It seemed like a long time in coming, but the Brendan Smith Era began in earnest in 2013. Even by the Red Wings’ cautious developmental standards, it took a while for the 2007 first round pick to become a regular, but he repaid the team’s patience with a solid but unspectacular first full season in Detroit. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Looking Back at Brendan Smith’s 2013:
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart both taking place last summer, it was almost a given that Smith was going to be given a spot as one of Detroit’s top six defensemen once the lockout ended. That indeed turned out to be the case, and he played at a +4 with one assist over the team’s first eight games.
Unfortunately, Smith also joined the long list of Wings to suffer early season injuries, suffering a shoulder sprain in early February that kept him on the shelf until February 27. He played in almost every game the rest of the way, going through a bit of a midseason slump where he found himself on the ice for plenty of goals, but tightening things up in April along with the rest of the team. Smith also contributed a bit more offensively: he had just one assist in his first 19 games but seven helpers in his last 15.
The playoffs were a bit of a roller coaster ride for the young blueliner. Smith and partner Kyle Quincey didn’t have the greatest series against the Anaheim Ducks, yet he did have a rare two-point game in Game 4. Then in Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, Smith took a lot of heat from fans and the media for his costly turnover that led directly to a Marian Hossa goal.
He bounced back by scoring the game-winner in Game 2, and he was not too shabby the rest of the way against Chicago’s deep and dangerous group of forwards. Smith’s two goals and three assists technically led all Red Wings’ defensemen in playoff scoring (Jakub Kindl also had five points but just one goal), and were a hopeful sign for the immediate future.
Looking Ahead to 2013-14:
Aside from saying farewell to Ian White, the Wings shouldn’t have much of a shakeup in the defense going into next season (barring a trade of some sort). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Smith was one of several guys to prove themselves in the crucibles of a frantic dash for a playoff spot and a consistently dramatic postseason run.
The decision to resign Smith as a restricted free agent should be an easy one, and the only real questions will be the size and length of his contract. Only Niklas Kronwall and Brian Lashoff are signed on defense past 2013-14, so getting Smith and Kindl locked up will provide the team with a bit more stability in the back.
One thing to watch will be whether or not the team can squeeze some more offense out of Smith in the regular season. Detroit could use more scoring from someone on defense, and while Smith is never going to be a 60-point producer, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think he could score 7-10 goals over the course of a full NHL season.
Whether that happens or not, Smith is at least entrenched in his NHL job. Finally.