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.