“There’s a storm a brewing.”
News broke early Thursday morning Brendan Smith had been placed on waivers by the Rangers.
The Rangers released a statement from Head Coach Alain Vigneault:
“There’s no doubt he has played better for us in the past. And this year he got off to a slow start. We worked with him in a number of different ways and he seemed to be having a hard time finding his game. At the end of the day, this might be a little drastic, but coaches and management felt this was the way to go for our team right now.”
Smith — originally acquired at last season’s trade deadline from Detroit — was impressive during his first couple months as a Blueshirt.
His gritty-style of play meshed well with the youthful flair of Brady Skjei during last year’s playoffs. And it was that chemistry and performance that led the Rangers to resign Smith at the start of free agency.
Rather than signing for top dollar elsewhere, Smith chose to sign a four-year/$17.4 million contract to stay in New York.
At that point, it was fair to say the Blueshirts had a successful offseason.
The resigning of Smith, coupled with their free agent acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk had many believing the Rangers defense would be a force to be reckoned with.
Then the season started and everything went downhill.
Though nobody outside the team knew it at the time, Shattenkirk tore his meniscus at some point in September/October. He attempted to play through the pain until January when he opted for surgery.
THE TOUGH BEGINNING
Meanwhile, right from the start, Smith drew the ire of the fans and his coaches.
After the first two games of the season, Smith found himself scratched from the lineup in consecutive games due to his defensive lapses.
With the team struggling to the tune of a 3-7-2 record, there were rumblings Alain Vigneault’s job could be on the line if they didn’t beat Vegas on Halloween at The Garden.
The Rangers won the game; launching a six-game winning-streak. But one player was noticeable in his absence. And that was Brendan Smith.
HEALTHY SCRATCHED TIMES SIX
Following the team’s comeback win against the Golden Knights, Smith was scratched for six-straight games.
Smith finally returned to the lineup on November 17th against the Blue Jackets; posting a minus one rating in 14:25 of ice time.
Since then, Smith has occasionally found himself sitting in the press box. But never to the extent that he did in the beginning of November.
The problems that have plagued Brendan are simple. He takes too many penalties, he coughs up the puck at an alarming rate and he often fails to keep pace with whichever opposing player he’s tasked with defending.
All in all, this isn’t what Smith envisioned for himself — or the team — when he signed his contract over the summer.
What should have been a happy marriage is now headed to a likely bitter divorce.
The Blueshirts called up defenseman Neal Pionk from Hartford.
The Hermantown, Minnesota native signed with the Rangers on May 1, 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Pionk has 17 points (1G, 16A) in 48 games with the Wolf Pack this season. And he had a memorable preseason game against the Islanders; scoring the overtime winner.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Vesey skated in a non-contact jersey today.