Last year was supposed to be a turn-around season for Craig Smith. Unfortunately for him and the Predators, it was anything of the sort.
Scoring only four goals and eight assists in 44 games for Nashville last year, Smith was among a handful of Predators forwards that didn’t meet the coaching staff’s expectations and were told just as much.
During the off-season, Smith found a bit of rejuvenation playing for Team USA at the 2013 World Championships, scoring ten goals and four assists on a much larger ice surface as Team USA collected a bronze medal. This year, with a poor performance in the past behind him, Smith looks ready to produce for the Predators.
“I feel good, I’m in the right mindset. I feel like I’ve kinda reset after the USA World Championships. It’s carried through the summer and I feel like I’ve done a good job preparing myself. Especially mentally for the grind this season. I’m really excited,” said Predators forward Craig Smith.
The free agency pickups for Nashville, including high-flying forward Viktor Stalberg, have added a sense of pressure to this year’s training camp. For Smith, it adds to the level of strong competition for a Predators team rebounding after missing the playoffs last year.
“It’s going to be competitive in camp and they’re going to pick the best guys. It’s more guys for them to pick and makes it tougher on everyone else. It creates a pretty tough environment,” said Smith.
Injuries played a key part in the unfortunate end to Nashville’s season last year. Depth became an issue for the Predators, as a constant stream of players from the Milwaukee Admirals landed on Nashville’s roster, seeing many “first career NHL games” throughout the remainder of the season.
Smith’s first goal of the year didn’t come until his 17th game of the season. With injuries piling up and lines constantly shuffling, Smith couldn’t get settled in. This season, with the added depth, players are ready to show off their new look to the rest of the league.
“Yeah, it’s great. Everyone’s done a great job getting into shape. We feel good on the ice and we’re really chomping on the bit to get a game in and see what we’ve got. Right now, everyone is executing and doing the right things. We’ll see if it carries over,” said Smith.
Smith, in his expressions and his actions, seemed like a completely different player than in the previous seasons, while speaking to him yesterday. A great attitude is a good step towards a better season, but how it will translate on the ice when the puck drops in October is yet to be seen.
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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