Because he's been in the Wings' system for several years, and has been playing in some capacity with the actual Detroit Red Wings team since 2011, its easy to forget that as of today, October 20, 2013, Smith has only 53 games of NHL experience under his belt (67 if you want to include playoffs). That isn't a whole lot of experience in the NHL, especially when its spread out over a call-up a few years back, a lock-out shortened season last year, and the first handful of game of this season. Ericsson was even more frustrating when he was starting his career off. In fact, he was the LGW whipping boy up until last year when things finally clicked for him. Kindl has been repeatedly thrown under the bus up until late last year as well, and he's been playing for the Wings either through call-ups or on a permanent roster spot since the 2009-2010 season. If 75-95% of LGW had their way, both of these players would have been shipped out years ago for a bag of pucks. Thankfully Holland held onto them and gave them time to properly develop and learn the details of the game. They are both crucial components of our D-core today.
Defensemen generally take a few years to develop, and unlike Ericsson and Kindl, Smith doesn't have the benefit of having Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Stuart nearby to clean up his mistakes and console him. In fact, aside from Kronwall, our entire defense is pretty darn young. Smith needs time to mature and figure out how to incorporate his strengths into this game without being a liability. That is going to take more than 67 games in the NHL. In fact, based on the general trajectory of defensive development and the environment that Smith is in, don't count on it clicking for him for at least another year. For some of you who love complaining this should come as great news. But when it does finally click for Smith, I think he has the potential to be a top 3 offensive defensman and power-play specialist ala Rafalski.
And just a side note; Smith was a first round draft pick, which by Red Wings' standards is quite rare and valuable. With the league as competitive as it is, and with a salary-cap firmly in place, it would behoove any team to do whatever they can and be as patient as possible to see that first round pick develop into their full potential; not to trade them away at the first sign of adversity. Fortunately it seems like the WIngs' front office is well aware of this.
PS in the 67 games that Smith has played in, he's amassed 20 points and is -6. Those are not bad numbers.