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04-01-2013, 10:31 AM
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It is notoriously difficult to quantify the overall impact that a defensemen has on a game. Many of their most meaningful contributions to a particular series of plays: a strong outlet pass, sound positional play that leads to trap along the boards and turnover, systematic coverage of a passing lane, dogged puck pursuit; cannot be accurately surfaced in any advanced measurement. Introduce some situational context and it becomes all but moot. Statistics can and are very misleading. There have been extraordinary defensemen who have not translated well to a box score or any Sabre-like metrics. Inevitably, evaluation of a defenseman distills down to some heuristic model or a professional assessment.

The case of Smith is further complicated by his small sample size, inconsistent playtime due to injuries, youth, expected scope of his role in both the offense and defense, and the truncated season. I think that all that can be concluded by what little we’ve seen of Smith is that he possesses all the physical gifts of an elite defenseman. He seems to have a smooth and powerful skating stride that allows him to keep or exceed the pace of play. He has a strong and physically mature frame that allows him to compete with the body. He makes decisive and quick passes and has plenty of velocity on his shot. Smith still makes suspect decisions often playing the body and sacrificing position or vice versus. He seems impatient at times and tries to force a play instead of letting the play naturally flow to him. And his play is wildly inconsistent. All of these behaviors are characteristic of a young, inexperienced defenseman.

All of this is nothing new. He remains quite simply a young defenseman that possess a rare blend of elite gifts that could result in an elite defenseman if and when his mental development lends itself to a more mature game.

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