Ryan Smyth, who calls Nashville home now, did drop by Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night to see his favourite team play the Predators, heart-strings in Music City USA.
“Yeah I was there,” said Smyth, retired now for close to 10 years, “but I, uh…didn’t know where Leon was with the power plays.”
Smyth and Glenn Anderson had the Edmonton Oiler record with 126.
But Draisaitl popped two to get to 128 that night.
“It’s awesome, so cool,” said Smyth.
Alex Ovechkin has the all-time best 299, firing those one-timers, overwhelming goalies who know the shot is coming, but that’s in 1,350 games. Draisaitl reached 128 in just 641 Oiler games. He has 59 on the power play in his last 163 games.
“Leon’s got lots left…I mean, geez, it (all-time best PP) could be broken by Leon, or he could finish in the top 10, for sure. Special teams are huge now, the game is more about capitalizing on the power play. I was talking to one of my buddies about the Oiler power play, and, you know, there’s no set plays with them. They’re all over the place with their movement. Makes it tough to stop.”
Smyth set up in front of the net. Draisaitl moves all over, and fires away.
“Dougie (Weight) had a knack for looking for sticks. That was my forte, being in front of the net.. Everybody talks about my heavy stick and that’s where I capitalized. Guys got the puck through,” said Smyth.
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The current Oiler PP has been pretty constant for the last three years. There’s Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on every first unit. Zach Hyman has assumed the Smyth role in front of the net. Tyson Barrie was on the point until traded to the Predators. Now it’s Evan Bouchard back there. They stay out for 90 seconds usually, sometimes, more. Never less than a minute.
“Back in my day, we had BoBo (Bo Mironov) on the point. Dougie played the half-wall, and Billy (Guerin) was in the slot area. I was the goalline to the net,” said Smyth, who also had Jason Arnott prominently featured before he was traded for Guerin.
“The Oiler power play today? They’ve got possession for so long and the PK gets more tired and you get more chances,” said Smyth, acknowledging that Draisaitl gets things going in the face-off circle first-off. He wins well over 60 percent of his draws and it’s Sweet Georgia Brown, Harlem Globetrotters time..
“It’s just not Leon (as a threat)…I mean, Nuge got three points the other night (Nashville). You have to respect the other guys (McDavid, especially) and all of a sudden, they pass to Leon, and he’s got an open net. I watched that game against Vancouver (game 2) and he hit the post two or three times. Those normally go in for Leon,” he said.
Ovechkin sets up for a one-timer, and bang it’s in the net, often short side. Draisaitl scores some ridiculous goals from bad angles, close to the blue paint, but often from the face-off circle.
“But Leon also got a goal low slot against Nashville (Hyman to Draisaitl). There’s no set system with Leon because the players move so much as I said. As a PK guy, your head is spinning trying to watch Leon. It’s like ‘well, he was over there, now he’s chipping it in for a goal.’ That’s the dynamic that makes the Oiler power play so special,” said Smyth.
Smyth’s high for PP goals here was 20 in ’96-97 and 19 in 2005-2006.
When you add up his time with New York Islanders, Colorado and Los Angeles, he finished with 159 goals on the power play, 386 goals total in 1,270 games. So 41 percent of his goals on the PP, same as Draisaitl’s percentage today.
Smyth is No. 41 all-time in power play goals.
Smyth, who got his name up on the Oiler Hall of Fame wall of honour at Rogers Place last year with Lee Fogolin, played on a line with Weight and for a few years Guerin, too. He’s thrilled for Weight getting his Oiler HHOF salute.
“He was such a great player on the ice and great person off it,” said Smyth.
“I remember the Colorado playoff (1997). I was young and didn’t play much and I remember Dougie pulling me aside on the plane heading to Dallas for the next series and he said ‘Smytty, don’t worry, you’re going to be an asset for us.’ I was a young kid then, but, to me, he just embraced the leadership role,” said Smyth.
Smyth also marvelled at Weight’s two-and-10 (arms of a clock) skating style like most people as his teammate. It was unique. “Yeah, Dougie and Jeff Norton, he had that, too. I remember that goal Dougie scored (against Calgary), slithering through people, and he roofed it. That was sick,” recalled Smyth, who is not only tickled for Weight’s Oiler HHOF honour but Charlie Huddy’s on Oct. 26.
Smyth didn’t play with Huddy but he watched him as an Oiler fan living in Banff. And Huddy did coach him for six years on Craig MacTavish’s Oiler staff.
Smyth feels Huddy was a vastly underrated player during the glory days.
“He was playing behind Coff (Paul Coffey) and Kevin (Lowe),” said Smyth.
“Charlie was exactly what they wanted him to be and needed him to be. He was a huge part of them winning those Stanley Cups.”