Ex-Chicago Blackhawks: Ben Smith Reminds Of David Bote
By Colin Likas
There’s certainly a crossover between Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Cubs fandom, so with Cubs rooters enamored by late-blooming rookie David Bote of late, it begs the question of a contemporary with the Blackhawks
David Bote has been the toast of Chicago Cubs fans over the past couples days after his rousing walk-off grand slam in Sunday night’s tilt with the Washington Nationals. Don’t worry, Chicago Blackhawks fans who aren’t Cubs fans — this isn’t a Bote appreciation post.
It’s unique moments like this that make me think of guys within the Blackhawks organization who seemingly came from nowhere to make a sudden and major impact in a big spot.
The most apt comparison I can think of for Bote at this time, as it pertains to the Blackhawks, is probably Ben Smith.
Ben Smith’s wild Blackhawks ride
The 22-year-old Smith played a whopping six regular-season games with the 2010-11 Blackhawks, tallying a powerplay goal. As you might recall, however, those Blackhawks weren’t very good.
As such, Smith suited up for all seven of the Blackhawks’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs games against the then-hated Vancouver Canucks. What happened next was like something out of a storybook.
Smith potted a pair of goals in Chicago’s 4-3 defeat to Vancouver in Game 2 of the series. The Blackhawks would go down three games to none before rallying. In Game 6, a 3-all score through regulation dictated overtime.
Da Windy City
Up stepped Smith late in that extra period, parking himself in the home-plate portion of the ice and accepting a juicy rebound from Roberto Luongo, after some dazzling work by Marian Hossa to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Smith beat a lunging Luongo up high and sent the United Center crowd into hysterics that essentially lasted until Game 7 began two days later.
Similarities between Smith and Bote
So how are Smith and Bote the same, and how are they different? Let’s start with the former.
For starters, both guys came seemingly out of nowhere to come up clutch. Bote is a 25-year-old rookie who wasn’t even playing in the United States all that long ago. Smith was younger, but drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. Neither of these guys were on fans’ radar until they forced themselves into the spot.
Both guys also were/have been viewed as role players, but also guys who became cult favorites of their respective fans bases. I recall when Smith was traded to San Jose for Andrew Desjardins in 2015, Blackhawks fans on the whole were quite peeved. If the Cubs were to sell (extremely) high and trade Bote right now, Chicago might riot.
Also, both guys stepped up in a critical moment when least expected. Those Blackhawks, while not very good, still had Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp … a number of forwards you’d pick to score an OT winner before Smith. But Smith was the guy.
These Cubs are a pretty good group, but by the same penchant have various athletes you’d pick to slug a ninth-inning grand slam before Bote — Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant (when healthy), Javy Baez, Jason Heyward. Heck, there were fans on Twitter wondering why Ian Happ wasn’t called upon to pinch hit before Bote blasted his homer.
Differences between Smith and Bote
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On the flip side, Bote actually has been playing really well this entire season, even while getting called up and sent down to and from the minors frequently.
In 91 plate appearances before today’s game with Milwaukee, Bote was hitting .329 with a .539 slugging percentage, three homers, 18 RBI and 11 walks. He’s been putting in some work and making it difficult to consider sending him to the minors yet again.
Smith, meanwhile, never had more than a bottom-six career, with the Blackhawks or the NHL at large. A 26-point campaign in 2013-14 was by far his best, and allowed the Blackhawks to sell about as high as they could with him in the Desjardins trade. Smith wasn’t even in the NHL last year, and he’s just reached 30 years of age.
Also, there’s the actual situation in which these guys came through. While Bote’s caused an extreme emotional high and allowed the Cubs to extend their division lead over the Brewers, Smith’s goal came with the Blackhawks just one goal from postseason elimination.
As clutch as Bote was here, Smith’s heroics loomed larger at the time. Sure, the Blackhawks went on to lose Game 7. But the fact they had a chance to even play a Game 7 rested largely on Smith’s shoulders. The Cubs would still have a third of a season to play if Bote struck out instead of homering.
Still, I think this is a pretty apt comparison. Maybe Bote goes on to have a lengthy MLB career after this, but there’s really no guarantee. He could wind up being a lot like Smith when all is said and done.
And, really, professional teams need players like this. It can’t just be the big-name studs. You need your Ben Smiths and your Dave Botes over the course of a given season. It not only leads to more wins, but also gives the fan base a sort of “everyman” to latch on to.