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Brendan Smith has been playing extremely well lately. Winged Pride thinks that Brendan Smith is one of the keys to the rest of the season. Last year the Wings biggest problem was their lack of depth at Defenseman. They had a good first pairing with Riggy and Kronwall, however they didn't have a strong second pairing. They essentially had two third pairings and when they began to face teams that had more depth they were overwhelmed. Smith in particular struggled a lot last year during playoff time. The pace of the game was too much for him. It sometimes gets lost in all this that Brendan Smith has still yet to put together an entire season due to last year's lockout. However, in the last two weeks Smith has a shown a lot of ability and a huge step up in his game. This is a huge deal for the Wings. If Babcock decides to split up Quincey and Smith(an idea Winged Pride is definitely in favor of) and put DeKeyser and Smith together as a second pairing, this team could be much more dangerous come playoff time if they can get a hot goalie and a motivated Franzen. Smith being an effective defenseman absolutely changes the identity of this team.
One of this team's biggest issues is their inability to get offensive help from their defenseman. Smith has well developed offensive abilities that allow him to be a dynamic player. The difference in Smith's game is attributed to a new role. Babcock has his defenseman play different roles when they are on the ice. We will call one of them the offensive defenseman and the other will be called the puck chaser. Babcock's defensive scheme calls for one defenseman to be significantly more aggressive than the other. When Quincey and Smith were playing together it was Smith playing the offensive defenseman role, however in the last two weeks Smith has been the puck chaser and Quincey has been more offensively focused. With Smith towards the back end of each play it allows him to view the rink better and quarterback breakouts, which has allowed him to grow quickly. Oddly enough, he is much more dynamic offensively in his new role. He is able to lead rushes into the offensive zone which allows the offense much more control. The more speed you have when rushing the puck into the zone, the more pressure to the opposition. Often times, there is so much traffic when entering the zone that it is near impossible to gain speed. However when moving from the back of the play Smith can create that space from his own zone into the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. This pressure scrambles the defense. Increasing the speed of a zone entry pushes back the rest of the defense and squishes them in the slot and down low in the zone creating a lot of space around the circles and at high percentage shot positions(top of the circles and in between the face-off dot and the hashmarks). Smith, when playing the way he is right now allows this team to do that. He creates a lot of chances and is very dynamic on the ice.
Smith and DeKeyser would compliment each other very well as a D pairing. DeKeyser is an extremely strong defensive player while Smith can take chances. DeKeyser and Smith both have great vision and instinct, but they use it in very different ways. DeKeyser uses his vision to find the open man and make a good outlet passes. Smith uses his vision and instinct to find open ice and carry play by himself. These two guys would be a very good defensive pairing together, and very well could be the #1 pairing in the future. These guys should be the backbone of a very good team going forward.
Is this a new Brendan Smith? Or is he just on a hot streak right now? Winged Pride thinks that Brendan Smith has finally taken a step forward and can't wait to see what happens with him going forward on the year. His play is paramount.