My favorite Red Wings player is... still a Red Wing, but Brendan Smith got traded today and it makes me kind of sad because Brendan Smith was the most-polarizing defenseman on a crappy blueline and it was honestly fun watching Wings fans simultaneously argue that he is dumb-as-rocks and not worth a bag of pucks and that he’s actually a really good defenseman.
The breakout D-man who should have grown into the top-pairing guy in the wake of Nick Lidstrom’s retirement, Brendan Smith never met his potential. I personally questioned whether this was a feature of the Wing’s development system failing offensive-minded D-men just last year. With Ryan Sproul currently doing more sitting than playing, I’m pretty happy with that stance still.
But I have come to say goodbye to Brendan Smith, not to cry over the guy who might have honestly done the Red Wings a favor by rejecting a rumored extension offer before being shipped out. There’s still potential in the 28-year old UFA-to-be Smith, but with the Wings in need of a rebuild, a “pretty decent” defenseman in a log jam of defenders we’re worried will never be more than pretty decent is in the way, especially at UFA rates.
To Rangers fans reading this, I honestly wish I could tell you what you’re going to get in Brendan Smith. He’s an average-sized defender who plays well physically. He’s an above-average skater who can often skate himself out of the trouble he gets into with a questionable sense for when to gamble. He’s an offensive-minded defenseman who doesn’t put up much offense. He’s memorable for taking stupid penalties, but not for a decent rate of drawing them himself.
He’s also a guy who has shown he can thrive on a team much better than the 2016-17 Detroit Red Wings. I’d like to think that’s what you’re going to get out of Smith. He’s not going to be a savior, but he’s capable of playing NHL defense on both sides of the ice and in all three zones. Around here, he was probably best-known for being drafted before PK Subban. Fortunately, he won’t have that same expectational baggage in Madison Square Garden.
Give him a chance, he’ll grow on you. I promise. Just don’t read too much into how much Wings fans are cheering his departure. Also, no takesies-backsies.