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Anderson: I Was Wrong About Bruins Forward Craig Smith

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn

At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of talk about Craig Smith. With the Bruins struggling against the salary cap, Smith’s $3.1 million cap hit was an easy target when looking for relief. What seemed like a reasonable contract when he signed it has become something fans are desperate to get off the books.

I was a big fan of the Bruins signing Smith during the 2020 off-season. I didn’t know much about him, but after watching highlights of his play in Nashville, I thought he would be a great addition to a Bruins team just one season removed from a Stanley Cup Final run. For years, we had been begging to get some depth scoring, particularly on David Krejci’s right-wing, so adding a guy who consistently put up 15 to 20 goals a season for the Predators seemed like a perfect fit.

Smith didn’t light the league on fire in his first couple of seasons with the Bruins, but I think he was a serviceable player. He finished 2021 as the Bruins’ fifth-leading scorer, behind only Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Krejci. It was a solid start for the veteran winger in his first season outside of Nashville.

The following season, without Krejci, he improved his point totals, but it took an extra 20 games. In 74 games compared to the previous season’s 54, he recorded 16 goals and 20 points for 36 points compared to 13 and 19 for 32 in 2021. Scoring just four points more in 20 additional games was not the kind of improvement fans were hoping for, and it put a target on his back for the off-season when discussing potential cap-clearing trades.

Despite that, I remained optimistic about Smith’s contributions to the franchise. Looking at his previous seasons, I welcomed the possibility of getting 30 to 40 points from him on the third line. With the Bruins’ first two lines expected to be filled by Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Krejci, Taylor Hall, and Jake DeBrusk, there was an opportunity for a third line of Pavel Zacha, Charlie Coyle, and Smith to thrive as a defensive unit that was more than capable of chipping in offensively.

Unfortunately, it is time for me to eat my words and admit I was wrong. Smith has done almost nothing for the Bruins this season, which is impressive considering the team’s success. In 24 games, he has scored just one goal and provided only three assists. To be completely blunt, that is utterly pathetic. Sometimes, a player will play well and fail to put up points. In the case of Smith, though, his play is remarkably uninspiring and unmemorable. You can’t blame someone in many games if they question whether he is even playing.

The worst consequence of his rough performance is his trade value plummets. He has gone from being a player who almost records a point every other game to scoring one in every six. He is on pace to score just 11 points this season, which would be his lowest total ever. Combined with a salary that isn’t small, his performance makes him a difficult asset to trade for any real value.

As long as the Bruins win games, I will not complain about playing Smith on the fourth line. However, it also can’t hurt to try out some other options down there, as it would be difficult for someone to provide less production than Smith has this season. Although I was quick to board the Craig Smith fan train when the Bruins signed him, you won’t find me begging to keep him when his contract expires after this season.

1 Comment

  1. Ray

    When Smith was taken off the Coyle line, his game slumped. Not his fault. I think Craig Smith is 10 times the player that Hathaway is. BAD TRADE !!

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