Did Craig MacTavish move Ladislav Smid to Calgary just in time?

Jonathan Willis
January 14 2014 07:37AM

Something funny has happened since Craig MacTavish made the highly criticized trade that sent defenceman Ladislav Smid to the Calgary Flames in exchange for futures. Smid has imploded with the Flames, and that oh-so-weak Oilers defence seemingly hasn’t gotten any worse.

In fact, Smid’s departure appears to have marked bit of a turning point for the Oilers; after going 4-14-2 to start the year Edmonton won the first game post-Smid and has put together a still bad but much improved 11-14-3 record since.

As interesting as that won/lost record is, it’s nothing close to definitive. A lot goes into a win or a loss and often a team’s record with a given player on it is more luck than anything else. All it does is show that the sky hasn’t fallen in Edmonton post-Smid.

But other metrics show a lot more than that.

Ladislav Smid in Calgary

There’s something interesting that happens to Flames defencemen when they get paired with Smid: They get worse. Calgary gets out-shot by a 3:2 margin when Smid is on the ice, and no matter who he is paired with the partner has been better off with almost anybody else.

The following chart shows the percentage of all attempted shots taken by Calgary with a given defence pair on the ice. The break-even mark is 50 percent, with higher being better and lower being worse:

For pure puck-moving defencemen, like Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman, the addition of Smid to their pairing hurt. In Giordano’s case – and he’s the guy most worth paying attention to since a) we know he is an exceptional defenceman and b) he’s played the most with Smid – the difference was roughly 3.5 shots out of every hundred. In other words, Calgary went from being out-shot 52-48 with Giordano and X on the ice to being out-shot 56-44 with Giordano and Smid.

For guys who aren’t puck-movers, Smid was kryptonite. We’ll ignore T.J. Brodie, since the sample size is so small, but Chris Butler and Shane O’Brien both go from being bad without Smid to being outshot 2:1 when paired with Smid.

In short: in Calgary, Smid has been worse than useless when paired with anybody other than an exceptional puck-mover, and even in the latter pairing he has dragged down the results of that puck-mover.

Ladislav Smid in Edmonton

There is an idea floating around that Smid – a big, tough, physical defenceman who knew what do in his own zone – was carrying regular partner Jeff Petry and that with Smid gone Petry has been exposed as a bad defenceman.

It isn’t a theory that harmonizes with available fact. Let’s start by looking at Petry’s numbers with various partners this year:

The idea that Petry’s a trainwreck just doesn’t work because almost everybody he partners with gets better in the process. Petry has played with five regular partners this year, and it’s not a fantastic list – he’s played with Andrew Ference against tough opposition or he’s played second-pair minutes with a rookie (Anton Belov, Martin Marincin) or the remains of Nick Schultz or Ladislav Smid, who we’re discovering has major holes in his game.

Unsurprisingly, Petry’s looked bad at times. More surprising is this:

  • Ference has been at his best with Petry.
  • The Oilers out-shot the opposition by a wide margin with rookie Belov on the ice with Petry
  • The Oilers out-shot the opposition by a wide margin with rookie Marincin on the ice with Petry

What about Smid’s Oilers numbers?

We’re looking at pretty small sample sizes here, but Smid was a disaster when not paired with Petry and this season he’s been a disaster with anybody other than Petry, Giordano or Wideman.

What to Make of It All

Ladislav Smid has been one of my favourite players to watch for a long time. In interviews he comes across as funny, upbeat and a consummate professional. On the ice, whatever his faults, I’ve never had any reason to doubt he was giving it his all. Blocking shots, making hits, taking hits, whatever; Smid was a guy who always showed up.

So it brings me no pleasure to say this: It looks like something has gone very wrong with the player. With numbers like he’s posting in Calgary, he’ll be lucky if he can hang on as a third-pair defender, and only then if he’s playing with a competent puck-mover. Maybe this is all temporary, and he’ll rebound (I hope so; I’ve always liked the way he plays) but this is an awful stretch of hockey for a guy who has three seasons left at $3.5 million.

As for Craig MacTavish, he was harshly criticized for the Smid trade. But right now, it looks like he cleared a bunch of money, added some prospects and moved a player who wasn’t furthering the cause. If trends continue as they have since the trade, that will be a monumental victory for Edmonton’s general manager. At the very least, it may be wise to tone down the rhetoric condemning him for making the unpopular move.

Finally: It isn’t easy to say nice things about Jeff Petry to Oilers fans. He’s a favoured whipping boy and he probably always will be. But it’s funny how good his partners always seem to look. First, it was Smid. Then it was Anton Belov – whose play fell off at right around the same time he got bumped to the third pairing. Now it’s Martin Marincin, a second-year professional in North America who miraculously seems to be handling second pairing minutes in his first dozen games in the majors. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to ask whether Petry has something to do with that.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#2 @Oilanderp
January 14 2014, 08:33AM
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Beware Ottawa! We are about to trade you Nick Schultz for Curtis Lazar!

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#3 Fish
January 14 2014, 08:23AM
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We should have a like or trash button for the articles. If that was the case, I would LOVE this article. Great article. Great info. Great argument. Maybe MacT is still as smart as we thought we was before he was hired on as GM.

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#4 mk
January 14 2014, 07:56AM
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Thanks for sending us your junk, Edmonton. Ugh. I didn't like the trade when it happened and this supports that thought.

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#5 Mulli35
January 14 2014, 07:54AM
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Like you JW I loved Ladi the person and loved his heart but I for one don't miss his once a game boarding penalty and his fire it out off the glass first pass. I know we need toughness so it seems backwards to trade it away but Ladi was SO bad with the puck I think this ends up looking like a smart trade down the road.

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#6 billythebullet
January 14 2014, 07:48AM
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Wow. Would have never expected the advanced stats to show Smid as a boat anchor. Maybe this is why all we got was a bag of pucks for him...

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#7 sizzay
January 14 2014, 08:22AM
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I think another important aspect to look at is paying a bottom pairing guy 3.5 mill. That's a tough guy to trade.

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#8 gcw_rocks
January 14 2014, 08:32AM
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Long before Smid was traded I thought he had to go because you could not have both him and Ference on the roster at the same time, and Ference isn't going anywhere unless he asks to be traded.

So, Smid going was a forgone conclusion in my mind. My concern was what MacT got back in trade. Despite this implosion in Calgary, I beleive Smid had trade value when the deal was done, and that a real NHL player could have been acquired for Smid had MacT cast a wider net.

So, am I allowed to still be critical of the return?

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#9 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 14 2014, 10:48AM
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Still Hopeful wrote:

Wasn't Smid the product of the great Kevin Lowe trade moving Chris Pronger quickly after he wanted a trade and getting Smid and Lupul in return.

Where are they now? Not in Edmonton. Burke clearly won that trade.

You don't trade the one guy who pushed the Oilers to the cup final within two weeks unless you get a blockbuster. He jumped the gun.

This was just the start of How Bad Management of the Oilers is.

Make no mistake, this team is going nowhere until Lowe and MacT are gone.

Lowe got Eberle in that trade as well....

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#10 wintoon
January 14 2014, 07:57AM
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Just imagine if Petry was able to play with a solid #1 or #3 D man. I think we would see a fully competent and capable player. The problem is that the Oilers don't have anybody who qualifies as a solid #1 or #3 D man. Therein lies a massive problem.

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#13 Czar
January 14 2014, 08:34AM
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I liked Smid as an Oiler, now that he's in Calgary he's dead to me.

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#14 CDean
January 14 2014, 09:23AM
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What I find amusing is this is the last contract that Tambo negotiated and MacT trades it away. You can see the differences right there. If Lowe was making all the decisions then this wouldn't have happened. Further evidence that both Tambo and MacT have the reins.

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#15 Dave
January 14 2014, 07:47AM
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Amen

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#16 Pizzy
January 14 2014, 08:18AM
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Ladislav Smid is still better than half the Oilers defense and was one of the only few Oilers who seemed to give a crap. You use these “Questionable” advanced stats to prove your point and just rip a guy. No class Willis! No class!

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#17 -30-
January 14 2014, 08:24AM
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Finally!

Someone in Oilers management did a good thing. Acknowledge it and build on it.

I'm not a fan of Kevin Lowe. Anymore. He's done more harm than good to this club but can the bandwagon hoppers give kudos where their due?

Congrats Willis on a balanced, well put together argument.

-30-

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#18 mlselli
January 14 2014, 08:37AM
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I've never been one for stats, but what a surprise these ones are. I also liked the heart and physical play that we could expect from Smid . I was pissed at Mac T for the trade, and couldn't make any sense as to why, especially being as thin as our defence has been for far to long. Apologies to the GM. What looked to me as this move being a dark cloud, it appears there is a silver lining after all.

Just as an aside----Gagner is my whipping boy/goat.

Great article Jonathon. Thanks for pointing out the not so obvious.

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#19 CowboysRidingT-Rexes
January 14 2014, 08:13AM
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In 3 years this will be remembered as MacT's best move. A future franchise goaltender and a useful forward for a career struggling d-man.

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#20 pkam
January 14 2014, 09:21AM
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@Czar

I hated Greg Chase as a Hitmen, now that he's an Oilers prospect he's dear to me.

Edit: Still can't believe he is a 7th round pick. Hope more 6th/7th round picks like him by MacT in the coming drafts.

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#21 Zarny
January 14 2014, 10:44AM
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RMGS wrote:

Those who love MacT are loyal to no end. One way to read this analysis is as an ex post facto absolution of a poor trade by the Oilers. A 27-year-old bona fide NHL D is worth more than the marginal prospects gained.

A better way to read this analysis is that all of those who were crying and complaining about the Smid trade were flat out wrong and basing their analysis on years gone by.

Because it was clear to anyone who watched the games that Smid was playing like garbage.

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#23 NewfoundlandOil
January 14 2014, 09:11AM
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As much as I liked Smid as an Oiler, I had no problem with the trade for Brossoit and Horak. I think MacT acquired a potential starter in Brossoit and more prospect depth at G and C. Yep I think Brossoit>>Roy. I think there was probably a realization that Smid's style of play was not going to work under Eakins and MacT and therefore the move. I think Calgary got he better/more developed player for now, but Edmonton got as decent return for Smid.

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#24 Lochenzo
January 14 2014, 09:53AM
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If you believe that Nurse and Klefbom are the future of this blueline, then you should also believe that Jeff Petry will be an integral defence partner for one of these two kids. Petry is a complementary right shot who will have plenty of NHL games under his belt by the time Nurse and Klefbom step up to the bigs.

The Oilers don't have enough guys with significant NHL experience playing in key roles. Petry is building towards that and to me, he's just as important to this club as Nurse and Klefbom.

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#26 Darren
January 14 2014, 07:49AM
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Smid has been playing on the right hand side. Something he has never done as a pro. He will get better as time goes on, or if he moves back to the left side. But he also plays for the Flames. Although the Flames are better than the Oilers...they are still awful.

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#28 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 14 2014, 11:00AM
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Yes, you're right.

Lowe got a first rounder if the Ducks went to the final. Good pucking call, huh?

Then he drafted Eberle 22nd. Good pick too, huh?

But, no, please continue to tell us how you really feel! lol

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#29 Zarny
January 14 2014, 10:34AM
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The hate some fans have for Petry is the same as the hate some have for Gagner.

It simply isn't rational and stems from them not meeting some delusional expectation some fans have. Gagner hasn't become a #1 C and Petry a top pairing D so the simple folk pile on the hate.

The reality is both are very good players who aren't fully developed and certainly aren't perfect; but both will be very good NHLers for many years to come.

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#30 Ed in Edmonton
January 14 2014, 01:17PM
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pkam wrote:

The problem with Petry is even he is playing well for most part of the game, he will make one or two mind boggling mistakes and usually it ends with the puck in our net.

Absolutely correct. I'm wondering if the Petry kind of player, who plays well most of the time but when he makes an error it's a big one, will always have "advanced stats" that make him look better than he might really be. When I am always concerned when Petry is on the ice.

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#31 Time Travelling Sean
January 14 2014, 02:04PM
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From EDM to CGY maybe all this losing is wearing him thin. It must be hard to be upbeat and confident when you've been in a losing organization and a losing culture for so long.

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#32 Nimrod
January 14 2014, 11:32AM
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When you're 29th in the league with an inverted bullet and allowing most goals in the league, pretending that the trade of a guy the team re-signed less than a year ago is somehow a triumph because the team decided to trade him to another team equally bad and that team remaining bad is somehow proof of a brilliant trade?

Desperately clutching at straws is what this is.

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#33 etownman
January 14 2014, 10:59AM
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DigDeepNBleedBlue wrote:

Lowe got Eberle in that trade as well....

Yes indeed, get all the facts before spouting off your hatred!

Even at the time of trade I said it was a good move for the Oilers! I never liked the $3.5m for a left side pairing only d-man who can block shots! Ference & Belov both play a better all around game than Smid in my opinion!

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#34 Jonathan
January 14 2014, 02:22PM
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The one issue I see with this article is the omission of quality of competition tracking. I haven't watched much of Smid in Calgary but, at least to the best of my recollection, he was always used primarily in the main defensive shut down pairing.

I think this data could just as easily suggest which players were more or less equipped to tackle the "heavy lifting" playing against other teams' best players. As Smid was primarily used against top lines, players on the ice without him could arguably simply be playing against lower end players.

Aside from that, still interesting to see the differential of players playing with, or without Smid.

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#35 S cottV
January 14 2014, 08:13AM
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The numbers are probably skewed by his general use as a shut down kind of guy. When on your heels vs pressing opposition who need a goal, you tend to use Smid. When you need a goal and are pressing forward vs a team that is protecting a lead, you tend not to use him.

Also - would his style of play be a factor?

Tends to cheat to a defensive position. Tends to cheat back into the net area, as opposed to pushing threats away from the net.

A bigger "stay at home" d man, tends to stay closer to the net, inviting more outside shots and then relies more on subsequent control of the area around the net.

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#36 hippohero
January 14 2014, 11:12AM
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I remember the Smid trade. "Oh no, how will we ever replace Smid's 42% (5v5 ZS adjusted) close and two annual points?" is what I said about it, if I remember correctly. And then Derek Zona personally stepped in and called me stupid. And then he made fun of me for saying other players could fill in better for Smid. And then he mocked me for mixing up and saying "special teams adjusted" instead of "5v5".

I hate you so much, Derek.

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#37 Raine
January 14 2014, 01:22PM
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I wrote about Smid and his blocked shots as being over rated prior to his contract extension. I knew putting value on Smid blocking shots was wrong and he was going to be awarded. http://www.oilogosphere.com/blog/dont-base-smids-contract-on-over-rated-blocked-shots/

Smid's blocked shots were highly over rated. When you get hemmed in your own zone and allow more shots towards the net it's likely you'll have a higher blocked shots count. Problem with Smid is he's always premeditated blocking a shot rather than forcing a turn over or preventing the shot. He simply collapses and everyone calls him a warrior. Blocking a shot should be done in desperation and not premeditated, in Smid's case he allowed the shooter to take the shot - whether Smid blocked it or not I'd much prefer the defensemen forcing a turnover and gaining possession of the puck.

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#38 Raine
January 14 2014, 01:50PM
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I really don't find these stats that significant either. Smid has been paired with Giordano the majority of time in Calgary. When he's not, small sample size, it's only a different of -3.6%. Not even worth noting imo.

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#39 pkam
January 14 2014, 04:29PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

Absolutely correct. I'm wondering if the Petry kind of player, who plays well most of the time but when he makes an error it's a big one, will always have "advanced stats" that make him look better than he might really be. When I am always concerned when Petry is on the ice.

I won't be too critical on Petry and neither should Oilers fans.

He has been asked to do a job which is over his ability when he is still supposed to be under training.

I think most believe he is a potential 2nd pairing defenseman with only about 200 game experience. He should be transitioning from the 3rd pairing to 2nd pairing with a veteran to mentor him. But in most games he is the better of the pair defending against the top lines of our opponent, who consistently putting pressure on you and can turn any of your mistake into a goal.

All I want to point out is that he is not quite ready to be considered solid and reliable yet.

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#40 Toro
January 14 2014, 07:57AM
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Good read , I for one was against the Smid trade, he was one of the few Oilers who seemed to care about this team , I still think it's too early to pick a winner in this trade and with Smids bad numbers in Calgary you could argue that it was the right time to make the trade but with Smid being under 30 I don't see his game slipping this early in his career and I fully expect him to bounce back at some point. As far as Petry goes he does seem to be the whipping boy right now and when I watch him play I see him making a lot of defensive mistakes , I truly don't mind him as a player but maybe now might be the time to trade him while he might have some decent trade value and use him in a package to aquire a top Dman that we need.

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#41 Neilio
January 14 2014, 09:18AM
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So you're making conclusions based on a half seasons work on two of the worst, most chaotic teams in the league? He was a good defenceman before and he will be a good one again. Smid's poor play with the Oilers this year coincides with Eakins' failed Swarm system, BTW.

Regarding the trade, take this for what its worth. I have it on good authority that Smid asked for a trade because the locker room had become unbearable. Eakins plays favorites heavily and it has divided the room. Eakins made no bones about Ference being Smid's replacement, and the first time he actually spoke to Smid was when he told him he'd been traded.

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#42 Still Hopeful
January 14 2014, 10:46AM
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Wasn't Smid the product of the great Kevin Lowe trade moving Chris Pronger quickly after he wanted a trade and getting Smid and Lupul in return.

Where are they now? Not in Edmonton. Burke clearly won that trade.

You don't trade the one guy who pushed the Oilers to the cup final within two weeks unless you get a blockbuster. He jumped the gun.

This was just the start of How Bad Management of the Oilers is.

Make no mistake, this team is going nowhere until Lowe and MacT are gone.

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#43 Dman09
January 14 2014, 11:16AM
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JW,

I think your also missing a key point to the whole trade.... Laurent Brossoit. He has been more than exceptional in his stint in the ECHL. This guy looks to be a grade A prospect. Fully expect to see him in OKC next season and maybe even get some NHL the season after that. I think the trade was great at the time and it just looks better. However I don't think that trade would have happened if Laurent Brossoit wasn't part of it.

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#44 Dman09
January 14 2014, 11:19AM
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DigDeepNBleedBlue wrote:

Yes, you're right.

Lowe got a first rounder if the Ducks went to the final. Good pucking call, huh?

Then he drafted Eberle 22nd. Good pick too, huh?

But, no, please continue to tell us how you really feel! lol

You also need to remember that it was public that Pronger wanted out which would have greatly effected the Value Lowe could get out of the trade.

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#45 pkam
January 14 2014, 11:27AM
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Still Hopeful wrote:

No, they got a draft choice and Eberle was available. Doesn't count. They sent, arguably, the MVP of the playoffs and got a draft choice.

The other two players were dudes.

Again, poor management.

The question is why Eberle was still available at pick 22nd? Why 21 GM passed on Eberle and Lowe and Tambellini didn't?

Other than Stamkos, Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Karlsson, who was drafted ahead of Eberle do you think is better?

No credit when they did a good job and only count their mistakes. All management will fail by the way you rate them.

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#46 GriffCity
January 14 2014, 03:58PM
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Petry is dust...JW what is with your weird love of this guy? Must be your 3rd of 4th article with undertones of "Petryism".

Who knows, maybe I am wrong. Lets watch tonight's game with a little extra scrutiny and dissect Petry's game. We will reconvene here tomorrow and see if he is as good as you think or as bad as I think.

Same bat time....same bat channel

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#47 pkam
January 14 2014, 09:34AM
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I have never been a big fan of Smid and have no problem trading him. But I still think we should be able to get a bit more for him.

I can't stop thinking that the Sharks got 2 2nd round picks from the Pens for Douglas Murray last trade deadline. Honestly, even thought I am not a big fan of Smid, I'll rather have him than Murray.

The good news is Laurent Brossoit seems to be doing really good in ECHL. The bad news is he is not doing very good in AHL. It is too early to tell if he can develop into a NHL starting goalie. Let's hope Bob Green is right, which he usually is.

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#48 Walter Sobchak
January 14 2014, 09:49AM
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Willis:

Not sure if this has been brought up yet...

I didn’t mind the Oilers moving Smid, I like him, and as you mentioned brought a lot of what the Oilers don’t do.

I just don’t like the return, how the Oilers could have drafted a like type goalie 3 months ago ( Jarry or Comrie) to finding a competent center for the Barons for probable a 4 to 6th round draft pick.

I honestly think the Oilers could have gotten a whole lot more at the trade deadline.

As for Petry, again, I like his game. I hate his compete level, I also have witnessed him leaving scrums, I find him to be almost butter soft (competitively not tough)

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#49 Raine
January 14 2014, 02:00PM
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Raine wrote:

I really don't find these stats that significant either. Smid has been paired with Giordano the majority of time in Calgary. When he's not, small sample size, it's only a different of -3.6%. Not even worth noting imo.

Also to add to that, I don't take stock in stats from someone who isn't watching the games. Stats based on analyzing video footage by a competent viewer is one thing - you watch the game and by watching the game something triggered the viewer to analyze a specific area of the game. Huge difference.

Simply taking stats from a stats page off a website doesn't weigh heavily in favour of making a proper conclusion on whether or not it's true. Is Smid really struggling in Calgary or is there other areas that may contribute to these stats (even the stats aren't that significant).

We need someone who regularly watches and analyzes the Flames to weigh in. This article needs to be posted at Flames Nation.

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#50 **
January 14 2014, 08:51AM
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They key words here are: small sample.

Comments are closed for this article.