Leading up to the lockout-shortened season, we will be providing 2012-13 previews for each player. In no specific order, we continue with Craig Smith today…
When people talk about Craig Smith’s rookie season, they don’t talk about the hot start or the fact he skipped the AHL en route to Nashville. The first thing on their radar is Smith’s second half slump and empty net flub – something he would like to forget but cannot be forgotten.
Smith had 14 points in his first 15 games. It was an impressive start for a rookie and he was an important catalyst at a time when Mike Fisher was in and out of the lineup. In his final 57 games, Smith tallied just 22 points and saw his role decrease when extra bodies were brought in at the trade deadline. Smith did crack the playoff lineup twice and notched an assist in Game 1 at Phoenix. He put up 13 of his 36 points on the power play.
In September, Smith signed a two-year, $4 million extension with the Predators.
Smith ventured over to Europe in October and played eight games with KalPa of the SM-liiga, Finland’s top hockey league. He finished with four goals and four assists before returning to Wisconsin to train for the 2012-13 NHL season.
Skating on a line with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist in camp, Smith is going to get an opportunity right off the bat to exorcise any demons he would have collected in the second half of 2011-12. He trained hard all summer to put his body in the best position possible to get through the 48-game season.
In The Hockey News’ revised season preview magazine (Jan. 28 edition), Smith wasn’t included in the Top 10 projected point producers for the Predators. Paul Gaustad was placed in 10th in that prediction, with 15 points. I would guess Smith will easily break that barrier, collect 25-30 points and come close to the team lead. Expect big things from Smith this season and beyond.