Let’s face it. There’s nothing wrong with Jeff Petry except he’s not Jason Smith. The Edmonton Oiler fanbase likes their defensemen rough, tough, rugged and dirt mean.
The Oilers picked up Mark Fraser before the break, and he’s certainly hardwired for the physical side of the game. Fraser’s been an adventure defensively, but my long memory recalls Igor Ulanov looking so bad when he came over from Montreal in 2000. He was much better the following season, and maybe Fraser will show us more as time rolls along.
In 2000-01, Jason Smith’s boxcars read 82, 5-15-20 +14 120pims. That’s an ideal Edmonton Oiler defenseman—you show me that linescore in any Oiler season and I’ll show you the winner of the fan favorite award. Seriously. It’s always been that way, ever since the world began in Edmonton.
Smith’s other numbers that season: He played 21:39 per night, scored once on the PP (a mistake, I’d bet) and on the penalty-kill. He was 6.03, 220 and had 10 major penalties, one misconduct and one game misconduct. The NHL website doesn’t give the blocked shots and hits for that season, but he did record 151 hits and 176 blocks in 2005-06 when the NHL reported those kinds of things. Jason Smith was a lion, sweat buckets and bled gallons for the copper and blue.
REAL AND SPECTACULAR
Jason Smith was a helluva defenseman. We don’t have Corsi stats dating back to the heart of his career, but even late in his time in the NHL the big man faced tough zone starts. His shot differential wasn’t stellar, but a younger Smith would have pushed that river.
GREAT, WHERE CAN WE FIND ONE?
WHAT WILL IT COST?
I’m sure the price will be dear, but he’s big, strong, tough, has attitude and experience. The Oilers have lost their swagger since the Smiths and Prongers left town, and a guy like Gudbranson can hold back the water while the skilled men like Hall push the river.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I’ve always maintained that no one should have a problem with acquiring big, tough players—as long as they can play the game. Erik Gudbranson appears to be all of that and then some. And he’s playing in the NHL. Back up the truck to the prospect bin and load it up until it’s enough.
Hard target search: Erik Gudbranson. He might be the one.