2019 Rangers Player Report Card: Brendan Smith

The last skater to receive a report card this year is Brendan Smith. Not because we are saving the best for last, but because I had no idea on which position to grade him. He basically split his time as a defenseman and a winger last season. But you know what? He did a pretty decent job playing out of position and bouncing around the lineup like that. Given the circumstances, he certainly exceeded my expectations. I’m grading him as a defenseman, but his numbers will be a combination of both, if that makes sense.

No matter which way you slice it, the four year, $4.35 million deal is going to go down as a bad one for the Rangers. Those of us who wanted him re-signed, it didn’t work out. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t useful on a team that doesn’t really have a cap space problem right now. He was still fourth among defensemen with a 47.79 xGF%. I don’t know how much of that was on defense or on wing, but still bouncing around the lineup like that has to be difficult. His splits were 2.29 xGF/60 (3rd) and 2.50 xGA/60 (3rd). So believe it or not, Smith was, dare I say, steady?

Where Smith looks bad is his contract and the fact he was constantly the 7D forced to play LW under David Quinn. That has more to do with Quinn’s obsession with Neal Pionk than it does Smith’s play though. He was still a net positive on both shot rates against and shot rates for, as we see in the below.

Considering I needed all four of these, instead of posting them separately, I posted a group shot of all four. Let me know in the comments if this is easier to read or not.

The top two heatmaps are shot rates for, and we see that Smith had an overall positive impact. There’s more blue around the middle of the zone when he’s on the ice, but the red in front is significantly larger. The threat level offensively jumps 7% as well.

The bottom two heatmaps are shot rates against, and again we see a relatively positive impact from Smith (5%). The right side of the zone is still a mess, but there’s more blue on the left side, and since Smith played mostly LD or LW, this makes some sense. Although I could be reading this wrong, since Smith is bouncing around the lineup so much.

In the end, Smith is certainly not the worst option on the blue line. He outplayed Marc Staal and Neal Pionk last season. He also outplayed Brady Skjei, although I don’t expect that to continue once Skjei gets a real partner. Smith, when deployed correctly can be a useful piece of the puzzle on the bottom pairing, faking it as a LW here and there. There are certainly worse options to have than Smith, and some are on the team right now, especially when the contract really doesn’t matter.

Grade: B-

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  • I think that the best thing that could of happened to Smith was being sent to the AHL after he got married. From that experience, he came back last season in great shape, played hard, both at his natural left side, but also on the right, and forward. He isn’t the most skilled player, but he gave all he has, with a bit of an edge, and played as hard as he could. We over paid for his services, but I’d keep him over the other two S’s, Staal and Shatty, whom both have done nothing to earn their keep!!!!!!!

  • A smart GM will take Smith off of our hands if we eat some salary He is easily a good bottom pair defenseman with some offensive skills. He did not deserve to sit as much as he did last year. A bigger problem for us is the defensive alignment put on the ice by the coaches. As mentioned, he sat in favor of Pionk and Stall. I think the GM did a disservice to DQ and Smith last year by letting 8 guys battle for 6 spots.

  • Right now the biggest problem we have with Smith is that he is taking playing time away from the young d-men. He serves very little purpose as a forward, he’s not part of the future either way. So Re: Smith I have 2 questions for Dave or anyone else…

    1. Is there anything presently in Smith’s contract that would prevent the Rangers from again sending him back to Hartford and saving money against the cap? How much? This, as opposed to trading him with salary retention.

    2. Aren’t we limited to 2 contracts with retained salary going into next season? Since Spooner’s contract is still active, doesn’t that leave us with just one more retention transaction?

    My point is that if we can’t trade Smith straight up keeping none of his salary it may benefit the team just to send him down. No? Players like Hajek, Rykov and Fox have to get their playing time.

  • I like Smitty..he will paw at you and has backbone….But he is not part of the future. Trade him or keep him around for injury depth. He is the last guy I would move among 18 22 44

  • Smith is paid too much, but he is a better option on defense than some of the guys the Rangers trotted out last year. Ideally, someone takes Smith off the Rangers’ hands, but at his salary level that might be unlikely. I do not know whether they can ship him and retain salary or not. If not, then I guess he hangs around. That could be all the more reason to try in some way to move Staal or convince him to retire and become a coach.

    • Peter, no way he takes a spot from any of the kids.

      Smith is one of the first to be shown the door, whether it be by trade (we should be so lucky), sent down, or buyout.

      If he’s still on the team when the season starts, then I fear that the Rangers haven’t learned a dam thing.

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