New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith leaned on his family and friends to get him through last season’s disaster.
In talking with Colin Stephenson of Newsday, Smith revealed that he lost confidence in himself after a terrible season that ended with him buried in Hartford. When asked about how his season went, he was candid:
“I doubted myself. I thought maybe at times I couldn’t do it anymore.’’
In the first year of a four year contract, the defenseman was awful. His Corsi for (cf) was an abysmal 46.7. He came into camp out of shape, and he never got his legs under him. He was routinely scratched for Nick Holden and Steven Kampfer. It was a shocking fall from grace for a player who was a playoff hero the year before.
Even after the Rangers held a fire-sale at the deadline, he didn’t even rate a call-up. The team called Neal Pionk, Rob O’Gara, and John Gilmour up over Smith (only Pionk is on the opening night roster). It was a clear message to the veteran that his season had been unacceptable.
Smith’s confidence was understandably shaken, and his wife Samantha was a big part of helping him find himself again.
“She was a big force that was there for me,’’ he said. “And she just kind of reiterated, ‘You’ve done this for a very long time; don’t let half a season get in the way of that.’’’
That confidence, as well as a new mindset after his demotion to Hartford, helped Smith impress his new coaching staff during the biggest training camp of his career. He had a clean slate with the new coaching staff, but when a 29-year-old needs a clean slate it’s never a good sign.
Smith came into camp with the right mindset, a mindset he told Stephenson went back to his demotion.
“The moment — don’t even like thinking about it, but the moment I was going to Hartford, I had a moment where I was going there to make sure that I will be in the best shape and work as hard as I can. I just remember that drive just being like, ‘Well, you have to prove this to everybody; prove it to yourself, more than anybody.’ And I just got down to business.’’
Smith had a strong preseason, looking much more like the player that the Rangers acquired from the Red Wings at the deadline than the player that nobody wanted off waivers.
He’ll need to continue to impress if he wants minutes, as the team enters the season with eight defensemen on the roster.