Some guys will never look in the mirror, afraid of what they’ll see, but when Ryan Smyth looked at himself last season it was hard not to see a shell of the player he once was, with just two goals in 47 Edmonton Oilers’ games, and only 13 points.

It was not a pretty sight, although as the loud and proud warrior in him steadfastly says “I didn’t think I was done.”

A conga line of people people did, but not him. Now, with four goals and eight points, playing a regular third-line shift with David Perron and Boyd Gordon, Smyth looks like a reasonable facsimile of the old, dogged, in-your-face player. For sure, he’s not the Smyth of 2003 when he was 27, not his current 37, but Smyth is contributing, he’s certainly skating better than he did last season, he’s making checkers take him down, he’s jamming pucks at the net on wraparounds again, he’s scoring as he often has, on the powerplay.

He has three of those already (he had none last year), which gives him 124 in his Oilers’ career, just one back of Wayne Gretzky, and two behind the leader Glenn Anderson at 126. He says he doesn’t pour over the Oilers’ record book, but this is pretty good company. “I don’t spend a lot of time looking at that. It’s nice to be mentioned with those guys. I’ve played a lot more years here than those guys, though.” Smyth has played 922 Oilers games to Gretzky’s 626 and Anderson played 845.

Smyth, who was playing 15:22 a game last year, maybe half of that even-strength, looked like he no gas left in the tank, especially when the puck was turned over, and the transition drag-strip game was on. He didn’t have his legs, as the season wore on and the games were every second night for four months. Something’s changed, this year. “Fountain of youth, being around the kids, sitting next to Nuge (locker room), next to the 20-year-old (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), maybe it’s rubbing off,” said Smyth.

“Maybe it’s more mind over matter, more mental this season. I’ve had the opportunity to play with Perron and Gordon and they play to my strengths, which are on the wall. I’ve always been able to think the game pretty well, which helps, but I’m also healthy. I still want to be an asset,” said Smyth. “There is some creativity with our line and I’m helping out down low. I really hoped to play with Perron because he’s a mucker, a give and go type player, and we get a lot of puck-possession with Gordon.”

Last year, Smyth was forced into playing centre on a fourth line with injuries to Eric Belanger and Shawn Horcoff. He did it because being known as a Swiss army knife player at an older age, helps. But he wasn’t that good at it. He killed penalties well, but, again, there was little powerplay time. That’s just the way former coach Ralph Krueger saw his lineup. Different strokes for different folks. Krueger was and is a fine coach but he saw Smyth in a different light. Or, he just looked his age.

“I was disappointed last year, as a team and for myself. I knew in my heart I had more to give and that’s what I told Dallas (new coach Eakins) when we first met,” said Smyth, who got a clean slate from the new head knock behind the bench. Smyth, to his credit, hasn’t let Eakins down with his faith in him.