Guest Post By Franklin Steele:
Brendan Smith's first season as a full-time Detroit Red Wing was not supposed to start like this.
Then again, this entire squad's opening weekend went like something taken from the middle pages of a Disney sports movie script... tragedy befalls our intrepid heroes! How will they respond to the adversity?
After losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and Ian White to his family/the San Jose Sharks, Smith probably figured that his shot at finally making the big team was pretty stellar. Not staring up at guys like Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski doesn't hurt chances, right?
What he didn't count on—what no one in the organization counted on—was an injury bug as contagious as bubonic tearing through Detroit's locker room.
I blame Kyle Quincey for the bug. It would be no surprise that the guy who was traded from the Colorado Avalanche was carrying a bio-engineered defensemen corps melting super virus, would it?
The reports have been steady and staggering, and the only thing more constant than injuries for the Wings this season has been the dwindling of Quincey's plus/minus rating.
It seems like since training camp opened at least one Red Wing has gone down with an injury every day. As irritating it was to lose guys like Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, the (hopefully) short-term loss of these players was stunted a bit by an (alleged) depth of talented forwards up front. Where Red Wings had next to no wiggle room for injury was on the blueline.
Hit the jump for more on Smith:
Alas, the hockey God's do not consider the needs of mere mortals when selecting targets for their pulled groins and separated shoulders. Nor do they take mercy on the tired souls of men like Carlo "Rick DiPietro" Colaiacovo. I seriously Google searched the term "oft injured", clicked feeling lucky, and it took me to Colaiacovo's Wikipedia page... which is really just a long winded injury history.
An Ian White laceration (punk band name anyone?) later and Detroit is skimming a list of free agent defensemen that couldn't have looked very pretty, because they went out and signed Kent Huskins.
At this point, Smith is probably having Taxi Driver moments with his coaches as they deliver lessonson how to actually prevent goals and run a power play. Looking from Quincey to Huskins to Jonathan Ericsson thinking "You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the f&*^ do you think you're talking to?"
Smith may not realize it, but he's the only player on this Red Wings blueline that hasn't yet hit their ceiling. That isn't a good thing on a team that boasts one half of a good top pairing when they are fully healthy. But when they are in shambles?
Yes, this is how Brendan Smith became the most important player on the Detroit Red Wings.
We know what we are going to get from Nicklas Kronwall. He's 32 and isn't going to learn any new tricks, which is a bummer because Detroit is currently 0-for-15 on the power play.
Jonathan Erisson is a solid third pairing guy. And by solid I mean he's like the defenseman version of those machines that pitch baseballs to players automatically... except instead of baseballs he does pucks, and instead of pitching them he turns them over to the opposing team.
Since arriving from Colorado, Quincey hasn't been worth the paper the NHL used to file his trade officially in its offices last season. Just... bad.
Colaiacovo gets hurt if he even glances at a corner during a professional hockey game.
And what, the Wings are going to count on Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff to be heavy lifters here?
No, Smith has every opportunity to be the man right now. He has the talent, tenacity, and most importantly, he has the opportunity to have a remarkable season for Detroit. If he doesn't, or at least doesn't play beyond what was expected of him at first, the boys in red and white might be in for an uphill, injury infested season to forget.
Make no mistake about it. Three games into his first season as a Red Wing, Brendan Smith has become the teams most important player.