Smith is worse than Quincey AND Dekeyser in every single statistical category. He's simply not better than they are. I suppose you can try to make the argument that he's currently better than Ericsson, however probably not given Ericsson's role on that pair. There are currently four better defensemen for our team's system. No knock on Smith, he's looked better with Marchenko and that pair has made some things happen lately. But this tired old "Smith's really super good, but the stars are just aligned to keep him on the third pair" crap is lame. He's been given every opportunity to grab on to a top four spot. He didn't win it. Oh well.
I wasn't necessarily defending Smith. You framed this as a discussion about what Babcock thinks of Smith - specifically, that Babcock doesn't believe he's a top-four defenseman.
Smith's a good defenseman. The big mistakes stick out in our minds and we judge him accordingly. He moves the puck well. He drives possession. He doesn't get PP time (make of that what you will), but Babcock isn't afraid to use him in key situations. He's an incredible skater. He's got a mean streak, reminds me of Stuart at times. I think of him as a dynamic two-way defenseman.
Pairing him with Quincey was a mistake, one that we rode for far too long. He should be paired with Kronwall (IMHO), but, again, the top four seems to be set in stone in Babcock's mind.
My one issue with him is actually his work in the o-zone. He doesn't shoot enough (and when he does, it tends to look almost like he's holding back, like he doesn't want to score). He has great offensive instincts, but, for whatever reason, he's struggling to make things happen. He's struggling to generate. He looks like someone whose special spark has been punitively beaten out of him.
I do think he's on increasingly thin ice. At 26, he needs to take that next step that we've been waiting for him to take. Ouellet and Marchenko want his job.
If anything is done - it'll be sometime on, or after July 1st.
Not that I necessarily disagree, but I feel like we say this every year. "He should wait until later." And then when that time comes, "He should wait until later." In the summer, we'll hear about our young players and how we want to see what they show us in training camp and how we'll make some decisions based on that. "There's no rush, no need to make a move in the summer. Might as well wait until the fall."
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