2021 NY Rangers Player Report Card: Brendan Smith

In my eyes there are two ways to grade Brendan Smith’s 2020-21 season. The first would be to just focus on this season only, and the second would be to broaden the scope to include the last few years, seeing as most everything in life is relative. Let’s do just that, starting with this past season only.


On the whole there are three main areas I’d like to highlight with Smith in 2021. The first and most obvious being his offensive impacts. You likely notice the difference between his Player Card and his RAPM card – which are two different models. GAR stands for Goals Above Replacement (the x is shorthand for Expected) and RAPM stands for Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus. Basically GAR/xGAR is a higher-level stat for a player while RAPM isolates the players impact with less (but not completely separate) influence from teammates. Basically, Smith was on the ice for a lot of offense in 2021, but he personally did not generate a lot of shots & chances. In the end, he was a benefit of hot on-ice shooting for the year, coming in at 12.6% at EV, while his career is 7.6%.

Otherwise, the two other smaller areas are more in line with what Smith has done with his career – solid positive impacts on the Penalty Kill and drawing more penalties than he takes. That being said, these are small TOI areas for a player to have an impact, so it was mostly the luckier-than-usual offense that drove him being rated well overall.

For the 2021 season, I grade Brendan Smith a C+.

Smith and his Rangers Journey

When Smith was re-signed by the Rangers on 6/28/17, the reaction was mostly positive as it was seen as a decent cap-hit deal for a 2nd pair defenseman who had historically contributed consistent value. When Alain Vigneault quickly broke up the Skjei-Smith pairing and his higher-TOI experiment didn’t work out with McDonagh, Smith suddenly found himself paired with Marc Staal. As a result, he was rarely getting out of his own end, as very few D-men (uhh, none really) were able to carry Staal under the Rangers lacking defensive structure. He was then placed on waivers in February 2018 and reported to Hartford for the rest of the season.

Smith was sporadically used in the 2018-19 season even while March Staal and Neal Pionk formed one of the worst pairs in the league that saw first-pair minutes for most of the year. His impacts were league average in his limited time, but still provided value on the PK & in drawing penalties. David Quinn then went full galaxy brain and thought he could be used as a winger in 2019-20, which frankly was a complete waste of time for everyone involved.

When Lindy Ruff was let go and Jacques Martin was subsequently hired, we all hoped the Rangers defense would improve, seeing as it couldn’t get much worse. That is exactly what happened and Smith, seeing mostly third pair minutes with Anthony Bitetto and Jack Johnson, thrived with more structure. Unfortunately, Quinn & Martin (and management) decided that Libor Hajek should get 40+ games to prove that he is not an NHL player, once again. Smith’s positive impact waned as the season went on while paired with Hajek. Even so, he clearly took on a leader role and the youth of the team seemingly responded to his positivity. It was a pleasure seeing him contribute given his journey.

In the end I think Smith has done nothing but what he could have given the way two coaches (and management) mistreated his role and TOI with NYR. This does not mean I think he’s anything more than an aging depth defenseman in the NHL, but when compared to the options that NYR chose to use during his tenure, it’s hard to understand why he wasn’t a more consistent part of the team.

Given all of that, I grade Brendan Smith and his 2020-21 season a solid B – not showing off, but not falling behind (I know the Seinfeld joke is used with a C, but times have changed). The Brendan Smith Supporters Union has lived and learned through this journey – we shall see if we have another year to experience soon.

Charts from Evolving-Hockey.

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  • Smitty is more then a depth defenseman. When he was paired with Trouba, he proved that he could play against the league’s best players. He was totally underutilized during the AV regime.

    But that doesn’t surprise anyone as Alains fire wagon style of coaching is hard for any defensemen to adjust to. Just ask the dman in a Flyer uniform. BTW, Brady Skjei is looking very poise in a Hurricane uniform. He was another player that apparently didn’t measure up with the fancy stats.

  • Smith is actually a pretty good 3rd pair D man. His leadership and support for his teammates is very clear.

    I mean if the Rangers could sign him as a 7th D for $1M per, then I would be fine with that.

    • Sign him if you can get a reasonable contract because Smitty is fine as a 3rd pair guy until a younger player comes along to displace him. He has leadership qualities and the respect of his teammates. Those intangibles tip the scale for me. I’d give him a B as he fulfills his role well.

      • I think that the Rangers still sign a LH vet D man, to be that 6 D man that you speak of my friend. Whether it’s Oleksiak, Martinez (gasp!!), etc.

        I do not think that Smith will be that guy, meaning in the top 6.

        • If they can grab someone to fill that role sure. I am fine with him as 6 or 7 depending on what they can do. Just. No. Jack. Johnson!

    • “His leadership and support for his teammates is very clear.”

      ^ Lol just like CK… PR 100%

    • Morning pal!

      He isn’t taking 1m because I bet he gets at least 2m per but I like the idea of him as the 7th

      • Hey bro!!

        Then, bye…

        What do you think the Rangers are going to do with Zib? I think they keep him, try to make the playoffs with him next year, and maybe sign him to a 6 year, $54M contract?

        I think that the Eichel talk is BS.

        • I think the Eichel talk is also much less likely. I would pay attention to Leon Dreisitl .Zib is a mystery to me. He isn’t elite but is a darn good number 2C / 1C. If they can’t fine anyone better then they will keep him.

          • Zib is not elite? He obviously had effects from Covid to start the season, that’s not a mystery.

            The Rangers would gut their prospect pool to add another offensive weapon who can’t score in the playoffs?

  • BSmith is exactly what one wants for a #6 -#7 dman. Maybe not what he once was, but far, far from done.
    If he is realistic in his demands, sign him with reasonable expectations and proper usage.

    • I wasn’t too impressed at all with Z in the Boston series, I think he’s reaching the end of the line as a “regular” tbh.

    • “Sign Big Z to a two year contract with a NMC . And trade #8”

      Trouba is a top 2 worst contract. Nobody is touching that…As for going after big Z? He already made it clear that he didn’t want to sign here. He wants a chance for a deep run, not this hope to make the post season.

      • Notsoavery on the money.

        Fair rating. All around Would love to see smitty resigned.
        What kind pay cut would he take though/worth as free agent

  • Brenda Smith is a warrior. The only one on the team that was brave enough to take on Tom Wilson and the only real sandpaper that the Rangers have on an extremely soft team. He did a good job and came through when it counted. His play is always inspiring and he deserves to be resigned for the third pair or 7ths Dman spot.

    • He had every chance to avenge panarin in the 3rd period of the game when it happened, and was on the ice with him the very 1st shift Wilson returned, and Smith did nothing. After Dolan went nuts, Smith had to protect his rep, and fight Wilson, he didn’t do it for Panarin, he had every chance to do so before that. Let Smith go, he is terrible, Ranger fans need to stop listening to Joe Micheloser and Sam, they are paid to tell us everyone is playing well, the best team ever to not make the playoffs if you listen to them.

  • I have no problem signing Smith for 1 mil and 2 year. He is a servicable 6th or 7th dman, gives you a bit of grit and accepts his role.Much better option then signing a Jack Johnson type.

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