Ladislav Smid probably wasn’t supposed to play this past year. His 2014-15 season effectively ended when he suffered a headshot from Simon Despres on Dec. 12, 2014. He played three games about a month later, but that was that, and he spent the rest of the season on LTIR.
Considering how unpredictable and dangerous neck injuries – what Smid had suffered then, as well as in the past – can be, and how long he was out for, it was assumed Smid would spend the 2015-16 season on LTIR.
He didn’t. Smid recovered enough to participate in training camp, and within the first month of the season, he was back on the ice.
Until it happened again, and his year was over early once again.
Even taking out his injury problems – which no doubt played a massive role – Smid had a bad season.
He was available from late October to Feb. 17, when a hit knocked him out of a game against the Minnesota Wild. He didn’t play every game over that time frame, sometimes a healthy scratch as he was at the bottom of the depth chart.
Smid only played 22 games all season, and he averaged just 11:35 a game: a career low by over two minutes. He was held pointless for the first time ever (although in the 31 games the season before, he mustered all of one assist), and had just 11 shots on net.
To put it bluntly, Smid was a complete non-factor. He played just one game for the Stockton Heat relatively early in the season on an extremely short conditioning stint, and was simply behind the rest of the game throughout his time in the NHL.
It sucks, because you feel for the guy. He didn’t ask to suffer bad injury after bad injury to render him completely ineffective. But all he was through the season was a drain on the cap, his $3.5 million hit only causing problems.
Impact on team
On the ice, Smid could have effectively been replaced by Tyler Wotherspoon, and the Flames would have been better for it.
Smid played about the same circumstances Wotherspoon did: moderate zone starts, but incredibly easy competition. The key differences between the two? While Wotherspoon put together a strong audition – a 5v5 CF of 53.17% – in nearly identical circumstances, Smid posted a 5v5 CF of 46.81%. The player seven years younger (not to mention roughly $2.5 million cheaper) was astronomically better.
Smid was the 11th worst Flame to play at least a quarter of the season in terms of corsi. To be fair, four defencemen – Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, and Jyrki Jokipakka – all had worse corsi stats, but they also played significantly more, and in more difficult situations, at least by virtue of quality of competition.
What comes next?
The Flames can’t afford to have Smid. They literally cannot afford him; his cap hit is far too great, he doesn’t do anything on the ice to justify it, and we are at the point where the Flames would be better off if he spent the entire season on LTIR.
That’s an awful thing to hope for, but in the callous world of just numbers, it’s the best option. Buyout periods are limited, injured players cannot be bought out, and nobody is going to take him in a trade.
This isn’t to say he should retire, because in his own personal interest, that would be an awful decision: he’s probably never going to have as great a chance to make the remaining $4 million he’s owed. If Smid’s career is over this time – and we don’t even know that – he’s not going to get a contract this sizeable ever again, and to throw the last year away makes no sense for him.
And the Flames will just have to find a way to deal with the problems his cap hit brings if it comes to that. They traded for him; they brought it on themselves. In the absolute best case scenario, Smid recovers and is an effective defenceman, but we’re probably well past that point. All he’s really doing now is causing cap headaches and obstructing younger players from getting on with their careers.
There’s one year left on his contract, but his time as a Flame needs to be over.