Failure to Launch

We’ve talked at length over the last several months about Ladislav Smid and his role on this team. Smid has all kinds of positives (played at a high level early, plus speed, can make people miss when carrying the puck) and some negatives (zero urgency in his game, suffers from frequent bouts of vapor lock, lacks creativity with the puck).

Smid’s progress from marginal defender to NHL regular who can take on more responsibility has been slow. Snail slow. We’re now at a point where the other kids who are bubbling under are nearing the point at which a team will bring them up for a look-see.

This usually means the bubble (7th) defender is in a little trouble.

The 7th defender? It’s Ladislav Smid.


I talked about Smid’s troubles earlier this summer and not much has changed since then. Having lost his starting job to Jason Strudwick, Smid is left to wait his turn and when it comes to show he can not only hold the 6D job but force the players above him on the depth chart to perform at a high level.

In today’s Sun Craig MacTavish laid it out there: “It hasn’t been a great camp for Laddie, he probably needed a better one. The bottom line for me this year is we have to play people right out of the gate who are going to help us win immediately. In years past there’s always been some latitude for young guys to play through some early-season mistakes while they gain the experience, but that’s not our mindset this year, we’ve got to win. We’re going to play the personnel who give us our best chance.”

With all due respect to Jason Strudwick, this is a kick in the pants. It’ll be interesting to see how Smid reacts.

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30 Responses to "Failure to Launch"

  1. Lord Bob says:

    If MacTavish ever let Pouliot and Smid room together during training camp, the resulting inertia would bring about the heat death of the universe.

  2. doritogrande says:

    Kid got outplayed by a 30-something year old journeyman defender/WINGER. That’s a kick to the nuts.

    I don’t at all mind though. Hopefully he’ll get pissed off about this situation and do something about it. Like take a slapshot. The talking heads upstairs have shown that they don’t mind trading away high draft picks who are stagnating (Greene, Stoll, Torres, Lupul) in recent years in favor of young talent needing more playing time.

    Kubina scores. The Torontos get their only lead of the year. I don’t care if it’s the Laughs, goddamn it’s good to have non-preseason hockey on my TV.

  3. spOILer says:

    I think you nailed it on the head LT. MacT is taking a poke at Smid while leaving the door open.

    It’s up to Smid to see if he can get over this plateau and turn a corner.

    MacT is flicking the flint, but is there enough kindling for the fire to light?

    Hope so.

    I would prefer it to Bob’s universal heat death. Images like that make me wonder why I make credit card payments.

  4. Dennis says:

    I’m not going to turn face on this right now, not when Smid needs me the most.

    When the deal was made for Pronger, I totally believed that Lupul could handle the Edm environs and when it came to Smid, everyone all over the league was proclaiming him to be a star.

    It was a great return for Pronger and just as Lupul turned out to be the right call, so shall Smid

  5. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I fear you are too much the fan. Wake up!

  6. NBOilerFan says:

    Perhaps Smid spent a tad too much time this offseason working on building building his muscles, instead of his hockey mind?

    I hope this is the motivation for him to up his game… and I suspect his poor preseason is largely due to being a guy that is slow out of the gate. Hell, Staois was hands down the worst D in camp, but no one is talking about that.

  7. spOILer says:

    Re: “Penner Saw mask scare”

    I have a question…

    What was Brodziak doing in the bathroom with a laptop?

    Then again. Maybe I don’t want the answer to that one.

  8. rickibear says:

    Spoiler: People are quick to notice what they practice.

  9. Oilman says:

    Anyone hear about the Clint Malarchuk incident yet?

  10. Asiaoil says:

    Smid had knee surgery this summer and he’s not quite 100% – folks forget that. I don’t care if he’s #7 today – he’ll be top 4 at the end of the year – and that’s all that will matter. If he was 24 I’d be worried – but at his age Tom Gilbert was some guy who got traded for Salo – so a bit of perspective is needed. I’m willing to be very patient with this guy because trading him now could make you look like a complete idiot in 2 years. You simply do not trade dmen like Smid at 22….you just don’t because the risk of making a very wrong call is serious.

  11. Kyle says:

    LT, I love the sentiment as per usual, but did you have to mention that fucking movie?

  12. Lowetide says:

    Asia: There is no doubt Smid could be a quality D for a decade rolling out at some point in time. Problem is the clock started ticking early here and he’s still some distance away. Your point about the injury is a solid one, though.

    kyle: I’ve actually never seen the movie. When I see “Terry Bradshaw” in the credits it’s sort of a cue. :-)

  13. Jonathan says:

    asiaoil: Absolutely bang on. I’m not 100% sold on Smid as top-4 by the end of this season, but he is the guy you absolutely do not trade away. People have compared his situation to Greene’s, but let’s put it this way: at the same age as Smid is now (142 NHL games, entering his third NHL season), Matt Greene was making his pro debut in Iowa.

    I have a ton of patience for a guy like Smid, who was rushed, but showed some good things last year.

    It was a great return for Pronger and just as Lupul turned out to be the right call, so shall Smid

    I don’t care if Smid was directly traded for Wayne Gretzky; the player has no control over that. Yes, it was a lop-sided trade, but no, that wasn’t Smid’s fault. Not-Pronger isn’t the same as not-good.

  14. Asiaoil says:

    LT – if Smid is still on the 3rd pair this time next year then I’ll start to get worried….but he’s 22 for Pete’s sake. I saw some added dimension to his game already this season – the full package is certainly not there – but this type of dman simply does not bloom until about 25 no matter when they start. He has a package of talent, size, toughness and skating that nobody else has in the system you bloody well wait for that package to come together until it’s more than obvious it will not – and then even a little bit more just to be sure.

  15. raventalon40 says:

    McLaren went through waivers. Oilers declined to pick him up. The reason(s)? Strudwick, Roy, and Peckham.

    I think Strudwick is more suited to play with Staios than Smid because Strudwick is stay at home whereas Smid is not built that way. We’ve all seem Smid play and he’s trying hard to fit that role but he can obviously skate and pass the puck. Staios is a tad offensive too, though he’s no Visnovsky.

    D-Pairings depth-wise:

    Souray – Visnovsky
    Gilbert – Grebeshkov
    Staios – Strudwick
    Smid – Roy (this would be a top pairing in the AHL!!!)

    ——-NHL Regulars Cut-Off——-

    Chorney – Peckham
    Wild – Young
    Bisaillon – ?
    Hrabal – ?
    Bina – ?

    Bisaillon, Hrabal, and Bina are all offensive d-men. It will be interesting to see what the +/- will be for the Falcons team.

    Jake Taylor rounds out the farm team. What happened to TJ Reynolds? TJ Kemp went to Wilkes-Barre Scranton, I believe.

    The reason I place Smid and Roy above the NHL cut-off line is because the only thing keeping Roy out of an Oiler uniform is injuries. The Oilers obviously think highly of him. As for Smid, MacTavish, he’s just a victim of mathematics. It’s just the universe taking back the favor it granted him when he came here in the Pronger trade. :-P

  16. raventalon40 says:

    To clarify: When I said Staios is a tad offensive, this doesn’t mean he’s an offensively minded D-man – it just means he’s no Scott Ferguson.

  17. Lowetide says:

    Asia: It isn’t a matter of patience. It’s a matter of getting run over. Smid owns a “slot”, a spot in the batting order. It is not promised to him forever.

    Many years ago the Expos had a quality rookie in catcher Barry Foote. He was a good hitter, solid catcher. They traded his ass the moment Gary Carter proved he could play (iirc it was 1/2 a season in the OF for Kid Carter).

    Same deal here, only on a lower level. Smid is 22 years old, makes $952,000 this year and because he started so young he’s RFA next summer (w/o arb rights I believe).

    So now you have a guy who is going to get paid, isn’t able to push the top 4, plus there’s a flood coming up behind him.

    We can talk all we want about him being elevated too soon (I agree), about him being 22 (23 in Feb) but none of it matters if Smid doesn’t take a step forward.

    Frankly, based on this organization’s recent history of developing defensemen from rough clay, I don’t like his chances.

    This is the organization that found Jan Hejda but they have a track record of fizzle with young D. I think part of it is that they bring them along too swiftly, just like the Blue jays and pitchers.

    Smid’s a guy I continue to cheer for, but his resume looks like a guy who’ll find the range in the next town.

  18. Sean says:

    I still like Smid to become a solid NHL player but I cringe at the idea of Staois-Smid again this year. IMO Strudwick-Staois seems much more stable. I’m still bullish on Smid but LT is right – Smid needs to start being accountable. Age is one thing but once a player hits 200 NHL games, age becomes less of a factor.

  19. goldenchild says:

    One of the problems with Smid is he doesn’t have that one thing you can point to as his calling card. I have watched him play for 2 years but still have no idea what he is. I know what he isn’t, he isn’t a PP player or a guy that generates offense, he isn’t reliable defender that can play against quality opposition, he isn’t an overly physical player at least before the ref blows the whistle. So what is he? whats his out pitch? He certainly has some nice tools I’m just not sure what those tools can do.

  20. godot10 says:

    The Canadian dollar is in “freefall”. The NHL salary cap will fall next year because of this.

    Bye-bye Eric Cole. And forget about Marian Hossa.

  21. Coach pb9617 says:

    Asiaoil and Jonathan win the thread.

    Asia is bang on here.

  22. Asiaoil says:

    I’m fine with trading most guys on the roster if the right deal is there or just pulling the plug on a guy who is clearly not all that useful – business is business. But being down on Smid just because he was part of the Pronger deal makes no sense at all.

    Like I said above – the kid has a combination of size, speed, passing skills and toughness which are unmatched in the system. The package has clearly not come together and he needs to make better decisions – but he’s only 22 and you are insane not to wait for his brain to catch up with his physical tools. He doesn’t have much offense but that’s fine – he can still develop into a top pair guy like Regehr, Phillips or Volchenkov. Think about what those guys were like at 22 before rushing to trade Smid. Top pair shutdown dman is the 2nd toughest position to master IMHO after goalie – most guys in this role only start to emerge at 25. Smid has a ton of experience already at a very young age – and a lot of it was against tough opposition starting at the bad end of the ice. This kid has the potential to be a “rich man’s” Jason Smith – bigger, faster and way more talented – wonder how the Leafs felt about that deal in hindsight. Smith was 25 when he got dealt by the way – coincidence?

    If the light comes on for Smid this season we have a gem and paying is no issue. If he needs more time then he will not get any sort of big dollars and I’d take the opportunity to lock him up cheaper for a few years. One potential problem – Smid is EXACTLY the kind of player you take a run at with an offer sheet – relatively low cost and the payoff could be huge. So I would get him signed sooner rather than later.

  23. Dennis says:

    On the cap: I saw Melynk say the other day that he thinks the cap could drop from 56 to 50 mill in time for the 2010 season.

    I really never had my heart set on keeping Cole anyway — though that could change if he scores 30 and posts a +10 or more playing tough min — and I never thought the cap would keep going up and I always thought the money would be tied up in 10-83-27 and eventually 13-89; at least forwards-wise.

    Could some of you guys take a look at what a ~50 mill cap would mean for the Oil next year? I know Roli’s off the books but Garon will need a raise and there’s decisions to make on Smid and Grebs as well.

    Spoiler: I thought the same thing when I read about Brodz coming out of the can with his laptop;)

    On Smid: the guy who said there really isn’t anything he does that you can depend on; that guy’s right. LT gets some shit for saying Peckham’s close to Smid and I think one of the things he talks about is that Theo seeks people out in the open ice and punishes them. For all his try and muscle, Smid doesn’t do that.

    I just want to close on a couple of quotes and observations and make of it what you will. I read some Lowe quotes today where he named 78 specifically as a guy who’s been a pleasant surprise and it reinforces my believe that just as Rita was Lowe’s guy and not MacT’s, the same goes for Pouliot.

    And you know what else? I think Laddy’s in the same boat.

    For my $$, Smid only made this team initially because of the optics of that steal of a Pronger trade and perhaps MacT has never forgiven Lowe for broaching what he’s always perceived to be a meritocracy.

    Also, 24 had a quote about starting the season in-tandem with Strudwick and his quote went something about how it’s nice to play with a vet and how he’s always found he gets in the most trouble when he feels like he has to cover for someone. I think we can come to the same conclusion about that.

    Finally, we know Smid improved in the second half of ’08 and it all seemed to come after he bottomed out after that awful series of goals where he forgot which side he was playing on, I caught a MacT quote after the last EX game in Dal where he spoke about the PK specifically and said they were doing a lot better job in weakside coverage. And then I flashed back to last season.

    I think Smid’s a Lowe guy and MacT will use options to get away from him when he has the chance. LT has the most salient point when he says 5′s about to get his three years in so he’s about to get paid.

    I don’t think you pay him anything close to considerably given his intial body of work.

    Would you?

  24. Bruce says:

    This kid has the potential to be a “rich man’s” Jason Smith – bigger, faster and way more talented – wonder how the Leafs felt about that deal in hindsight. Smith was 25 when he got dealt by the way – coincidence?

    AsiaOil: You are bang on the mark in my view. Not too many great defensive blueliners under the age of 25. Let go of a stay-at-home blueliner at or before that age and you risk seeing him turn into Dave Langevin, Lee Fogolin, Craig Muni, Jeff Beukeboom, or Jason Smith, just to name a few guys with an Oiler connection who turned their careers around after at least one team gave up on them. They were 25, 24, 24, 26 and 25 at the time they moved to or from Edmonton … just when they were getting good, in pretty much every case.

    Finally, we know Smid improved in the second half of ’08 and it all seemed to come after he bottomed out after that awful series of goals where he forgot which side he was playing on

    Dennis: This too is bang on the mark. Around Christmas Ladi had a horrible stretch when he was -11 in just 12 GP. Playing with Staios for the most part. Other than that one stretch he was fairly stable defensively, but with zero offence as you have noted from time to time. :) e.g. When he returned, early, from knee surgery in March, he was Even over his last 14 games, paired with Greene who most thought was the worst defenceman on the team. No doubt QualComp was lower too, but that’s not a bad thing for a developing guy like Smid. I liked him in the third pairing last year, and I’d like him just fine there this year. By the time he’s on his second contract he should be ready for a promotion.

    Truth be told I wouldn’t mind seeing Staios in the third pairing as well. He’s getting older, and he plays a style that isn’t conducive to easy minutes. 5 and 24 could be a good pairing eventually; the first order of business would be to tell Staios to stop running around trying to do his partner’s job. :) Ladi is a move experienced and trustworthy player now than he was last December.

  25. Schitzo says:

    Dennis: We go into next year with 43.5 tied up. Garon needs a raise, as well as Brodziak, as well as Grebs, Smid, and Strudwick.

    Assume Garon gets around 3.5, with JDD as backup. Brodziak at 2, Grebs at 3, whoever ends up as 6-7 for a million each, and we’re looking at around 54 million, basically the same as this year.

    I think that will be fine, as season tickets are already paid for, and third jerseys come out this year.

    Looking to 2010, we have 36.25 tied up, with Souray’s NMC expired so we can bury him and potentially have only 31 million committed.

    Even with a 50 million cap, we can easily give Cogs and Gagner raises. The tough choices will be what to do with guys like Pisani, Grebs, Staios and Souray. On defence especially, we can’t pay everyone.

    Fortunately, given the depth of D prospects and the fact that every team in the league would be shedding salary, there should be some cheap rookies or vets available to fill out the 4th line or the 5-6-7 D spots

  26. Mark-Ryan says:

    Bruce: In what way is he more trustworthy now then he was in December? Where has his defensive game changed at all? Just because he’s older?

    I still maintain his best stretch of hockey was the first two months he played in the NHL and looked fine doing it. It’s almost as though he’s on a negative curve since.

    Second training camp in a row he’s been completely outplayed for a spot. Third year in a row he’ll make the team without deserving to. He might develop into a Regehr-type, but he’ll more likely develop into a Brad Ference or Vitali Visnevski.

  27. Dennis says:

    Thanks for that salary cap update, bud!

    Guarenteed, I think this is the last year we’ll ever be able to carry this much salary on the backend; someone will be dumped for 2010 and now it’s just determining who’ll that be.

    So, to come at it from that angle, it’s really important that a guy going into his 3rd year like Smid really has a good season and is ready to assume av certified bigger role for 2010 and beyond.

    That being said, I think we’re one year away from Smid being thrown into the — and justifiably AFAIC – he “is what he is” pile.

    I don’t really expect to see a whole lot of offense from him — yes he did have points in the A but that didn’t truck for a guy like Kommisarek and Smid’s lack of a shot and vision really hinders any chance at high point totals — but there has to be something he’s good at besides roughing people up after the whistle.

    It’s true that I won’t get over him and Lupul being the centrepieces for a Pronger trade (everyone who’s ever prayed or gone to church knows that was a terrible deal) but I can see his merits as long as he’s good at something and we don’t overpay him.

    Like I said, it would really help us if this is his year because next year Staios could be the Warriner of Northern Alberta but I won’t keep giving him breaks because Lowe foolishly overvalued him.

    And it appears, neither will MacT.

  28. raventalon40 says:

    “But being down on Smid just because he was part of the Pronger deal makes no sense at all.”

    I don’t know if you’re referring to me but that’s now what I meant by my comment at all. What I meant was Smid was thrown into the fray before he had come into his own as a defeseman, as a result of the Pronger deal.

  29. Schitzo says:

    Dennis: The internet just ate my post, so lets pretend it was insightful.

    The short version – the decision between Grebs and Souray may not even be in either player’s hands. If Peckham is ready first, goodbye Souray. Same deal with Chorney replacing Grebs.
    Oh, and I worry about Brodziak becoming our latest and greatest 2+ million dollar bottom-6 player.

  30. raventalon40 says:

    I find it worrisome that Ethan Moreau is making 2 whereas not so much so that Fernando Pisani is making 2.5, since Moreau is oft-injured and Pisani is a little more flexible in terms of where he can play.

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