Ryan Smyth sucks. I've always felt this. Since he's been a King, I've just kind of ignored him because when I think about the fact that he's a King it makes me too angry. Cognitive dissonance has been the name of the game and it's worked for me. Smyth who? Never heard of him.
But recently, that carefully built Wall of Ignorance has been slowly crumbling down with each turnover and giveaway by Old Man Smyth. In the past 20 games, Smyth has 2 goals, 5 assists, and 7 points. In that time, he's -7. He's been fucking terrible.
After Dustin Penner came over, Justin Williams was moved off Smyth & Jarret Stoll's line and Dustin Brown was put on the right side. That line hasn't produced a goal at even strength in the 6 games they've been together. You might be wondering, "Hey, maybe it's Stoll or Brownie's fault." Nope! All Ryan's. Why? 'Cause I hate him. But also because he's legitimately terrible.
You see, the Kings are generally built in this typical set-up: they have a big body that can work the boards on the left side, a big center that patrols the middle, and a speedy winger on the right side that can chip the puck in, get it deep, and get it to one of the other two guys. This works well on the first and third lines: Justin Williams & Wayne Simmonds get it in deep, Dustin Penner & Alexei Ponikarovsky work the boards, and Anze Kopitar & Michal Handzus watch the play and go where they're needed.
That doesn't work on the third line. Smyth generally doesn't focus on defense and instead tries to be the guy to chip the puck in deep, like Williams & Simmonds. This strategy usually revolves around skating the puck directly into the feet of a defender and falling down. It doesn't work.There's no chance to get the puck into a dangerous position if you can't get the puck in deep; a quick turnover is usually caused and will lead to a goal like it did when Brad Richards scored on Sunday.
The Kings seemed to switch it up a little on Sunday, telling Smyth to hang back and let Brown carry the puck in on a quick break; Brown didn't score but he did draw a penalty on a hilarious dive and get 2 shots on goal. Still, that line didn't score and didn't even gain much possession in the offensive zone because the only thing Ryan Smyth is worse at than carrying the puck in is holding it along the boards. And the only thing he's worse at than doing either of those things is taking a slap shot. Good lord.
Smyth has been terrible for the last little bit and Terry Murray knows it. He has cut his power play time in lieu of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Poni has responded with some great play recently. I imagine Murray is reluctant to cut Smyth's time any more because he's a good ol' Canadian boy who tries hard and does well in practice. Personally, I don't give a shit about any of that. I don't like Ryan Smyth but it wouldn't matter even if I did; he's been terrible. The Kings need to either sit him or play him with Kyle Clifford & Trevor Lewis for a little while. Put Brad Richardson with Stoll & Brown, re-forming a line that worked pretty well in spurts last season.
It's funny: I thought Ryan Smyth sucked when he wasn't on my team even when he was playing well, and now he's on my team and he actually sucks. Well played, Smyth. Well played.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-2. Goals by Kopitar, Stoll, Johnson & Smyth.