What to do with Ladislav Smid?

On Nov. 8, 2013, the Calgary Flames repeated an unfortunate piece of history: they made a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. 

The previous time it happened, they got Steve Staios. The Flames did miss the playoffs, but at least Staios scored the game-tying goal with just under two minutes to go against the Oilers to keep their playoff dream at the time alive. That was worth it.

The second go around, the Flames got Ladislav Smid – who had just been given a four-year extension – in exchange for Roman Horak and Laurent Brossoit.

That trade hasn’t exactly worked out.

Smid isn’t particularly good to begin with

The Flames’ blueline is rather thin, and it’s been that way for a while now. This past season, in particular; once you got past Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, you’d find less of a defence core and more of a floundering mess.

For a number of games, the Flames’ bottom pairing was Smid and Deryk Engelland. While their minutes were very limited, they were an absolute disaster together, with a CF of 39.8%. They could at least clear 40.0% when away from each other, although were still pretty bad overall.

In fact, Smid has never, in his entire career, been a positive possession player. The greatest corsi stat he’s ever posted was 47.5% with the 2011-12 Edmonton Oilers (a monumental year for them, as for the first time in three years, they weren’t the worst team in the league. They were the second worst). 

While playing on bad teams has undoubtedly been a part of his poor possession stats, it’s not the only thing wrong. Smid has only once been a positive CF% rel player: that is to say, in his nine seasons of NHL hockey, only one time was his team better with Smid on the ice than off it. That was in 2010-11 (one of those “Oilers literally the worst” years), when his CF rel was +1.1%.

Every other time, he’s been, well, bad. In fairness to Smid, he doesn’t typically get favourable zone starts, but as a defenceman, that’s to be expected. If you can’t play well from your own end, there are going to be problems.

For some reason, $14 million

We’ll never truly understand the inner workings of the Lowe-era Oilers. Or any part of them, really. But it was probably due to Smid being generally loveable, as well as the fact that the Oilers were/are devoid of any actual defencemen, that landed Smid a four-year deal, with an annual average value of $3.5 million.

For a defenceman who doesn’t score and can’t really defend all that well.

Smid still has another two years left on his deal. With the Flames’ wealth of cap space, however – even with expensive contract extensions to come after next season for a number of players, including the currently very cheap Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau – his $3.5 million cap hit isn’t a problem.

Cruel as it may sound, the problem is the fact that Smid is still a Flame.

There’s no longer a place for Smid

On Dec. 12, 2014, for some reason, Simon Despres, then a Penguin, decided to launch himself at Smid’s head. Smid left the game early, and was out for a month. He returned to game action on Jan. 9, 2015, and played 12:50, being a -3 along the way. He was scratched for the next two games, played the next two, and that was the last we saw of him.

It was reported he had a neck vertebrae injury. That’s, um, scary. Especially because he’s only 29 years old and still has his entire life ahead of him.

Then again, the whole “only 29 years old” thing could mean he might feel he’s not done playing professional hockey yet.

If that’s the case, though, he may still be done in Calgary. Smid was already an occasional healthy scratch during the first half of the season, but when Raphael Diaz took over for him full time, the third pairing improved drastically. Engelland went from that bad 39.8% CF with Smid to the much less bad 45.6% CF with Diaz.

While Diaz and waiver pickup David Schlemko are both unrestricted free agents, they could easily return to the Flames. And that’s without mentioning guys like Tyler Wotherspoon, Kenney Morrison, and the recently signed Jakub Nakladal pushing for spots.

Throw in Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman, and Kris Russell, and there really aren’t that many spots to try to win.

What do you do with him?

There are four options for the Flames and Smid:

  • Depending on how severe his neck injury is, perpetual placement on the LTIR until his contract runs out,
  • Become the new Corey Potter; that is, a purely-for-insurance pressbox healthy scratch (and very limited minutes when he does draw in, solely due to someone else’s injury),
  • Waive him and send him down to the minors, like Devin Setoguchi or Brian McGrattan, or,
  • Buy him out.

Each and every one of these involves little to no NHL hockey, and certainly not in Calgary. Even if the Flames trade one of their current top four, Smid isn’t cracking it, and he especially won’t if they sign a top four free agent. That leaves the bottom pairing, where new management has the Deryk Engelland they specifically acquired, rather than the Smid that was there when they came. Then they have a number of prospects, new guys, and possible unrestricted free agents from the previous season who will all be fighting for spots, all of whom have played more recently and are better.

Ladislav Smid might – and probably should – be done as a Calgary Flame.

At least we’ll always have his dance.

  • redhot1

    Brodie Gio
    Russel Free agent
    Wideman Schlemko (in my opinion)
    Engelland/Nakladal/Wotherspoon/Smid/Morrison

    Lots of decisions to make, lots of mediocre defensmen as well.

  • Lordmork

    What kind of savings, if any, are there from waiving Smid, and what’s the long-term cost of buying him out? I’ve heard it suggested that he might have long-term injuries acquired while still an Oiler and that time on the LTIR might allow him to recover and return a (slightly) better player, but I don’t think the Flames can rely on that.

    • Parallex

      Not 100% sure but I think it’s like so…

      Waiving: 100% if claimed, cap hit less the NHL minimum if not claimed and demoted.

      Buy Out: He’ll be a 1.167M cap liability until 2021. So cap credit of 2.333M the next two years followed by a 1.167M debit over the four years thereafter vs. leaving as is.

      Personally I think it’s not worth buying him out. He pulls a Pronger/Savard if he’s out forever, or he’s traded (likely with max cap retention)/demoted/relegated to #7/#8 d-man if he’s not.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Smid has declined significantly in the past 3 or so years. He is not the same player he once was, and I suspect his repeated neck injuries are a major factor in this.

    These kinds of injuries are ubiquitous in rugby players, and are usually degenerative. Meaning they get worse with time, not better, at least as long as you’re playing.

    It would be best for the Flames if Smid could use this extended time off to rehab his injuries, and regain his form from previous seasons when at least he was the best defenceman in Edmonton (for what little that is worth), and could realistically play 2nd pairing minutes.

    But it might be best for Smid if he doesn’t come back. Take up a nice coaching gig somewhere, destroy the locals at drop-in, and enjoy his millions.

    The ride ends for everyone eventually.

  • beloch

    It’s not exactly damning to say a defender produces bad results when paired with Engelland. It’s like saying a man gets wet if he stands in the rain.

    That being said, this isn’t the first time a neck injury has ended Smid’s season. The Kings’ Dustin Brown did the honors in 2012, when Smid was playing for the Oilers. There were just four more games left in the season when this happened but, given what we now know of how Edmonton diagnoses and handles serious injuries, there is significant reason to believe Smid’s injury was not handled properly. Smid remained on Edmonton’s top pair the following season but his play declined and, by the following season, he was buried. That’s when he was traded to the Flames.

    So, a mishandled neck injury may have led to Smid’s decline. He was probably a second pairing defender before that injury even though he was playing first pairing minutes with Petry. The 2011 version of Smid was not particularly slow and would have been a boon to the Flames third pair. That’s why Feaster acquired him. Unfortunately, the Flames took delivery of damaged goods.

    Anyone who watched Smid in Edmonton prior to 2012 knew that the Smid we saw in Calgary was not the same player. He was much slower and looked like he was in continual pain, even when he hadn’t just taken a puck to the cup.

    So, what have we learned? Don’t trade with Edmonton without giving their offering a thorough medical workup with your own medical staff? Surely. What about Smid’s future? Honestly, anything I can say about Smid’s recovery is pure speculation. Neck injuries are seriously bad stuff. Maybe he’ll be 100% in September or maybe he’ll never be the same again. Even if Smid’s neck is properly handled this time and Smid returns to pre-2012 health, he’s still going to have a huge amount of work to put in before he can be the second pairing defender he was back then. Still, this is not impossible. Smid could be a good third-pairing option before his contract is over, and not the marginal one he has been for the Flames thus far.

    Smid has two seasons left on his contract. The Flames are not going to need that cap space next season, but Giordano, Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hudler are all going to have new contracts with higher cap hits the following season. That’s when the big crunch may hit. We can only hope Smid recovers enough by then that his trade value isn’t as massively negative as it is right now.

    • beloch

      Agree. Smid isnt traceable unless he comes back playing decent hockey. There is no rush to do anything & from what I have watched from Smid, the guy is a warrior. Let him heal, don’t know if he’ll be ready by next October but unless he shows he is a better option to Hartley than anyone else in camp, he is either LTIR or press box. The last year of his contract is when you trade him if that is even possible or consider a buyout unless you know he is going LTIR.

      I know many on here don’t value what guys like Smid & Engellend bring, I guess I am just a little old school loyalty to that side of the game. But if we want to improve our D, there is no room for both Smid & Engellend on the bottom pairing.

      • beloch

        Depending on the time at which he’s ready to return to hockey, I wouldn’t rule out some time in the AHL. That’s a good way for him to get back up to speed if he isn’t ready to start training until early 2016. If, by chance, another team picks him up off of waivers, that’s a problem solved for Treliving.

  • Greg

    Smid and Engelland combined is almost 10% of the cap ceiling. And both are on the books for 2 more years.

    Let that sink in for a bit.

    We’ve got cap issues coming up that 2nd year and if the flames want to be a competitive cap team instead of an also-ran cap team, both those contracts have to be mitigated by then. Clock is ticking and I’m curious to see how BT can solve that, because I don’t see any easy solution and am not unworried about it.

  • Greg

    Also, without that combined $6.4M in wasted contracts, adding a Franson, or Petry, or Green, or what have you, would be a cakewalk this season. Going to be hard to take a step forward if at least one of those guys isn’t in the regular 6 by September.

  • Greg

    Here’s hoping that he gets healthy enough to enjoy his life. As a hockey player I don’t see how he or Eng’s help us going forward both Hartley and BT have said they want be the hunt again next year and neither of them are skilled enough, fast enough or dare I say it physical enough to help this team improve next year.(both are big guys but neither lay out heavy checks) Eng’s may be loved by his teammates and be a great locker room guy but so was McG and the game passed him by.

  • Greg

    Cant trade him (even if retaining 50% salary)

    Best not buy him out. I dont like buyouts in general and while we have the cap space best to eat it now rather than in the future.

    That leaves demotion. Expensive AHLer… but he may have more value on the farm than as a boat anchor.

    Farm hand or boat anchor….

      • RKD

        True. I think he may have just been excited to get a guy was an NHL defensemen. A lot of that get him out the edmonton wishful thinking.

        Still not a cap problem yet so I say get some dollars worth… he plays in the A… helps to teach the young guys that nifty dance… bail hey
        .. maybe burke can get him to manage his hair product supply.

  • Greg

    Further to that… this is a time when it is truly unfortunate to not have a Sutter around.

    If Darryl was GM he could take Ladi out to the farm and get him to bail some hay.

    Just like he did with Marcus Nielsen and Rhett Warrener.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Just leave him on LTIR for the duration of his contract if he remains injured. If he comes back, some time in the minors would probably help him back in the groove of things.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Yeah the numbers were not the best for Smid, but what you forgot is the type of guy he is in the locker room. That is why I would say we won the trade. Glue guys in the room are an invaluable asset you need to be successful. In this situation Smid contributed to a positive attitude, building friendships, with a lot of these players. Same goes for Engelland, they didn’t bring him in for his skill set, they brought him for the things he can contribute within the team off the ice. When Smid was in the line up, every player knew that Smid would block a shot with his teeth for them. Another name drop with helping contribute to the molding of the locker room and the young players minds, McGratten.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Hopefully he occupies the Sarich seat in the press box. He makes his D partners worse, Wideman last year, Engelland this year and you can’t afford Engelland to be worse.

    Bring Schlemko back as Engelland’s partner, he makes very good outlet passes and get skate. Pretty much what Engelland can’t do!

  • redhot1

    Speaking as a Tier 2 fan and survivor of the Lowe era Oilers, Smid’s give-a-shit factor was always off the charts.

    In his broken english accent he would give pissed off interviews about how his team needed to play harder (completely true) and how he still wanted to be better; meanwhile he was giving it all with a broken neck.

    Plus the guy can do an unreal amount of pullups. like seriously impressive.

    Tough to hear about his decline, cause at one point he was a centerpiece of the Chris-f******-Pronger trade.

  • redhot1

    Slow news day? Nowhere near the cap. Smid is pretty much an non-issue. It’s not like the Oilers won the trade. Horak bolted for Europe and Brossoit has played all of one NHL game so far.

    That said, Brossoit is still trending in a good direction.

  • redhot1

    “This Trade Hasn’t Worked Out”…you fail to neglect the fact it’s been a complete wash as Edmonton lost Horak to Europe and Broissant will never amount to anything in the NHL..this trade was a nothing for nothing trade.

    “Ladislav Smid is Not Very Good”..then insert automatic Corsi stats to try and make this argument…horribly painful stuff to read. There could have been a half dozen valid points to represent this factually and none were chosen, just the typical regurgitated Corsi = Tells the entire story on whether a player is good or not while completely disregarding everything else