Sunday, November 10, 2013

Unveiling of Ladislav Smid

Sunday morning at the Saddledome, with Calgary in the midst of three days off, Ladislav Smid put on a Flames practice jersey for the first time and joined his new team for a gruelling practice.

Sounding genuinely excited to be in Calgary, here is a link to the story I wrote this afternoon for The Canadian Press:

Meanwhile, here are some other random notes and quotes from Smid, which I couldn't fit into the wire story:

Offensive Offence

Smid hasn’t scored much in his career, just 11 goals in 474 games. But he did score three goals as a rookie, one of them coming in the final game of the season at the Saddledome and came against Miikka Kiprusoff. Although it's almost impossible to believe, he then scored just one goal over his next four seasons. Now that’s a defensive specialist.

Falling Ice Time

Smid’s ice time had been slightly down this year. So far in 2013-14, he was averaging 17:53, fifth behind Oilers defence regulars Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry, Andrew Ference and Anton Belov. He had been a mainstay in the Oilers top four during the previous years, averaging over 20 minutes per game.

Hitting Machine

This year and last, Smid has been credited with 203 hits. That compares to 384 for the entire Flames team.  This year, he has 52, which is third amongst NHL defencemen behind Radko Gudas (55) from Tampa Bay and Cody Franson of Toronto (54). Last season he was also third with 151. He trailed Philadelphia's Luke Schenn (187) and Toronto's Mark Fraser (153).

On the Transition

“I barely slept last night,” said Smid. “I was a little bit nervous about meeting the new guys and going to a different organization but everybody was so nice and so supportive so they’ve made it real easy for me.”

Smid admits he was caught off guard by the call from Edmonton General Manager Craig MacTavish.

“When I first heard, I was kind of upset,” Smid said. “After signing a four-year deal, I thought I would be there for quite a while but that’s how the hockey business works. I didn’t expect my name to be the one that is going to be traded but it is what it is. After one day being shocked, I talked to my wife and she’s excited to come here and start a new chapter and same with me.”

On Mark Giordano

“With Gio going down, obviously that’s a big loss. He brings that grit, he plays hard every night, losing him, it’s a big hole to fill,” said Smid. “Me coming here, I just need to focus on my role and that’s being physical, obviously blocking shots and being good on the penalty kill. I’m going to try and do my job on an every night basis.”

Smid and Giordano had battled each other hard over the years. In 2009, they dropped the gloves and duked out, a fight Smid described today as a "draw". Well, here it is so judge for yourself.

"We always had good battles. We always chirp each other. But I respect him a lot," said Smid. "He brings a work ethic and the grit and everything that a great leader is supposed to have on an every night basis and you can’t ask to have a better captain than that. I was happy for him to get the ‘C and I’m looking forward to working with him."

About Playing His Old Team on Saturday

“Obviously. It’s going to be weird to face my old team this early but I’m really excited for it,” said Smid. “I believe we’re going to beat them. It would be a really nice feeling to leave the ice with the two points.”

Apparently he’s missed, or so he’s been told.

“Some guys are still upset about it up there. They’re going to miss me, I hope,” said Smid with a chuckle.

When he got the news he was traded, he was in Philadelphia and out for dinner with fellow countrymen Ales Hemsky and Jakub Voracek from the Flyers.

“Voracek, actually,” said Smid, when asked who picked up the tab. “He felt bad, he’s like 'tough day for you.'”

Then the Hemsky trade rumours started swirling to the point they thought all three of them may end up being traded that same night.

“It was funny because Hemsky was there too and the Twitter was going crazy with him being traded to Philadelphia so we're like, maybe Voracek will be part of the trade too, then it would be three guys traded the same night. It was a fun night.”

Smid admits he will miss his old buddies.

“Obviously, I’m going to miss my former teammates in Edmonton, I had a great time there but it’s kind of over and I’m looking forward to this challenge.”

On the 2014 Winter Olympics

“I haven’t spoken to them for quite a while. The last time I spoke to the assistant coach (Frank Musil) was before the year started,” said Smid. “I don’t know. Hopefully I can fight for a place to make it there. It’s obviously a huge honour to represent your country at the Olympics so I’ll do whatever it takes to get there but at the same time, my main focus is on Calgary and succeeding here.”

Smid was not a part of the Czech team in 2010.

“I wasn’t there, I was just watching,” said Smid. “This year, we had camp there in the summer and I was there for that and we had some meetings and went over our system and stuff like that.”

There are a whopping 67 names on the Czech National Team invite list for their orientation camp.

“I know,” said Smid, laughing about how long the list is. “There’s European guys, NHL guys, it’s crazy but that’s how it is.”

And no, the Czechs did not adopt the Canadian model of playing ball hockey. “I would probably hurt myself. I’m not very good with runners and a hockey stick.”

History of Flames Czech Defenceman

Smid becomes the fourth Czech defenceman to play for the Flames. The others were:
  1. Frank Musil - 335 games from 1990-91 to 1994-95
  2. Roman Hamrlik - 128 games from 2005-06 to 2006-07
  3. Peter Buzek - 76 games from 2001-02 to 2002-03
In addition to being the Czech National Team’s assistant coach, Musil has also been a long-time scout for the Oilers so Smid knows him.

“Frankie, he’s actually the guy that called me from the Olympic team. I hope I’m going to talk to him soon. He was a hard-working guy too.”

On Choosing No. 3

“They gave me a pretty narrow list of numbers,” said Smid, who wore No. 5 with the Oilers. “I forgot that Dion Phaneuf wore this number, so that’s kind of weird. I like to keep it single digits and simple so No. 3 it is.”

Interestingly, Musil also wore No. 3 for the Flames.

Since Phaneuf wore it, it's also been seen on the back of Ian White and most recently, Brett Carson. Others that have worn that number include Steve Konroyd, James Patrick and Denis Gauthier.

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