Ben Smith was demoted to the Rockford Icehogs this morning. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Since being called up on November 17th, Smith was a healthy scratch 4 times and had only 1 goal in the 7 games he did play in. Last night against the Sharks he played less than 6 minutes. That kind of ice-time is a good indicator that Quenneville didn’t like what he was seeing from Smith. Management probably wasn’t happy either.
Smith didn’t make much of an impact at all during his brief stint in Chicago. Consequently, his stock with the Hawks’ brass has probably taken a hit, as has his reputation with fans would imagine.
But honestly, I think expectations for Smith were a tad bit high, considering the type of player he is. You could say Smith was doomed to fail to live up to the hype that was placed on him.
I never drank the Smith kool aid. Not last year in the playoffs, not over the summer, not in pre-season, and definitely not when he was called up. I’ve always seen him as a bottom six guy that will be perpetually loved and overrated because of a few heroic playoff games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Smith, I think he’s a player that can flourish in a minimal role on the fourth, possibly the third line. I’m not, for example, Jesse Rogers, who thinks Smith is the answer to all questions and thinks he should be getting top line minutes.
Smith is a bottom six guy. That’s the type game he plays. That immediately limits the type of impact Smith can have on any team. And while its good to have some grit on your top lines, you need guys actually have the skill to compete in a top six role. We all know how much grit Carcillo has but can we say he’s been a huge success whenever he’s played in the top six?
That’s one way Smith was tragically doomed to fail from the start: a lot of people were expecting him to come in, possibly step into a top six role, and solve the all the Hawks’ problems, when really Smith ended up struggling in the bottom six role he was given. A couple of days ago I had a look at his behindthenet numbers and I was shocked.
In 7 games Smith was minus-6. He had an astronomical on-ice team goals against per 60 minutes number (6.72) which was by far the worst on the team and a minus-13.1 relative Corsi (shots directed at your net vs. shots directed at your opponents’ net)
Its pretty simple, not only was Smith failing to generate any kind of offense, but his defense was atrocious. Not only that, but the intensity and the edge which are the keys of Smith’s game, were completely absent. As far as Smith not getting a chance on the top lines, Smith did nothing to earn an opportunity there.
In conclusion, I think fans’ expectations for Smith were too high and we need to consider the fact that Smith really isn’t anything more than a fourth liner, at least at this point in his career. This is a guy that only had 31 points in 63 AHL games. He’s not an offensive star, so we shouldn’t be treating him like one and next time he gets called up, which I’m sure will happen before the season is over, fans should be wary of what they expect from him.
He’s not a savior, he won’t single-handedly win games for this team. He probably won’t ever be a permanent fit in the top six. But could he be a great bottom six guy that works hard and plays a gritty type of game? Absolutely. Maybe we should leave it at that.
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