Yesterday, the Leafs waived Trevor Smith and announced the signing of Jerred Smithson, as a step towards (if not the entire solution to) surviving the Bozak and Bolland injury combo. On the one hand, it's great that the Leafs didn't give up assets to acquire a center, but on the other, it's hard to see what, exactly, he solves.
It should be obvious that the 34 year old isn't a solution to the Leafs' long term problems at center, but he isn't really a short term answer either. Smithson was available for a reason - the Oilers opted not to re-sign him after giving up a fourth round pick to acquire him. Over the past few years, he's never played more than ten or twelve minutes a game, and his scoring totals have been single digit affairs.
So at best, it seems like we can expect Smithson to play questionably well on the fourth, maybe third line, even given injuries to two of the Leafs' top nine centers, then leave as a UFA. But running JVR-Kadri-McClement-Smithson (Or Smithson-McClement) hardly seems like a short term improvement over what the Leafs already had in the system, in Trevor Smith or Greg McKegg. McKegg scored 23 in 61 in the AHL last year, and at an NHLe of a little over 13 points, looks like he'll be a long term fit in the bottom two centers anyways.
Smithson's got a history of strong faceoff prowess and heavy defensive zone starts, which McKegg doesn't have, and which I'm sure appeals to Carlyle, but he's a one-dimensional player (the dimension that doesn't score goals), and his defensive resume involves the Predators - who were hilariously outshot and routinely saved by Pekka Rinne - and the Oilers, who were pretty sure that they could upgrade their defensive play by letting Smithson walk. I'm worried that having the bottom two lines anchored by McClement and Smithson will involve a lot of defensive zone starts and a lot of being hemmed in the zone.
The Leafs need to continue to look for another center. Ideally someone that can upgrade on Bozak, or at least fill Kadri's second line role if he were to take over first line center duties. And I suppose it goes without saying that carrying a useful Joe Colborne on the fourth line over someone less useful - like Colton Orr - would've been an even better way for the Leafs to injury mitigate risk. We'll see how The Smithson Project turns out, but it doesn't seem like much of a band-aid.
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