When I think about players who were tough as nails and mean as hell, I think about Bobby Baun and Keith Magnuson and old-school guys from later days in this part of the hockey world like Kevin Lowe and Jason Smith. And I think about Ladislav Smid. That’s right, Laddy Smid.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always admired players like that. Bent-nosed guys who played the game the hard way. Nothing pretty. No shortcuts. No posing. Gap-toothed guys who’ll hack you and hit you and fight you. Any time. Any place.

I can appreciate somebody who uses brain rather than brawn like the next guy, but I still lean towards players wired to throwing themselves in front of opponents and pucks without regard for the consequences. Guys who’ll take your best shot, spit blood and come back asking if that’s all you’ve got. Gamers willing to do whatever it takes to win.

I count Smid, who is now in his sixth season with the Oilers and leads the team in blocked shots with 163 and hits with 166, among those kind of guys. I like the way the big Czech competes. I like the way he battles. What, especially if you’re a dentist, isn’t to like?

Old school. Hard ass.


Smid, 26, who came over from Anaheim with Joffrey Lupul in the 2006 trade that sent Chris Pronger the other way, has become the kind of player the Ducks hoped he’d turn into when they drafted him ninth overall in 2004.

Smid’s not the best skater. He’s not the slickest puck-mover. He does not possess that crisp first pass that makes him a point-producer, a trait that grabs headlines and earns big contracts. But Smid battles. He gets in the way. He throws himself in front of shots. He imposes his physical will. He uses the gifts he’s got to get the job done. He’s proud of that.

"I take a lot of pride in that, for sure," Smid says. "My job is not to be on the power play or to produce points. My job is to be solid defensively and those kinds of stats (hits and blocked shots) show what kind of job you’re doing."

Smid has overcome a serious neck injury, one that required surgery a couple of years ago, to get to where he is now – a reliable, defense-first player who these days is labeled as a "shutdown" defenseman. Smid has, in the years since the surgery, simplified his game and narrowed his focus.


"I was scared for my career," Smid said. "I was scared that I’d be able to come back and be productive. I saw our D corps and I saw we already had so many defensemen who could be on the power play, be in an offensive role.

"I kind of changed my game and accepted the role of defensive defenseman. I worked really hard at that, trying to get stronger and faster. I was still a young guy and I was trying to work on the things that I needed to improve. Whether it was watching video or working on the ice, I wanted to get better and better."

It worked. Whether paired with Tom Gilbert, before he was traded to the Minnesota Wild, or somebody else, Smid has become the kind of reliable player a coach can count on when it matters. You can’t measure Smid’s contribution in points – his three goals this season is a career-high and his 11 points ties his career best.

You size up Smid by the number of opposing forwards who turn away from the net rather than take him on, knowing there’s a whole lot of nasty intent waiting on them. You judge a player like Smid by the number of pucks he throws himself in front of. Meat and potatoes hockey, and plenty of it.

"Sometimes it’s scary when you see a shot going by your head," Smid admits. "I don’t really think about. Whenever I see an open guy, I just try to put myself in position and get in the shooting lane.

"I wasn’t always like that. It kind of came with experience, learning how to read the play and knowing where the puck is going to end up. Now, it’s just how I play."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    For al his effort Laddy should be rewarded.
    I think this has been a break out year for him.
    Should Petry continue to develop it could be good.
    This could be our top pairing for years to come.\

  • Jiri Dopita

    My favourite Oiler. Deserves a tonne of credit for battling his way from fringe NHLer to shutdown d-man. Am I ever glad we didn’t trade him for Heatly, or futures for that matter.

  • geoilersgist

    Great article! Smid is one of a kind. I remember thinking how we got fleeced in the Pronger deal but he is definitely turning into a game changer. GO SMID!

  • D

    Smid and Petry’s development might be the only pleasant surprise this year for the franchise. I look at them, with Schultz and a hopefully recovered Whitney as a serviceable top four if we get a new improved coaching system. I also feel between Teubert, Plante, Marincin, Gernat, Klefbom and Musil at least two of them should turn into a four/five damn in the next two years. For that reason I think the Oilers’ biggest need at the draft is size and skilled forward depth.

  • D

    Smid is an example of how investing time and effort into developing a player – and living with his struggles – ultimately pays off in this league.

    Smid was, at times, a disaster wrapped in chaos during his first few years in the league but, like they say, you learn best from your mistakes.

    He’s a keeper and the nice thing about him is it looks like he wants to be kept here.

    His development is one more little bright light in the dark night sky of this season.

  • Chaz

    Great article. What’s really impressed me about Smid is how reliable he’s become with the puck in the defensive zone. He consistently makes the smart / easy play and rarely gives away the puck. A far cry from where he was a few years ago, and a reminder to Oiler fans to be patient with our young defenders. Defense in the NHL has to be one of the toughest positions in all of sports to play. Keep it up Laddy!!

  • Like some of the other posters, I admit that Smid proved me wrong. I think he has genuinely arrived, and we’re not seeing an outlier-type good season. I am happy for him, and I count myself as a fan.

    For me, the lesson from Smid is just how long it can take for a prospect to develop into a legitimate NHL D-man. Klefbom, Marincin, Teubert, etc. are a nice little crop bubbling at the CHL/AHL/SEL levels, but there’s a long way for them to go, and no guarantee they will pan out. I think they’re years away from making an impact. Similarly, a lottery D-Man this summer will likely be at least a few years away from making an meaninful impact.

    We need to address the D this summer way – we can’t just let the current crop develop to fill the void.

    Here’s hoping.

  • smid does throw himself in front of alot of shots and throws alot of hits. unfortunately he still struggles positionally and with alot of the basic fundamentals of the game. ie chasing his defence partner into the corner and leaving an opponent wide open in front of the net for an easy tap in. while you can’t question his try, one can certainly question his hockey sense.

  • Smid is my kind of d-man.

    Guys on forums used to dig up the Chris Pronger trade and follow it around all the time any time we made a move involving a player attached to that deal. Now, out of that trade, we have Ladislav Smid, a slot shutdown d-man who is tough as nails and very reliable, and Jordan Eberle, a superstar in the making… I’m going to have to guess that they’ve finally shut up about it now.

    • bazmagoo

      Too bad we don’t have Joffrey Lupul’s 67 points as well 🙁

      Smid is looking like a great asset that’s for sure. Just need another 2 solid d-men, a goalie, a new coach and we could be a playoff team. Problem is about 20 teams are saying the same thing!

      This off season will be the year of the free agent defencemen, some of those top UFA dmen are going to get some big bucks.

  • bazmagoo

    Like who do you give the player of the year to Smid or Petry? Both have been outstanding this year and deserve it. I think I would have to vote for Smid myself just based on the type of game he plays and the shot blocking. Just love the way he plays.

    • DK0

      Its a toss up between defenseman of the year for sure, but I don’t think anyone can touch Eberle’s player of the year status this year. That said I think Petry might be learning a few things from Sutton and Smid. He threw 3 of the biggest hits of the game against San jose.

  • Smid is amazing in that when he came here he was touted as an offensive defenceman. He rebuilt his game so he could have a career as an Oiler. I was against trading him as the development was happening. I have to assume the coaches and management could see it or he would have been shipped down the road. I think the failed heatley trade was a big kick in the backside.

    In that same regard, everyone wants to dump Teddy. Last year we all saw he was good enough to earn a new contract. This year has been a step back. I expect and hope he comes back in Ladi fashion next year. Progress is never in a straight line.

  • Laddy should have an A on his Jersey. I am sure his team mates would
    agree. He is a Jason Smith Clone. Laddy Gator ! Or is that Wally Gator ?
    Anyone remember Wally Gator cartoons ? Probably not….lol

    Smid = Oiler Plain and simple.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Can’t disagree about an ‘A’ for Smid, he is for sure a keeper. Wasn’t Wally Gator’s sidekick Hardy Har Har? No, Lippy the lion I guess. I recall sitting in the knothole gang at Clark with a ‘Keep cool Trull’ sign. Now thats ooold.

  • Oil Bog

    Petry.. Most improved player by far. I remember when i won that
    trophy in pee-wee’s..It all ended there.

    Roy Bell of the Eskies was at our Year end Banquet. Anyone remember

    Roy Bell ? No not Kerwin Bell, Roy Bell the running back.

    Fack i am old.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I remember seeing Roy Bell at Eskimo practice back in those days. Very little for meetings film work back then. One early afternoon field trip our Phys ed teacher took us to a practice. I forgot my jacket on the grass so i returned after school to retrieve it at a little after 5 pm. They were still on the field practicing.

      Robin….where would you put Bryan Marchment on that list. Have to think he might slot in ahead of Smith and Lowe. Smid’s come along way from that puck shy guy he was 3 yrs ago.

      • I’d have Marchment on any list of these kinds of guys. Doesn’t matter where you rank them.

        Mush was a noted low-bridge hitter and an avid knee-shredder. All the more remarkable is he played so tough but was built like an accountant. Last guy in a crowd you’d pick as an athlete.

        • ubermiguel

          He looked like an accountant except for that nose. Guys like Ricci and Tim Hunter earned those profiles the hard way. My favorite Mush story was when he described breaking a guy’s nose in a fight in juniors…through his cage. Yikes.

  • Reality Check to the head

    There is a huge Smid lovefest going on right now and I am loving it! Smid was always on my radar as my favourite Dman. I wish someone would teach him how to fight a little better. I bet Smid loves the fact Sean Avery is out of the League!

  • DK0

    Just came back from dinner party w/ my 60something neighbours. I’ve been plied w/ glenfiddich and Cabernet. didn’t even read past the title or any of the comments. Ladi, my favourite player. Your welcome, i was happy to share.

  • Good article, Robin. I too, feel the same way about Smid and am glad he’s on the roster. He’s made tremendous strides the past two years in particular and it’s been showing this season.

    I hope everyone remembers Smid when we’re developing kids like Teubert.

  • ubermiguel

    Ladi Smid is a rock on the blueline. He is not a selfish player and he is without a doubt the defenseman of the year in Edmonton. Smid and Petry are head and shoulders our top pairing. Smid should have the A on his jersey that Whitney somehow has. Smid a team guy Whitney a selfish player, part of the Oilers problem, Whitney and Hemsky with A’s, them are “me” guys and the Oilers need team guys like Smid with letters

    • You’re dead wrong about Whitney.

      He’s not a “me” player. In fact, the furthest thing from it. I’d be interested to hear what you think you know about him that would bring you to this conclusion.

      If you were to ask Petry who has been his most supportive teammate since the day he arrived, who has taken the most interest in offering advice and spent the most time helping to bring him along, he’d tell you it’s Whitney.

      • Milli

        The Oilers need more Whitney’s. Smyth could be that guy for Harti, but you don’t see alot of the veterans who have game that some of the young players should be modelling their games after.

        That said, Petry wasn’t very refined, or seen as exceptional high end potential, as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and RNH are.

        Every Paajarvi needs a Jagr/Koivu/Doan/Iginla…passionate, but talented enough to lead by example

        I like Horcoff for what he brings to the team, but dear god, please don’t let the kids turn into Horcoff.

  • Milli

    Smid has had a tremendous season and I think that he makes things easier for his D partner. Gilbert was played tremendous when paired with Smid and Petry really turned his game around the time that he started to play with Ladi. His name won’t be in the headlines, but for my money he has been the Oilers’ most consistent player all season.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Great Article. My star is rising! sorry i missed this when it was published (too much to read)

    Smid is basically reliability and affability. he’s solid and mean but always smiling and joking. a real player.

    ps. I notice, RB, you didn’t bother to defend Hemsky from nick… but someone should. I don’t think anyone other than a few disaffected fans and media personalities question Hemsky… it’s true that those who do have loud irritating voices, but they are wrong. As for Whitney… I simply don’t understand how struggling through injury equates with being a “me” player… it’s a ridiculous argument. Because other than Whitney’s performance dropping this year (understandably) I don’t see any reason to dump on him or call him selfish.