Reasonable Expectations: Ladislav Smid

Last November, the Calgary Flames made their second-ever trade with the hated Edmonton Oilers. While their first trade (done during the down-slide of Darryl Sutter’s GM tenure) was basically not very good – getting Steve Staios for Aaron Johnson and a 3rd rounder (used for Travis Ewanyk) – the second one was better for Calgary.

Calgary traded Roman Horak and Laurent Brossoit for Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy. Smid was one of Edmonton’s better defenders. Once he arrived in Calgary, he was slotted into a bottom-pairing role and was used a lot on the penalty-kill. While his offense was virtually non-existent, he did turn into a pretty solid mentor for Tyler Wotherspoon before going down with an injury.

What can we expect from Smid in 2014-15?

Season       Corsi %              PDO          
OZS%
2009-10 46.1% 102.1 46.8%
2010-11 47.2% 98.5 48.6%
2011-12 47.6% 100.8 49.3%
2012-13 44.1% 101.7 47.9%
2013-14 41.5% 98.6 45.1%

 

In the shocker of shockers, Smid’s numbers have remained basically constant throughout the last five seasons. And in a shocker, a defenseman that gets very moderate shielding and is used in a shut-down role doesn’t score much. His point totals for each of the past four seasons? 9, 10, 15, a pro-rated 7 and 8. It probably wouldn’t shock you to learn that Smid very rarely got power-play time either with Calgary or Edmonton.

Smid is good for a goal a year, basically. He’s a fairly good player from his own blueline in, though. He’s not amazingly fleet-of-foot, but he’s efficient in his own zone and is generally smart with the puck. He’s basically Mr. Glass-and-Out, though when he has bad games, he doesn’t go glass and out and things get hairy in a hurry.

Overall, Smid is not Mr. Corsi, nor would you really expect him to be. He’s not the world’s greatest offensive player, so his stay-at-home skills usually don’t translate into much past center ice. Looking at his main defense partners in Edmonton, only Tom Gilbert was better with Smid than without him.

SMID’S 2013-14 NUMBERS

Smid’s a useful hockey player, but he’s not a guy built for strong possession numbers. In terms of possession stats, a “stay-at-home” blueliner operates under the same basic premise that Homer Simpson did in that episode where he became a boxer – the opponent gets into their zone and the hope is to use size and positioning to keep them to the outside, then chip the puck out.

As such, Smid never really got his feet under him in terms of his Corsi. Here’s a comparison of his five most frequent defense partners.

Teammate CF
Together
Teammate
CF Apart
Wideman 43.6% 46.8%
Butler 40.1% 43.1%
Giordano 45.5% 54.6%
Petry 44.3% 47.1%
Wotherspoon 40.9% 40.6%

Only Wotherspoon was better with Smid, and that’s (a) with the smallest of sample sizes and (b) youthful exuberance. I imagine Hartley gave Wotherspoon a bit of a long leash because the Flames were already deep in the toilet by the time he came up from the farm, so why not let him loose a bit? (I’ve got an open mind regarding the pairing, though, and I thought they had some good chemistry.)

Smid’s usage fit in roughly in the middle of the pack on the team.

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The four non-Giordano/Brodie regular defenders tended to get about the same level of shielding (Wideman a bit more, Smid a bit less) in terms of QualComp and variable amounts of zone-start sheltering. It’s not surprising to learn that Butler and Smid, the defenders thought to have little offensive upside, got less frequent offensive zone starts than Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman. All of these things make complete logical sense.

2014-15 EXPECTATIONS

Ladislav Smid should not be relied-upon for offense. History says he will not provide much. He’s a shutdown defender. He’ll probably be on the third pairing, and Hartley’s past performance suggests that he’ll rotate the non-Giordano/Brodie defenders through (lesser) competition to balance things out a bit.

Smid’s probably good for around 10 points, though that depends on who he plays with somewhat. If Tyler Wotherspoon makes the team, there’s a chance that being paired with a young puck-mover could ignite his numbers a wee bit. That said, he’s still a stay-at-home player and his usage, deployments and history show that he’s very much at-home inside his own blueline and his various metrics reflect that. He’s less useful away from it, and how he’s been used since arriving in Calgary suggests that the coaching staff understands that fact.

But beware: if he’s paired with Deryk Engelland, who’s less useful in his own zone, his possession and scoring numbers could creep down to a scary degree.

  • Craig

    Interesting that you didn’t just say that Smid was all out bad, because that’s what he was last year.

    Best thing he did all year was be featured in the SMIDCHART.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    @ r pike

    “But beware: if he’s paired with Deryk Engelland, who’s less useful in his own zone, his possession and scoring numbers could creep down to a scary degree.”

    I was thinking this the whole time a read your post.

    • He should be in the press box with that number, forget getting any worse.

      Im not sure what happened to Smid. He was at least functional as a defensive guy in Edmonton for a few years, but his legs seem to have left him. Without mobility and notable puck skills, he’s basically a body to throw in front of pucks in the defensive zone.

  • PrairieStew

    I’m not sure what “reasonable expectations” the article sets out for Smid other than repeatedly stating that he has no offensive prowess.

    Smid is a well intentioned pylon who has the sole redeeming quality of being a shot blocker (largely because he is a pylon!). If Brossoit turns into a decent NHL prospect for the Oilers we can add another questionable trade to Mr. Feaster’s collection.

    • PrairieStew

      So, like me, do you find it annoying that the team refuses to put the terms of the deal in their press release ? Obviously they have to share it anyways – why hold that information back in the announcement ? Why not control the message.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Most teams don’t release numbers like at most workplaces but yes they come out anyways. No big deal. I would not want my clients to know what I make, they might be mad (even though I earn it) so glad I am not in a corporate director or pro sports player only for those reasons.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Conventional shot-counting statistics like Corsi suck for evaluating defensemen, especially shut-down guys.

    Smid has never been as bad as his Corsi numbers would have you believe. But the down-tick last year is an accurate reflection of the fact that he did struggle badly, and had possibly his worst year yet.

    My reasonable expectation is that Smid has a bounce back season, and rounds out as a #3/#4 calibre guy who still has a couple of years left in the tank. His Corsi numbers will still be bad, and that still won’t mean much.

    His offence will also continue to be non-existent.

    • Conventional shot-counting statistics like Corsi suck for evaluating defensemen, especially shut-down guys.

      We’re finding that’s actually not at all the case. The best defenders in the NHL push possession really effectively. Pronger in his prime was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Chara, Doughty, Keith, Pietrangelo, Hedman and even Mark Giordano last year – all of them play against top-6 opposition and tilt the ice.

      • The Last Big Bear

        The best defenders in the NHL also push +/- really effectively. Bobby Orr was the all-time greatest. Chara, Kieth, Pietrangelo are all at least +20, and Doughty is a +17, even Giordano is a +12. All of them play against top-6 opposition and tilt the ice by being on for more GF than GA.

        But +/- still sucks for evaluating decencemen.

        And for the exact same reasons.

        Yeah, if a guy is putting up strong numbers against top competition, he’s probably a stud, and if his numbers suck despite easy situations then he probably sucks. But saying anything beyond that is just reaching.

        Absolute Corsi: Just off the top of my head, i recall that all of the NHL’s top 10 defencemen by Corsi all play for LAK, CHI, or SJS. And all of the bottom guys play for TML, BUF, etc. Jake Muzzin isn’t even the best defenceman on his line, but he leads the NHL in Corsi.

        Corsi Rel: The Edmonton Oilers have THREE decencemen in the NHL’s top-30 by Corsi Rel. They join other luminaries such as Dave Schlemko, Anton Strahlman, Matt Donovan, Sami Vatanen, etc.

        Now look at the NHL’s top-30 by Time-on-Ice/game. THAT is what a list of the top defencemen in the NHL looks like (or at the very least the best on their own teams). And the reason TOI gives you the best list is that the eyeball test and the judgement of experienced hockey people is still much better at evaluating decencemen than any of the readily-accessible advanced stats (so far).

    • PrairieStew

      I’d be more forgiving if the guy was a shot blocking machine – which would then be reflected in the Fenwick numbers. Still bad though – worse than Butler or O’Brien.

      That you expect him to be a second pairing guy is in my mind quite optimistic. To me he is barely a third pairing guy.

      So that leaves us with : An elite pair in Gio and TJ, a marginal second pairing guy in Wideman, a decent third pairing guy in Russell, a marginal third pairing guy in Smid and 2 guys with press box numbers in Wotherspoon and Engelland. At least we can hope for improvement with Wotherspoon.

    • seve927

      Interesting post from ryan wilson on hockeybuzz regarding zone exits for Pens defenders last year. Engelland was actually average or better overall when compared against that group. Right on average in getting the puck out of the zone, much better than average on turning it over, and a little below average in icing it to get it out.

      I’m willing to see what this guy can do before condemning him based on a poor Corsi rel.

      • seve927

        Please don’t post anything rational or heaven forbid positive about Engelland. Don’t you know the highly educated readers on FlamesNation know better than statistics or NHL GM’s and have declared Engelland as the worst defender and the worst contract in the NHL. I so hope he has a great season.

    • Parallex

      How exactly do they suck? One would figure that a good defender (even a “stay at home” type) will be able limit the amount of shot attempts against (the – part of Corsi) and have a good first pass to move the puck out of their own zone where the forwards will take over and generate a shot attempt for (the + part of Corsi).

      • The Last Big Bear

        Yeah, well they SHOULD work, and they work really well for forwards, and there’s a very sound explanation for why they ought to work in theory for defencemen as well.

        But then you look at the real world numbers, and they suck for the reasons I outlined above.

        They also suck because there have been a lot of excellent defencemen with terrible Corsi numbers. Regehr was the #1 defenceman on a division champion, he was a Canadian Olympian, etc, and iirc he always had BAD advanced stats. For some reason it hits the shut down guys the hardest. And no, I absolutely don’t buy the argument that shut-down defencemen are useless because they have bad Corsi numbers, any more than I buy the argument that Martin Marincin and Anton Strahlman are elite #1 d.

  • beloch

    Season —— Corsi% —— Corsi QoC
    2009-10 —— 46.1% ——0.986
    2010-11 —— 47.2% ——0.495
    2011-12 —— 47.6% ——1.101
    2012-13 —— 44.1% ——0.561
    2013-14 —— 41.5% ——0.312

    This table shows what worries me the most about Smid. His Corsi was indeed pretty constant for three seasons but has declined sharply over the last two. However, the competition he has faced has been anything but constant. In 2011-2012 he was facing top competition and playing on Edmonton’s first pair. This season, he faced easier competition than he has since before 2007-2008 but he got his head bashed in worse than ever. Last season was a marked and sharp decline for Smid.

    At his age, 28, Smid should be peaking, not falling off a cliff! This has caused several people to speculate that something is medically wrong with Smid. Perhaps it’s just in my mind, but he appears to be slower and more awkward on his feet than he was a couple of seasons ago. On the Oilers he wasn’t notable for being slow, but on the Flames he has been. Did the Oilers pull a fast one and trade the Flames damaged goods? Was Smid playing injured or has he been permanently impaired? Good luck getting anyone in either the Oilers or Flames orgs to tell you the answers, but if Smid’s play doesn’t improve significantly this season, I think we’ll have them.

    • PrairieStew

      I wonder if Smid has hit a new wall physically. He is no longer a young man with the recuperative powers that go along with that. Guys who maintain an elite level of performance notice that late in their 20’s they have to work that much harder to stay in shape. Hopefully he can find the motivation and program to get him to another level.

      Smid will of course has to do that without Rich Hesketh whom the Flames let go in July. Still miffed about that. Rich is the real deal – not some muscle head gym donkey. He was a top notch decathlete who understands about functional strength – not just working out to “look ripped”. Hope he lands somewhere where he is appreciated.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Vancouver team had top ten corsi ratings last season , and where did they finish -25th ! Take your corsi and stick it up your corsettes . Smid still a good defender, teammate and shot blocker extrodinaire .

      • The Last Big Bear

        Agreed that Smid is still a good NHLer. But he did have his worst season yet, despite his softest assignments yet.

        That’s a fact, and it is something we saw with the eyeball test, it also showed through in the Corsi numbers, and I can’t check because I’m on my phone but I’d bet dollars to donuts that it shows in his ice time too.

        I’m pretty deep into a 6 pack right now, so I’m not sure if I had a point with all this… but Vancouver sucks.

      • beloch

        Vancouver also had the third most penalty minutes in the league due to poor discipline and had below average PDO (luck) to boot. I’ll be the first to admit Corsi isn’t everything if you don’t control for circumstances, as I was trying to do by pointing out the change in competition Smid was facing.

        Smid was not a good defender last season, especially to the eye. He was visibly slower than anyone else on the ice. He was so slow he rarely tried to get possession of the puck or even take away his opponents space. He’d just put his body in the shooting lane. I’ll grant you that Smid is a very committed player. How many times did we see him limping off the ice in pain after blocking a barrage of shots in a shift? That doesn’t change the fact that a better defender wouldn’t have given his opposition the time and space to get that many shots off.

        • The Last Big Bear

          I’d addd that PDO for an entire team over an entire season isn’t luck.

          It’s a function of having good shooters and a good goalie.

          PDO only regresses to the mean for average teams.

          Again, too drunk to look up stats, but I’m pretty sure Boston”/s PDO has been ridiculously good for several years running. And there are crap teams with consistently garbage PDO for several years running.

          Above and below average teams can consistently have above and below average PDO’s.