While Ladislav Smid has not lived up to the huge expectations placed upon him after being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in the Chris Pronger trade, he certainly has started to itch himself out a nice NHL career. Many people forget that Smid is only 25 years old and most NHL defencemen do not start hitting their stride until they reach their mid to late 20’s. Do you think it was just a coincidence that both the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators inquired at the deadline about his availability? Teams see what he brings to the table and realize he is entering that make it or break it time for a defenceman. There is no question that he is an NHL caliber blueliner but he has yet to show if he will end up being a top four guy or bottom pairing material.
Smid will likely be partnered with Tom Gilbert for the coming season and the duo will make up the Edmonton Oilers second pairing. The two started to show signs of forming chemistry during the latter part of the 2010-2011 campaign but the combination of the Oilers not having the most talented backend and a season ending injury to Ryan Whitney, forced both men to play way too many minutes. The addition of Cam Barker coupled with the return of a healthy Whitney, will allow both Gilbert and Smid to continue developing as a pair.
When the Oilers acquired Smid, it was believed that he would be able to chip in offensively but that does not seem to be in the cards. That being said, he has embraced the idea of becoming the shut down defenceman this organization is badly in need of. Being one of the more physical players the Oilers have had in recent years, he has needed to stand up for his teammates on many nights…and he always answered the bell. Be it with a punishing body check, delivering a much needed face wash after the whistle or just dropping the gloves. Ladislav Smid has done whatever was needed to protect his teammates and it’s a trait that should be applauded. Other players have turned away from similar opportunities to send a message back to the opposition and thankfully Smid was not one of them.
One area of Ladislav’s game that needs more work, is his decision making process in his own end. While he has taken small steps towards improving, it is still not at the level it needs to be. Smid still tends to leave his partner in no man’s by making ill advised passes in the Oiers zone but they are occurring with far less frequency than in previous seasons. That brings us to the most glaring concern in Smid’s game, his positional play without the puck. Some games he looks calm, confident and in control...while in others he looks lost and his head is constantly on a swivel. He needs to slow things down and allow the play to develop in front of him. I do not think he’s at the stage where he believes in his abilities and trusts his decision making process 100% of the time and hence the inconsistencies in his game. As he continues to mature that doubt in his head should subside, which will make him a more consistent player in all aspects of his game.
Ladislav Smid made it apparent, to anyone willing to listen, that he wanted to be part of the rebuild process in Edmonton. He genuinely appears to love the city, playing in a hockey crazed market and wearing that Edmonton Oilers logo on his chest. Not surprisingly, this off season he chose to resign with the Oilers for another two years. Smid is held in a high regard by his teammates and has become somewhat of a fan favourite during his first five seasons in the Alberta capital. It is now up to him, to take his game to the next level and become part of the long term solution in Edmonton. He has the all tools to be a quality defender in this league for many years…he just needs to start believing it.
2011-2012 Prediction: 1 G - 10 A - 11 Pts