Young defensemen are such a pain in the ass until the light goes on. It’s true. Turning the wrong way, falling down, forgetting the backdoor play, I’ve watched decades of young defensemen and with few exceptions it’s an absolute nightmare. They screw up two-on-ones, block out the goalie, take penalties at the worst time for no good reason and turn the coaching staff grey. However. When they turn the corner, when the lightbulb over their head goes on, when they manage oppositions sorties with authority–well, that’s a damn good day.
Ladislav Smid has developed by sundial. I mean no disrespect, it’s a tough position and playing well involves quick reads, quick reaction, good health, a good partner, luck, timing, the planets aligning, shot blocking, pain, endurance, long suffering, locusts, amputation, faith, anger, gumption, balls, overcoming fear, people booing you, high sticks, cross checks, angry coaches, mean opponents, Sean Avery and in some cases food allergies.
Ladislav Smid arrived in the NHL too soon–rushed to show the payoff for Chris Pronger–and took years to remember the back door play. He ran into glass for no apparent reason, fists on purpose and for a time seemed to respond to a whistle ending play by facewashing everything in sight.
As he approaches the 350 game mark in the NHL, Ladislav Smid is emerging as a quality option when the Oilers are playing defense. A few photos from Gabe Desjardins behind the net.
This shows Laddy as being one of the defenders coach Renney relies on for defensive zone starts. Smid’s offensive percentage is 3rd toughest among regulars so far this season, as he and Tommy Gilbert take on the toughest options.
Smid and Gilbert once again rank near the top of the chart, along with Jeff Petry who has played fewer games. These two charts indicate just how much confidence the coaching staff is showing in Smid/Gilbert.
Smid’sCorsiRel trails Gilbert–who is having an enormous season so far–but for all the heavy lifting being done by that pairing Smid’s -7.2 should be considered a very good total. Last season, Smid faced the 4th toughest opposition and had the third best Corsi Rel, so this should be considered a big step up in competition.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
By eye and by math Ladislav Smid is playing the best hockey of his career.
- Tom Renney: “This is the best he’s played. He can still make a play and deliver the puck to the net, but at the end of the day, if he’s a plus player and a real solid shutdown defenceman, mission accomplished for Ladi and for us."
Ladislav Smid has arrived, right on time.