Smith looks to shake 'bad apple' rep
By Sarah Lindenau – RedWingsCentral.com / September 15, 2010
Brendan Smith wants Detroit Red Wings fans to know that no matter what they've heard or read about him, he's not a bad apple.
The top-scoring defenseman in U.S. college hockey and Hobey Baker candidate is turning pro this season with a well-documented history of off-ice issues during his three-year NCAA career with the Wisconsin Badgers.
"Sometimes it's just being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Smith said. "People read all these things on the Internet about me being a bad apple, but I think if you talk to me, you understand I am not like that. I want people in Detroit to know who I actually am and not just what they read in the papers."
Smith, the Red Wings' first-round draft choice in 2007, was most recently charged with disorderly conduct after a fight outside his home this past May. Prior to that, a separate off-ice incident led to him being suspended by his team, while he has been a healthy scratch for "undisclosed reasons."
Despite his past troubles, Smith's NHL talent is undeniable. He could be a dynamic force on the Red Wings' blue line in a few years, if he stays out of trouble off the ice.
Red Wings goaltending prospect Thomas McCollum has a unique take on his ability after getting a look at Smith this week at the annual NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City.
"Smith kind of reminds me of playing behind Drew Doughty," said McCollum, a teammate of Doughty's for two seasons with the Guelph Storm. "He's not quite the dynamic offensive player that Drew is, but who is really? He makes a lot of great plays but at the same time he's very good defensively."
The 21-year-old Smith, who is turning pro this season after a sensational junior year at Wisconsin, is hesitant to the comparison to a Norris Trophy-calibre NHLer.
"I still have some work cut out for me if I want to be like Drew Doughty, but I guess I play pretty similar," he said. "We both play similar styles and we are both young."
Smith piled up 87 points in three seasons at Wisconsin, but led all NCAA defensemen last season with 15 goals and 37 assists for 52 points in 42 games, helping him earn a top-10 nomination for the famous Hobey Baker Award.
He leads the Red Wings with a plus-6 in three games in Traverse City, helping the squad advance to Wednesday's gold-medal game against the Minnesota Wild.
"It's been fun," he said. "There are some great players out here that you don't always see in college but I have been able to keep up with the competition because I would say strength and speed wise it is pretty similar."
The Red Wings have gone so far as to mention Smith's name in the race for the seventh defenseman's spot this season along with Derek Meech, Doug Janik and Jakub Kindl, although there is a good chance he'll open the year in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"It's kind of a win-win situation for me," Smith said. "Playing with Grand Rapids is unbelievable and playing with Detroit is even that much better. Just knowing that I could be the seventh defenseman is great, but we will have to wait and see what happens."