Edmonton Oilers fans will get to say goodbye to veteran forward and former Canadian national team stalwart Ryan Smyth at the end of another disappointing season.
Smyth announced that he will retire after Saturday night’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks, who are beginning to wrap up their own difficult season.
Smyth, who turned 38 on Feb. 21, played 970 of his 1,269 games in two stints with Edmonton. He played his first 11-plus seasons with the Oilers and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, where they lost in seven games to Carolina.
Smyth was traded to the New York Islanders on Feb. 27, 2007, and signed a five-year contract with Colorado that summer. He played two seasons for the Avalanche, who traded him to Los Angeles in July 2009, and the Kings sent him back to the Oilers in June 2011.
Smyth scored 296 of his 386 goals for the Oilers, including a career-high 39 in 1996-97, and had 335 of his 456 assists.
Smyth was also known as "Captain Canada" because of his loyalty and frequent appearances for the national team. The Alberta native helped lead the country to a gold medal in 2002 and was part of two world championship teams in his seven appearances.
"There comes a time in my life where you have to turn the page and today I’m doing that," Smyth said Friday. "As hard as it is to say goodbye to the game of hockey, I’m blessed that God has given me the ability and the passion for this great game and to have had the opportunity to play for as long as I have."
While they may see better days in the future, the Oilers (28-44-9) will finish last in the Western Conference for the third time in five seasons and miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive campaign dating to their Game 7 loss to Carolina.
Smyth’s retirement, though, might inspire them to finish with just their fourth win in the last 12 games Saturday. To do that, Edmonton will have to get past another eliminated team in Vancouver (35-34-11).
The Canucks will end their season early for the first time since 2007-08, and they face an uncertain offseason after hiring former captain Trevor Linden to take over as president of hockey operations Wednesday.
In the start of Linden’s tenure, the Canucks suffered their fifth loss in six games, 4-2 to Colorado on Thursday.
Vancouver will take on its two Western Canadian rivals to wrap up the season and returns home to face Calgary on Sunday. First, the Canucks will try to earn their fourth win in five games this season against the Oilers.
"These guys want to play for something," coach John Tortorella said. "They know in a couple days we’re done. It’s a difficult situation, but it’s no excuse no matter where we’re at not to finish the season the proper way and we’re going to keep on trying to do that for the next couple of games here."
Vancouver avoided a third straight loss in Edmonton with a 2-1 victory Jan. 21 in its only other visit this season, but lost 4-2 in the most recent matchup Jan. 27 as David Perron recorded his second career hat trick.
Perron’s other hat trick also came against Vancouver on Nov. 10, 2009, while he was with St. Louis.
Smyth has 23 goals and 29 assists in 83 matchups with Vancouver. He assisted on Jesse Joensuu’s tiebreaking goal in the Jan. 27 win.
The 52 points are his third-most against any opponent behind his 60 versus Phoenix and 58 against Colorado.
Ryan Kesler has two goals and seven assists in his last nine games against Edmonton. Daniel Sedin has five goals and eight assists in his last 13 matchups, and Henrik Sedin has seven goals and 24 assists in his last 24.