Ryan Smyth, via Getty Images
Yes friends, that is a reference to Quantum Leap, one of the all time greatest nerdy television shows of my childhood. Sam Beckett was a scientist who was caught leaping through his own lifetime attempting to correct some of histories greatest minor mistakes, and a couple of major ones too. I wonder if Dr. Beckett had anything to do with the news that broke this morning that our beloved Mullet is coming home? A few years ago, I wrote up a little piece on my regular page talking about the curse of the Mullet in the same light as the curse of the bambino, how the loss of the team's heart and soul would prevent the Oilers from having any real success in the future until the curse was lifted. I think there might be a chance now. More after the jump...A curse is any expressed wish that some form of misfortune will befall or attach to some other entity—one or more persons, a place, or an object. In particular, "curse" may refer to a wish that harm or hurt will be inflicted by any supernatural powers, such as a spell or prayer, magic, or perhaps even a god of some sort. In many belief systems, the curse itself is considered to have some causative force in the result. It is my belief that trading Ryan away for magic beans was this causative force that created the constant misery we as fans (and the players of the team itself) have had to endure over the past four miserable hockey seasons. Kevin Lowe effectively sold the team's soul, and we have all seen what happens to the soulless. They become zombies, or at the very least, the walking dead. Can anyone who reads this honestly say the Oilers haven't resembled something like that for the last while?
In the time that Ryan departed, we Oiler fans have had are share of misery. We witnessed what many including our very own Scott Reynolds called the Ryan Smyth "Death March" team in 07, a team so bad, it netted them their highest pick since Ryan himself was selected at #6. The following year there was the "Kids gave us hope but still couldn't deliver because they had no heart" team, then the little team the definitely couldn't, and now the last two years of dead-last (non-exciting, non-playoff) hockey, which demonstrated that we were wrong when we thought it couldn't get any worse than 2007. Last place finishes have given way to culture changes, new captaincies, purging of veterans, and saying in no uncertain terms that the team is rebuilding. Depending on who is counting, the Oilers have been in rebuild mode since Ryan left, or since Roli left, or since Ethan and Sheldon were run out of town, but who's counting, really... Oh, wait, this is only the 2nd year of the rebuild? Then why did Ryan get traded for O'Marra, Nilsson and the pick that became Plante four and a half years ago? This has all the makings of a curse to me. But wait, there's more. It still gets worse.
Injuries have ravaged this team basically every year since Ryan left, careers with potential were derailed by the miserable black hole that was Rexall place. Even the so-called best ice in the league has degraded to a slushy pile of garbage that hurt more Oiler players than Robyn Regher. In terms of total man games lost to injury, the Oilers have been one of the top five teams every year since Ryan left, which doesn't exactly make it easy to win. The "Death March" year was terrible, so bad that a player had to be called up from junior hockey to play NHL games, something this player has not done since. Yet Sebastien Bisaillon's cup of coffee doesn't even compare to what last year's season saw. You know the team cursed when it is forced to trot out Andrew Cogliano, the now departed Colin Fraser, Ryan O'Marra and Chris Vande Velde as your Centers, especially if Vande Velde, a first year pro with a lot of potential is your de facto #2 during this stretch.
Now you might be thinking to yourselves, "isn't this the same writer who decried the pessimism of this website some time ago using theory we didn't understand to prove his point?" and you wouldn't be wrong with this thought. That said, my pessimism has been documented to exist in the form of the curse. And I wonder to myself if the belief in a supernatural force is a little bit unfounded and irrational? Well, yes. Yes it is, but the burden of proof lies in actions, and this hockey team acts as if it were cursed. I truly believe that with the return of our beloved Mullet, the heart and soul of the team is being returned to it as well, and perhaps the curse will be lifted. When you exist without a soul, it shows. Ryan is back now; perhaps he can will this team to win at least as many games as it loses. One player will not make this team an instant contender, but one more real NHL player who actually wants to play and win here will help restore the pulse of a franchise that has been wandering the earth like the soulless undead since he left. He can teach the kids how to win, what it takes to win, and why this franchise was once so proud. The team wanted a culture change; bringing back the mullet will change a little on the ice, and for the better to be sure. Yet this isn't just a trade for on-ice intangibles, this will change a lot about the way the team will be off the ice, too. Ryan wanted to come home, and the Oilers now have the chance to truly make right what once they made horribly wrong.
Welcome home, Ryan. We missed you.