Ryan Smyth: The Best Trade The Kings Have Made Since Gretzky

Mike Miller@@mykeymillerContributor IINovember 3, 2009

Last night I watched the LA Kings come back to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-3. 

I was not at the game. I was in my living room glued to my TV thanks to the Center Ice package and Fox Sports West’s commitment to broadcast more games in HD this year. 

I actually feel bad for the Coyotes. They have a decent team this year. Based on the attendance, it looked like they were the worst team in the NHL. Maybe they should have let Basille buy and move the team. I will save that commentary for another day.

I don’t live in LA and don’t get a chance to go to that many home games. I have, however, watched the majority of the games this year on TV. I really don’t know how to describe what I’ve seen this year other then to say, wow.

I can’t recall a Kings team having this combination of grit and skill. They are fun to watch at both ends of the ice. 

Last night, guarding the net for Phoenix was former Kings Goalie Jason LaBarbera. 

I loved and supported him when he was a King. I was reminded last night of the past and the future of the Kings Goaltending. Quick is definitely part of the future and thankfully LaBarbera’s now in the past. The Kings future in net looks very, very bright.

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An interesting story line about the game and the LA broadcast was Heidi Androl was interviewing LA Kings Players fathers. Apparently, the dads were part of a father-son bonding day where they came along on the road trip and occupied a suite at the Jobbing.com Arena. 

It was interesting to see all the dads hanging out and cheering their sons on. 

There was no prouder father in that box than Ryan Smyth’s dad. He was easy to spot. He looked like and older version of his superstar son. It was in that moment I realized how great the trade with the Avalanche was. 

When I look at last years' Kings roster I see a lot of talent. I see a lot of youth. I don’t see a lot of experience, and I don’t see a lot of guys that had been there.

I look at the roster now and there is one name that glares back at me—Ryan Smyth. Maybe it’s placebo effect that Ryan has on the Kings. I believe he is the definite cure for what’s been ailing this team. I believe he really helps make this team a contender. 

Ryan is playing with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. 

Together they make up one of the highest scoring lines in the league right now. This is a line that reminds me of another famous line that the Kings had back in the day. The line has flash, grit, skill and a never say die attitude.

Last year, the Kings didn’t win a lot of close games. They couldn’t grind them out. With Smyth not only can they grind them out, they can blow them out. Smyth has been quoted as saying “when you put pucks to the net, good things happen.”  This is simple—yes—,but there’s no truer statement that can be made. 

Anze Kopitar is shooting more this year, and he is currently leading the NHL in scoring. Anze is having his best season so far. 

He has a new-found confidence that hasn’t been present the past few years. Smyth, being on his side, has a lot to do with this. Smyth and Kopitar have chemistry between them.

Smyth seems to always know where Anze is and how to get him the puck. In football, NFL Quarterbacks buy their offensive lineman gifts for watching his back. I don’t know what Anze owes Ryan, but it’s got to be something good.

Toward the end of the second period last night, a period in which the Kings were outplayed, Smyth had the game-changer. 

He scored the type of goal that’s defined his career. It was a never give up workman’s goal. He took a shot from the right side, and then took another whack at it, and when it didn’t go he circled around the back of the net and slammed it home. This made it 3-2. 

This goal was at the end of the second and helped set the tone for the third.

When the final buzzer sounded Smyth had two goals and two assists.

The Kings won the game 5-2. Some people will say that Smyth really should only get one goal because was an empty net. I would say he should get full credit. If you watch the play he skates up crosses the red line, pauses creating separation and then throws the puck into the empty net. Most players would have tried to force it through and fail.  Smyth being the crafty veteran was patient, smart, and put game out of reach.

In the third all the Kings did was completely and totally outplay the Coyotes at both ends of the rink. Terry Murray the head coach was given credit for motivating the team.

But on the ice, Smyth was the real motivator. I really understand why he’s been called one of the best leaders in the game and given the name Captain Canada.

On July 3, Ryan Smyth was acquired from Colorado for Kyle Quincey, Tom Preissing and a fifth round pick.  I would argue that since Aug. 9, 1988 (Wayne Gretzky Trade), the Kings have not made a trade as significant as they did when the acquired Ryan Smyth. 

Dean Lombardi has been stressing patience and building. 

I, along with other Kings fans, know have been doing our best. I now see what his vision was and is. With the way the Kings are built and playing at present, the future looks very, very bright.

I think their maybe another cup in Southern California’s future. This time, it will go to the true rulers of the Southern California Hockey World. When we look back, Ryan Smyth will have to be given credit as a big part of it.


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