Ryan Smyth is the Edmonton Oilers. His presence on the team since rookie season has been exemplified by grit, determination, tips, heart and mullets (sorry, Moulets). I remember in his first playoff series versus Dallas, Doug Weight was taking a lot of heat because he couldn't put the puck in the net. 'Forget about Weight,' I said, 'this Smyth guy is going to be the leader of the Oilers.' He was the Oilers' best player in that series, and there has been very few times since then that he wasn't the Oilers' best player.
The Oilers as an organization have never been timid about trading anybody. Once Gretz was traded way back in '88 there has been a trend to get rid of top guys, oftentimes at or near the peak of their playing ability. Moose to the Rangers, Kevin Lowe to the Rangers, Weight to the Blues...so I do not for one second believe Lowe will hesistate on pulling the trigger on Smyth simply because of his name.
I feel though that the ramifications could be different this time around. There is something about Smyth (that I think maybe even Messier and Gretzky didn't have), that allows him to connect intimately with the City of Champions and arguably the whole of Alberta. Maybe its the fact that he's often been the one continuous bright spot on a lot of mediocre Edmonton teams over the past decade or so, or maybe it's the fact he's such an unassuming home town hero, or maybe it's because he's one of the first of the first generation of kids growing up cheering on the magnificent Oiler teams of the 80s to actually make the team. How many kids can say Glenn Anderson ran them over and it was one of the best days of their childhood life?
Kevin Lowe's success with the Oilers as management has often come on the coattails of Ryan Smyth. Kevin Lowe's success internationally has often come on the coattails of Ryan Smyth. In essence, Kevin Lowe, and the Oilers, live by Ryan Smyth.
During last season's playoff run, I believe it was the day after Smyth scored his famous toothless winner, Kevin Lowe admitted something to the effect that he understood Smyth's value to the team and the community, and that if he traded Smyth, he would become the least popular man in Edmonton. And how.
Here's what I expect will happen:
a) If Kevin Lowe signs Smyth, no one will blame him if the team fails. People are too emotionally connected to Smytty to have the hindsight to say 'we should have traded Ryan.' I think there are people in the city who would rather lose with Smyth than win without him.
b) If Kevin Lowe trades Smyth AND fails to resign him in the offseason, he will either; resign (Oilers GMs have a habit of fading away rather than burning out) or be fired if the Oilers fail to make the playoffs in the following season. At best Lowe will probably receive a 1st round pick (probably a late 1st round) and maybe a half decent prospect that will not be ready for the NHL by next season's start. Even if its a generally good deal several years down the road (think Fleury being traded for Robyn Regehr) it will be too late for Lowe. The revolt will have long happened and the patrons of Oil Country will have vanquished theirGM.
Such that Lowe has staked so much of the Oilers and his success on Ryan Smyth, his future now resides with Ryan Smyth. Lowe and Meehan (Smytty's agent) are meeting on Saturday, and I for one am not even moderately confident a deal will get down. But I at least hope Lowe understand the ramifications of failure.
Going on a quick vacation this weekend so I won't have another post up until Monday at the earliest. Hopefully Ryan is a confirmed Edmonton Oiler for life by then.