The man on the good side of the Edmonton D-line that divides majors from minors is Ladislav Smid. He’s an interesting player whose on the job training for NHL defense (a tough job by any measure) has taken place in the National Hockey League.
Warts and all, he’s survived.
Smid’s skills at this time are (I believe) reflected by four columns of numbers. Three are covered here by Vic Ferrari and the other is covered under the CBA. Vic’s graph shows that Smid was facing about the same number of own zone faceoffs (as a comparison to overall) and shots against as Tom Gilbert but wearing his ass for a hat far more often. Basically, as much as he could drive results he was doing same and they were all headed in a predictable direction.
For a young defenseman to struggle isn’t news. As a rookie, Denis Potvin finished -16 while two old slugs (Gerry Hart and Bert Marshall) were in the black. As a rookie, Lee Fogolin finished at EV for the season on a club that had four defensemen at +32 or better (Bill Hajt, Jerry Korab, Jim Schoenfeld, Jocelyn Guevremont). It happens most of the time. It’s hard to find a rookie defensemen who exceeded (while played big minutes) the veterans.
However, that isn’t really the point. The point is that Ladislav Smid is not worth it in a season where 2 of your highest paid players are defensemen with holes in their game. Smid is a big 22 year old kid making good money and one day he’ll be a big version of Gerry Hart and on that day he’s a guy I want for the Oilers. But right now he’s a guy who is one year away from being an RFA and asking for a pay raise, he’s a guy who is still somewhere on that learning curve and he’s a guy the Oilers need to play bigger minutes this season due completely to roster makeup. On the 2005-06 team Smid could start in the shallow end of the pool and move along at a normal pace. On this team? I think it depends on Souray’s health.
You can’t trade for Erik Cole on one hand and give up hundreds of at-bats to kids. Should Sheldon Souray get injured this winter that means the top 4D would be (in no specific order) Visnovsky, Staios, Grebeshkov, Gilbert. Which means 5-6 is Strudwick-Smid and there will be times on the road (say the Saddledome in a close game after a powerplay) where Smid is out there and overmatched.
The last two seasons were about development. It went well. Greene and Stoll turned into Visnovsky and the post-Smyth dive turned into Sam Gagner. Magic! The Erik Cole trade (I believe) represents a change in direction and the Northwest division can be won but it’s going to be close.
So close that adding another veteran on the blue (at the expense of Smid) is the way to go.