Laddy, is that you?

The smile looked familiar, but I had to do a double-take in the dressing room the other day when Ladislav Smid walked in with his equipment bag slung over his shoulder.

As jacked as he looked with those ridiculously big guns hanging out of his shirt where most people have arms, Smid could have passed for Russian bad guy Ivan Drago from Rocky IV if you’d have thrown in some peroxide and one of those Vanilla Ice-style flat top haircuts.

Instead of muttering “I must break you,” as Drago did, Smid happily sat down for a few minutes to answer questions — the most obvious one, given the ripped upper-body the 22-year-old Czech is boasting these days, would start with, “Laddy, WTF… ?”

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Smid, who began the 2007–08 season listed at six-foot-three and 204 pounds in the Edmonton Oilers media guide, is today walking around at 225 pounds — none of it put on using media pilates, otherwise known as the buffet table.

It turns out a summer spent doing rehab on his right knee after having arthroscopic surgery to repair meniscus damage ended up with him hitting the iron in the gym big time.

Getting pumped

“The doctor told me to do some upper-body work,” explains Smid of a regimen that clearly included lifted everything he could get his mitts on. “I couldn’t really do my legs for like a month-and-a-half. I feel good.”

Smid, a bit of a pencil-neck when he arrived with Joffrey Lupul as part of the Chris Pronger trade in July 2006, stands to be considerably more persuasive in those goalmouth shoving matches and post-whistle scrums he favours from now on.

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With the size and strength to back-up the aggression he’s shown in the past, Smid’s giving himself a chance to make an impression on a blueline that’s considerably deeper than when he arrived.

One look at the roster, which includes Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov, Tom Gilbert, Steve Staios and newly acquired Jason Strudwick, and it’s obvious Smid is going to need every edge he can get to stick in the top six.

It’s equally apparent the Oilers have plenty of puck-movers in Souray, Visnovsky, Grebeshkov and Gilbert. What coach Craig MacTavish needs is, as Lowetide put it in his blog recently, a Charlie Huddy — a reliable rearguard who’ll take care of business in his own end.

Keep ‘em honest

“I’m more like a defensive guy,” Smid said. “I’m going to try to stay aggressive and be physical. That’s all I can do because I think we have enough skilled guys on the back end. We need some guys to be physical, too. Not just Stevie and Shelly.”

Having scored 0-4-4 in 65 games last season and with just 3-11-14 in 142 NHL games, Smid hasn’t shown many flashes of offensive flair. Then again, with him yet to blow out 23 candles on the cake, we’re not looking at a finished product.

I’ll give Smid credit, though. If he’s smart enough to look at the personnel here now, realize where he has to fit and determined enough to put in the work in the gym, it’s all good.

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Of course, pushing all that iron won’t make him more reliable. As mistake-prone as he’s been at times — Smid is a minus-31 in those 142 games after going minus-15 last season — there’s work to do.

Still, if Smid can be a third-pairing guy and play 15-17 minutes a night, cut down the mistakes and be even more of a menace to opposing forwards in front of Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson, it’ll be a step forward.

No fear

“You have to show them you’re not scared,” smiles Smid, talking about his habit of getting into — usually starting, the truth be told — goal-crease skirmishes and the your-momma stuff after the whistle.

“Next time, they’re going to think about it if they’re going to go in front of the net or not. You have to show that it’s going to be tough for them.”

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • David S

    Not sure if you noticed Robin, but Fernando is looking like he took out a membership at the same gym Smid did. Good on him. Seems he's gained all his weight back and then some.

  • Harrison

    Nice to hear from the Smid camp, I really hope this guy can blossom into the new Jason Smith type of D-Man. We need a shutdown guy that is young, hope he sticks.

  • Dav

    I couldn't agree more with Staples about Smid. He has the tools to be a top pairing defender and is too cerebral & coachable to be a minus player or develop holes in his game for long. I see him being a bit like Souray the way Souray came in to the league on a team with little need for offensive defenceman and kind of got pidgeon holed as a stay at home guy for the first part of his career. I think Smid has even more potential.

  • He has the tools to be a top pairing defender and is too cerebral & coachable to be a minus player or develop holes in his game for long. I see him being a bit like Souray the way Souray came in to the league on a team with little need for offensive defenceman and kind of got pidgeon holed as a stay at home guy for the first part of his career. I think Smid has even more potential.

    How does Smid's shot compare with Souray's? Just asking.

  • Bruce

    The most important thing Smid needs to develop next IMO is a willingness to have a few more of those goal-crease skirmishes before the damn whistle. "You have to show that it will be tough for them" when it matters.

    I do think he's getting it, and it will come. Unless you're Ugly it takes a while to establish yourself as a physical force in this league, and Smid took important steps in this regard last year.

  • Rick

    Dennis: Offence as in putting up points or offence as in moving the puck?

    I don't know how many points will come for the kid but considering what he has shown at his age I think he will be a very good puck moving blueliner.

    Which of course is the first step in a good offence.

  • Dav

    Jonathan: I'm going to assume your question was rhetorical

    Dude: I am not Dave, David S, or David Staples but it would be nice to be David Poile or maybe Dave Checketts or even William Davidson pre 2005.

  • Dennis

    Well, offense is a lot easier to nail down when a guy actually has a shot or knows how to make a pass when inside the other team's blue.

    Hey, it's always a moving target when it comes to Smid because people are afraid to shoot straight on just how horse****** Lowe wound up being on that trade.

    You had the one-shot scorer in Lupul and the two-way dman in Smid and where are we now in that transaction?


    So, just as long as Smid's a likeable fellow, he'll still be in the good books and if he actually happens to work out over a summer, then Boy Howdy!!

  • Rick

    Yeah that makes sense.

    By that I mean it's totally logical for everyone to judge Smid based on what they figure Lowe should of got for Pronger as opposed to just judging Smid for what he actually is.

    Or better yet everyone could judge Smid against Lowe's trade AND the failure that Lupul turned out to be in Oilers silks.

  • Dennis

    Rick: Someone on the media — as if Edm had a Real media — should judge Lowe.

    It isn't that Smid's not worth taking chances on but everytime people happily lower his ceiling, it lets Lowe off the hook.

    That's what I think about everytime someone downgrades this kid's potential and smiles while doing so.

    BTW, I like the Cole acq. as well but let's remember it's just for one year the way it currently stands.

  • RobinB

    Dennis: Your beef with Lowe and the Pronger trade is obvious — not to mention premature and poorly thought out. Smid is only 22 and nobody knows how good, or average, he will be two or three seasons from now.
    As for your "real media" comments, give it a rest. You sound like a frustrated wannabe sports writer — the media in Edmonton spends all it's time kissing Lowe's ass, right? — who never made the cut to get into j-school.

    I'm not "happily" lowering my expectations of Smid. Him being smart enough to realize that he stacks up as a third-pairing guy on this particular roster at this point in his career and being willing to put in the work to simplify his game and play a certain role is a positive, not a negative.
    If he's no better than a sixth D man a couple seasons from now, then I'd rate him (or any first-rounder)a bust, but it's too early to do that now.

  • doritogrande

    rockin rog:

    That second rounder turned into Allan Rourke.

    We traded MA Bergeron and our own third rounder in 08 to the Islanders for Denis Grebeshkov. Then, realizing we needed our own draft picks to make offer sheets, the Oilers then traded the second-round pick in 08 they acquired in the Pronger trade to the Islanders for Allan Rourke and our own 3rd round draft pick in 08 back.

    Make sense?

  • Dennis

    So, Robin, should we make a date when we can come back here and accurately judge that trade? When will this magical day take place? Does the fact that Pronger helped the Ducks win a Cup factor into this at all? Or that Lupul was turned into one year of Pitkanen and then a year of Cole?

    It's two summers later and passing at least partial judgement shouldn't be considered being premature but the fact that you started to get personal tells me more than a little about some exposed nerves.

    By the by, years ago I WAS actually accepted to a couple of Journalism schools but they were out of province and I decided not to attend.

    Of course, what that has to do with the fact that just about all people in the media DO spend their time kissing Lowe's ass — as an aside, when was the last time you and Stauffer DID say something about Lowe, I don't really know.

    I am SMRT enough to read the dailies and to know criticism when I read it and, son, I just haven't read it.

    Well, maybe outside of one Dan Barnes pre-vacation piece that he wrote in the aftermath of the Smyth trade.