You will see another new wrinkle tonight for the Oilers. For the first time in his NHL career, Ladislav Smid will suit up on offence. He will play with Brodziak and Pouliot on the fourth line.
Smid always plays with emotion. Does he make the right decision all of the time? No. But his effort is always there. His robust style is what the Oilers need on their fourth line, and Smid is a good enough skater that in theory he should be able to be effective on the forecheck.
But the other areas of the job will be difficult for him. I sat down with Smid after he fielded questions from the largest scrum of reporters he had seen in his young career.
Gregor: Sniper Smid, is that your name now that you are a forward?
Smid: Yeah, pretty much… the guys will have to get used to the new name.
Gregor: Do you remember the last time you scored a goal?
Smid: No… Ahhh no… Well, well. No, it’s been too long. (Laughs)
Gregor: Do you remember the last time you played forward?
Smid: Third grade. I was about seven. That’s pretty impressive, eh!
Gregor: Were you centre or winger?
Smid: I was centre, top goal scorer on my team actually. Then they put me on defence, because my Dad played defence for the Czech Republic national team. Maybe if I was still a centreman, I would be a top scorer. You never know. (Laughs again).
Gregor: You seem excited, but what is going to be the biggest challenge?
Smid: I am excited, but still I’m very nervous like usual. Defensively there are lots of new things. I’m used to being in the corners and in front of the net. Now I have to cover their D, and they are the best in the league, so it will be different, but I have to deal with it and hopefully I will do well.
Gregor: Your coach talked about players to compete every shift. You have shown that willingness as a D-man. Is your plan to just dump and chase and hopefully dish out some hits?
Smid: Yes, that’s the idea that MacT had. I have to pressure their D and see what happens.
Gregor: Did you practice tipping pucks or deflecting pucks in practice today?
Smid: I’m really bad at that. I’m just going to stand in front of the net and hope it goes in. I don’t know how guys do it. It is a miracle to me if I can tip it. If it happens it is a miracle.
You have to like Smid’s honesty. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face today. He just wants to play. He was asked if he thought about saying no to the idea when MacTavish approached him, “Are you crazy? This is the NHL, I just want to play.”
Later on when everyone was gone, Smid admitted to me that Detroit might not be the best team to get used to playing forward against. They are the best in the league and it will be a challenge.
Then I asked him, “When you go out, do you try and talk to the best looking girl or just an average one? Testing yourself against the best is always more rewarding.” He laughed in agreement. “That is very true. Hopefully I don’t get shot down tonight.”
Smid is one of the funnier guys to talk with. He doesn’t shy away from most questions, and he seems like he really enjoys being in the NHL. It will be interesting to see if he still enjoys it after going up against Lidstrom, Rafalski and the rest of the Detroit D tonight.
—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca.