Moments following the Flames’ 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the team made a quick move – to one of their healthy scratches.
Ladislav Smid, who has only appeared in four games this season – most recently on Nov. 12, when he only played 8:42 – has been sent to the Stockton Heat on a conditioning stint. The Heat play in Ontario on Nov. 25, and according to Google Maps, Ontario is a mere 35 minute or so drive away from Anaheim, so the location is convenient.
What about the timing, though?
The last time Smid regularly played NHL games was way, way back in early December 2014. He was clocking in an average of a little over 10 minutes a night before Simon Despres essentially ended his season with a hit to the head.
The Czech defender was able to return for just three games in January before being shutdown for the rest of the season with neck problems, causing speculation about whether he would be able to continue his career.
Sure enough, though, Smid decided he wasn’t finished yet, and worked to return to health and get back in the lineup. He participated in training camp, but was unable to dress for any games until Oct. 23, when he made his triumphant return to the NHL. It was his first time playing professional hockey in nearly 10 months.
Conditioning stints are perfect for players in Smid’s situation, so it’s odd it’s taken the Flames this long to send him on one. On a conditioning stint, Smid can spend a maximum of 14 consecutive days in the AHL before he has to be returned to the NHL lineup. In the meantime, he continues to count against the team’s roster limit, and his cap hit remains in full effect.
The Heat play five games over the next 14 days, so that allows for Smid to have a fair amount of game action – and the most since Despres hit him, in fact.
Smid has essentially been munching on popcorn ever since T.J. Brodie returned to the Flames’ lineup on Oct. 28. He’s partaken in practices, but has done next-to-nothing game-wise, nor should he have been: he hasn’t played regularly in almost a full calendar year at this point.
Maybe it’s because this is the Flames’ first trip out to California that they’ve just now decided to place Smid on a conditioning stint. Maybe it’s because they’ve decided they can’t have a player with such a high cap hit doing nothing but sitting in the pressbox. Maybe after enough evaluation it’s finally just time for him to get a regular shift.
Either way, the Flames are now left with six defencemen, and with their roster list at 22 players and the expectation that Jonas Hiller will be activated on this trip, it looks like they’ll have no extra defencemen for the next two weeks.