Ryan Smyth on God, Family and the L.A. lifestyle

The Hockey News: Ryan Smyth traded to Edmonton Oilers for Colin Fraser and draft pick

[...] "It was tough and it was exhausting," Smyth said on a conference call. "It was almost like going through a boxing match, 12 rounds, and in the end finding out that you're appreciated in regards to being an Oiler again.

Got it. The rough, emotional ride over whether or not the Oilers still love you.

It was a pretty emotional ride but in the end I really believe this is where God wanted us to be. So we're really excited."

I don't really see any evidence of divine intervention. It will likely be a relief to most Oilers' fans that Steve Tambellini, who seems to be making it up as he goes along, is doing God's work. Mostly it just looks like Ryan Smyth wanted out of LA.

But I'm sure he had a good reason...

Smyth and his family had been thinking about the possibility of moving for six weeks. "My wife and I discussed for a little while that we wanted to come back to Canada for personal reasons."

Okay, personal reasons. It's probably something pretty serious.

Smyth talks about trade to Oilers " LA Kings Insider

Smyth said that there were no illnesses or health concerns in his family. In explaining further, Smyth said, "My wife and I discussed it for a while, that we wanted to come back to Canada, just for personal reasons. The kids are starting school situations, so we thought it was best to come back. … My wife and I discussed it just after the end of the season. I didn’t want (media reports) to explode to the level that it did. So yes, I did request (a trade) for family reasons."

You...just felt it would be...best? Because the kids are starting out in school? And they couldn't go to school in Los Angeles because...

"I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time down there (in Los Angeles). It was just a different lifestyle for me and my wife to live in."

Oh. I see. The lifestyle. Yes. You wanted to leave Los Angeles with a year left on your contract because God wanted your family to have another "lifestyle." That does sound pressing.

The Hockey News: Ryan Smyth traded to Edmonton Oilers for Colin Fraser and draft pick

"[...] I'm just thrilled to be an Oiler." Smyth admitted he thought about joining the Oilers' fierce provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, but the pull of the Oilers was too strong. "There was a couple of teams in the mix," he said. "(The Flames) were one of them for sure. The fact that they were willing and excited I thank them for that. But obviously it would have been really tough emotionally with the Edmonton blood that's in me."

So, the story so far:

  • I don't want a trade. I didn't ask for a trade. "We" have some great things going on "here."
  • Oh, by which I mean, yes, I did ask for a trade.
  • But only for personal reasons. My family.
  • Or, God.
  • The personal reasons being...we would just rather not...live here.
  • Because, also -- er -- my heart is in Edmonton.
  • Or...Calgary! Which would have been tough!
  • But still better than L.A...
  • ...which I thoroughly enjoyed! Every moment!
  • ...and who I would like to thank for their support...
  • ...in getting me the hell out of there.
  • [click, dial tone]

It occurs to me that many people will take Smyth's "family reasons" sound-byte at face value. I, too, was inclined to believe him, until it turned out there were no reasons other than, I don't want my kids to go to school in LA, and the lifestyle is too something-something for simple country folk like "I and my wife and my family."  But that wasn't the first hint of a crack in the narrative. For that, we go to Dean Lombardi:

Lombardi talks about Richards trade " LA Kings Insider

LOMBARDI: [...] This has kind of evolved over the last two months, actually. When Ryan asked to be moved, at first I was really troubled. [...] [F]irst off, my reaction was, `No way,’ and I couldn’t figure out why, because I think Ryan had adapted well.

He couldn't figure out why? Hold on a minute. Smyth told Lombardi he wanted to be traded back to Edmonton or maybe Calgary but he didn't tell him why? This tells me that when Lombardi got word -- through agent Don Meehan, presumably -- the "family reasons" excuse had either not been offered yet, or it simply wasn't believable. Otherwise, why would Lombardi not be able to "figure out why"?

His first reaction is, WTF, no way.

So I talked to him a couple times, and he was very clear that it had nothing to do with hockey, that it was strictly for his family, that he wanted to go home.

This is a guy who is on the road more than half of every year no matter where he plays, and who has been on the road for the last two decades, yet all of the sudden he needs to be traded in the last year of his contract because he's homesick? His kids (seen in this 2010 interview with Heidi Androl) appear to be about 3, 6 and 8 years old, were not older than -1, 2 and 4 when he was dealt to the Islanders in 2007, so he can't really pin it on them. He's got one kid who's old enough to have friends she's going to miss every time they move, and I would be surprised if those friends live in Edmonton.

Back to Lombardi:

I thought about it (for) a week or so and talked to his agent and said, `If it’s a hockey issue, I would not approve of this, because if it’s coaching, the power play, his ice time, who he’s playing with, these are things that we will work through.’

Funny that he would mention such a specific list of complaints that Smyth doesn't have.

But if it’s a personal thing, a family issue, it’s hard to argue with that [...]. So I resigned myself. [...] I was talking to other teams about getting a left winger if Ryan goes, and teams say, `Why is he going?’ and I had to explain it to them. [...]

...with a believable story that doesn't make us look bad.

Maybe he changes his mind now that Mike Richards is in our lineup, I don’t know, but it’s an awkward situation.

Why would his family situation change now that Mike Richards is a King? Why is it an awkward situation? It's not an awkward situation if Smyth has to move back to Edmonton for "family reasons." It's only awkward if it's not really believable that Smyth has to move back to Edmonton for "family reasons."

Or, as George Costanza put it, "Don't give me 'it's not you it's me.' I invented 'it's not you it's me.' If it's anyone, it's ME!"

More Lombardi:

I’ve never had this before. It’s nothing I’ve certainly ever planned on. [...] So that’s kind of the soap opera that’s been going on for a month and a half.

What does it say about Lombardi's opinion of Smyth's request and the way he handled it that he refers to it as a "soap opera"? If I had a friend who needed to move out of town for legitimate personal reasons, I wouldn't call it a "soap opera." It's only a soap opera if you're dealing with someone who is full of ****, melodramatic or a prima donna. Or all three.