While Smith's 2013 NHL season was an unmitigated train wreck, young forwards with offensive potential probably deserve a second (or third) chance in Nashville, given the team's overall lack of talent up front.
#15 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators
Sep 05, 1989
1st Half Grade: D
|2012 - Craig Smith||44||4||8||12||-11||20||2||0||0||83||4.8|
|EV TOI/Gm||OZ %||QoT||QoC|
|5-5 Shots/60||5-5 Pts/60||Corsi On||Corsi Rel|
|Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|PP TOI/Gm||5-4 GF On/60||5-4 Pts/60||PK TOI/Gm||4-5 GA On/60|
|Penalty Plus/Minus||Favor of the Hockey Gods|
|Taken||Drawn||On-Ice Sht%||On-Ice Sv%||PDO|
Explanation of table can be found at the end of Gabby Bourque's review.
Woof. If Smith's results were solely the result of those factors which are generally outside an individual's control (the team's on-ice shooting & save percentages), we could chalk up 2013 as a sacrifice to the Hockey Gods, and look for a rebound season starting this fall.
There's no such luck here, however, as the fundamental puck-possession measures show a guy who simply had trouble moving play in the right direction. Once in the offensive zone he showed a welcomed propensity to fire shots on net (which helped translate into solid work on the power play), but the number of gaffes committed in the defensive and neutral zones kept he and his teammates scrambling more often than not, making a team weak spot all the more glaring. He even took a relatively high number of penalties, which only made things worse.
With his speed and puck-handling skills Smith should be a stronger positive influence in the Shots For & Against battle, but if he can't develop into that kind of player, then Preds fans will be disappointed.
My Grade: D
As he beings a new two-year, $4 million contract, the Predators presumably hoped that Smith would be rounding into form as a Top 6 forward, adding a different dimension to the team's offensive attack compared to the likes of Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, and David Legwand. His inability to put things together this season leads to doubt that he will live up to that potential, however, and even though he was outstanding for Team USA in the just-completed World Championships, he has much to prove in the NHL.
As far as Nashville's depth chart goes, it doesn't look like Smith will earn a center spot any time soon, and younger names like Gabriel Bourque and Taylor Beck are capable of blowing by him as they better conform to the style of play demanded by head coach Barry Trotz. There is room perhaps for one, maybe two offensively oriented players to receive "soft" minutes (lots of O-zone faceoffs and favorable matchups) in the Preds lineup, but can Smith grow beyond that?
Who knows, maybe his World Championship run might inspire another NHL general manager to come calling with an enticing trade offer?
It's goals like this one, scored at Anaheim in February, which keep you thinking "man, if he can put it together, look out world". He demonstrates that he's more than just a zoomer by finding a soft spot in the defensive coverage and being ready to shoot when Kevin Klein feeds the puck...