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2015-16 Red Wings Player Grades: Brendan Smith

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Brendan Smith was expected to take a big leap this season with Jeff Blashill behind the bench, but did he?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Player Profile

Brendan Smith

Born: February 8, 1989

Birthplace: Mimico, Ontario

Shoots: Left

Contract Status: Signed through 2016-2017 season

Player Stats (courtesy of Hockey Reference)

Brendan Smith

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

CF%

ATOI

FF%

PDO

HIT

BLK

TK

GV

oZS%

dZS%

15-16

regular season

63

3

12

15

1

62

82

3.7

56.8

17:36

55.3

98.7

94

42

10

35

60.5

39.5

playoffs

3

0

1

1

2

0

6

0

59.7

16:14

62.3

107.1

9

4

0

2

62.9

37.1

Career

regular season

258

13

49

62

1

247

306

4.2

55.5

17:54

54.6

98.7

248

222

62

162

57.8

42.2

playoffs

27

2

4

6

1

24

36

5.6

52.9

18:20

51.9

99.8

46

24

4

16

54.7

45.3

Preseason Expectations

Brendan Smith was seen as a player in transition coming into this season by the Wings and their fans alike.  He was coming up on 200 games played in the NHL and his third full season with the team.  He had also just inked a 2yr/$5.5M dollar deal in the off season and was going to finally be playing for a coach whose style seemed tailor made for a player like Smith.  It was time for him to move to being a NHL veteran defenseman and claim a spot full time on the blue line for the Wings.

Our own Graham Hathway laid out Smith's expectations quite well in his season preview article.

With the top 5 defense positions seemingly locked up and a new coach in place, Smith could find himself battling for ice time depending on how he and his competition plays. He would seem to have the inside track, so it's really up to him. Personally, I choose to believe that this is his breakout year. I think we finally get the Brendan Smith we've been waiting for, and by the end of the year he supplants Jonathan Ericsson as Niklas Kronwall's partner on the top pair.

Top pairing was probably a little too lofty a goal but play commiserate of a Top 4 defenseman certainly is a fair baseline to judge his season against.

Season Narrative

Smith started out the season just as Graham predicted, battling Kindl for the 6th spot on the blue line.  Early season injuries to DeKeyser, Green and Quincey allowed Smith to play in 12 of the first 14 games of the season before an illness took him out of the lineup for 5 games.  From when he re-entered the lineup after his illness until Kronwall returned from knee surgery at the end of February, Smith played 41 of the next 42 games.  During that time he logged an average of 17:15 in ice time per game partnering first with Marchenko for 13 games and then with Green for the remaining 29.  Both of his goals and 6 of his 9 assists during that time came while he was partnered with Green and all 11 of his points came at even strength.  The return of Kronwall from surgery saw Smith once again become the odd man out of the lineup as he would sit 4 out of the next 5 games.  Another injury to Kronwall would get Smith back into the lineup but again Kronwall's return would put Smith on the outside of the lineup looking in, this time it would last until Game 3 of the playoffs.  Of course he would only play two more games after Game 3 as the Wings season would come to an end in Game 5.

Player Performance vs Expectations

Take a look at the pairing and ice time breakdowns for Smith courtesy of hockeyviz.

A few things stand out immediately and all of them really add up to one thing...consistently inconsistent.  Coming into the season Smith was seen as one of the players on the team most likely to benefit positively from Blashill taking over the team.  The reality however, was really anything but that as Smith saw more of the same inconsistency he has become accustomed to with the Wings.  He again found himself as the odd man out of the lineup several times during the season as he played in only 63 games.  When he was able to get a significant stretch of games played consecutively, the inconsistency found its way to his ice time, usage, and to a smaller extent his pairing partner.  The question of course then is did his play warrant the inconsistencies shown in his playing time and usage?  The short answer is not really, if you dig deep enough.

He finished in the top 4 among Wings defensemen in even strength goals, G/60, assists, A/60, FirstA/60, points, shots,S/60, CF%, iCor/60,  FF% and iFen/60...with shots, S/60, CF%, iCor/60,  FF% and iFen/60 all being in the top 2.  That said he finished 6th in games played.

Digging further, here is some With or Without You (WOWY) numbers for Smith and his most common partner, Mike Green, courtesy of hockeyanalysis.com.  The green cells are ones where the individual was better away from the other than with them and the red is the opposite.

Both players had better GF/60 away from each other but everything else was worse.  Looking closer you will see that Smith's numbers were better across the board without Green than Green's were without Smith.  In other words, Smith made Green better than Green made Smith.  This phenomenon is even more prevalent in with his other most common partner, Alexey Marchenko.

It could be stated that 227 minutes of ice time together versus over 700 minutes apart is not really a good comparison and that probably is a very valid point.  That said, Smith's numbers away from Marchenko are similar to his numbers away from Green and are not that far off from his numbers with Alexey as well.

So both of Smith's most common partners put up better possession and rate numbers with Smith that without him.  On top of that, Smith's numbers away from Green and Marchenko were generally closer to their numbers together than Green or Marchenko's numbers.

If you would like to dig even deeper into Smith's numbers, Prashanth did full work up on him back in February...ironically about a week before he fell out of the lineup for the first time to a returning Kronwall.

Final Grade: B-

While Jeff is preparing his weapons and getting directions from Boston to Springfield, IL let me explain my grade.  On my grade scale, "C" mean the individual meet expectations, so a B- means he ever so slightly exceeded those expectations.  While his actual production numbers will not impress anyone, if you look deeper into his rate and possession stats you will find an offensive minded defensemen capable of driving possession and helping produce offense.  The constant flip flopping from an active, aggressive blue line to a reserved and defensive minded one certainly did not help either.  All that said, being a possession stalwart is nice but he still only managed 3 goals (all on even strength) and was 7th out of 9 defensemen this season in shooting percentage despite being second in shots.  Going forward he has got to be able to start turning possession into points on a more frequent basis in order to stick on the roster beyond next season (if he is not traded in the off season that is).