THERE AREN’T MANY better hockey stories than the beloved star player who returns home. If the player is the one who makes it happen, all the better. And if the story involves mending a relationship, well, who wouldn’t want to see that? So it’s hard to get too negative over the 2011 summer trade that saw Smyth go from the Kings to the Oilers.
He’d made a stunning departure from Edmonton at the 2007 trade deadline after he appeared to be on the verge of signing an extension with the only NHL team he’d ever known. A few months on Long Island were followed by two years in Colorado and two more in Los Angeles. Now, the 35-year-old wanted to come home. And so, on June 26, 2011, the Kings agreed to Smyth’s request for a trade back to Edmonton. Smyth was greeted with open arms by Oilers fans. He played for three more seasons, showing occasional flashes of the skill and grit that had made him one of the most popular players in franchise history. It was all just about perfect.
Well, almost. There was that one nagging detail: the Oilers were terrible. This was right in the middle of that awful era in which Edmonton couldn’t win anything other than draft lotteries, and it missed the playoffs in each year of Smyth’s second stint. Meanwhile, the Kings went on to win the Cup twice in that time, including the very next season after Smyth asked to be dealt away.
Would the longtime Oiler want a doover? Maybe not – there are bigger things in life than winning a Cup, after all – but purely in terms of championship odds, moving from the 2011-12 Kings to the Oilers was probably as bad as it gets.