Brendan Smith is one of the older players on the Rangers. At 30 years old, the veteran is the fourth oldest Blueshirt behind elder statesmen Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal, and role player Micheal Haley.
Originally acquired from the Red Wings in ’16-17 to help the Rangers advance to the second round of the playoffs, he re-signed for four years with an average cap hit of $4.35 million through 2021. After struggling mightily in ’17-18 due to admittedly doing too much celebrating following his wedding, Smith carved a new role under coach David Quinn last season.
With the organization going in a different direction by committing to a rebuild, Quinn decided to try Smith up front as a fourth line forward. The odd move saw the defenseman adjust his style even putting up points through hard work. It likely saved his NHL career.
While many pundits wondered if Smith would be a buyout candidate along with Staal, the Rangers did neither. Instead, they freed Kevin Shattenkirk, who has since found a new lease on life with the Lightning. Where all Rangers seem to go. For the Shattenkirk crowd, it was the best move for all parties due to Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo along with big acquisition Jacob Trouba, who ironically has struggled compared to the other two right defensemen.
A good training camp for Smith saw him rewarded by Quinn. He once again became a fixture on the fourth line. He won the roster spot fair and square due to his work ethic. While there are legitimate gripes about the butchering of Lias Andersson, Smith has proven to be an effective fourth liner due to the energy and grit he brings. Though not a long-term solution, he also doubles as a penalty killing defenseman. Quinn has utilized him right.
Some people might ask why is Smith still in New York. It’s quite simple. His commitment to the team along with his character and experience are viewed upon favorably. Just listen to him during this recent interview put up by the Rangers on Twitter.
The man gets it. He understands what the team must do to win hockey games. He also doesn’t sound like a player, who is going to accept mediocrity. He’s talking about how getting wins now is just as important as next March and April. He’s right. Even if the playoffs remain a long shot, Smith has the right approach.
They want to create a winning environment. You never hear Quinn pleased following a blowout loss like they’ve had to the Bruins and Senators. Both at MSG. A losing culture is unacceptable. They aren’t the other tenant, who is run like a circus. Thankfully, Dolan isn’t involved with the hockey team. He lets his hockey people run it.
As for Smith, I like his message. It’s one that you want the younger players to get. They looked a lot happier last night celebrating Kaapo Kakko’s overtime winner over the Pens. That’s how it should be.