Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
Nashville’s favorite “Honey Badger” returns to Bridgestone Arena for his sophomore season in the NHL. Last year, Craig Smith proved he could put up points but then lost his offensive spark for the last half of the season. Can he rekindle the fire?
For the first couple months last season, Craig Smith was Nashville's leading scorer. He finished the year eighth with 36 points, with 25 of those coming in the first three months of the season. The rookie did see time on the powerplay, amassing six goals and seven assists on the man advantage. Perhaps the most shocking statistic for the Madison, Wisconsin native is his TOI.
Pre All-Star Break, Smith averaged 15:05 a night, but post All-Star Break he only saw 12:25 minutes a night, a substantial decline. While Smith earned the praises of coaching staff and fans, he will always be remembered for this horrible mistake back in November:
That moment began the decline of Smith's hot start.
I won't go as far as saying Craig Smith is a sleeping giant, but I will say he is probably the second most gifted offensive player the Predators have. His creativity and shot are some of the best on the team and he just a sophomore. He has proven he has what it takes to put up points but he has to prove he can do it consistently and without giving up too many goals the other way. Defensive play is paramount in Trotz's coaching book and Smith sometimes failed in his responsibilities last year. Smith needs to be a responsible player on both ends of the ice, but he also needs to right linemates to compliment his skill set. Smith should see top six minutes and powerplay time this season.
During the NHL lockout, Smith played overseas in Finland, but quickly returned home citing personal reasons. No real reason has been given, but it has been reported to only be his desire to work out at home. Still, it is a bit of a surprise as Smith averaged over 19 minutes for KalPa and was a point per game player. Hopefully Smith made the right decision in coming back to North America as the Predators really need his offensive flare this season.
The question of course is can Smith rekindle the fire he had at the onset of last season?
If he can, the Predators will be in good shape as the desperately need players like him and Wilson to have career years offensively if they are going to make the playoffs. I'll leave you with an interesting statistic I found regarding Smith: Last year Smith was in the lineup for 40 wins and 32 losses. In those losses, Smith only had 10 points and was -20, but in those wins, he had 26 points and was +11. The Predators will need more of good side of Craig Smith in order to be successful during this truncated season.