oilers had Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and Ryan Smyth and though we didn’t have the most skilled team in the world, we still found a way to make the playoffs every year.
Ryan Smyth was the last of that golden age to be traded away. Smyth is a throwback to old hockey days when guys wanted to retire with the team that drafted them and crazy deals such as those involving Carter/Richards and Ray Bourque never happened.
Smyth may have been the centerpiece of a bad publicity story for the Edmonton Oilers at one time when former GM and current President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe traded him over $100 000 – but now he is the face of an Oilers team that has gone astray into the wilderness.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Teemu Hartikainen might be some of the faces of the future for the Oilers.
But what is the team identity?
When the Oilers traded Smyth to the Islanders, they traded the heart of the team without replacing it.
Many leaders have come and gone since Smyth departed. Horcoff is now our oft-injured captain. Moreau was shipped away. Souray demoted to the AHL. Penner dumped for some prospects.
Since Smyth left the storyline has been youth and hope.
Now that Smyth has returned, maybe it’s an indication that the future it not so far away. If Smyth is back and the heart of our team is back where it belongs, then win-or-lose the Edmonton Oilers are one step closer to coming full-cycle with their rebuild.
Smyth – like Comrie before him – may return and find that they don’t produce the way they did when they were first an Oiler. Aging, injuries and general wear-and-tear will do that to you.
But once an Oiler – always an Oiler.