|5v5 P/60||5v5 SAT%||5v5 SAT% Rel||5v5 SCF%||5v5 ZSO%||5v5 PDO||5v5 TOI/Gm|
The main goal for Craig Smith this season was to continue the path he forged in last year's impressive campaign, where he broke through for 24 goals and 52 points. He nearly matched that goal total was just seven assists shy of tying the previous mark as well. While it may seem a bit disappointing he didn't exceed is personal points record, he did show he can be relied upon for about 50 points again.
Smith was one of the best possession forwards on the team, and that continued with just about everyone he played with. In over 250 minutes together, he and Colin Wilson combined for 61.8 SAT% and a 61 GF%. He also saw success with Filip Forsberg, Mike Riberio, Mike Fisher, and Matt Cullen.
Looking at his HERO charts, it seems obvious that Smith is a very productive second-line player. Though he started the year behind James Neal on the depth chart, he replaced him on the first line with Forsberg and Ribeiro when Neal lost some time on the injured list. In many eyes (including this one) Neal should have been given back his spot, but the coaching staff decided to keep Smith where he was. It had mixed results down the stretch, but that was also when the entire team was struggling.
It's also interesting to not that his 10.85 5v5 Shots/60 were more than anyone on the team. In fact, that's fourth among all NHL players that played 1,000 5v5 minutes. That rapid fire continued in the postseason, where he threw 33 (!) on net in only six games. He ended the series against the Blackhawks with two goals and three assists, showing he can also contribute when the team needs him most.
"Bring the car around Jeeves, cigars and pocket watches won’t buy themselves. Quite." pic.twitter.com/ksciMnSBkF— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) March 16, 2015
Smith has wheels when he wants, and he knows how to use them. Watch him find open ice in the neutral zone and by the time Marco Scandella catches up to him, the pucks already in the back of the net.
And don't forget his OT winner against the Avalanche back in January.
He can also burn you on the rush...
...outwork you along the boards...
...and off the face-off....
...or just plain find open areas of the ice.
Watching all of his goals over again, there were so many scored by speeding down the right wing. He also had a penchant for being in the perfect place to pound home a rebound. Smith may not make a lot of highlight reels, but he sure is fun to watch.
He will never stop being a honey badger.
The Road Ahead
Smith is one of the big restricted free agents the team is tasked with bringing back, but it sounds like they have every intention of doing so. He may not be an elite player, or the most important one on the roster, but he's established himself as part of the backbone of the team, and one that is extremely important to it.
The Wisconsin native should be getting a pay raise with a multiyear term. With that extension, however, he'll be relied on even more to reach the 25-goal mark (or more) each season hence. Luckily, Peter Laviolette and Co. have no problem of putting him in a position to succeed, though that should really be on the second line.
Assuming both he and Wilson are able to be brought back, (may the Seven help us if they can't) they'll both be homegrown products relied up to create offense. Both of their expectations will be higher, and the time for excuses is officially over.