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

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

  • Pizzy

    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!

    • I’m not sure you know what ripping a guy is. I thought my personal opinion of Smid was obvious.

      But what I’m doing is looking at the data, and the data is telling me that despite my fondness for the player something has gone sideways here. The scoring chance data I’ve collected, by the way, shows much the same.

  • 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.

    • Oilers4Ever

      That is exactly what I have been saying for years. KLowe botched the Pronger trade big time and it’s been downhill ever since. You don’t trade a bonafide #1 D-man in the league for picks and unproven prospects. KLowe should’ve been fired for that offence alone.

    • Zarny

      You should probably at least include the entire trade before driveling about who won.

      The draft pick the Oilers also received was Jordan Eberle.

      Like it or not, given the circumstances Lowe got good return for Pronger.

      • Oilers4Ever

        No he did not! You’re an idiot for thinking that. Getting Eberle was pure fluke! Now had Eberle been a roster player or prospect for the Ducks then you can say Lowe knowingly made a good deal.

        • Zarny

          Spare me your drivel you dumb tard.

          Lowe got a 1st round pick which turned into Eberle. That isn’t pure fluke. Good fortune perhaps, but the intent of getting the 1st round pick was to draft a player of that caliber.

          No different than Bos using the 2nd overall pick from the Kessel trade to draft Seguin. It wasn’t a fluke. It was good fortune that the pick turned out to be #2 overall but a quality 1st round player is exactly what Bos knew they would draft with the pick. Same with Edm.

          Had Eberle been drafted with a 6th round pick from the trade…that would have been a fluke because very few players drafted in that position turn out like Eberle. Middle first round? Not even in the same vicinity as surprising.

          Like it or not, Lowe made a good deal under the circumstances.

          But, of course, idiots like you who drivel away never actually have an answer for what Lowe missed out on…so let’s hear it…what trade did Lowe miss out on when Pronger was moved?

          • Oilers4Ever

            If I were Lowe I would’ve asked for someone of Scott Niedermeyer’s stature in return. That would’ve been an apples to apples trade. Plain and simple dumb$hit!!!

          • Oilers4Ever

            A couple of years after the Pronger trade someone asked Lowe if there was anything he would have done differently over the previous few years. Lowe answered, surprisingly frankly, that he should have mage Pronger sit longer. I think this suggests that in hind site Lowe thinks he could have done better. Getting Eberle at 22 is quite fortunate.

      • The Real Scuba Steve

        I can’t believe i’m sticking up for Kevin Lowe, but Kevin Lowe wouldn’t have won Pronger trade no matter where he went. With his cap hit Kevin Lowe hands were tie. Looking back I wish the Oilers did to Pronger like they did to Souray.

          • pkam

            Pronger is a franchise defenseman every team would like to have, and 6.25M is a great contract.

            Souray at 5.4M not that easy to trade. We had put him on waiver twice and nobody was willing to bite. Do we have to package some draft picks or prospects to sweeten the pot to do him a favor?

      • The Last Big Bear

        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.

        • pkam

          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.

          • Time Travelling Sean

            I don’t need to rate them. They are the worst team in the league overall since Lowe took over.

            The facts speak for yourself. And that includes with Eberle playing (although I do think he is a great player).

            Time for a change in management.

            Would any other business or organization be so bad and not get rid of the problem. The losing stigma is not going to change with other players in the league until they see fresh faces in the front office.

            Hey I wonder how many people employed by the Oilers are replying to the blogs right now? My guess, a lot!

        • Oilers4Ever

          Lets be honest with each other. You don’t want to hear/read my opinion on this trade or any other Oilers’ transaction. You just want to throw sh*t at the fan. ‘Cause you can. Am I right?

      • Zarny

        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!

  • 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.

  • RMGS

    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.

    • Zarny

      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.

    • Well, let’s tranlsate that second sentence into English: “One way to read this analysis is as an after the fact absolution of a poor trade by the Oilers.”

      In other words, you’re saying I’m letting him off the hook after the fact.

      That’s true, in a way – I was highly critical of the trade when it happened. But I’m not changing my mind out of some deep-seated sense of loyalty to Craig MacTavish; I’m changing my mind because the facts have changed. Petry has played with other partners and done better than he had with Smid; Smid has played with other partners and fallen off the rails.

      If Smid were excelling in Calgary, the earlier criticism would be justified. Instead he’s flat-lining, and if it continues that trade is going to keep looking pretty good for Craig MacTavish.

  • Neilio

    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.

  • S cottV

    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.

  • CaptainLander

    Petry reminds me of Tom Poti, Poti was a whipping boy for a while before being traded (along with Rem Murray)for Mike York. Not sure the Oil won that trade. Poti had a pretty decent career.

  • Zarny

    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.

  • Oilers4Ever

    IMO Smid can appear pretty cocky sometimes. When traded I wondered (just for fun) if he ever used that 4-year/$3.5 million contract as clout in the dressing room, rubbing other players and management the wrong way. I don’t question his passion for the game, but he also seems like a player who can act like a black hole during times of losing.

    This data partly supports my theory at least

  • Toro

    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.

    • pkam

      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.

  • Zarny

    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.

    • Zarny

      That’s all the writers are left to write about.

      Common Willis foil: isolate a variable within the team, find a stat which challenges popular concensus, decide the parameters of the stat based on the argue bet you would like to make, then use into construct an argument which demonstrates what a genius MacTavish is.

        • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

          I’m not really disgruntled.

          It would be nice to read a piece from Willis that is even mildly critical of management; instead, we just get palliative pieces.

          Also, you can isolate any statistic, remove it from its context, then have it demonstrate anything you’d like.

          Bottom line is the Oilers have done even worse this year than last — which, considering how bad they’ve done in previous seasons, is an accomplishment in itself.

          MacTavish’s trade doesn’t look as stupid as it initially did? So what. The bottom line is the same; that’s the only thing that matters.

          • My blogging career curve:

            • 1. Express optimism at Edmonton going outside the family to hire Steve Tambellini.
            • 2. Hammer Steve Tambellini and the Oilers for doing almost nothing but stupid things for five years.
            • 3. Express optimism at new GM MacTavish’s first few trades looking decent.
            • 4. Get hammered as a homer for never being critical of management.

            That’s fine, too; this is a great way to make a living and I’m glad people are still reading. But honestly, the kind of criticism I’ve been getting lately just makes me laugh. I’m not going to burn MacTavish at the stake for Tambellini’s crimes; that’s just the way it is. I’m not going to fault the new G.M. for the sins of the organization under the last guy.

            I thought MacTavish made a mistake trading Smid, and I didn’t hesitate to say so at the time. Two months later, it’s looking a lot like he was right and I was wrong and I thought it was only right to acknowledge that – especially since I was a long way from being alone in those views.

            If you think that’s Oiler boot-licking the best advice I can give you is to enjoy a cold beer and calm down.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            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.

            This is not a fair or complete assessment of Belov’s WOWY.

            http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=1802&withagainst=true&season=2013-14&sit=5v5

            He’s actually played more 5×5 with 19 (192:00 TOI).

            19 is 49.7CF% with 77 and 41.5% without 77

            If Belov’s numbers only went up with 2, you’d have a case. But, he makes everyone he’s played significant minutes with (minus Larsen, that pairing is a black hole, both get much worse together) better. Including the woeful Nick Schultz

            77 and 15 played 87:18 TOI 5×5 together

            15 is 46.8CF% with 77 and 41.4% without.

            I think there is a case to be made that 77 isn’t a case of “who’s zooming who” when paired with 2, but rather a case of mutual flourishing.

          • Andy7190

            No you can’t just “isolate any statistic” you want to prove a point. It can somethimes be unclear what the numbers mean but they never lie or “say whatever you want” Math doesn’t work that way. And in this case, what the numbers say seems pretty obvious: Letting Smid go was, sadly, a good move.

            “MacTavish’s trade doesn’t look as stupid as it initially did? So what. The bottom line is the same; that’s the only thing that matters”

            That’s just silly. Are you suggesting that EVERY trade the OIlers make is bad unless it immediately improves the team to a winning record?! Have you seen this roster? There isn’t a trade out there that can do that, short of trading our entire roster for Chicago’s. Whatever improvements MacT (or perhaps a different GM in the near future will make will be incremental, as even a blockbuster trade will unlikely fix all this team’s problems. Meanwhile we can at least be satisfied that this seemingly minor deal looks to be working out well for the OIlers.

          • pkam

            Quite often statistics can be played with and misrepresented in order to produce a desired outcome. Governments do this quite often when they want to persuade society and change laws. It’s being selective on using certain statistics and what you want to deliver to the people. Heck, I’m sure we could draw up a few statistics and make Smid look like a fine defenseman. We’ve done it before with shot blocks, as one example.

            This is why the hipster bloggers love it so much. They can play with it and come out looking intelligent. It appears like effort. Yet, the biggest effort would be to watch the games and analyze the game – rather than simply taking stats from a stats page.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    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.

    • Chainsawz

      I might buy that if you could break out 5v5 blocked shots from 4v5 blocked shots. Then compare shots against 5v5 with Smid to shots against 5v5 without Smid along with QOC.

      Instead that’s a link to an opinion piece. You might be right, I don’t know, but I’m left wondering about those stats after reading that.

    • Chainsawz

      Did MacTavish move Smid in time? That’ll be determined at the trade deadline if Calgary moves him and we might get to see what they get in return. Even if they move at sometime prior to his contract being up, an answer could be had to that question.

      Was it a good trade? The only stats I need are Smid 30 games played for Calgary to 1 game played by Horak and Brossoit for Edmonton to make a call on that for now. If, and that’s a HUGE if, one of those guys can become something of an NHL regular, the trade can re-evaluated.

      As for the stats… Are there any historical numbers on Smid showing that he was ever a player that improved another defensemans shot attempts?

      • The biggest concerns in the Oilers game I saw, by watching, last season was the lack of a transitional game, an inability to take possession of the puck and effectively break out of their zone and finally enter the offensive zone. They had defensemen, which included Smid, that were being hemmed in their own zone. A swarm of offence usually came the Oilers way and they couldn’t do a good enough job of breaking it up and taking control. I wrote about this last year.

        Obviously MacTavish saw something similar as he tried to stock up on puck moving defenders this offseason and he eventually traded Smid. Unfortunately the players he brought in were the poor mans version and not at a strong enough level to compete against the stronger teams in this league. I imagine this will be MacTavish’s focus once again as we get closer to the deadline and more likely again in the offseason. This team needs players that can drive the play up ice.

        Yes it would be nice to have better stats, which you mentioned. But you need a trained eye to sit and watch the game and make ticks on a piece of paper. Time consuming and sometimes you just want to get up and grab that beer and/or take a piss.

        But if you watch hockey often and know what you’re watching jotting down occurrences is unnecessary. Your brain does a damn good job at estimating and coming to a good conclusion, if there is something you are watching for in particular. Unfortunately, for those that allow instincts to do the work, our word isn’t good enough and people need numbers behind it.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I am a huge advocate of “advanced” stats when looking for information about forwards, but Corsi measures of any kind are effectively useless when evaluating defencemen, especially defensive defencemen. As a descriminator of defenceman performance, I’d say they’re about as useful as +/-.

    And I’m not saying Smid has been a Norris candidate in Calgary, but Corsi numbers, even in a WOWY context, are not the metric to use to show this one way or the other.

    I think the “advanced” stat metric that best reflects a defenceman’s abilities is TOI, which is just another way of explicitly stating that we don’t yet have a metric that outperforms a coach’s subjective evaluation of defensive defenders.

    • hippohero

      I don’t think advanced stats are “effectively useless” when evaluating defenders. Most Norris trophy winners seem to have a positive corsirel.

      Breaking out of the zone is an important duty for defenders, and should show up in their corsi. Add to that the fact that defenders seemingly cannot help or harm their goaltender’s SV% to any significant degree, and looking at which D get outshot consistently seems like a decent proxy.

      I’m not saying scouting is useless, or that stats should be the only factor, just that the stats should definitely show something. And in Smid’s case it’s not positive. I think he may be good at limiting chances while in the defensive zone, just that he cannot seem to break out of it.

      • The Last Big Bear

        Martin Marincin leads the NHL in CorsiRel among players with >10 games. Followed by Brent Burns and Jean-Phillipe Cote.

        Did you honestly just try to defend using this stat to evaluate defencemen?

        Anton Strahlman is barely even the best defenceman in the NHL named Anton Strahlman, but he’s top 10 in CorsiRel, and even has tougher QoC and zone starts than several of the guys ahead of him.

        Of the top 30 CorsiRel defencemen in the NHL, I would say 3 or 4 of them are even the best defenceman on their team.

        On the other hand, look at TOI/60. See the difference? The worst you can say about any of those guys is that they’re the best defenceman on a bad team.