Tuesday, July 03, 2007
For me, the Edmonton Oilers were defined by a couple of men. Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith.
I am a latecomer to the Oilers. I enjoyed watching the dynasty of the 80s and if I had a second team after my Hawks, it was them. Amazing talent on those squads - very often they were steamrolling Larmer, Savard and Doug Wilson on their way to their Cups.
My love for the Hawks ebbed slowly, dying bit by bit as Wirtz and Pulford undercut Mike Keenan, refused to pay Steve Larmer and others, failed to draft, traded away veteran players and so on.
I had followed the Oilers slightly in the late 90s and was a fan and one night in Florida I was watching an Oilers/Hawks game and found myself cheering for Edmonton and realized that was that.
My Oilers' teams were about (in my mind) a bunch of young guys, short on talent but long on heart. Fast skating and hardnosed and a lot of fun to watch - Smyth, Marchant, Mike Grier, Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Jason Chimera, Georges Laraque, Steve Staios, Janne Niinamma, Rem Murray, Radek Dvorak. A bunch of kids fighting every year for a playoff spot. Sometimes failing. Sometimes succeeding, which meant playing Dallas.
A team captained by Jason Smith.
A team that last season almost made it to the top of the mountain. Led by the shiny new acquisition of Chris Pronger. But personified by Smyth, Smith, Horcoff, Staios and Pisani.
By the time they made it a lot of "my Oilers" were gone already. Laraque and Dvorak left last summer. Murray went to Europe. And of course the disaster of last season included Ryan Smyth being moved along.
Now its the captain's turn. A good trade, I think. Just as I thought (as a part of the minority) that giving Smytty the money he ended up getting was not a great idea.
But its hard to take. With Smith and Winchester and probably Jussi and maybe Petersen gone, there are only nine players left from that run. Nine!
And only a handful of the old Oilers remain.
I remember commenting on a thread many months ago about how players back in the day stayed with their teams forever. That's the way it was. There was little movement. As an example I used the 1970 Blackhawks, iirc. The majority of the team played their entire career with the franchise. Many more played all but a year. Ten years plus for most.
I miss those days. Call me sentimental.
Good luck to Jason Smith. A guy who played hard and played hurt. A guy who was barely a minus until the final freefall last season, despite playing hurt, with rookies and bums, against the best the opposition could offer, night in and night out. A guy who all the cliches about being a warrior apply to. I remember the beauty goal he scored in the run last spring. And I remember a video I saw where someone was trashtalking and all he kept saying, quiet and menacing, was 'try me. try me.' Buddy didn't and it was a good move on his part.
Its a new team now - its Jarret Stoll's and Ales Hemsky's and hopefully Joni Pitkanen's. And I hope that this team measures up to those who came before and, of course, surpasses them.
Call me naive or an old softie but the business of sports can be hard to take.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:39 PM