by Lisa McRitchie on 03/04/12 at 01:30 AM ET
Edmonton Oilers’ defenceman Ladislav Smid has never been thought of as an offensive defenceman, but his 3 goals this season are another reason for people to take note. There is of course also Smid’s (at times) league leading number of blocked shots and team leading number of hits to discuss, but goals from a stay at home defenceman are what doesn’t quite fit the trend.
Acquired as a part of the Chris Pronger to Anaheim trade, Smid’sdevelopemnt has been slow but steady and now Smid has been named one of the league’s most underrated defencemen by Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News online and in their trade deadline paper edition. To that I have two things to say; finally and it’s about time.
While most Oilers fans have been singing the [most times] deserved praises of recently traded Tom Gilbert, Smid has been leading the team in time on ice with a total of 1,348:41 minutes played, is anywhere from 20-49th (40th today) in the league for hits, and third for blocked shots.
When asked by both Kennedy and the Oilers Smid tells that the worst place to take a shot is “Of course your face, but also the inside of the knee and your ribs hurt. Anywhere on your feet hurt” as well, and you may notice several Oilers include Smid wearing skate covers to help protect against some of those 100mph slap shots.
During any given Oilers game, Smid is playing on average 21 minutes a night and for 3.25 of those minutes Smid is literally laying his body on the line killing penalties. And yet very few would consider Smid as one of the team’s top defencemen.
For far too long Smid’s 3 goals was more than offensive players such as Ales Hemsky had scored. Now, Smid has 3 goals, 7 assists and is -1 for on a team where only 3 players on the plus side; Sam Gagner (+6), Jordan Eberle (+2) and Andy Sutton (+6). On the negative side, Ales Hemsky (-14), Ryan Whitney (-15), Corey Potter (-18) and Shawn Horcoff (-20) hold the worst records.
Smid’s 40 penalty minutes would definitely put him out of contention for the Lady Byng award, but taking the odd penalty is something that the Oilers would have to expect from this gritty warrior. With 20 minor penalties, Smid is sixth on the Oilers team for penalty minutes.
Although Smid may not often fight – usually only 2 or 3 fights a season - he is always thinking of his teammates and willing to stand up for any of them at any time. If there were any questions about that, one need only look at Smid’s somewhat toothless grin.
This is Smid’s sixth and arguably season in the NHL and Smid attributes this to having a full summer to prepare for the season. Last year, Smid spent too much of his summer recovering from neck surgery, too much for his liking at least. With only minor bumbs and bruises to recover from “I worked on my defencive side of my game and I guess it helped me. I didn’t do anything special about blocking shots. If I see an open guy and I see that he has a clear shot, I’m just trying to get into the lane.”
With the addition of another shutdown defenceman in Nick Schultz, Smid may have fewer games like last week’s 5 blocked shots game against the Winnipeg Jets, or the numbers could remain the same with Smid looking to maintain his lead.
Given Smid’s “breakout year” next year he may not be as underrated.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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