Coming off of an average season for Craig Smith, could this be the year that he collects the most goals and points in his Nashville Predators career?
Craig Smith is on the last year of his contract for the Nashville Predators after only playing 76 games with the team in 2018-19. He was stuck with a lower-body issue and was held back for six games. With him scoring 36 points after returning from injury, it wasn’t too bad. But it was a drop in production from the previous season when he scored 51 points.
Smith primarily was on the second line last season, and a key force for the line in terms of hustle, grit and physical play. For example, in the first round against the Dallas Stars he managed to score the game-winning goal in double overtime to tie that series. If he doesn’t come up in a critical moment in that game, the Predators may have been swept. He’s been coming up big for several years now with the Predators.
How he performed last season
Smith was bouncing around from the second line to the fourth line depending on the situation. Such as late in the regular season when the Predators took on the Sabres and he was on the fourth line. Due to injuries, he was forced to move around the lineup. The Predators faced many key injuries to important players like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and others last season. That’s why depth is so critical, and Smith is a big piece of that quality depth that some teams don’t have.
You have a reliable second line veteran in Smith. He’s played in at least 76 regular season games for the past six seasons. That’s incredible considering how physical he plays. He found a way to score 20-plus goals again last season with 21, while also keeping his penalty minutes down and performing admirably in the faceoff circle with a 48 percent success rate. He does so many things really well.
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Smith still has a lot of great hockey left in him at age 30. There was really no regression to speak of last season, but can he elevate his game even further? Have we already seen him peak? The jury is still out on that. Obviously a lot of that has to do with which line he ends up on as well. Does he get time with Matt Duchene on the second line at all?
What he still brings to the table
Smith is a player that the team can count on in certain moments when he’s needed the most, but will he be there with the new and improved power play? If that does happen then we could see a big spike in production from the right winger. If we don’t see that increase in production then where will he end up?
Since he’s entering the final year of his contract with the Predators, it’s important to wonder if his time is coming to a close with the organization that drafted him. He’s put up 144 goals and 155 assists in 592 career games, all with the Predators. He often gets overlooked, but he’s now spent eight seasons with the Nashville Predators organization. He can pretty much be counted on to score 20-plus goals and bring a physical nature to the game. It will be a sad day if the Predators can’t retain him.
With Smith being a top-four winger, and with his average scoring numbers, could we see the veteran winger come up clutch for the Predators one more year with even better numbers? He may have to slide down the lineup to make room for the likes of Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund and maybe even Eeli Tolvanen eventually. One thing we can count on is Smith will continue to score clutch goals and bring a leadership to the team that can’t be coached. Let’s hope it’s not his last season in Nashville.