Ryan Smyth ready to return to the rink in a new role


Ryan Smyth, who bled Edmonton Oilers orange and blue for close to 1,000 games before retiring as a player, is keen to get back to hockey.

After taking a season to decompress and spend time with his family following his final game in the spring of 2014, Smyth said Monday he’s interested in reconnecting with the Oilers.

"I would like to sit down with (Oilers Entertainment Group chief executive officer) Bob Nicholson and see what they’re thinking,” Smyth said. I want to be involved in hockey but I don’t know in what capacity."

The Oilers aren’t commenting, but there are options they could consider in the short term.

Having the heart-and-soul Smyth at Oilers’ training camp as, say, a guest instructor could help the young forwards learn about getting position in front of the net and along the boards — an area that’s been lacking.

The Oilers also have to increase their team battle level, which was always Smyth’s best trait through 970 games as an Oiler, as well as his stops on Long Island, Colorado and with the Los Angeles Kings. He brought that same style of play to two Canadian Olympic team appearances and countless times playing for Canada in the world championship when Nicholson was president of Hockey Canada.

Smyth also could be well suited to a player development role, someone who works with forward prospects on the farm team in Bakersfield, Calif., and with players just drafted who are still playing junior hockey. Smyth helped out with the junior Edmonton Oil Kings during the last National Hockey League lockout and loved it. He worked with Oil Kings winger Mitch Moroz, the Oilers’ second-round draft pick who just finished his first professional season.

"I ran into (former NHL forward) Stacy Roest when I was back in Moose Jaw for my (junior team sweater) retirement and he’s now Tampa Bay’s director of player development. I picked his brain a little bit," Smyth said.

"It’s something I've thought about, something I’ve processed … I’ve also thought about Hockey Canada. Maybe that would be a good option. But I’d like to talk to Bob (Nicholson)," said Smyth, whose focus has been on his family recently, especially after his father-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack at 66.

Smyth has a long history with Nicholson, wearing the maple leaf for Canada, but very little with the Oilers’ new coach Todd McLellan.

"I really haven’t talked to him in depth, but when we beat them in 2006 I told him that I could think of nothing better than playing for him," said Smyth. "He’s an awesome coach. Todd will get the most out of this team. He had Hallsy (Taylor Hall) and Ebs (Jordan Eberle) at the world championship last spring and maybe that’ll help navigate things."

Despite various reports, Smyth said he has neither asked nor volunteered to be Connor McDavid’s landlord as the 18-year-old centre embarks on his first NHL season. But that’s not to say it won’t happen.

Smyth knows the value of a teenager living with a family, something he did during his first NHL season in 1994-95.

"Haven’t been contacted at all (about McDavid) … it’s all rumours. I haven’t put my name forward. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it though," said Smyth, admitting his kids would be thrilled having McDavid in their house.

"I want the Oilers to excel going forward and Connor is going to be a big part of it, but you also have to protect the kid."

Smyth lived with Kelly Buchberger and his wife Carla when he started his NHL career. “Three or four months I lived with them. I babysat for them and they fed me,” said Smyth, agreeing it was a terrific trade-off.

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