Craig Smith Season Review: A Leap In the Right Direction
Now that the season is over, it gives us a chance to nitpick the performance of the Predators' roster this season. Today, Craig Smith.
|5-5 Pts/60||CF%||CF% rel||Sh%||Sv%||PDO||Pen +/- per 60|
Realistically, assuming the offense can't be as terrible as it was last year (knock on all the wood) fans should be pleased if he breaks 35 points. The kid is still young, and still has a lot to prove. One bad half-season does not a career make. What matters is how he responds to it. Who knows, he just may surprise all of us this year.
This quote comes from the preview I wrote on Craig Smith before the start of the season. We all know it was one everyone wanted to sweep under the rug and forget about, and this one was going to be a pivotal step in his development. The question was loud: was he going to take a leap forward or was it going to be more of the same?
Well, our question was answered louder than it was asked. Smith put up the best season of his still young career, by far. The 24-year-old Wisconsin native led the team in goals, was third in points and only collected 22 PIMs all while skating about 16 minutes a night.
Though he was just barely over the break even point in 5v5 possession, Smith constantly looked like the most engaged forward on the team. Even during those stretches where the rest of the players looked like electric football on ice. Though he had a few times where he would disappear from the scoresheet, (who didn't) none of those ever lasted more than five games. (He had two five game pointless streaks this season.)
Overall, he silenced his critics (for now) while proving to be one of the better players on the roster throughout the season.
With overtime dwindling down to just a few seconds in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, Dustin Byfuglien fumbled what should have been an easy clear out of the zone. David Legwand picked up the puck and sent it to a wide open Smith, who ended the game and sent the fans in Bridgestone Arena home happy.
Though this was early in the season (only Carter Hutton's second win as a Predator) it set the table for what was going to come for Smith and the fans watching him for the rest of the year.
The Road Ahead
It will be very interesting to see how Smith is utilized under the new coaching staff, because the amount of offensive potential he still has is enormous. Not that Barry Trotz hampered his talents, but a less defensively minded system could have him break out for 60-70 points.
That is, assuming he continues on the path he's on and doesn't take a step back. Even when the Predators were playing terrible hockey, Smith still seemed to have an extra jump in his step. Fans and coaches alike are going to rely on him to score goals, and that's exactly what he needs to do.
Smith got high marks across the board. It's one thing to be expected to have a season to prove you belong in the NHL. It's another to seize the opportunity and become a player that will be heavily relied on in the coming years. Though he still has a lot to prove, the difference in this review from his last one is incredible.
What grade would you give Craig Smith's 2014 NHL season?