When I played ice hockey, way back when, I began as a stay-at-home defenseman before graduating to playing the left wing beside the more talented players. It was the era that the left-wing lock was in vogue, and I developed an appreciation for the finer points of ice hockey.
It also helped that my shot wasn’t very good, but I could stick-check and pass fairly well for a youngster. (Sadly, my on-ice skills topped out when I was 12.)
But my background in the defensive end probably explains my appreciation for Ladislav Smid. You probably forgot that Smid was on this team, what with his injury troubles this season, but Smid ate up a bunch of minutes on the third pairing until he went down. His absence with a neck injury coincided with Bob Hartley having to play mix-and-match with his blueliners, and a whirlwind of new faces, new pairings, and general chaos.
Because he only played 387 minutes at even-strength – and he missed 51 games due to injury – he only played 100 even-strength minutes with a couple players. I’m relaxing that requirement just so we can get him compared with five teammates.
Let’s be honest here: nobody expected Smid to have great possession numbers. He’s a stay-at-home defender. His usual zone exit is “glass and out.” He’s not terribly mobile, particularly when compared to Calgary’s second and first pairing defenders.
And when you’re known as a mean-and-potatoes defender, you get deployed like one.
Lots of defensive zone starts, albeit against the lesser lights from the opposition. When Smid went down, his replacements did end up (a) getting more offensive zone starts (as none were known as shut-down guys), and (b) performing better in terms of the possession game.
So I’m not saying that Smid going down was a good thing, but based on the possession stats and how Schlemko and Diaz were able to jump in and help offensively, it probably was for the best given Calgary’s playing style.
In short, I’m not sure where Ladislav Smid fits in on this hockey club going forward. He’s a useful player, particularly as a mentor for some of the organization’s young defenders. But man, outside of intangibles, you can easily argue that the team has better options at their disposal. I sincerely hope that Smid recovers 100% from his neck surgery, but I’m not sure what his future holds if (and hopefully when) that happens.